PHILOSOPHICAL MEDITATION | when upset or anxious

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PHILOSOPHICAL MEDITATION | when upset or anxious

– Our minds belong to us, but we do not always control or know what is in them
– can be difficult to not at times feel confused
– can be difficult at times to tell how we are feeling, & what is the meaning of those feelings
– unfocused thoughts constantly orbit our mind constantly
– we need to sort things out
– we need to get on top of things
– meditation as a solution to the chaotic mind
– in the Buddhist world view, anxieties & excitements are not trying to tell us anything especially interesting or valuable
– empty the mind of its confused content
– Western tradition of meditation – similar aim, but believes the anxieties & excitements are important signals about how we should direct our lives
– bring the troubles more securely into focus, & achieve calm through understanding our thoughts & feelings

Meditation requires:
– setting aside some time (20 minutes once per day)
– with pad & pencil to write your answers, ask yourself:
– what is it I regret, am sad, anxious or feel agitated about at present?
[because we are uncertain of meaning, it is best to write “unfiltered”]
[The practice can be comforting/rewarding & help stop us making grave errors in relation to having careers we do not really like]
– see below for specific instruction

Philosophic meditation helps us embark on life’s journey with the right equipment & the right map – it ensure we check our feelings, rather than just “trusting” them only to find ourselves somewhere we do not wish to be.

– argues it is not thinking too much that is the issue, but that we have not yet thought enough.

Philosophic meditation:
– 20 minutes per day
– ask yourself:
1. What am I currently upset about?
2. What am I currently anxious about?
3. What am I currently curious or excited about?
[Two or three words per each/Unprocessed]

Further questions for when upset [when unprocessed, bitterness, confusion & mis-directed aggression result]
– What scared you about the incident?
– You’ve been hurt. It’s normal to be hurt. How have you been hurt?
– What good part of yourself feels in danger?
– How might a nice person have ended up doing what this person did to you? If they were not actively mean, what other explanations could there be for the hurt they have caused?
– if this were to carry on, what would/might be the catastrophe?
– what are you afraid might happen if this were to continue?
– have you been affected like this before?
– if you had to pin down an incident in the past that this somehow reminds you of, what would it be? Is there a pattern here?
– if this had happened to a friend, how would you advise them?
– what might you be able to learn from this upset?

Questions for anxiety:
– tell the story of the coming anxious period in great detail & say exactly what you imagine might go wrong.
– what would happen to you if it did all go wrong?
– if this were to keep happening, then…
– the danger here is that…
– how might you still be ok, even if it was all absolutely terrible?
– how would the person you would ideally like to be, deal with this situation?
– what previous situation does this remind you of? Have you been in something like this before?
– what happened in the past?
– what helped in the past?

Questions for excitement:
– see article

[answering questions helps us begin to unscramble our thoughts & feelings so as to reduce anxiety & increase clarity]

Source: School of Life:


ABC RN MIRRORS OF THE MIND [language, empathy, neurological basis of ASD]

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ABC RN MIRRORS OF THE MIND [language, empathy, neurological basis of ASD]

– mirror neurons – discovered in 1992 [monkey research in Parma, Italy]
– has taken psychology & neuroscience by “storm
– there was controversy about their existence in humans, but there is now scientific agreement that they exist
– when people extend hand, a person responds – this is mirror neurons in action
– evolution of language, empathy (theory of mind – reading another’s mind or being in another’s shoes) & the neurological basis of ASD
– based on simulating another’s experience – the mirror system
– they play a part in humans imitating others
– why some refer to us as homo imitatus
– mechanism to simulate what others are feeling – imitation is smart
– the chameleon effect – copy something/someone unconsciously
– autism is considered a break down of the mirror system – the “broken mirror theory”

Discussion with Professor Greg Hickock from Uni Calif Irvine
– has written a book about the myth of mirror neurons
– believes “the mirror system” has been over-sold & is a victim of over-reach
– he questions the interpretation, not the existence of mirror neurons – believes the theory falls short with language:
– babies cannot produce speech at 1 month old
– people with cerebral palsy
– people with facial paralysis
– watching sport is it motor imitation or sensory imitation (responding on a sensory level)?
– problems with broken mirror theory & autism
– “the intense world syndrome” – world is too intense for AD
– hyper-sensitive to external stimuli or hyper-empathic to other’s pain.

Source: All in The Mind; RN podcast; original broadcast date: 14 Dec 14

CBT Guide available –

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This is an evidence-based, easy-to-understand Guide I have developed in relation to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, the gold standard when it comes to the treatment of psychological distress. 12 pages in length, just 4,200 words long, this guide represents a good investment in your health and well-being, not to mention your understanding of what CBT treatment typically involves. I hope you find it useful. Best wishes Mark – eBook available here using Paypal @

Interesting Radio National broadcast about differing views on what constitutes “success” in life

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Source: Radio National Late Night Live broadcast: Australian Writer Kate Grenville…

Author discusses new biography “One Life” about her mother – differing views of success; struggles are part of life, as are reversls, importance of incremental steps

Broadcast date: 25 March 2015


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Summary of article:
– negative thinking/self-talk undermines our happiness/success
– this can also include mantras (things you were told) from childhood
– 1980s – New Age positive self-talk/affirmations
– association for psychological science (US) says do not do these as they are so “unbelievable/not credible” for the person with low self-esteem that such talk serves merely to inadvertently reinforce the original negative self-belief
– article likens it to being told to not think of pink elephants & then all you can do is think bout pink elephants
– the new buzzword us “incremental” – don’t set goals too big – have a series of mini-goals, & just focus on one of these at a time
– watch also for the tyranny of “shoulds” & “musts” in relation to what you think you should/must do (they become a but like a parental/authority figure which a person rebels against/resists)
– important to praise ourselves for small personal gains made
– rather than focusing upon the gains that haven’t been made
– small steps are the bedrock of major gains


Anxiety – first steps [understand & reduce symptoms]

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Anxiety – first steps [understand & reduce symptoms]

– Describes an emotional reaction to a perceived threat
– Often known as the fight/flight/freeze response
– It is adaptive and designed to protect you in the face of danger
– It is accompanied by physiological symptoms

– When the anxiety reaction becomes overly sensitive, it can disrupt normal life and become extremely debilitating for the individual

Panic Attack
– Is an extreme physical reaction
– the symptoms are as if there is a fear of dying or “going crazy”
– These attacks can happen often and in a variety of situations

To manage anxiety, an individual needs to understand:
– Their triggers
– The nature of their fears
– What they do to reduce anxiety (Avoidance; Reassurance seeking; Distraction; Thought suppression)

Anxiety Management
– Realistic thinking
– Exposure or engagement (That is, facing your fears)
– Learning new anxiety management techniques:
– Slow breathing
– Relaxation – to squeeze out the stress and let in relaxation
– Positive affirmations
– Goalsetting and planning
– Problem-solving

To begin with:
– Monitor your anxiety throughout the day
– Rate its severity out of 10
– Record your symptoms
– And finally, record the events that were taking place at the time

The aim is to increase your:
– Awareness of environmental triggers
– Awareness and recognition of your subjective levels of anxiety

Source: Mark Taylor Psychology @

Our Brain Sees Known Words as Pictures

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Our Brain Sees Known Words as Pictures

Summary of article:
– no dedicated mechanism for reading given it is a fairly recent invention
– hypothesis that reading involves visual perception based on parts of brain that were activated (blood flow studies using fMRI)
– study conducted – evidence gained to support hypothesis where brain sees whole words, converts to pictures hence explaining why reading can occur quickly
– idea of the brain using a visual dictionary in the Visual Word Form Area (VWFA) of the brain, located in the left side of the visual cortex approx behind the left ear [opposite, on the right hand side of the brain is the Fusiform Face area responsible for facial expression which allows humans to recognise faces quickly]
– fMRI study found people responded differently to real, whole words as opposed o nonsense words, or pseudo words such as “haric” (a common test in dyslexia/word recognition screens)
– saw how neurons learned & became “tuned” to new words
– could have implications for learning whole words as opposed to phonetic spelling


THE VICIOUS CYCLE OF WORKPLACE BULLYING [Association for Psychological Science]

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THE VICIOUS CYCLE OF WORKPLACE BULLYING [Association for Psychological Science]

– study has found workplace bullying often becomes a vicious cycle, where the more anxious & stressed one becomes, the more likely they are to be targeted for more workplace bullying & abuse
– serious effect on the victim ranging from depression to burnout
– anxiety displayed by the victim makes them more vulnerable to further persecution
– hypothesis – the strain of dealing with bullying exhausts a worker’s mental resources, leaving them less able to stand up to abuse – the associated psychological stress leads to poorer work performance & less support from colleagues & supervisors
– bullying leads to victims having negative perceptions of their workplace, resulting in further personal stress & job negativity
– note: bullying did not necessarily predict the onset of depression
– victims of bullying require coping skills & social support


Depression – Warning Signs – most common symptoms

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Depression – Warning Signs – most common symptoms

1. Self-Criticism
– tyranny of shoulds
2. Loss of Interest
– can exacerbate isolation
3. Significant Weight Changes
– lose interest in food
– emotional eating in a conscious effort to boost mood [American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – eating carbohydrates boosts temporarily serotonin]
– inactivity can boost weight gain
4. Unexplained aches & pains
– pain signals are amplified
– depressed people also typically have a lot more negative self-focus so are more likely to notice pain & concentrate upon them
5. Anger & irritability.
– both a symptom & contributor to depression
– recommends working through feelings of anger & resentment



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– they represent nature in its most tranquil, gentle guise
– in our busy, practical age there is little encouragement to appreciate them
– clouds are forever changing & show us that things pass in time [perhaps like our moods? Our concerns?]
– clouds are in “constant drama” much like human beings
– clouds can provide a moment of relief for us
– clouds can help return us to a broader perspective
– an image of patience & resolution, of endurance (able to weather all conditions)
– western tradition – philosophy from books
– eastern tradition – philosophy also comes from nature
– trees provide us with education about the cycle of life as well – that change is unstoppable
– & that change needs to be accepted rather than thought of as a catastrophe
– always communicating, chattering, whispering, arguing, dozing, confiding, shouting
– provide an object of contemplation when we are trying to think
– their constant activity enlivens our imagination
– they can provide us with the opportunity to develop insight, but we need to be careful to capture such insights or they too will slip away like the water in the stream
– article suggests rituals to remind ourselves to engage with nature
– clouds, trees & streams provide us with opportunities to contact calm & reason, tenderness & thoughtfulness


