Stephanie Livingston–Psychologist

Author Archive

Long Shot: Beating the Odds to Love and Happiness (preface)

by on Jan.05, 2017, under manuscript excerpt

Preface
I’m a recovering Long Shot—a single woman over 30 whose chances of marriage was slowly diminishing as the clock kept ticking—who barely beat the odds at age 41. My eventual trip down the aisle was more like a trot than a gallop and was preceded by many emotional barriers and red flags I ignored along the way. I am not alone. According to the 2015 United States Census, there has been a consistent decline in married households from 1967 to 2015. In 2015 half of adults age 18 and over lived with a spouse compared to two thirds in 1967. The age of first marriages is going up along with divorce rates. Flying solo is becoming the norm, despite the abundance of research on the physical and psychological benefits of marriage. There are numerous reasons for this pattern including changing attitudes toward marriage, birth control, women’s economic and academic successes, societal shift from interdependence to independence, and a host of other explanations.
The focus in Long Shot is primarily on psychological factors that may hinder the marriage minded woman’s pursuit of love and happiness. This book will help the reader to assess when you are the problem in your relationship quest and provide guidance as to what to do once you identify the girl in the mirror as the impediment to getting what she wants. Long Shot is my attempt to: shed light on the dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors of today’s single female looking for love; help the reader understand the importance of making healthy love connections from a holistic perspective (mind, body, social); and provide workable solutions for single women who are eager to change their approach to getting to love and marriage.
Time and time, again, single female patients, clients, relatives, colleagues and friends ask the same question of themselves: “Why, am I not married, or at least in a serious relationship?” What most women don’t realize is the question is not germane to any one particular group. Women of different ages, races, ethnicities, socioeconomic status, educational levels, and family backgrounds are all struggling with the same issue regarding their single status—“Why Me?” My answer to that question is always the same—begin by looking in the mirror.
As a practicing psychologist for over 25 years, I have learned many things about the nature of relationships, and have devised a plan for success for women who do not want to grow old alone. In this informative and interesting guide to finding intimate love, I hope you can appreciate my fictitious, but clever paradigm using horseracing terminology and analogies to conceptualize the challenges single women face seeking romantic love. Rather than simply offering dating tips—an outside-in approach, this book is more about self-exploration—an inside-out approach. The goal is to discover uncover hidden agenda preventing you from securing a committed relationship through personal insights—rather than pointing the finger—and to use proven psychological strategies to implement changes in thinking and behaving.
The idea for Long Shot is based on the notion that there are three types of single women: Fillies, who are proactive; Long Shots, who are ambivalent; and Nags, who have given up. For the marriage minded, those in their twenties are looking to get married and have children. Those in their thirties are just looking to get married and maybe have children. And those over 40, may be feeling like they have missed the marriage and children boat, and are trying to fill their emotional needs with other things.
It is my opinion that if a woman doesn’t marry either right after high school or college, when her chances of finding a beau are probably the greatest, the trip to the altar becomes more difficult. Once singles settle into jobs and careers in their twenties they have a much harder time finding their dreamboat. Eventually, socializing and partying start to wane as work and responsibilities take over. Dating has now become a chore and she starts to think that all the good men are gone. Her once positive outlook, turns into negativity and then apathy.
I have noticed that the women who are getting married tend to be family oriented, willing to compromise, and make getting married a priority in their lives. Although every marriage is not a happy one, not all single people are happy with their single status either. Relationship minded people seem to be more persistent in making their relationships work and even if they don’t pan out, they are more resilient and inclined to seek out love again. Connectors are goal directed—not desperate—in their dating efforts and find the time to pursue a personal life, even when they have other responsibilities.
The road to Long Shot has taken a couple of interesting turns for me. I have expanded my years of experience in health psychology working with patients in hospitals and clinics to later applying these same principles to peak performance training in my work with athletes, corporate executives, students, and artistic performers, helping them to push the limits to achieve at higher levels. My “mental fitness” philosophy surmises that mental skills strategies, which work on the playing field, board room, classroom, or on stage also apply to those seeking out loving relationships. As a result, I have incorporated aspects of positive psychology which promotes achieving your best by focusing on your strengths, in treating singles who are struggling with relationship issues. Martin Seligman (2006), founder of positive psychology, has conducted research on optimism, with respect to health implications. His research shows that being an optimist is usually a good thing in terms of health, longevity, and happiness, and pessimism tends to have negative effects such as depression, isolation, and ill health. It stands to reason that your mind-set likely affects your relationships too. It made sense to me that that the Filly, Long Shot, Nag concept was consistent with the optimism-pessimism model, as it applies to relationships.
Fillies are at the optimistic end of the continuum, placing them on the inside lane/fast track of the dating track. Nags occupy the pessimistic end, in the outside /slow lane. And Long Shots are in the middle lane teetering on this seesaw and can go either way. Knowing that optimism and pessimism are learned thinking patterns and can be changed, it follows that state of mind is largely a choice. Just like you can learn to become an optimist and improve your quality of life, you can also learn to become a Filly and improve your chances of finding love. It is my belief that pessimism will serve as a barrier to achieving your relationship goals. By choosing optimism your chances of success will significantly improve.
On the personal side, my husband Kyle-Pierre (KP), kept referring to the single woman in her thirties—including me when we met—who kept waiting for Prince Charming to appear, as “Long Shots.” He viewed us Long Shot girls as perfectly good candidates for love connections, but because of our unrealistic expectations, how we spend our time, and sometimes even our emotional issues, the likelihood of making a love match was slowly diminishing. According to KP, it was the Long Shot’s attitude and behavior that were getting in her way. He saw me as a Long Shot because I was in my late thirties, unmarried, no prospects and no children. I was living a life of going to work and coming home to sit on the couch, eat salads and watch TV. He believed that I had settled into a life of singlehood. However, he was surprised and impressed that I stepped outside my comfort zone and approached him when we first met. I later invited him over for dinner on our second date—something I had not done in years. Although KP and I hit it off, I had erected many walls to being vulnerable to love again. I had to work through many of my issues before I allowed myself to take another chance at romance. If you have an emotional wall up—for whatever reason (e.g., breakups, childhood trauma, daddy issues, abandonment fears, mental disorders)—it may take a bulldozer to knock it down. Most guys are walking around with a chisel, not a bulldozer. They often don’t want to spend the time or energy chipping away at your issues, especially as you get older. Help him out. Even though men are more used to rejection than women because they have historically been the ones to put themselves on the line to ask for a date, they don’t like rejection either. If a woman provides a smooth path for him to get to know her, he will more likely go down that road rather than pursue someone who requires a lot of work. Most men are looking for a path of least resistance.