THE BRAIN – the origin of consciousness

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THE BRAIN – the origin of consciousness

– 2 theories: regional (focal) & global neural activity
– study used fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) technology hitch measures changes in blood oxygenation in areas of the brain
– supported idea that awareness was linked to global activity in neural networks across the brain
– this finding is in addition to knowledge about distinct areas of the brain being responsible for particular cognitive functions such as attention, language & control
– conscious awareness seems o break down the modularity of these functions



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– memories operate on a one-in, one-out policy
– recall leads to the forgetting of others
– known as active forgetting
– regarding trauma, it is important to prevent the intrusive memories of those traumas intruding upon & dominating their everyday life
– reminders, flashbacks, intrusive memories, nightmares



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– Mark Twain: Worrying is like paying a debt that you do not owe
– Occasional wearing may serve a coping function, helping a person to think & plan ahead
– too much & it becomes distracting, impeding productivity, concentration & affecting mood
– chronic worry can derail a person’s life – aka Generalised Anxiety Disorder
– Often runs in families (a general anxious apprehension)
– Often diagnosed with depression
– Worry is a devious foe
– People who worry a lot most often see their fears or worries come to nothing
– i.e. most catastrophic situations do not materialise
[note the negative reinforcer – leading to the mistaken belief that worrying means things do not turn out bad][correlation is confused with causation]
– research shows that worry hinders rather than aids effective problem-solving
– over time worry morphs from habit into a requirement born of superstition
– worrying also provides short-term stress relief through avoidance & works again as a negative reinforcer/reward system
– this sets up a worry cycle as difficult to break as drug addiction
– suddenly switching to not worrying can be very disconcerting for the person leading to worrying about worrying
– because old habits die hard

– Treatment used to advocate thought suppression (deny, ignore, avoid)
– no longer supported, & thought it may magnify anxiety
– NOW: engage such thoughts in conversation & examine them, question them (& challenge) with real life/world evidence

– Barlow – 2 cognitive Distortions:
1. Over-estimation bias
[the voice of worry ignores actual probabilities & instead imagines & predicts imminence]
2. Catrastophising bias
[consequences are imagined to be negative & extreme – the voice of worry ignores gradations & imagines the worst]

-In real life not all situations are bad &
– not all bad situations are imminent or extreme
– Living requires taking on low-probability risk everyday
– for e.g. – taking a shower could see a person slip & break their neck, but the likelihood is low & the risk is therefore deemed worth it (I.e. taking the shower)
– accurately calculating the odds is crucial to a human being’s decision-making ability & calculation of risk so that we can function/engage in life while exercising judgment:
– low-risk activities we engage in
– high-risk activities we avoid (or not worth taking the risk)

2 questions need to be asked:
– how likely is it really?
– how bad is it really?
[so as to guide the person to see, contrary to their cognitive Distortions, most high likelihood events are not terrible & most terrible events are not likely]

– we are not looking to counter negative thoughts with positive thoughts necessarily, but rather realistic thoughts so that a person can determine for themselves the following:
A. An event may be imminent, but mundane
B. some events are not the end of the world, but are just the world
C. Some potentially catastrophic events can be disregarded (not worried about), because on the whole they are mundane events that need to be done as part of everyday life
D. Some events we believe to be catastrophic are not so at all

SOURCE: Psychology Today @

Insomnia – CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) Treatment

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Insomnia – CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) Treatment

– insomnia is trouble falling sleep, staying asleep, awakening too early, or any combination of all three
– sleep difficulties typically last longer than one week
– effects:
– not feeling refreshed after sleep
– energy
– mood
– ability to function at work, school & in general life

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine & the National Institute of Health recommend two therapies:
– doctor-prescribed sleep medication (short-duration only); &
– CBT which looks at:
– providing psychoeducation about insomnia
– sleep behaviours
– Excessive time in bed
– Irregular sleep schedules
– sleep incompatible activities
– hyperarousal
– sleep thoughts
– unrealistic sleep expectations
– misconceptions about sleep
– sleep-related worries
– poor coping skills
– sleep behaviours
– inadequate sleep hygiene
– lifestyle factors (caffeine, alcohol, exercise)
– environmental factors (bedding, lighting, noise)

Other questions to consider:
– What triggered your insomnia?

Please note I have conducted sleep clinics as part of my psychologist training here in Australia.

Treatments for anxiety

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Treatments for anxiety

Treatment depends on the type of anxiety being experienced:
– Mild symptoms can be relieved with lifestyle changes such as regular exercise
– Gold Standard – Cognitive behaviour therapy
– Thinking and behaviour affect how you feel
– Types of thinking being engaged in (often automatically)
– what are productive & non-productive worries
– Relaxation and breathing techniques to manage anxiety & relieve physical tension
– The behaviour therapy component focuses on behaviour activation to increase a person’s level of activity & engagement in pleasurable activities
– graded exposure to feared situations

Other things to consider: family, friends, support, relaxation, exercise, eating well, mindfulness

Types of anxiety:
– GAD: frequently worrying & being worried about a number of events & activities
– OCD: obsessions (frequent thoughts, images or impulses) ‘/or compulsions (repetitive behaviours or mental acts) to manage the obsessions
– Panic Disorder with or without agoraphobia: regular & unexpected panic attacks – may also be accompanied by anxiety & avoidance places, situations & people
– PTSD: experiencing distressing memories, increased physical &mental tension, & avoidance of places, people & feelings related to a traumatic event where the person felt extreme fear, powerlessness or terror
– Social Anxiety Disorder: noticeable & constant fear of one or more social or performance situations
– phobia: fear of object or non-social situation, often leading to avoidance

Source: Beyond Blue

Once I just get this done, everything will be perfect

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Once I just get this done, everything will be perfect

– one thing can never be everything
– for most of us, stressful life events are a hassle rather than a horror
– take a step back & appreciate what is not stressful in your life at such times
– when overwhelmed, take inventory of everything that is good in your life
– do this, particularly when you are very busy or sleep- deprived


Insomnia – CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) Treatment

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Insomnia – CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) Treatment

– insomnia is trouble falling sleep, staying asleep, awakening too early, or any combination of all three
– sleep difficulties typically last longer than one week
– effects:
– not feeling refreshed after keep
– energy
– mood
– ability to function at work, school & in general life

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine & the National Institute of Health recommend two therapies:
– doctor-prescribed sleep medication (short-duration only); &
– CBT which looks at:
– providing psychoeducation about insomnia
– sleep behaviours
– Excessive time in bed
– Irregular sleep schedules
– sleep incompatible activities
– hyperarousal
– sleep thoughts
– unrealistic sleep expectations
– misconceptions about sleep
– sleep-related worries
– poor coping skills
– sleep behaviours
– inadequate sleep hygiene
– lifestyle factors (caffeine, alcohol, exercise)
– environmental factors (bedding, lighting, noise)

Other questions to consider:
– What triggered your insomnia?

Please note I have conducted sleep clinics as part of my psychologist training here in Australia.

Building a Brain – “our brain is a great computer because it is a great guesser”

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Building a Brain – “our brain is a great computer because it is a great guesser”

brain programs around the world:
– international movement focusing on:
1) how to use information to get good results for people with mental illness &
2) can we understand what is going on in the brain which makes us human (at a cellular level in real time)
– moving beyond MRI which measures blood flow rather than neuronal activity itself
– at moment we have symptoms & neuronal chemicals
– an individual neuron has approx 30 connections each x billions of neurons
– bionic eyes are being developed
– neurons are context dependant – same neuron perform different functions at different times
– super-computers cannot at present simulate the brain (insufficient memory; incredible data requirement; will need to have interactive supercomputers with new software)
– assist in the diagnosis of brain diseases
– cognitive architectures – a chip on your computer to perform particular functions
– “our brain is a great computer because it is a great guesser”
– consciousness – is a special state where neurons are collectively working together
– decision-making states and all the other states our brain assumes to do something
– philosophers, ethicists, psychologists, neuroscientists are working together in this research

Source: broadcast date 8 June 2014 on RN’s Australian version of the BBC’s All in the Mind program

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Guide – NOW AVAILABLE

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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Guide – NOW AVAILABLE

Hello – I thought I should let readers know I have developed a little publication called: “What is cognitive behavioural therapy? A 2015 Research- based Easy-To-Read Guide to Understanding Cognitive Behavioural Therapy”.

It is available from the following link eBay Australia using Paypal @

Cost is $9.95 AUD & contents include:
– CBT Basics, including cognitive triad, underlying principles & treatment approach
– blueprint of CBT, including tools & why it is helpful
– why CBT works – focus upon beliefs, thoughts & behaviours
– automatic thoughts
– Types of distorted or unhelpful thinking
– Call beliefs
– Map for therapy
– Utility of mindfulness based CBT techniques
– CBT online apps
– List of resources typically used as part of CBT

– Australian psychological Society
– Australian family physician pod cast
– Clinical psychiatry new
– People psychology podcast
– Beyond blue
– Back Institute
– Positive psychology
– The bulletin of the Australian psychological Association
– Bath pod public lecture
– Radio National – the prison of depression podcast
– Judith Beck CBT: basics and beyond
– Stanford University podcast video lecture series
– Hugh Mackay: the good life what makes life worth living


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Dr Beck believes anger results hen a person:
– feel they are being devalued & that this is wrong
– results in drop in self-esteem
– capture feeling & the belief (often exaggerated)
– automatic thoughts arise – need to capture [see Ways to Elicit Automatic Thoughts]
Remember too the ABC Model:
– A for Activating event
– B for thought/underlying belief
– C for consequence

– often people believe A leads automatically to C, but there is B (mindfulness can assist in capturing

Ways to Elicit Automatic Thoughts
– therapy can assist you to capture during therapy (imagine & role play – I.e. in vivo recretion in sessionso as to discover the automatic thoughts

Automatic Thoughts
– ask yourself: what specific thoughts am I having now [writing can assist in identifying out of session – assists in identifying cognitive distortions
– you can also notice a change in affect
– can also be referred to as NATs [Negative Automatic Thoughts]

Record, Rationalise & Replace (3 columns on one page)
– record in detail
– rationalise (label type of ST)
– replace (dispute/assess against facts/evidence)

– Mindreading/assuming
– shoulds, musts, oughts – perfection
– over-generalise
– catastrophise

Sources: Beck institute video for A COGNITIVE EXPLANATION FOR ANGER & HOSTILITY, Ways to Elicit Automatic Thoughts, Automatic Thoughts video

Beck Institute videos [various] – CBT

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– Beck Institute videos [various]
1. CBT in the treatment of depression
– case formulation
– DO NOT use thought record
INSTEAD – behavioural activation is where you begin, including in the office [
– often client is feeling hopeless & wanting to give up
– Q: what would you think if I said that if you follow a few simple instructions you will be able to get of of bed, play ping pong etc.,?
– let’s do a behaviour experiment -‘sit up, in the edge if the bed & put your 2 feet down. Now try standing up. What do the experiments show you?
– activity scheduling with severely depressed
– thought records with moderately depressed people
– get them invested in something outside of themselves (particularly if they are ruminators] – invest in something outside of the tidal wave
– grounding – look, point, name
– thought record – helps in seeing/working out alternate explanation
E.g. Dr – each time You see a patient, Write down if it is pleasurable or not, Whether it added to your sense of mastery
Note: behavioural activation is a form of cognitive restructuring because the patient believed he could not get up.