When I hear thirty-something women, who are slowly giving up on dating and content to go home after a long day at work and have dinner in front of the television, I think of me at that age. It is easy to slip into that pattern, waiting for Mr. Wonderful to just suddenly appear. Hard work on the job does not guarantee you companionship. You also have to put in the time in your personal life. As pointed out in Malcolm Gladwell’s (2008) book Outliers, to become an expert at something, a person must put in at least 10,000 hours—the 10,000 hour rule. I think the same is true of romantic endeavors. The dater-in-training has to sort out many issues about her own behavior and emotions as well as those of her future partner. Figuring out what’s important to you and prioritizing your values can be a daunting task. If you are not putting in the time, chances are you are not going to be very good at it. I did the numbers and over a 20 year period, 10,000 hours averages out to about 10 hours per week. If you have not spent time seeking, engaging in, and refining the process of finding that special someone it is no surprise that you aren’t making much headway. It’s true that most of us are not experts when we commit to another person, nor do you have to be. However, you can increase your odds of success by embracing the idea that where you place your time and energy are the areas that will likely flourish in your life.
Long Shot is divided into three parts: Starting Gate, Backstretch, and Homestretch. Case examples are given in Parts 1 and 2 to further illustrate important points. Of course, for confidentiality reasons, names and circumstances have been changed to maintain anonymity. Part 3 provides an eight-steps-in-eight-weeks program to becoming a Filly.
Starting Gate provides the rationale for claiming your lane— inside/fast track, middle lane, or outside/slow lane. It is a framework for understanding your place in the dating game using the continuum of optimism to pessimism—Filly to Nag. Fillies have the most promise of finding a mate because they are optimistic, energetic, social, relationship focused and willing to compromise. Fillies tend to look for the silver lining in most situations and do not view themselves as failures when things don’t go their way. They are hopeful about the future, even when things look bleak and bounce back from disappointment and realize that this too shall pass.
Nags are pessimistic, passive in their dating efforts, may have given up altogether on finding a mate, and are supposedly content to live and die alone. Nags see life through a bleak lens and tend to focus on what is going wrong, rather than what is going right. They tend to feel lonely, helpless about changing their circumstances and may give up on pursuing difficult goals. When life throws them a curve ball, they tend to dwell on their misfortune by asking, “Why me?” rather than seeking a solution to a temporary problem. You can see why Nags might have a hard time in their romantic endeavors.
Long Shots, as their name implies, still have some possibility of finding a mate, but their chances are slim. The Long Shot may have been an optimist at one time, but has slowly let pessimism overtake her life. There is still time for the Long Shot to turn things around, but she must be willing to do the necessary work. The Filly, Long Shot, Nag (FLN) Scale is included in Part 1 to help you to claim your lane on the dating racetrack.
Backstretch discusses the reasons for changing your lane, helping you to see why you need to move into the inside lane to become a Filly, if you are not already there. The emphasis here is on evaluating the mating dilemma from a holistic perspective including: biological factors (e.g., instincts, touch), psychological factors (e.g., depression, anxiety, anger, abuse, self-esteem), and social factors (e.g., family dynamics, race, sexual preference, age). This holistic approach is often used to understand mental and physical illness as well as other complex phenomenon. Believe me, there are few things that are more complex than the nature of intimate relationships.
Homestretch provides a remedy for how to work on your love life from the inside out, by engaging in self-reflection and learning how to be proactive when it comes to finding love. Eight eBets offers an eight-steps-in-eight-weeks program to increase your odds of making good love choices by teaching you how to move onto the fast track. Each week for eight weeks you will focus on one of the Eight eBets: Educate yourself, Evaluate your relationship history, Envision your destination, Eliminate emotional clutter, Enumerate your goals, Expect realistic change, Energize your mind and body, and Enjoy the moment. Each eBet is followed by a series of exercises and a LAP assignment, which includes identifying your Limitation; developing an Action plan; and assessing your Performance. Each successful LAP around the dating racetrack gets you closer to the finish line.
Long Shot is designed to help you become a successful doer in the dating world, not a passive recipient of whatever happens. You will learn how to identify thoughts and behaviors that are no longer productive and acquire new solutions that will move you closer to your love goal. Taking control of your life is much more empowering than letting things take their own course in hopes that you will one day hit the jackpot. In just eight weeks, you should be able to make inroads you never thought possible, regardless of your age category. For the purposes of this book, each of the following estimated generation categories will be used: seniors (born before 1946), baby boomers (born between 1946 and1964), Gen X (born between 1965 and1982), Gen Y/millennials (born between 1983 and 2000).
By the time you finish reading this book, you will know how to get the most out of your romantic endeavors by zeroing in on the most important aspect—you! You will be able to:
• Identify where you are on the dating racetrack—Filly/fast track, Long Shot/middle lane, or Nag/slow lane.
• Recognize the benefits of choosing Filly optimism over Nag pessimism.
• Understand how a woman becomes a Long Shot who is stuck in indecision.
• Understand physical, psychological, and social factors that can influence your love journey.
• Implement an eight-week plan to change to the Filly/fast track if you are not already there.
• If you are already a Filly, use this program to stay on the right track.
Doing the work from the inside out, means looking at yourself in the mirror and courageously making the necessary adjustments to move toward internal happiness. Although self-reflection can be difficult, the benefits are life changing. Knowing your true self, increases the likelihood of finding the right mate. The wonderful thing about human beings is that most of us want to change, we just don’t know how. The tips, exercises and guidelines set down in the Long Shot program will take you step-by-step through the process of changing. Let the race within begin!