– work with patient to develop a schedule
– engagement: follow-through

2. Cognitive Restructuring in CBT [or alternative explanations/sensitive challenging/evidence for something]
– what went through your mind?
– when a person is depressed they have a 1 track mind (tunnel vision) [the walls preclude other information coming in]

3. CBT in Substance Abuse
– case formulation
– generic cognitive model
Situation – thoughts – mood/feelings – behaviour – physical reactions
– craving is so strong, it’s ok to give in to it (this time) or I’ll start tomorrow [known as permission-giving]
– experiential/exposure &then going away from it

4. Restructuring Negative Core Beliefs
– core beliefs never go away, but they become latent/quiet
– schemas & core beliefs are essentially the same
– therapy builds up a wall around the negative schema so that it remains inactive
– resilience & positive attitudes de-activate the schema
– restructuring the event
– are there alternative explanations
– does it logically follow?

5. Negative Core Beliefs in CBT
– usually strong/robust & prevails even across relatively neutral situations

6. The Utility of Mindfulness-based CBT Techniques
– Beck: CBT approach of alternate explanation, evidence, application of logic made it worse for cases of Obsessive forms of anxiety (OCD) – belief something bad will happen, I am a terrible person for having such thoughts, by having these thoughts it will come true
– a meditative/mindfulness approach gets the person free – to de-couple from this kind of thinking (round & round/ruminative type thinking)
– mindfulness gives symptomatic relief – does not in & of itself solve the presenting problem, but provides a foundation upon which to work with the cognitive approach

7. Automatic Thoughts in CBT (parts 1 & 2)
– our thoughts are often inaccurate representations of reality
– feelings are not facts
– we have streams of thoughts all the time (Mind is always active)
– not only not necessary to look at all the thoughts, but it is paralysing to do it
– only look at automatic thoughts that have some kind of unpleasant affect/behaviour (I.e. interfering thoughts that stop you proceeding with what you want to do)
– if anxious
– what was the thought behind it
– conduct some form of reality test – e.g. If x happens, so what? What’s the consequence?
– facilitate problem-solving to correct the automatic thought

– patient-centred : patients themselves decide what they want to work on

8. Evaluating Unhelpful Automatic Thoughts in CBT
– is this productive thinking? [much of what people think is not productive]
– ACT – notice the thought, accept the thought, but not pay too much attention to it

9. The Relationship Between CBT & Neuroscience
– has written 3 papers supporting it
– neuroscience confirms CBT works, but neuroscience has not added to CBT, but has shown that biologically, due to particular gene expression, that some respond more to behavioural activation rather than cognitive restructuring & vice-versa

10. Ways to elicit Automatic Thoughts
– why should we believe what the patient reports? Perhaps it is just something they have read, because it is what they think you expect them to say
– recover in therapy by asking questions
– or you can use imagery (imagine/re-imagine the scenario)
– or we role-play, then you tell me what your automatic thoughts are (do in vivo, then able to do in their life at large)

11. The Blueprint of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
– it’s not just a toolbox of techniques
– CBT is an architecture
– individuals in the course of their development experience certain vulnerabilities
– mal-adaptive attitudes/inflexible beliefs
– can permeate their whole personality leading to a personality disorder
– negative attitudes can be activated by a whole series of things that can impinge on an individual’s ability to function
– perception of all events in a biased way & spreads to other areas
– reality is distorted by internal workings of the mind
– cognitive restructuring – no longer seeing things as just mainly black or white
– changes biased beliefs of I’m no good/unloveable etc.,
– change in attitudes & beliefs/perceptions (I.e. see the positive too)
– people who are depressed see things negatively

APHORISMS ( Short sentences that capture a large truth)

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APHORISMS ( Short sentences that capture a large truth)

– The proof of good parenting – the child has no desire to be famous [F. Scott Fitgerald]
– The true indicator of a man’s character is the health of his wife. [Cyril Connolly]
– We all have strength enough to bear the misfortunes of others [de la Rochefoucald]
– What is there to weep over parts of life? The whole of it calls for tears [Seneca]
– The Only people we can think of as normal At those we don’t yet know very well. [Freud]
– Insomnia is the nights revenge for all the thoughts we forgot to have in the day [Mailer]
– There are some people who would never have fallen in love – If they hadn’t heard there was such a thing. [de la Rochefoucald]
– We keep a special place in our hearts for people who refuse to be impressed by us. [de la Bruyere]
– The best vaccine against anger is to watch others in its throes.[Proust]

Source: School of Life @


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– depression is not a weakness, is not a moral shortcoming, is not something people have brought on themselves – it is an illness
– mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma & bias shame us all


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The power of believing that you can improve

Carol Dweck (psychologist & researcher in the area of human motivation) presented in relation to the “growth mindset” (the understanding at our talents & our abilities can be developed) v’s a “fixed mindset” perspective (where people “run” from challenge)
– the grade of “not yet” meaning that you are always learning/striving to do better & achieve the best you can as part of a “learning curve”
– the person with the “growth mindset” engages with mistakes, processes the error, learns from the error & corrects the error
– Dweck suggests the following:
– Praise wisely
– not praising intelligence or talent
– praise the process that the child engages in
– praise effort, strategies, focus, perseverance, attention & improvement (not A’s)
– praise kids when they show they are hardy & resilient
– use words such as “yet” & “not yet” to build confidence & encourage persistence
– neurological development is promoted by attempting challenging things/going outside the comfort zone – neuroplasticity & new connections

Source: TED talk @

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD – FOUR CORNERS BROADCAST

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Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD – FOUR CORNERS BROADCAST

– psychological injury of veterans is real
– homelessness a real issue for some returning vets
– vet with story about flashbacks & insomnia/nightmares (recurring)
– medical discharge
– broke
– homelessness
-estranged from family
– suicidal ideation
– St John of God Hospital – group therapy (filmed)
– soldiers, fire-fighters, police
– described their experiences
– violence/sexual abuse background (soldier/vet referred to earlier)
– group rules
-nature of PTSD – clinical psychologist talks to the group
– fight/Flight/Freeze system – leading to terror or horror response for veterans, with ongoing thoughts, (system gets locked on & doesn’t go away once danger is no longer there – a survival system is no longer working effectively)
– PTSD makes highly-effective people unable to function
Trauma memories are totally different to normal memories
– trauma memories get frozen, the memories when triggered turn the system on
– engage the memories/visualise the memories in greater & greater detail so as to take the power away from the memory
– as much detail as you can – what thinking & feeling (exposure therapy)
– anxiousness will be experienced
– 2nd vet’s experience:
– swinging moods
– meltdowns/explode
-isolates himself
– does not like crowds/noise
– story of a meltdown in a theme park
– felt he was attacked by his son whom he nearly punched (impacted on the child)
– marriage breakdown
– went to a Mental Health Unit upon return to Australia
– stigma attached to mental illness
– lost his career / no assistance in transitioning to civilian life
– anger/anxiety
– psychiatrist session
– separate thought from emotion (the training of the warrior)

3rd vet’s story of repeated deployments to Afghanistan:
– aggressive, wound up, confused, emotionally detached resorted to alcohol abuse
– discipline impacts upon the child & the partners
– PTSD requires constant monitoring, medication – no cure in his opinion
– concept in war: “blooding” – lock away the emotions & continue on with the mission
– Tried to not feel & process his emotions while he was there
– culture – not disclosing feelings – stigma/career-destroying

Soldier On was interviewed in relation to a soldier & his interactions with bureaucracy

PTSD associated with depression & the abuse of alcohol

Source: FOUR CORNERS – ABC-TV broadcast date: 9 March 2015

Parents who “over-value” children may turn them into Narcissists

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Interesting study including comments by Professor Mark Dadds who discusses the risk of “over-valuing” children, while noting the need to value children, praise them & let them know of their self- worth.


A-HA PARENTING: 10 THINGS TO DO INSTEAD OF PUNISHING YOUR CHILD [change from punitive to empathic parenting]

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A-HA PARENTING: 10 THINGS TO DO INSTEAD OF PUNISHING YOUR CHILD [change from punitive to empathic parenting]

– His actions have an impact on the world
– He can always choose his actions
– He is responsible for his actions
– Everyone makes mistakes
– When mistakes happen, you have to repair them
– Cleaning up mistakes is harder than choosing the right action
– Reflect on their actions to make better choices next time
– It takes courage to do the right thing
– When we make responsible, considerate choices we become the person we wish to admire
– And we feel better about ourselves

1. Move from anger to empathy
– if the child expects judgment & punishment, they are less inclined to open up
– & opening up is necessary to gain insight into the child’s thinking & feelings
2. Connect
– if child is worried you will get upset, the child goes into fight/flight/freeze mode & shuts down.
– If you need more time – take it to come down and manage your anger
– Aim is to find out the child’s reason for acting the way they did
– it may not seem a good reason to you, but it is their reason, & it provides the start point for problem-solving
3. Tell your child you want to hear his thoughts about what happened
– let him talk
– reflect back your understanding
4. Keep your thoughts on connection and learn about what happened from his perspective
– Kids know what is the right choice but something gets in the way
– What was it that got in the way?
– how can he address this so it doesn’t happen again?
– Punishment does not help the parent gain insight
– Does not help the child problem solve themselves – In fact it often involves covering up.
5. Ask open ended questions to keep the conversation light & safe
– Share a laugh
– Remind him that this is a growth experience for both of you
– Were you aware of making the choice?
– What led him to the choice?
– What does he think about it now?
– Was there a cost to making that choice?
– Would he do it again?
– Why or why not?
– How could he support himself to choose differently next time?
6. Empower your child to repair “ruptures” – ask:
– What can you do now to fix the problem?
– Did this incident show you Anything in your life you want to change? That’s bigger than just this one incident?
– How can I support you?
7. Resist the urge to jump in with punishments – Instead be quiet and listen
– discipline is not about punishment
– it’s about helping the child realise what he does has consequences & impacts upon others
– about taking responsibility to have a positive rather than a negative impact
– avoid being too heavy as it places the child on the defensive
8. Validate even when he feels there is nothing to repair, or is unable to repair
– calm down (child and parent)
– talk empathically
– help child express & process feelings
9. Step into your own power
– you are the parent
– about supporting the child & making them feel secure
– some children just require more support
10. Expect an adjustment period
– “best you can” parenting
– moving from punitive parenting will mean the child stops obeying out of fear
– more misbehaviour is to be expected
– stay empathic & do not take “perceived rudeness” personally
– stay compassionate
– welcome upset feelings so they open up to you
– you are changing your habits – if you change, the child changes


Child’s Brain Development – Mind the Bump / Beyond Blue

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Mark Taylor Psychology

Child’s Brain Development – Mind the Bump / Beyond Blue

– Mindfulness for optimal child development
– Research is showing parents who use mindfulness skills increase the likelihood of raising children/adolescents who are emotionally resilient
– We all know what it feels like to be overwhelmed and confused
– we all Also know how reassuring it is when we are able to respond with calm flexibility
– when we do this, we are using our frontal lobes
– we also know that babies, children & adolescents do not have fully-developed frontal lobes & This part of the human brain is not hardwired until the human being is in their early 20s
– neuroscience: humans Have the ability to influence the development of each other’s brains
– mirror neurones
– when a baby is distressed & crying, similar reactions of fear & distress are aroused in the parent
– babies are…

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Getting grief right

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Getting grief right

– written by a psychotherapist
– Stages of grief: Denial, anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance
– Cultural expectation About grief – Put it behind you and get on with life
– Coping through acting better than you feel – This can be exhausting
– Approach: tell me your story (The narrative of your life)
– validate the person’s experience
– In therapy stages of grief, Self-diagnosis & societal expectations do not matter – you can surrender to your sorrow
– Grief is as unique as a fingerprint – That is we all do it differently & in our own time
– The story of loss has three chapters:
1. The strength of the bond with the person who has been lost
– the degree of attachment & strength of grief are linked
– The size of their grief is attached to the size of their love
2. The death event itself
– when death is traumatic & premature, the person often questions their sanity
3. The long road that beings when the outside world stops grieving with you
– reassuring others you are ok is often exhausting when you really need to sink into your sadness & grieve & accept
– Support groups can be useful – to learn from others that closure is not wanted because it means closing off a sacred bond
– Isak Dinesen (Writer) “All sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story or tell a story about them.”
– There is no right or wrong way to grieve
– There is no pressure to move on
– There is no shame in intensity or duration
– Sadness, regret, confusion, yearning, & all the experiences of grief become part of the narrative of love for the one who died.


I Matter app – positive conversations about relationships

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I attended an excellent MHPN webinar about DV matters in particular, however this could prove useful nonetheless. The I Matter app is an interactive virtual library of articles/quizzes etc., about what constitutes positive a positive relationship, together with the idea of boundary crossings and when what one believes is a loving relationship becomes a controlling, abusive relationship. The idea is there is never any consent to abuse in a relationship.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Guide – NOW AVAILABLE

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Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Guide – NOW AVAILABLE

Hello – I thought I should let readers know I have developed a little publication called: “What is cognitive behavioural therapy? A 2015 Research- based Easy-To-Read Guide to Understanding Cognitive Behavioural Therapy”.

It is available from the following link eBay Australia using Paypal @

Cost is $9.95 AUD (12 pages, 4200 words) & contents include:
– CBT Basics, including cognitive triad, underlying principles & treatment approach
– blueprint of CBT, including tools & why it is helpful
– why CBT works – focus upon beliefs, thoughts & behaviours
– automatic thoughts
– Types of distorted or unhelpful thinking
– Core beliefs
– Map for therapy
– Utility of mindfulness based CBT techniques
– CBT online apps
– List of resources typically used as part of CBT

– Australian psychological Society
– Australian family physician pod cast
– Clinical psychiatry new
– People psychology podcast
– Beyond blue
– Back Institute
– Positive psychology
– The bulletin of the Australian psychological Association
– Bath pod public lecture
– Radio National – the prison of depression podcast
– Judith Beck CBT: basics and beyond
– Stanford University podcast video lecture series
– Hugh Mackay: the good life what makes life worth living

Re-Reading is Inefficient – 8 Steps for Studying Smarter – ability, intelligence, & learning are related to how you approach learning – i.e. working smarter.

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Re-Reading is Inefficient – 8 Steps for Studying Smarter – ability, intelligence, & learning are related to how you approach learning – i.e. working smarter.

Active learning strategies are recommended on the basis of psychological research. Such strategies include: flash cards, diagramming & quizzing yourself so as to discover gaps.

Summary of main points:
1. Don’t just re-read class notes, assignments & text book chapters
– most students report this is there number one go to strategy.
– Research shows the second reading is often cursory because it creates the false impression that you know it, when in fact there are most likely gaps in your knowledge

2. Ask yourself lots of questions. Better to read once & ask yourself lots of questions.
– retrieving information actually helps with memory consolidation
– when you get it wrong, it provides an accurate diagnostic for what you do not know.
– questions to ask yourself are: Why? How? What?
[so instead of reading & skimming, ask yourself questions to aid your understanding

3. Connect new information to what you already know.
– on the second reading, relate new information to material you already know

4. Draw out the information in a visual form
– use drawings, diagrams, flow charts, visual models
– very effective for memory retention
[more engaged learning rather than passive learning]

5. Flash cards so you can re-test yourself (even for those things you get right)
– repeating is good for memory retrieval

6. Don’t cram – space out your study & repetition to aid memory retention

7. Teachers should do this too – that is go over things in class & in homework

8. No such thing as a maths person.
– Carol Dweck from Stanford University has researched student mindsets about learning where they typically fall in one of two categories:
– fixed learning – i.e. “I have a certain amount of talent for this topic.” – Where beyond a certain point, the student thinks they can no longer learn/develop.
– growth mindset – learning involves using effective strategies, putting aside time to do the work, & engaging in the learning process so you learn & develop. [generally becoming more successful students who persevere]



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1) A.A. MILNE – Winnie the Pooh:
“Promise me you will Remember you are braver than you think; stronger than you seem; smarter than you think.”

2) Dr Seuss – Horton Hears a Who
“A person’s a person no matter no matter how small.”

3) Aesop – The Lion & the Mouse
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

4) A.A. MILNE – Winnie the Pooh:
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

5) Roald Dahl – The Twits
“If you have good thoughts thy will shine out of your face like sunbeams & they will look lovely.”

6) Dr Seuss – Oh the Places You’ll Go
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who will decide where you will go.”


TEDX Cambridge – Talks to Understand How We Work & How to Work Better Together [PART ONE]

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TEDX Cambridge – Talks to Understand How We Work & How to Work Better Together [PART ONE]

Summary of talks:
Linda Hill (Management Visionary, Business Professor)
– studies “leaders of innovation”
– across industries & across different countries
– to have innovative organisations (creating new & useful products & services) will require humans to “un-learn” their traditional notions of leadership, leadership teams & “brains trusts” more generally [as well as the focus on who is right & who us winning; not setting a direction & ensuring no one deviated from it.]
– ideas such as creating a vision [often to be innovative, this “vision” is hazy at best
– innovation is not about individual genius but collective genius
– cites example of company that has created computer-generated movies & made the genre mainstream
– process cannot typically be condensed to a “neat series of steps” (typically process is iterative, inter-related & messy)
– movie shots – some quick, others not; some shot in order, but most not – scene/content dependent
– leadership must allow individuals to contribute their “slice of genius”
– at the heart of innovation is a paradox – individual creativity & harnessing for one particular piece of work
– innovation is a journey – a collaborative problem-solving among people who have different expertise & points of view
– trial & error, false starts, & mistakes are typical (exhilarating & scary for individuals simultaneously)
– she states successful innovative organisations have three capabilities:
1. Creative Abrasion (creative marketplace of ideas through debate & discourse – amplifying difference, rather than minimising difference; it is not brainstorming where people suspend judgment, but discussion based on expertise to create options – based on diversity & subject matter conflict)
2. Creative Agility (testing & refining the ideas & options; reflect & adjust based on learning through discovery, rather than planning a future; running a series of experiments rather than pilots)
3. Creative Resolution (decision-making; “no going along to get along”; no individual or group is allowed to dominate; decisions not the sole province of the boss, but rather more inclusive)
She cites another company – this time a well known search engine company:
– allowing talented people to play out their passions

Innovative organisations allows people to be creative & be willing to use that creativity o solve problems

New leadership looks like:
– building a sense of community – a world to which people want to belong, like a public square where people will interact
– building the three capabilities
– anyone, regardless of role/level, can contribute
– where all “disruptors & minority voices can speak up & be heard”
– talented people “don’t want to follow, they want to co-contribute”
– “nurture the bottom up”
– not a dictator of viewpoints, but rather an aggregator of viewpoints
– hire people who argue with you
– “the social architect rather than the visionary”
– not having everyone “looking up (to the boss)” but outwards – unleash the power of the many & release the stranglehold of the few


CRIPPLING WORKLOAD – Mental Illness in the Australian Workplace (RN ABC)

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CRIPPLING WORKLOAD – Mental Illness in the Australian Workplace (RN ABC)