Introduction

long shot—noun
1. a horse, team, etc., that has little chance of winning and carries long odds.
2. an attempt or undertaking that offers much, but in which there is little chance for success.

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informed consent form

by on Oct.05, 2016, under forms

OUTPATIENT SERVICES CONTRACT

Welcome to my practice. This document contains important information about my professional services and business policies. Please read it carefully and jot down any questions you might have so that we can discuss them at our next meeting. When you sign this document, it will represent an agreement between us.

PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICES
Psychotherapy is not easily described in general statements. It varies depending on the personalities of the psychologist and patient, and the particular problems you bring forward. There are many different methods I may use to deal with the problems that you hope to address. Psychotherapy is not like a medical doctor visit. Instead, it calls for a very active effort on your part. In order for the therapy to be most successful, you will have to work on things we talk about both during our sessions and at home.

Psychotherapy can have benefits and risks. Since therapy often involves discussing unpleasant aspects of your life, you may experience uncomfortable feelings like sadness, guilt, anger, frustration, loneliness, and helplessness. On the other hand, psychotherapy has also been shown to have benefits for people who go through it. Therapy often leads to better relationships, solutions to specific problems, and significant reductions in feelings of distress. But there are no guarantees of what you will experience.

Our first few sessions will involve an evaluation of your needs. By the end of the evaluation, I will be able to offer you some first impressions of what our work will include and a treatment plan to follow, if you decide to continue with therapy. You should evaluate this information along with your own opinions of whether you feel comfortable working with me. Therapy involves a large commitment of time, money, and energy, so you should be very careful about the therapist you select. If you have questions about my procedures, we should discuss them whenever they arise. If your doubts persist, I will be happy to help you set up a meeting with another mental health professional for a second opinion.

MEETINGS
I normally conduct an evaluation that will last from 2 to 4 sessions. During this time, we can both decide if I am the best person to provide the services you need in order to meet your treatment goals. If psychotherapy is begun, I will usually schedule one 50-minute session (one appointment hour of 50 minutes duration) per week at a time we agree on, although some sessions may be longer or more frequent. Once an appointment hour is scheduled, you will be expected to pay for it unless you provide 24 hours advance notice of cancellation. If it is possible, I will try to find another time to reschedule the appointment.

PROFESSIONAL FEES
My hourly fee is $200.00. In addition to weekly appointments, I charge this amount for other professional services you may need, though I will break down the hourly cost if I work for periods of less than one hour. Other services include report writing, telephone conversations lasting longer than 10 minutes, attendance at meetings with other professionals you have authorized, preparation of records or treatment summaries, and the time spent performing any other service you may request of me. If you become involved in legal proceedings that require my participation, you will be expected to pay for my professional time even if I am called to testify by another party. Because of the difficulty of legal involvement, I charge $350.00 per hour for preparation and attendance at any legal proceeding

BILLING AND PAYMENTS
You will be expected to pay for each session at the time it is held, unless we agree otherwise or unless you have insurance coverage which requires another arrangement. Payment schedules for other professional services will be agreed to when they are requested.

If your account has not been paid for more than 60 days and arrangements for payment have not been agreed upon, I have the option of using legal means to secure the payment. This may involve hiring a collection agency or going through small claims court. In most collection situations, the only information I release regarding a patient’s treatment is his/her name, the nature of services provided, and the amount due.

INSURANCE REIMBURSEMENT
In order for us to set realistic treatment goals and priorities, it is important to evaluate what resources you have available to pay for your treatment. If you have a health insurance policy, it will usually provide some coverage for mental health treatment. I will fill out forms and provide you with whatever assistance I can in helping you receive the benefits to which you are entitled; however, you (not your insurance company) are responsible for full payment of my fees. It is very important that you find out exactly what mental health services your insurance policy covers.

You should carefully read the section in your insurance coverage booklet that describes mental health services. If you have questions about the coverage, call your plan administrator. Of course I will provide you with whatever information I can based on my experience and will be happy to help you in understanding the information you receive from your insurance company. If it is necessary to clear confusion, I will be willing to call the company on your behalf.

Due to the rising costs of health care, insurance benefits have increasingly become more complex. It is sometimes difficult to determine exactly how much mental health coverage is available. “Managed Health Care” plans such as HMOs and PPOs often require authorization before they provide reimbursement for mental health services. These plans are often limited to short-term treatment approaches designed to work out specific problems that interfere with a person’s usual level of functioning. It may be necessary to seek approval for more therapy after a certain number of sessions. While a lot can be accomplished in short-term therapy, some patients feel that they need more services after insurance benefits end.

You should also be aware that most insurance companies require you to authorize me to provide them with a clinical diagnosis. Sometimes I have to provide additional clinical information such as treatment plans or summaries, or copies of the entire record (in rare cases). This information will become part of the insurance company files and will probably be stored in a computer. Though all insurance companies claim to keep such information confidential, I have no control over what they do with it once it is in their hands. In some cases, they may share the information with a national medical information databank. I will provide you with a copy of any report I submit, if you request it.

Once we have all of the information about your insurance coverage, we will discuss what we can expect to accomplish with the benefits that are available and what will happen if they run out before you feel ready to end our sessions. It is important to remember that you always have the right to pay for my services yourself to avoid the problems described above.

CONTACTING ME
I am often not immediately available by telephone. While I am usually in my office between 9 AM and 6 PM, I probably will not answer the phone when I am with a patient. When I am unavailable, my telephone is answered by voice mail or by my assistant or by voice mail that I monitor frequently. I will make every effort to return your call on the same day you make it, with the exception of weekends and holidays. If you are difficult to reach, please inform me of some times when you will be available. In emergencies, you can try me at my cell phone. If you are unable to reach me and feel that you can’t wait for me to return your call, contact your family physician or the nearest emergency room and ask for the psychologist or psychiatrist on call. If I will be unavailable for an extended time, I will provide you with the name of a colleague to contact, if necessary.