– mental illness – main reason workers take extended sick leave &/or become incapacitated (research by dr Sam Harvey, Psychiatrist – based on national health surveys conducts in the period 2001 to 2011)
– costs also for the economy ($10.9 Bn annually cited – source: The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance)
– affects 1 in 5 workers annually
– stigma/prejudice still present
– cites case of teacher not being supported in workplace
– high rates of depression within the law & Federal Court Judge’s own experience with depression (Justice Shane Marshall), as well as instances of bullying
– mental illness extends across all industries
– dr Harvey – mental illness accounts for 10% of workers compensation claims & 1/3 of workers compensation budgets (reason cited: psychological injury takes longer to recover from than physical injury; figures cited – 14.2 weeks away from work when a psychological injury c/w 4.8 weeks lost from work for a muscular-skeletal injury)
– professor from Deakin Uni – costs of mental illness are tip of iceberg when one considers issues of turn-over, retraining, & “presenteeism”; also states he believes that – due to stigma – for every one workers compensation claim (psychological injury) made, some 30 go unreported
– makes point about job strain arising as a result of people having high-demanding jobs, but little control about how to get the job done
– cites figures that such work conditions exist for approx 22% of women & 18% of men
– mental illness in the workplace is often ignored as a health & safety problem


How your job can be positive for your mental health – suggestions fom Headpace

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Employment can assist with mental health recovery while continuing to provide the individual with financial security.

summary of article:

– work provides structure & routine

– work provides/contributes a sense of meaning & purpose

– provides opportunities for social inclusion & support

Possible barriers:

– reduced self-confidence

– peer pressure/social stigma & possible discrimination from employer &/or colleagues

– uncertainty about support available

– continuing concerns that workplace stress issues have not been adequately addressed, coupled with loss of connection with work & colleagues

Plan RTW (Return to Work)

– regular catch-ups ith employer/colleagues so as to “stay in the loop”

– letting employer know if you wish to receive visits from colleagues

– consider letting employer contact GP

reources are also available from the link, plus a personal story video, advice on making adjustments & workplace rights
Source: Headspace & beyond blue @

The Blueprint of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy [Beck Institute]

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The Blueprint of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
– it’s not just a toolbox of techniques
– CBT is an architecture
– individuals in the course of their development experience certain vulnerabilities
– mal-adaptive attitudes/inflexible beliefs
– can permeate their whole personality leading to a personality disorder
– negative attitudes can be activated by a whole series of things that can impinge on an individual’s ability to function
– perception of all events in a biased way & spreads to other areas
– reality is distorted by internal workings of the mind
– cognitive restructuring – no longer seeing things as just mainly black or white
– changes biased beliefs of I’m no good/unloveable etc.,
– change in attitudes & beliefs/perceptions (I.e. see the positive too)
– people who are depressed see things negatively

Concerns mandatory reporting is putting doctors at risk – Radio National [calls for change to laws & working environments]

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Concerns mandatory reporting is putting doctors at risk – Radio National [calls for change to laws & working environments]

– conundrum – mandatory reporting forces doctors to hide mental illness from other doctors for fear of being mandatorily reported
– doctors are traveling to WA for treatment of their own mental health issues to avoid mandatory reporting which applies in other states – this is because WA is exempt from the mandatory reporting requirements
– doctors can be reported under the categories of inappropriate conduct & impairment, with a notification leading to suspension or restrictions placed upon their practice & information being placed on the AHPRA website
– reports in media about recent deaths of four young doctors (3 psychiatric registrars & 1 medical intern, all working in public hospitals) has highlighted these fears & how they potentially impact upon a doctor’s likelihood to seek as early as possible treatment for mental health related issues
– a review of mandatory reporting laws has recently been completed, but is not yet public; however the review is expected to be tabled at the April meeting of the Council Of Australian Governments (many in the medical profession are reported to be hoping that the laws revert to the West Australian model (& this has been further supported by 2 medical insurers)
– working environment issues also cited, as was extra duties


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We thought you may be interested in having a look at this growing online community @ – particularly if interested in Australian social & cultural history dating back to WW1 (as shown in Australia’s fundraising badges, buttons & pins, such as Anzac Day, Legacy Appeals etc.,) – for information our well-researched 2015 Guide to Australia’s Fundraising Buttons, Badges & Pins – Anzac Day is now available for immediate reading as a downloadable eBook using Paypal from & our 2014 Guide to Australia’s World War One Badges is also available, amongst many others.

How do you know if you need therapy?

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With the exception of the UK references, this is a timely article – if in Canberra, I can be contacted on 0467 087 300 & I practice CBT & mindfulness in particular – I appreciate it is a big step, but if the following applies to you, perhaps it is worth considering
– a relationship ending
– loss of someone close to you
– perhaps you’ve always felt at odds with the world
– do you feel you are running into the same problems time & again
– you are thinking about past traumas more often of late
– you feel your home & work life is suffering
– you are no longer enjoying the things that once gave you pleasure
– do you find yourself, eating or drinking more than usual, or are you taking drugs to cope?



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– friends can have conflicts too
– children need to have relationship repair skills
– conflict is a normal occurrence in life
– children who have the skills to manage conflict are
– happier
– have stronger relationships &
– learn better at school
– many parents let children sort it out themselves – hence why the loudest often works
– other parents jump in & “fix”
– suggests trying this when child disagrees with friends /siblings
1. Ask all sides for their side of the story
2. Have children state their own needs & wants by asking them what thy want
3. Help children listen & understand the needs & wants of the other
4. Help children think of different ways to solve the problem – assist & encourage the children to develop solutions
5. Help develop win-win solutions
6. Put solution into action & review


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– Courageous love is expressive

– consider using:
– touch (physical) races, wrestles, hugs
– tell them in words (praise, affection)
– time focused on them & them alone
– gifts – a gift or token of your love
– service – like helping him or her with his/her chores

Ask your child to name three things that make him/her feel loved the most
– journal it
– make a point of doing it /showing it each day


Protect yourself from anger: Learn to boost confidence and composure

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Protect yourself from anger: Learned to boost confidence and composure

– grievous are the consequences of anger as much as the causes of it
– concept of “ego anger” with irrational demands, recurrent & lingering features
– consequences can include:
– physical violence
– relationship loss
– when expressing anger, people tune into the emotion rather than the substance
– long-term health risks
– concept of “anger traps”
– confident composure:
– recognise you can only directly command yourself
– can influence controllable events only
– you have psychological resources to defuse conflicts & finesse those conflicts (I.e. responding flexibly & effectively)

Blame-Anger Factor
– holding onto anger is like holding onto something ready to throw it at another person
– “road of life” analogy – rarely smooth – full of challenges, frustrations, stress, blame
– it is normal to blame those you believe caused you pain
– condemning & punishing is like holding onto something
– confidence to take charge of yourself & adversity (despite the anxiety caused)
– you have options – to stress yourself or
– to problem-solve & exude confident composure
– begin by showing empathy to others important to you & thereby building relationships
– control your own reactions
– deep-breathing;
– buy time to calm down
– examine anger assumptions – why you believe it is ok to get angry
– change from “ego anger” to “enlightened” – why play the game of “anger”?
– accept reality – the situation is as it is
– make Your anger/impatience/frustration the target of change
– defuse & let go of the anger

The Anger-Anxiety-Procrastinaation Connection
– confrontation anxiety
– or is it more realistic to be assertive, noting it is difficult but more helpful & effective than bottling it all up
– procrastination is used to avoid confrontation
– put off procrastination by
1. Accepting there is a problem which needs to be addressed/changed
2. Break steps down into plunks – smaller, planned chunks
3. Develop a positive, can do form of reasoning
4. Accept her emotions without ignoring/distracting herself
5. Change her behaviour & act as though she can do it without argument or anger

Aristotle – Anyone can become angry. That is easy. To be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, & in the right way… That is not easy.

– ego anger is triggered by irrational demands & expectations & it may seem automatic (as if caused by something)
– however, you do have a choice to think, feel & act differently.
– believe you can respond reflectively & effectively, & then do so
– practice makes progress, & when mistakes are made, practice repair


How highly successful people deal with depression

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How highly successful people deal with depression

Summary of article:
– develop a goal with therapy
– so as to steadily achieve little wins which, together, eventually amount to change
– be willing to examine the arc of your life – that is your early experiences – to think deeply about your past
– stop self-sabotaging
– think about themselves & their life in new ways
– recognise that past traumas can come into their lives, & overwhelm them, leading them back to a child-like place (& way if thinking, feeling & behaving)
– “flooding” of old traumas – knowing ow to recognise them & pull yourself out of the situation
– identify triggers for depression as soon as they start
– are prepared to invest in therapy (e.g. cited in article – person has therapy 4 hrs/week)
– person states one session per week did not work for him (three for himself & one with his partner)
– identify patterns & implications of arguments with loved ones
– working out treatment – therapy, medication or combination pharmacotherapy
– also with exercise, pastimes/hobbies, journaling, faith/spirituality
– they recognise that depression “just happens” & is not a “personality flaw/weakness”
– it is a true disorder, not a shortcoming
– typically has multi-factorial cause
– they recognise recovery from depression takes time & a lot of work
– are not prepared to be stigmatised because of their illness
– are mindful of signs


4 Simple Ways to Nurture Closeness in Your Family

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As your family grows and life progresses, it gets harder to find ways to connect and spend time together. Even recently married couples can find it challenging to carve out space in their schedules for togetherness. But, as is the case with most things in life, if it’s important, you will find a way to make time for it. And creating memories and enjoying time together should definitely take priority.

The good news is you can do plenty of easy things to enhance your family bond and spend more time with each other. Try incorporating these simple tips into your daily life to foster closeness among your family.

  • Go to bed at the same time

Coordinating bedtimes for multiple children might be tricky, but you’ll see results if you can make the change. Not everyone has to fall asleep at the same time, but initiating a bedtime routine at the same time each night together as a family can help foster lasting, healthy habits, according to pediatrician Dr. Laura Jana. This could mean scheduling bath time at the same time each night or settling onto the couch for story time before bed.

Going to bed at roughly the same time each night can have a real impact on the relationship of a family or couple. According to a study published in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, married couples who went to bed at roughly the same time reported less conflict, more in-depth conversation, and more time spent engaged in shared activities. Ask your kids for their input, and come to an agreement on a nightly routine that works for everyone and provides a dedicated space to spend time together.

  • Read together and have discussions

If you’re already reading bedtime stories to your kids, take it a step further by discussing the books you read. Studies show that reading even to young infants can help form positive relationships with books and set them up for a lifelong love affair with reading. Discussing what you’ve read also helps younger children develop their comprehension and critical thinking skills.

Encourage your family members to identify what they liked and didn’t like about the reading material, and ask them why they feel this way. A respectful dialogue between family members demonstrates to everyone that it’s possible to disagree with someone or have a differing opinion and still respect them.