PROFESSIONAL RECORDS
The laws and standards of my profession require that I keep treatment records. You are entitled to receive a copy of your records, or I can prepare a summary for you instead. Because these are professional records, they can be misinterpreted and/or upsetting to untrained readers. If you wish to see your records, I recommend that you review them in my presence so that we can discuss the contents. Patients will be charged an appropriate fee for any professional time spent in responding to information requests.

The laws and standards of my profession require that I keep treatment records. You are entitled to receive a copy of the records unless I believe that seeing them would be emotionally damaging, in which case I will be happy to send them to a mental health professional of your choice. Because these are professional records, they can be misinterpreted and/or upsetting to untrained readers. I recommend that you review them in my presence so that we can discuss the contents. Patients will be charged an appropriate fee for any time spent in preparing information requests.

MINORS
If you are under eighteen years of age, please be aware that the law may provide your parents the right to examine your treatment records. It is my policy to request an agreement from parents that they agree to give up access to your records. If they agree, I will provide them only with general information about our work together, unless I feel there is a high risk that you will seriously harm yourself or someone else. In this case, I will notify them of my concern. I will also provide them with a summary of your treatment when it is complete. Before giving them any information, I will discuss the matter with you, if possible, and do my best to handle any objections you may have with what I am prepared to discuss.

CONFIDENTIALITY
In general, the privacy of all communications between a patient and a psychologist is protected by law, and I can only release information about our work to others with your written permission. But there are a few exceptions.

In most legal proceedings, you have the right to prevent me from providing any information about your treatment. In some proceedings involving child custody and those in which your emotional condition is an important issue, a judge may order my testimony if he/she determines that the issues demand it.

There are some situations in which I am legally obligated to take action to protect others from harm, even if I have to reveal some information about a patient’s treatment. For example, if I believe that a child, elderly person, or disabled person is being abused, I may be required to file a report with the appropriate state agency.

If I believe that a patient is threatening serious bodily harm to another, I am [may be] required to take protective actions. These actions may include notifying the potential victim, contacting the police, or seeking hospitalization for the patient. If the patient threatens to harm himself/herself, I may be obligated to seek hospitalization for him/her or to contact family members or others who can help provide protection.

These situations have rarely occurred in my practice. If a similar situation occurs, I will make every effort to fully discuss it with you before taking any action.

I may occasionally find it helpful to consult other professionals about a case. During a consultation, I make every effort to avoid revealing the identity of my patient. The consultant is also legally bound to keep the information confidential. If you don’t object, I will not tell you about these consultations unless I feel that it is important to our work together.

While this written summary of exceptions to confidentiality should prove helpful in informing you about potential problems, it is important that we discuss any questions or concerns that you may have at our next meeting. I will be happy to discuss these issues with you if you need specific advice, but formal legal advice may be needed because the laws governing confidentiality are quite complex, and I am not an attorney.

Your signature below indicates that you have read the information in this document and agree to abide by its terms during our professional relationship.

___________________________________________________ ___________________
Client Signature Date

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HABITS ARE HARD TO BREAK

by on Sep.25, 2015, under Articles

HABITS ARE HARD TO BREAK
Humans are creatures of habit. What we did yesterday is likely what we will do tomorrow. Most of us have some type of daily routine. Get up, shower, brush teeth, go to work or school, eat three meals, watch some TV, exercise, socialize and go to bed only to do it all over again the next day. Even if this is not your exact routine, you probably have some variation that you have stuck to for years. Of course you did not emerge from the womb with these habits, you learned them over time. And years later, these habits are second nature, you don’t even have to think about them. This can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing because you don’t have to spend your precious brain cells on consciously thinking about these necessary activities—you just do them. The curse is that changing habits which are no longer useful, is not always easy. We get comfortable in the way we do things and change seems to be like too much trouble. Unless someone or something pushes us out of our comfort zone, we end up repeating the same only patterns, similar to Bill Murray in the movie Groudhog Day-awakening every day to the same sequence of events.
Some examples of human laziness for change are: singles who identify their parents as beneficiaries for their bank accounts, rarely change their beneficiary after marriage.
This type of living reminds me of the anecdote about the daughter, mother, and grandmother who were preparing Thanksgiving dinner. The youngest daughter asked her mother why she cut off the ends of the ham before putting it in the baking pan, to which her mother replied, “I don’t know, that’s what my mother always did. The mother then asked her mother (the grandmother) why she cut off the ends of the ham, to which she replied, “Oh back in my mother’s time the pans were too small to fit the entire ham, so they cut off the ends.” The lesson here is that sometimes we just repeat what are parents or grandparents did, without ever questioning why. Today’s bakeware is probably more than big enough to hold an entire ham. But because the question was never asked, cutting off the ends of the ham became a useless tradition.
Change can be scary, time consuming, effortful and sometimes costly. But, without change we tend to remain stagnant. We might complain about our plight, but lack the motivation to make a change. Whether it is dissatisfaction with your job, your relationship, your body or your way of life change is a process. You first need to become aware that you want to make a change. Most smokers have tried to quite many times. Dieters have usually tried numerous fad diets to lose those extra pounds only to lose and regain even more weight, succumbing to yo-yo dieting.
What are some of the reasons our attempts to change unwanted habits get derailed?
*fear of change
*conditioning
*too much work
*feelings of loss (giving up something you enjoy like eating, gambling, smoking)
*physical addiction
*behavioral addiction
*peer pressure to stay the same

If you feel stuck in a dead end job, but you are afraid to interview elsewhere or go back to school to get more education, fear may be keeping stagnant. It seems so much easier just to stay put than to venture into the unknown and risk failure. But rest assured, if you do nothing, five or ten years now you will be that much older and still complaining. If you are 30 now and dissatisfied with your situation, do you want to be 40 in the same place. The older you get, the less likely you are to venture out to make a change.
Sometimes it just seems too hard to do things differently. You might have to actually invest time and energy into pursuing something new like dating your resume, brushing up on interviewing skills. If you are looking for love, you may have to step outside your comfort zone and do some new activities or write a dating profile. Or if you are trying to stop smoking, you may have to figure out what else you will do with your hands when you are having a drink or how will you relax, when smoking is your favorite form of winding down. Although, many smokers don’t realize that there is nothing about smoking that is relaxing because it increases blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate. The reason most people think it is relaxing is because they are doing relaxing activities while smoking (e.g., taking a break at work, sitting quietly after a meal). It’s the taking the break and sitting quietly that is relaxing and the smoker merely learns to associate smoking with relaxation because the two are happening together.
Conditioning is one of the biggest reasons we do the things we do. Skinner states we learn things through reinforcement and punishment. Rewards increase behavior and punishers decrease behavior. You are more likely to show up for work if you get a paycheck (reinforcer) and you are less likely to run a stop light if you get a $100 ticket (punisher). Pavlov posits that we learn through association, you pair to things together enough, when one thing happens you expect the other to happen also. If you are used to eating while watching TV, the TV may become a cue to eat, such that whenever you turn on the boob tube all of a sudden you want to eat, even if you are not hungry. And Bandura suggests that we learning things though simple modeling—observing someone doing something and imitating that behavior yourself. Girls model their mothers and boys model their fathers. How many habits do you have as a direct result of what one of your parents did?
Sometimes we don’t want to give up a behavior because we feel as though we are losing a part of ourselves. We then have to grieve the absence of that thing. You may enjoy going to the bar after work, gambling at the casino, or shopping for unnecessary things. Giving up those past times that have become addictions may leave a big hole in your life and you may not know how to fill it. Physical addictions can cause physical withdrawal when the behavior ceases. Similarly, behavioral addictions can have emotional consequences when it stops. That momentary high of buying yet another piece of jewelry on the shopping network or the excitement of taking a chance on winning a slot machine may leave you feeling empty if you give it up.
And sometimes it’s just pure peer pressure to maintain the status quo. Your friends may pressure you to have that extra dessert when you are dieting, go out drinking when you are on the wagon, or go to the mall, when they know you can’t control your spending. These are not your friends. Misery loves company. Your getting healthy may make them feel worse about themselves, but that is not your problem. Whenever you are confronted between having to choose between your so called friends and your values, think of the long term consequences of your decision. Be assertive, say no, and live with any guilt you may feel about not pleasing them.
If you are contemplating making a change, but don’t know where to begin start by:
*setting small weekly goals to ensure you have a successful experience. Cold turkey doesn’t work for everyone.
* reward yourself with something small (not food) when you accomplish your goal to keep yourself moving in a positive direction.
*replace the bad habit with a healthy habit. Otherwise, you are more likely to revert to your old ways if you don’t have a new coping mechanism;
*Say no, when you mean no and work on the guilt later.

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FREEZE YOUR EGGS OR GO ON DATES

by on Aug.18, 2015, under Articles

FREEZE YOUR EGGS OR GO ON DATES

Have you give up on dating? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? I’m speaking to you, thirty- something, single females out there, because men don’t usually give up on finding someone with whom to cuddle no matter what the circumstances. Ladies, on the other hand, upon reaching the big 3-0, when dating has become a chore after more than a decade of finding Mr. Wrongs and no trip down the aisle, start thinking about alternatives. If you have traded in your stilettos and mini-skirts to dance the night away, for sweat pants, potato chips and a trot to the couch to watch the latest episode of Scandal—you just might be on the road to technological birth control. Dancing to the wee hours of the morning just seems like too much work with very little return. “After all, I probably won’t meet anybody anyway”, is a common refrain. You have a stressful job, working 60-80 hours per week and now your boss wants you to spend your leisure time with co-workers bonding in a game of laser tag or hanging out at a bar after work and sometimes on weekends! Has she lost her mind! It’s bad enough that I’m expected to answer e-mails in the middle of the night and eat lunch with my co-workers, that last thing I want is to spend “quality time” with the hired hands. So with all this time I’m spending with people I don’t mind working with, but with whom I don’t particularly care to socialize, I have no energy to develop my own personal life. It is unlikely I am going to meet my husband at work because most of the guys are dweebs, and even if I found a diamond in the rough I have a firm policy of not dating or even befriending co-workers. It rarely turns out well and then you still have to work together.
So you do the math. Let’s say that you spend 45% of your time doing work related stuff, 30% sleeping (yea right) and what’s left is me time–maybe 25% or six hours per day or 42 hours per week. That sounds like a lot of time but that includes, eating, hygiene, errands, church, volunteering, chores, and the list goes on. So you can see, if you don’t make a good faith effort to get out there in the dating game, you may be freezing your eggs sooner than you think.
Countless women have fallen for the ruse—women can have children into their forties and fifties these days. Modern technology has given us a taste of the fountain of youth. But no one really talks about the long term effects of various birth control methods, artificial inseminations, stimulating ovary hormones injections, or the psychological consequence of your test tube baby not knowing who their father is. Yes, it’s nice to have the option of freezing your eggs, but be careful not to see it as your first course of action. Some companies are even offering to pay for their female employees to have their eggs frozen. This may appear to be a real benefit on the front end, but may be detrimental on the back end. Companies are trying to make it alluring to commit most of your time to the office. Having beauty shops, food and cleaners on site makes it easy just to stay at the office. This is a trap. Freezing your eggs may just be an extension of dedicating your entire life to the office. If you don’t have to worry about having time to date because you are spending 80 hours a week working, you at least have the assurance that if you whittle away your childbearing years, modern technology is there to save the day.
The message is that there is nothing wrong with climbing the corporate latter or merely advancing your career by putting in the time, but keep in mind that time waits for no one, and if you’re thirty something, single without children and working 80 hours a week, you’re running out of time. Your default should be going the traditional route first—having balance in your life. If you are making time for yourself and engaging in social activities on a regular basis and actively looking for love you are more likely to find it versus hoping that prince charming will show up when you have reached the pinnacle of your career. Dating sites, meet up groups, introduction, being social, engaging in activities, blind dates, are all good ways to increase your chances of increasing your odds of finding companionship and maybe a daddy for your baby. If you aren’t doing any of these approaches, you are relying on luck to get you through. But remember that luck is merely preparedness when opportunity presents itself. So get your head out of the sand and off the couch and try to make something happen. And if you have been trying all these years and things just haven’t worked out re-examine yourself while you are in the process of putting those eggs on ice. Maybe you are getting in your own way. Maybe it’s you and not them who has issues. If so, fix it. Start by being aware of these pitfalls
Don’ts
1—be a workaholic—setting goals for your career but not your personal life
2—be afraid of intimacy
3—develop single-it is—getting used to being alone
4—date unavailable men (married, living with someone, commitment issues, gay,
5—–replace love with addictions (eating, gambling, shopping, drugs)
6—avoid socializing
7—hang out with the girls, married people, or family too much