  • Establish a family ritual or routine

Don’t limit family rituals to holidays or special events like birthdays and anniversaries. Taking time to create a unique tradition gives couples and families a way to process emotions during different phases of life, and it can help reestablish your connection with each other during trying times.

Pick a day or time of the month—every second Tuesday, for example—and collectively commit to spending time together as a family doing something you all love. It could be as simple as a regular pizza-and-movie night as long as you are spending time together.

Routines and rituals give families a sense of identity and help establish important values. Children learn from example, so dedicating time to creating memories together shows kids that their family prioritizes interpersonal interactions and experiences.

  • Give back to the community

To raise socially conscious children, parents need to exhibit the same behavior. Together as a family unit, choose an organization or charity and begin to volunteer your time and resources. Ask your kids for input if they are old enough to understand.

Family bonding while serving the community reinforces prosocial behavior and empathy towards others. Similar to creating a family ritual, giving back to a charity or community organization helps establish a sense of identity, pride, and ownership in the community.

A close-knit family isn’t just born; it is nurtured and encouraged. However, as we all know, life can get hectic and relationships might get caught in the day-to-day rush. A little planning and effort will help you re-establish connections among family members and improve existing bonds.

But don’t limit yourself to just the four items on this list. Brainstorm with your family more ways you can spend time together to create lasting memories and strengthen relationships.


source: Down, 2017 via Gottman Institute @

6 Ways That Childhood Trauma Affects Your Adult Relationship

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Developmental trauma is more common than many of us realize. According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 78 percent of children reported more than one traumatic experience before the age of 5. Twenty percent of children up to the age of 6 were receiving treatment for traumatic experiences, including:

  • sexual abuse,
  • neglect,
  • exposure to domestic violence, and
  • traumatic loss or bereavement.

Adults who suffer from developmental trauma may go on to develop Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or “complex PTSD,” which is characterized by:

  • difficulties in emotional regulation,
  • consciousness and memory,
  • self-perception,
  • distorted perceptions of perpetrators of abuse,
  • difficulties in relationships with other people, and
  • negative effects on the meaningfulness of life.

Although we do not have statistics on the rates of cPTSD, risk factors for cPTSD are disturbingly commonplace. According to the CDC, in 2012 there were 3.4 million referrals to state and local child protective services for cases of abuse or neglect. It is estimated that in 2012 alone, 686,000 children, or 9.2 per 1,000, were victims of maltreatment. However, experts believe that these numbers underestimate the true frequency, and that up to 1 out of 4 children may actually experience some form of maltreatment. It is estimated that the total lifetime economic cost of child maltreatment in the US is $124 billion. While thankfully not all children who experience maltreatment go on to develop cPTSD, many will — and recovery is challenging even for those who do seek treatment.

How Does Developmental Trauma Impact Identity Formation?

Identity formation is an important part of normal development, and takes place across the lifespan. Identity — including one’s sense of being good enough, integration of emotion and intellect, basic awareness of emotional state, feeling secure and coherent as an individual, and even the basic experience of who one actually is — is disrupted by developmental trauma, because basic survival takes precedence over, and uses resources ordinarily allocated for, normal development of the self. Early trauma shifts the trajectory of brain development, because an environment characterized by fear and neglect, for example, causes different adaptations of brain circuitry than one of safety, security, and love. The earlier the distress, on average, the more profound the effect.

The task of identity development in adulthood, challenging enough (though rewarding) for those with a secure, safe, and enriching upbringing, is especially fraught for those grappling with the aftermath of developmental trauma. Because of developmental delays and the adult consequences of trauma, which often include:

  • substance abuse,
  • eating disorders,
  • depression,
  • higher risk for many health problems,
  • behavioral issues, and
  • difficulty in personal relationships and professional development,
  • identity development gets stuck.

Identity for adults with unresolved developmental trauma is often organized around being a survivor and maintaining basic safety in relation to others, leading to re-traumatizing and disheartening repetitions, preventing growth-oriented experiences. Individuals in this situation become highly identified with a “traumatic self,” at the expense of a more inclusive, flexible sense of self. People with significant developmental trauma dissociate from their environment and from themselves early on — a last ditch survival mechanism — and may remain disconnected from themselves throughout childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, only recognizing what has happened when there is no other choice but to do so.

With these considerations in mind, I am highlighting key ways that identity tends to be shaped by earlier traumatic experiences. Understanding these basic themes, which are often a result of dissociative effects on the traumatized personality, can help people recognize areas of difficulty so they can begin doing the work of recovery, repair, and personal growth.

1. Loss of childhood: “I never really had a childhood” or “I can’t remember much from growing up.”

People who experience a very distressing childhood often can’t remember large swathes of their early life. They may remember particularly vivid moments, sometimes called “flashbulb memories,” which don’t have any context to them. They often don’t have a clear story of themselves as a child, up through adolescence, early adulthood, and sometimes even later in life. This autobiographical sense is called a “coherent narrative” in attachment theory, and can be absent, underdeveloped, false, or oversimplified. Many people have told me that they feel like their childhood has been stolen, and without such a foundation, adult identity is compromised.

2. Missing parts of oneself: “I’ve always felt like something was missing, but I don’t know what it is.”

With chronic developmental distress, children often disconnect important parts of themselves in order to survive, a form of dissociation. They may come to rely on one major persona in order to have stability and make it appear as if everything were OK — such as being an exemplary student — while having little or no real personal life. Later in life, they may feel like parts of themselves are missing. Through personal growth and therapy, they may rediscover and even create anew these missing parts. Sometimes they are there, stowed away for better times if you will, but younger-feeling than their everyday persona. It’s common for these missing parts to be associated with particular emotional states and memories, and reuniting leads to a fuller sense of identity.

3. Attraction to destructive relationships: “I’m the kind of person that always dates people who are bad for me.”

It is not uncommon for people traumatized by key caregivers to end up with friendships, romantic relationships, and even work settings which are not good for them. They find people who fit their traumatic identity, even when they are trying to make different and better choices, leading to re-traumatization through repetition of the past.

They may end up being around emotionally unavailable people, abusive or narcissistic people, or end up trying to rescue and fix people they date. Consciously, they want to find someone who can provide what they intellectually know they need and want, yet unconscious influences lead them down unwanted, familiar paths. Frequently, there is a powerful “chemistry” with new relationships, which makes it seem like the relationship will be different, only to learn with disappointment that it is all too familiar. When friends try to warn them, it’s not unusual for them to pick the new romance over a trusted friend. Repeatedly getting into destructive relationships can be disorienting and confusing, leading one to question one’s self-understanding and locking one into the old identity, while preventing new identities from taking root.

4. Avoidance of relationships: “I’m someone who is better off alone.”

Alternatively, people with negative developmental experiences involving intimate relationships may opt to avoid closeness and isolate themselves. Sometimes this starts early on and sometimes later, as an attempt to break the cycle of harmful relationships. But healthy relationships with other people are crucial for personal development, presenting opportunities for growth and change. Missing out on them in adulthood as a self-protective measure further impairs development of a fully adult identity, solidifying a self-perception of unworthiness and self-condemnation.

5. ​Avoidance of oneself: “I don’t like to think about myself; it only makes me feel bad.”

Especially when childhood trauma was a defining component of key relationships — parents, siblings, and other important people — any reminder of those experiences may lead to efforts to manage painful emotions and experiences through escape from oneself. Taken to the extreme, this may lead one to self-destruction.

Connection with oneself, as with others, is a powerful reminder of prior trauma, activating memories and emotions which are often too much to handle. Self-care is impaired, and one learns to live apart from oneself as a matter of habitThey may not be able to reflect upon themselves at all, and flee from any encouragement to do so. Sense of self is often characterized by disgust and essential badness, reflecting a rigid traumatic identity.

6. Difficulty integrating emotions into one’s identity: “I’m not the kind of person who has strong feelings about things.”

When feelings had no place in one’s family of origin, emotions become split from identity. They continue to have influence, leading to confusion and an unstable sense of self, because one is unable to predict, let alone manage, strong emotions. We need that emotional data to be fully ourselves and to make decisions. Emotional dysregulation leads to problems with impulsive decisions and gets in the way of forming healthy relationships with others.

People may experience a sense of emotional numbing or (paradoxically) feel they don’t have any emotions at all. They may experience a limited range of emotions or feel muted emotions. They may, for example, only be able to feel vague emotions, such as frustration or boredom, or they may block out dissatisfaction until anger explodes. They may only feel negative emotions about themselves, such as disgust and self-loathing — and recoil from anything or anyone presenting a positive view of them, feeling uneasy with gratitude from others, “not knowing how to take a compliment” or feeling mistrustful when people express kindness. They may adopt an overly intellectualized identity, acting stilted or awkward around others.

This leads to difficulty in personal relationships, as emotions are required for intimacy and shape career choices, while often limiting advancement. Identity is narrow and flat, and re-integrating emotions into one’s sense of self, while rewarding and necessary for growth, can be very challenging, full of fears and difficult learning experiences.

Moving Forward

While it can be disheartening to read about the effects of developmental trauma in adulthood, and daunting to contemplate doing the work of recovery and identity formation beyond that of the traumatized self, therapeutic efforts are effective.

Recovery, grieving, and growth often take place over a longer time period than one would want, and re-connecting with oneself has many layers. Developing a sense that long-term goals are attainable and worth working toward is important, even if it doesn’t feel possible or true. Working toward getting basic self-care in place is a vital first step, as is working toward feeling comfortable seeking help when trust in caregivers has been broken. Developing compassion for and patience with oneself can be difficult, but useful.