Do’s
1—have good work/life balance and set goals for your personal life (be as diligent in your personal life as in your career)
2—figure out if you have a fear of intimacy (daddy issues, abuse)
3—do get comfortable with the idea of sharing your life and space being single (let him leave his toothbrush at your place, watch a football game even if you don’t know what the heck is going on)
4—date men who want the same things you want—commitment (if he says he doesn’t want to be tied down—believe him)
5—acknowledge that you are eating, drinking, gambling, shopping, or drugging because YOU ARE
LONELY!!!
6—get off the couch, put the ice cream back in the freezer and go mingle
7—spend more time with single friends who are also looking for love

If you see yourself way too much in the Don’ts list, you’ve got some work to do. Start today. Every day do one thing on the list. In just one week you will be well on your way to getting the love you want and keeping your eggs off ice.

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DO YOU RELY ON THE LEFT OR RIGHT SIDE OF YOUR BRAIN?

by on Aug.18, 2015, under Articles

DO YOU RELY ON THE RIGHT OR LEFT SIDE OF YOUR BRAIN?

Although we typically think of people who are logical, linear, methodical and verbal as being left siders. While the more creative, artsy, sensitive, and holistic ones are right siders. All the left siders in the house say “hey”. Now, all the right siders in the house say “hey.” If you are an accountant, engineer, or bank teller, you probably rely on the left side of doing things. However, if you are an interior designer, artist or entertainer, you tend to swing to the right more often. One side is not better than the other—just different. In fact we need both sides to function fully and to achieve the success and happiness we desire.
To give you a little neuroanatomy, the brain has two hemispheres connected by a small strip called the corpus callosumum. As mentioned earlier, the left side helps us to acquire and use verbal skills (e.g., language) and the right side more visual-spatial skills (e.g., driving a car). Another little tidbit is that the brain is contralateral to the body—meaning, if you had a stroke on the right side of your brain it would affect the left side of your body. But fortunately, if you have damage to one side of the brain, the other hemisphere helps to compensate for the loss. For instance, someone who loses their sight, might develop a keener sense of hearing. Our bodies are wonderful creations that have checks and balances to help us live full, productive lives. We have evolved to be survivors.
Our society so far has tended to lean more heavily on left side thinking. From hunter-gatherers, to farming, to industrialization, to technology—the southpaw brain has dominated. We tend to pay more respect and financially compensate more for logical linear thinking. How often have you heard, “when you go to college, major in the hard sciences (i.e., math, engineering, computer science), you’ll make more money. Or don’t become a “starving artist”. The message is– if you want to be “successful”, you should choose a path that will provide financial security. You can pursue your passion to become an actor or musician, but be prepared to live on a shoestring, until you make it big. Fortunately, that thinking is beginning to change. Schools of higher learning are beginning to realize that high scores on standardized tests are not the only predictor of success in life. Longitudinal studies have demonstrated that good grades are just as predictive of success in life as standardized test scores (e.g., ACT, SAT). Not to mention, it is becoming more and more important to be able to demonstrate that you are a well-rounded person versus just being a good test taker. I think the movie Internship is a good example of demonstrating the importance of balance. The nerdy, overachieving, highly educated, Millenial, Google interns were able to learn a great deal from the fast talking, fun-loving, unemployed salesmen—Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, and vice versa. Together, they made a winning team—left brain and right brain working together.
More and more, companies are recognizing that to move into the future, technology, combined with creativity is the winning strategy. Using both sides of the brain coupled with incorporating people from diverse backgrounds yields better results. Logic and creativity, will be necessary to compete in a global economy. So start padding your resume with activities outside the classroom. Are you volunteering or taking music, dancing, or acting lessons? Isn’t this a much fairer system than giving an unfair advantage to students who have the resources to take test preparation classes, or who have contacts to pave the way to enter college? Everyone has something to contribute, if given the chance. The graffiti artist from meager means may make a great graphic designer. Or the drug dealer, might possess the skills to run a legitimate business one day. You never know where the next Steve Jobs is coming from.
And lastly, let’s not forget your mental game. Performance of any kind is largely dependent upon your thinking habits. Whether you are primarily a left or right brain thinker, your emotions can either hurt or help how well you do. You may know a lot of facts, but when it comes to taking a test, your anxiety may make you fall on your face. Similarly, if music is your thing, and singing in your apartment or recording studio is great, but when you get on stage you freeze, you are not in control of your thoughts and emotions. Or if you are a writer, writer’s block can be a terrible demon to tackle. The strategies for managing performance anxiety are the same whether you rely on the left or right side of your brain to perform. Read my article on Test Anxiety for more information on this topic. Regardless of which side of the brain you rely on, try to develop the other. I learned in Martial Arts that whatever exercise we do on the dominant side of the body, we do twice as many on the non-dominant side. So if you are right handed and you did 10 moves with your right arm, you would do 20 with your left. In that way you are training your brain to use both hemispheres. Don’t neglect your non-dominant side—nourish it. It will pay you great dividends. Memory games, crossword puzzles, playing sports, can all help you to integrate both brain hemispheres. Don’t become too one-sided. Don’t be the nerd who doesn’t know how to have fun, or the laid back person who doesn’t have a plan. A little of both should do the trick.