Six Ways to Beat Childhood Trauma and Stop Self-Sabotage

  • 1. Know what you are dealing with. 
  • When making a plan to address any complex problem, it is necessary to know what we are dealing with. Developmental trauma is no exception. However, because one of the most common ways of responding to distress is with avoidance, in adulthood developmental trauma can manifest in many ways which are not obviously connected with earlier experiences. In my experience, although public awareness is higher and health-care provider training better, many people only recognize the traumatic origin of their problem after years of suffering.
  • It’s not uncommon to have been diagnosed with other mental health disorders, such as bipolar disorder and various personality disorders, before the developmental component is recognized (bearing in mind that traumatic issues are often co-present with other problems). Post-traumatic and dissociative symptoms fly under the radar, and the enactments of those issues in personal relationships, self-care, and professional life are attributed to other factors — often reinforcing self-blame, self-defeating patterns, and the tendency to push others away. Why? Because there is often a “don’t ask, don’t tell” feeling to trauma. This is typically institutionalized, and is arguably a core component of our culture — to ignore and downplay trauma. Doing so helps maintain the status quopreserving stability at great expense.
  • Even in clinical evaluation settings, it is very common for patients to omit traumatic experiences, and clinicians are often poorly trained about how to evaluate for them and their consequences. Often the focus is on a presenting problem — depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorders, and so on — and sometimes trying to address the underlying factors leads to individual and family resistance. The omission of addressing the underlying problems creates a vicious cycle, often driven by feelings such as shame and psychological pain, to create chronic non-recognition. Patients often repeat a core pattern from their family of origin, intended to cover up abuse and neglect and pretend everything was fine.
  • Work toward putting trauma in perspective: Even suggesting keeping trauma in perspective can feel like an insult to someone who has lived through terrible experiences. It is difficult to recognize the presence of developmental trauma in oneself, because of the challenging feelings evoked, and the tendency to either avoid or become overly preoccupied with it. It is a delicate balancing act that takes time. Being over-identified with trauma can reinforce an identity of victimization, leading one to live only as a traumatic self in a traumatizing world. Likewise, with unresolved trauma, we are more likely to perpetrate against others without knowing it. We may become compulsive caregivers, sometimes even over-empathizing with those in need, to our own detriment. Putting traumatic experiences in perspective — working toward having a context for understanding trauma in the broader sweep of one’s life, while building new experiences which are healthy and self — can lead to greater empowerment and a shift toward a non-traumatic sense of self.

2. Be aware in the moment.

  • Emotional dysregulation is a common feature of unresolved trauma. Often there is numbing and dissociation, as well as fixation and preoccupation, or some mix of either extreme. Because traumatic experience is often driven by avoidance of one’s core self, memories, and emotions, many people with unresolved or resolving developmental trauma struggle to remain present with themselves and others. That basic capacity to sit with and name difficult experiences didn’t develop properly because of early trauma, but can be cultivated as part of recovery and post-traumatic growth. Various forms of meditation, typically in the mindfulness tradition, can be helpful for this. There are structured forms of mindfulness as well, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, which are becoming more common in clinical practice. Compassion-based meditations and loving-kindness practice, based on eastern traditions such as Tibetan Buddhism and Hinduism, can be additionally useful, because they are intended to directly fix core consequences of developmental trauma. However, mindfulness and compassion-based practices can sometimes be problematic, because they can make one aware of emotions and memories which one is not ready to handle properly, can lead to the worsening of other problems in response, triggering re-traumatization, and generally are most effective as part of a broader recovery plan. It’s important to take self-awareness in small doses, building up proficiency and gradually digesting whatever experiences come up.
  • Learn to regulate emotions: Because of the emotional regulation challenges that unresolved trauma presents, it is crucial to learn how to cope differently. This goes hand in hand with basic awareness, because having effective coping tools empowers one to recognize and respond to challenging experiences in oneself without as much fear of making things worse as a result. Rather than getting stuck in vicious cycles of failed recognition and further suffering, focusing on basic coping and awareness can lead to virtuous cycles of developing greater capacity and making headway with problems which once were intractable. It’s typically a slow process, especially in the beginning, but positive changes build up over time and become more established, hopefully eventually leading to stable and enduring changes. Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Skills Training in Affect and Interpersonal Regulation (STAIRS), and Trauma Affect Regulation: Guide for Education and Therapy (TARGET) are examples of structured approaches which start with basic awareness and skills and move on to more advanced work in a step-wise format.

3. Rewrite your story.

  • Because fear-based brain systems dominate in trauma, one’s story of oneself becomes dominated by generally one-sided, negative perceptions of oneself and others, as well as the expectation of an unsafe and indifferent, or even malevolent, world. This is a self-protective story, but sadly comes with high costs as a result of erring on the side of staying away from new experiences, which may be positive and useful because of exaggerated fears. It is common to interpret others’ intentions and events in one’s life negatively to manage expectations and try to avoid repetition of injury and disappointment. Mistrust is a dominant theme and shapes decisions. It makes sense — surviving a traumatic developmental experience often called for such measures, but out of context in adulthood, as a sole view of life, it is too rigid and too often leads to repetition, which is painful, but confirms the belief in a traumatizing world.
  • Rewriting one’s story, putting trauma in context, has been shown to be an effective method for getting out of survival mode and shifting our approach to ourselves, others, and life in general. It’s easier said than done, because doing so involves further engagement with very challenging subjects. Narrative therapy and narrative exposure therapy are structured approaches that are intended to recontextualize trauma, and help to re-tune the brain so that fear-based systems exert the right amount of control — neither too much nor too little. Regular talk therapy may also be useful, but sometimes is not geared toward addressing trauma and related issues specifically.
  • It’s key to practice new patterns in real life as part of rewriting our stories. Seeking out positive experiences, cautiously at first, over time leads to building a track record of more optimistic expectations and chips away at the belief that life is incontrovertibly bad. Even just the idea of doing so can feel upsetting, challenging basic adaptations to chronic distress, and the suggestion of doing so can be met with confusion, anxiety, and even hostility. Making a sustained effort to be rationally optimistic can seem like a very misguided concept. Hand in hand with banking positive experiences, resisting repetitive negative experiences is just as important, and just as challenging. For one thing, as mentioned, a lot of self-protective perspectives and behaviors, out of context, lead back into disappointment and even re-traumatization.
  • Further, many drivers of traumatic experience are habitual or unconscious, and efforts to make better choices can lead to disappointment and feelings of helplessness when they inadvertently don’t work out. It’s important to have the basic ability to be aware of and manage emotions in order to understand that unlearning old patterns and re-learning new ones is going to have ups and downs before becoming more consistent and reliable. There’s a lot more to this, because taking emotional risks isn’t always going to work, and the times it doesn’t can lead to major setbacks if one is not well-prepared.

4. Practice self-care.

  • Unresolved developmental trauma too often leads to a negative sense of self. We can feel undeserving of love and care, we can be too self-blaming and have a basic sense of unworthiness, and we can come to belief that any attention to ourselves is “selfish.” In addition, taking care of oneself can simply be unfamiliar, a skill set which never fully developed, especially if self-care is overly focused on basic survival. Self-care is about both taking care of oneself physically, but also emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.
  • The basic orientation toward self-care can be minimal, almost absent, and the idea of anything more than the barest minimum, especially if neglect was a major part of one’s upbringing, can be alien. It’s important to work toward self-care in a gradual manner as well, first working toward accepting the idea that self-care is not only not bad, is not only ok, but also is potentially a source of accomplishment and even enjoyment. Building self-care over time leads to a sense of greater self-efficacy, creates resilience, and reduces the negative health impacts of trauma, both mental and physical. Forgiveness, permission to grieve, gratitude, and related practices can come with time, and are an important part of self-care as well.

5. Work with others.

  • Because trauma often divides people, especially in families, leading to fragmentation and an “every man for himself” mentality, it is important to recognize that working on recovery alone may not be efficient, and may even stall at some point. Working with others can be informal, or can involve seeking out groups of people in different settings ranging from meditation groups to recovery groups and clinical settings. Being able to ask for help is an important part of self-care, and can be difficult to do, especially when trauma came from trusted others who betrayed that trust. Having a supportive group is important during periods of forward motion as well as during challenging periods, and having a plan to reach out for help, especially when things are at their worst, is often the decisive factor.

6. Cultivate patience.

  • Growth takes time. There are periods where things may get better, and other times where it looks very bleak and terrible things happen. The overall goal is to establish a different pattern and to have a goal of maintaining the process, rather than focusing on short-term successes and failures (though goals along the way are useful to establish, as long as they are flexible). Patience, compassion, and curiosity are likewise long-term process goals, good to cultivate with the understanding that the ongoing effort is worthwhile, rather than having an expectation of developing them overnight. Our basic attitude about change itself may change, providing relief and room for development in new directions.

Source: 2017 – Brenner, G.H. @ &

Understanding Psychopathic Behaviour – A Psychologist’s View

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This ebook is 25 pages in length, is sourced form 32 scientific references, and contains 51 footnotes and 15 illustrations. It is 10,723 words in length and the file is 1.3 MB in size.

Learn about what Robert Hare calls the intraspecies predator who believes a sucker is born every minute.

Mark Taylor © 2017 | RRP $12.95 AUD |

The Evolution of Anxiety: Why We Worry and What to Do About It

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Let’s pretend for a moment that you are a giraffe.

You live on the grasslands of the African savannah. You have a neck that is 7 feet long (2.1 meters). Every now and then, you spot a group of humans driving around on a safari taking pictures of you.

But it’s not just your neck and their cameras that separates you from the humans. Perhaps the biggest difference between you and your giraffe friends and the humans taking your picture is that nearly every decision you make provides an immediate benefit to your life.

  • When you are hungry, you walk over and munch on a tree.
  • When a storm rolls across the plains, you take shelter under the brush.
  • When you spot a lion stalking you and your friends, you run away.

On any given day, most of your choices as a giraffe—like what to eat or where to sleep or when to avoid a predator—make an immediate impact on your life. You live in what researchers call an Immediate Return Environment because your actions deliver immediate benefits. Your life is strongly oriented toward the present moment.

The Delayed Return Environment

Now, let’s flip the script and pretend you are one of the humans vacationing on safari. Unlike the giraffe, humans live in what researchers call a Delayed Return Environment. Clear first came across this distinction between Immediate Return Environments and Delayed Return Environments in The Mysteries of Human Behavior by Mark Leary.

  • Most of the choices you make today will not benefit you immediately.
  • If you do a good job at work today, you’ll get a paycheck in a few weeks. If you save money now, you’ll have enough for retirement later. Many aspects of modern society are designed to delay rewards until some point in the future.
  • This is true of our problems as well. While a giraffe is worried about immediate problems like avoiding lions and seeking shelter from a storm, many of the problems humans worry about are problems of the future.
  • For example, while bouncing around the savannah in your Jeep, you might think, “This safari has been a lot of fun. It would be cool to work as a park ranger and see giraffes every day. Speaking of work, is it time for a career change? Am I really doing the work I was meant to do? Should I change jobs?”
  • Unfortunately, living in a Delayed Return Environment tends to lead to chronic stress and anxiety for humans. Why? Because your brain wasn’t designed to solve the problems of a Delayed Return Environment.