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Body Language–what is your body really saying

by on May.26, 2015, under Articles

BODY LANGUAGE–WHAT IS YOUR BODY REALLY SAYING?

Did you know that you communicate more with how you say things rather than what you say. Some researchers have revealed that approximately 55% of what we say is communicated non-verbally, 38% by tone of voice and only 7% is what we actually speak. Our body language is important in most aspects of life, including business, education, health, as well as sports and entertainment. Whenever you are trying convey a message, impress, influence, intimidate, control, or perform, your body language plays a huge role. How attentive would you be if you were in a lecture with a speaker who had a monotone voice and did not make eye contact with the audience? You might just fall asleep. Or if you wanted to show interest in a man with whom you are conversing, but your arms are crossed around your chest, you keep looking round the room and are facing away from the guy you hope to catch. What message are you really sending? What about the athlete who made a blunder on the field and walks around with his head down and pouting? This is not a message of confidence but defeat. Or you are a student sitting in class slumped in your chair while looking out the window? What impression do you think your teacher has of you? These are all situations where body language may be sabotaging your efforts. Our outward appearance affects how the outside world perceive us. However, these same behaviors can also influence our inside world.
You might be surprised to learn that putting a smile on your face when you are down, can actually make you feel happier. Or striking a confident pose, can make you feel more in charge. Researchers have actually studied the impact of body language on our emotions. One cosmetic surgeon noticed that his female patients who were depressed before getting Botox injections to remove frown lines, were less depressed after the injections. To test his observations, researchers studied the effects of Botox injections on two groups of women seeking treatment: those who wanted Botox for minimizing frown lines around the mouth and those seeking treatment for crow’s feet around the eyes. As expected, women who received Botox injections for frown lines were less depressed after treatment than women who received Botox for crow’s feet. These findings suggest that changing our outward appearance can alter our internal state.
It is not clear what the mechanism is that results in an internal emotional change from an outward physical change. One might speculate that the change happens because other’s perceive and react to us differently when our outward presentation is more pleasing. You in turn may feel better how they treat you. More importantly, it is likely that your mind and emotions subconsciously tend to want to align with your body. Your body is telling you how to feel. Studies show that when people are forced into a smile by holding a pencil between their teeth lengthwise report feeling happier than those who put the pencil in their mouths with their lips around the eraser, creating a frown.
once treated a woman who realized how her body language was affecting her dating life after an incident riding the bus. Carly happened to be sitting on the bus with an empty seat next to her. There was also an empty seat next to a woman across the aisle. A nice looking gentleman got on the bus and headed in both women’s direction. She noticed that the woman across the aisle made eye contact with the man and smiled. Carly on the other hand, had her arms crossed and looking away from him. Not surprisingly, he sat down next to Suzy Sunshine instead of Debbie Downer. Men, when given the opportunity, will take the path of least resistance. They don’t want to work too hard to get the girl. Carly immediately felt rejected, but looked in the overhead bus mirror and noticed her body language. It was then that she became aware of part that part of her difficulty in meeting men was by creating physical barriers. From that day forward she began to have more positive body language and she noticed she started to feel better on the inside, even if she didn’t get a smile from Prince Charming. So the next time you are feeling down, lacking confidence, or succumbing to anxiety pretend you are the person you want to be. Stand up straight, put that smile on your face and fake it til you make it! It will help you jump start the new you!

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HOW BIOFEEDBACK CAN HELP YOU

by on Sep.11, 2014, under Articles

HOW BIOFEEDBACK CAN HELP YOU

Whenever you weigh yourself on a scale, you are using a biofeedback  instrument, the scale.  The biological piece that it is measuring is pounds and the feedback modality is the scale that provides that information . Something as simple as putting your hand over your heart and taking your heart rate can also be viewed as a form of biofeedback.  Your hand is the instrument and the feedback signal is the number of beats per minute.  What is the advantage of  having biological feedback information.   Well, the major advantage is that once you have the information, you can manipulate it.  Once you know how much you weigh, you can increase or decrease you weight and monitor your progress.  Likewise, once you become aware of your heart rate, you can make the beats go up or down or even skip beats if you so choose.  Some yogis are actually able to stop their hearts through intensive meditation practice.  Nowadays, biofeedback instruments are very sophisticated and oftentimes computerized.  There are instruments that measure muscle tension, blood flow, brain wave activity, blood pressure, respiration, heart rate, and heart rate variability (i.e., the activity between heartbeats).  It was thought that many of these bodily functions were automatic and that we had no control over them.  However, now we know that  once it is brought into our awareness we can in fact learn to control all of these systems in our bodies.

For instance, if you have a migraine headache, biofeedback can help you learn constrict and dilate your blood vessels at will, and thereby alleviating a vascular headache. This form of biofeedback is called temperature or thermal training.  This involves attaching a thermistor, which measures temperature; to your hands.  By learning to increase your hand temperature, you can essentially alleviate a migraine headache.  The same is true of electromyography to reduce muscle tension, EEG or neuro-feedback to stabilize brain wave patterns in seizure disorders, and respiration  rate.  Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is another form of feedback that helps an individual to control heart function.  It has been found that negative emotions such as anger, frustration, anxiety and stress can have a negative impact  on HRV.  The good news is that you can learn to control the impact of these negative emotions on your body.