The Evolution of the Human Brain

  • The human brain developed into its current form while humans still lived in an Immediate Return Environment.

The earliest remains of modern humans—known as Homo sapiens sapiens—are approximately 200,000 years old. These were the first humans to have a brain relatively similar to yours. In particular, the neocortex—the newest part of the brain and the part responsible for higher functions like language—was roughly the same size 200,000 years ago as it is today.

Compared to the age of the brain, modern society is incredibly new. It is only recently—during the last 500 years or so—that our society has shifted to a predominantly Delayed Return Environment. The pace of change has increased exponentially compared to prehistoric times. In the last 100 years we have seen the rise of the car, the airplane, the television, the personal computer, the Internet, and Beyonce. Nearly everything that makes up your daily life has been created in a very small window of time.

A lot can happen in 100 years. From the perspective of evolution, however, 100 years is nothing. The modern human brain spent hundreds of thousands of years evolving for one type of environment (immediate returns) and in the blink of an eye the entire environment changed (delayed returns). Your brain was designed to value immediate returns.

Clear notes: Research has shown that the ability to delay gratification is one of the primary drivers of success. Isn’t it interesting that delaying gratification is both the opposite of what your brain evolved to do and the skill that matches the Delayed Return Environment we live in today? For millions of years, humans survived because we were wired for immediate gratification (eat now, take shelter now, have sex now), but today the opposite strategy helps us achieve “success.” I doubt we will know in my lifetime, but it will be interesting to see if delaying gratification is merely a tactic favored by our current society that will fade away in the long-run or if it is a sustainable long-term pressure that will shift the course of our evolution.

The Evolution of Anxiety

The mismatch between our old brain and our new environment has a significant impact on the amount of chronic stress and anxiety we experience today.

Thousands of years ago, when humans lived in an Immediate Return Environment, stress and anxiety were useful emotions because they helped us take action in the face of immediate problems.

For example:

  • A lion appears across the plain > you feel stressed > you run away > your stress is relieved.
  • A storm rumbles in the distance > you worry about finding shelter > you find shelter > your anxiety is relieved.
  • You haven’t drank any water today > you feel stressed and dehydrated > you find water > your stress is relieved.

This is how your brain evolved to use worry, anxiety, and stress. Anxiety was an emotion that helped protect humans in an Immediate Return Environment. It was built for solving short-term, acute problems. There was no such things as chronic stress because there aren’t really chronic problems in an Immediate Return Environment.

Interestingly, researchers have found no evidence that wild animals experience chronic stress. As Duke University professor Mark Leary put it, “A deer may be startled by a loud noise and take off through the forest, but as soon as the threat is gone, the deer immediately calms down and starts grazing. And it doesn’t appear to be tied in knots the way that many people are.” When you live in an Immediate Return Environment, you only have to worry about acute stressors. Once the threat is gone, the anxiety subsides.

Today we face different problems. Will I have enough money to pay the bills next month? Will I get the promotion at work or remain stuck in my current job? Will I repair my broken relationship? Problems in a Delayed Return Environment can rarely be solved right now in the present moment.

Clear notes: even many of the acute problems we face today are very different from the acute problems of Immediate Return Environments. Consider turbulence on an airplane. This is an immediate, short-term problem that makes many travelers feel stressed and anxious. Unlike acute problems in the wild, however, there is nothing you can do about it except sit there. When you saw a lion in the grass, you could at least run. But our environment has changed so much that many of the acute problems we face, we can no longer take action on. We can’t resolve the stress ourselves. We can only sit and worry.

What to Do About It

One of the greatest sources of anxiety in a Delayed Return Environment is the constant uncertainty.

  • there is no guarantee that working hard in school will get you a job.
  • There is no promise that investments will go up in the future.
  • There is no assurance that going on a date will land you a soulmate.
  • Living in a Delayed Return Environment means you are surrounded by uncertainty.

So what can you do? How can you thrive in a Delayed Return Environment that creates so much stress and anxiety?

The first thing you can do is measure something.

  • You can’t know for certain how much money you will have in retirement, but you can remove some uncertainty from the situation by measuring how much you save each month.
  • You can’t be sure that you’ll get a job after graduation, but you can track how often you reach out to companies about internships.
  • You can’t predict when you find love, but you can pay attention to how many times you introduce yourself to someone new.

The act of measurement takes an unknown quantity and makes it known. When you measure something, you immediately become more certain about the situation. Measurement won’t magically solve your problems, but it will clarify the situation, pull you out of the black box of worry and uncertainty, and help you get a grip on what is actually happening.

Furthermore, one of the most important distinctions between an Immediate Return Environment and a Delayed Return Environment is rapid feedback. Animals are constantly getting feedback about the things that cause them stress. As a result, they actually know whether or not they should feel stressed. Without measurement you have no feedback.

If you’re looking for good measurement strategies, I suggest using something simple like The Paper Clip Strategy (On his desk, he placed two jars. One was filled with a number of paper clips. The other was empty. You transfer from one to the other each time the new habit is enacted) for tracking repetitive, daily actions and something like The Seinfeld Strategy for tracking long-term behaviors – Clear says Seinfeld told another comic his secret:

  • He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.
  • He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.
  • “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.” 
  • <note: Seinfeld says nothing about results, and that also tasks have be achievable/realistic so as to instil discipline and move from procrastination>

Shift Your Worry

The second thing you can do is “shift your worry” from the long-term problem to a daily routine that will solve that problem.

  • Instead of worrying about living longer, worry about taking a walk each day.
  • Instead of worrying about whether your child will get a college scholarship, worry about how much time they spend studying today.
  • Instead of worrying about losing enough weight for the wedding, worry about cooking a healthy dinner tonight.

The key insight that makes this strategy work is making sure your daily routine both rewards you right away (immediate return) and resolves your future problems (delayed return). An example – Clear says – of focusing on the system (or the process), not the goal.

Here are the three examples from clear’s life:

  • Writing. When I publish an article, the quality of my life is noticeably higher. Additionally, I know that if I write consistently, then my business will grow, I will publish books, and I will make enough money to sustain my life. By focusing my attention on writing each day, I increase my well-being (immediate return) while also working toward earning future income (delayed return).
  • Lifting. I experienced a huge shift in well-being when I learned to fall in love with exercise. The act of going to the gym brings joy to my life (immediate return) and it also leads to better long-term health (delayed return).
  • Reading. Last year, I posted my public reading list and began reading 20 pages per day. Now, I get a sense of accomplishment whenever I do my daily reading (immediate return) and I become a more interesting person and the practice helps me produce relevant work and develop into an interesting person (delayed return).

Our brains didn’t evolve in a Delayed Return Environment, but that’s where we find ourselves today. My hope is that by measuring the things that are important to you and shifting your worry to daily practices that pay off in the long-run, you can reduce some of the uncertainty and chronic stress that is inherent in modern society.

Source: Clear, J 2017 – see his website too!

Compare and Despair (a style of thinking)

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Martha Graham on the Hidden Danger of Comparing Yourself to Others

  • Agnes de Mille had just achieved the greatest success of her career, but right now the only thing she felt was confusion.
  • She was a dancer and a choreographer. Early in her career, de Mille had created the choreography for a ballet called Three Virgins and a Devil. She thought it was good work, but nobody made much of it.
  • A few years later, de Mille choreographed a ballet named Rodeo. Again, she thought her work was solid, but it resulted in little commercial fame.
  • Then, in 1943, de Mille choreographed Oklahoma!, a musical show from Rodgers and Hammerstein that enjoyed nearly instant success. In the coming years, Oklahoma! would run for an incredible 2,212 performances, both around the nation and abroad. In 1955, the film version won an Academy Award.
  • But the success of Oklahoma! confused her. She thought that her work on Oklahoma! was only average compared to some of her other creations. She later said, “After the opening of Oklahoma!, I suddenly had unexpected, flamboyant success for a work I thought was only fairly good, after years of neglect for work I thought was fine. I was bewildered and worried that my entire scale of values was untrustworthy. I talked to Martha.”

Martha was Martha Graham, perhaps the most influential dance choreographer of the 20th century. (Although not as well-known by the general public, Graham has been compared to other creative geniuses like Picasso or Frank Lloyd Wright.)

During their conversation, de Mille told Martha Graham about her frustration. “I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.”

Graham responded by saying,

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”

The Uselessness of Judging Yourself

Clear talks about his own experiences writing his website…

“I thought this was a good article. Why don’t people seem to enjoy it?” Or, I’ll feel like I wrote something average only to see it become the most popular post of the month. Regardless of the outcome, I’ve realized one thing: we are often terrible judges of our own work.

Martha Graham’s advice takes this concept a step further by explaining that not only are you a bad judge of your own work, it is not your job to judge your own work. It is not your place to compare it to others. It is not your responsibility to figure out how valuable it is or how useful it can be. It is not your job to tell yourself, “No.”

Instead, your responsibility is to create. Your job is share what you have to offer from where you are right now. To quote Pema Chodron, the Buddhist teacher, your job is to “come as you are.” (and keep coming.)

There are people in nearly every field of work who make each day a work of art by the way they do their craft. In other words, nearly everyone is an artist in one way or another. And every artist will judge their work. The key is to not let your self-judgment keep you from doing your thing. Professionals produce, even when it isn’t easy.

Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Paper

Clear goes on…

In grade school, I remember my teacher passing out an assignment and telling each student to “keep your eyes on your own paper.”

Perhaps she was simply trying to teach 8-year-olds to not cheat, but hidden within that phrase is also a deeper message about what really matters. It doesn’t make a difference what the person next to you writes down for his answer. This is your race to run. It’s your assignment to complete. It’s your answer to create. How your paper compares to someone else’s is not the point. The point is to fill the paper with your work.

The same can be said of your work today. No matter what you spend your days doing, every morning you wake up and have a blank piece of paper to work with. You get to put your name at the top and fill it with your work.

If what you write on your paper doesn’t meet someone else’s expectations … it is no concern of yours. The way someone else perceives what you do is a result of their own experiences (which you can’t control), their own tastes and preferences (which you can’t predict), and their own expectations (which you don’t set). If your choices don’t match their expectations that is their concern, not yours.

Your concern is to do the work, not to judge it. Your concern is to fall in love with the process, not to grade the outcome. Keep your eyes on your own paper.

Perhaps this can even be applied to your own life??  Mark

Source: Clear, 2017