Through the use of diaphragmatic breathing and imagery, a person can learn to  alter physiological functioning via biofeedback instruments.  Imagery often involves visualizing a relaxing picture in your mind, like lying on a beach or sitting by a lake.  Some studies show that images of feeling loved or appreciated are more effective when trying to learn heart rate variability.  In either case, our bodies tend to respond in a positive way to these images.  Our minds do not always distinguish between reality and fantasy.  If we visualize a stressful meeting with the boss, our bodies may respond with a stress response, (i.e., increased heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension) at just the thought of the meeting.  Likewise, if you were to picture a relaxing scene, your body would respond with a relaxation response (decreased heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension).    Biofeedback merely speeds up the learning process to control these different aspects of your body.  Through reward and punishment you can learn to change  bodily functioning at will.  An auditory and/or visual signal will let you know how you are doing and thereby shaping your behavior.  Sometimes games are part of the learning process to make things more interesting.  In each game, you get rewarded for changing your behavior in the desired direction and punished for the undesired direction.  Practicing just a few times per day can have a significant positive impact.  And this is all done without medication.

The practice of biofeedback is regulated by the  Biofeedback Certification International Alliance.  If you  are interested in biofeedback please call the BCIA office to locate a professional near you.

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Should a man ever hit a woman?

by on Sep.10, 2014, under Articles

Should a man ever hit a woman?
I was listening to the radio on my way home from work and heard a controversial conversation on a relationship program. The topic of discussion was about violence between men and women and whether or not a man should ever hit a woman. This discussion came on the heels of the suspension of ESPN columnist Stephen Smith for allegedly making politically incorrect statements about the incident involving Ray Rice being caught on video physically abusing his then fiancé and now wife. Although Smith never condoned Rice’s actions, the fact that he brought up the issue of “provocation” in preventing violence, created a firestorm of criticism. It is a sad day when we can’t look at situations objectively. Just the act of questioning what precipitates a violent event, to some suggests condoning the misdeed. People are capable of just about anything under the right conditions. We know that there are often precipitating factors that can trigger violent actions including, environmental conditions such as crowding and heat; acting in self-defense; and mutual consent. It’s not surprising that crime rates increase in summer and overcrowded hot tenement housing is the breeding ground for aggression. And it is not all that uncommon for both men and women to engage in violent acts with each other. And there are times that people act against their values to inflict unnecessary violence when an authority tells them to do so.
Studies on violent behavior have demonstrated each of these conditions. When people read a list of aggressive words that tend to act in an aggressive manner. Children who watch violent video games tend to act more aggressively. And workers may displace their anger toward a demeaning boss by coming home and kicking the dog. Each of these situations can lead to violence.
The Milgram studies demonstrated how obedience is influenced by authority by shifting blame. In this study, subjects pretending to be prison guards were instructed to give increasing amounts of shock to pretend prisoners, for giving incorrect answers to questions. Prison guards administered large amounts of shock when told to do so, despite hearing the cries of the person receiving shock. This study was conducted by Stanley Milgram to investigate the atrocities of Nazism.
The point here is that asking the question of provocation before a violent act is important. It does not suggest that the violent act is right or deserved nor blaming the victim, but merely asking the question as to the circumstances preceding the act. After all the goal is violence prevention. If, as a society, we hold fast to the idea that a man should never hit a woman under any circumstances, we are being remiss in doing all we can to stop relationship violence. Even the gentlest man has his limits. Although most domestic violence disputes are those where men have been the perpetrator, women can also be abusive. Spitting, pushing, scratching, kicking, and punching are just a few of the methods women have used to inflict violence on their mates. Some men don’t retaliate as we saw in the video of Jay Z and Beyonce’s sister in the elevator. She was clearly the attacker without a physical response from him. We don’t know what instigated her attack, but he appeared to be merely defending himself. Did he have the right to hit her back, or should he refrain no matter what?
I have treated many couples who are in domestic violence situations where both men and women are the instigators. In one case, Ann grew up in a violent home, where her parents argued and physically fought each other regularly. She learned to equate violence with love. Her husband, Henry grew up in a quiet, orderly Southern, home, where his father was the king of the castle and his mother was submissive. Henry coped with conflict by shutting down and isolating himself, because he did not know how to deal with Ann’s rage. Ann’s reaction to Henry’s distancing, was to chase after him with name calling ad even hitting. They came to therapy after Henry warned Ann twice that if she ever hit him again, he would divorce her because he did not want to retaliate, go to jail, and possibly lose he job and reputation. After a few sessions of effective communication exercises and anger management, they both agreed to call a time out if things got heated. Henry was able to keep his end of the bargain, but Ann was not. Their last argument resulted in Ann chasing after Henry when he took a time out to de-escalate the situation, and hitting him in the back with her fist. He moved out the next day and filed for divorce.
Ann continued treatment during and after the divorce and came to realize the error of her ways. She had not learned to deal with her frustrations in a healthy way and paid a high price. She loved Henry and harbored many regrets about how things turned out. She knew that if she ever wanted to marry again and have a healthier relationship she needed to get her anger under control. One year after the divorce, she reconnected with an old friend, who she eventually dated. Charles was her prince charming, but she was concerned that her anger issues would re-emerge because he was even more conservative than Henry. He was Muslim and held very strict views about what men and women should and should not do. She re-entered therapy to make sure she didn’t mess things up again. After two years of dating Charles proposed and Ann accepted. Although they have had their moments of Ann asserting herself too strongly, so far she has not crossed the line of putting her hands on him—but on occasion feels tempted.
The issue of provocation is a real one, when it comes to violence. Ann appeared to be a gentle, quiet person, until her buttons were pushed. Old childhood wounds can be the catalyst for behavior unbecoming of “nice girls.” Just like Milgram’s studies, if the conditions are right we do things we might not ordinarily do. A responsible person will try to make themselves aware of those triggers that can incite drama and try to avoid them. If things get too heated, walk away. People don’t usually “ask for it.” That statement is merely a justification for poor decision making. The victim of abuse does not make the abuser hurt them. The spouse doesn’t drive the alcoholic to drink. And the cheater isn’t forced to have an affair because of an inattentive spouse. Yes, name calling, nagging, or frigidity might be the triggers for each of these actions, but you still have a choice.
If you find that you are repeatedly in violent relationships, it’s time to look in the mirror. Do you confuse violence with love? Do you incite violent behavior? If you answered yes to any of these questions it’s time to get help. Stop the violence!

TIPS:
*If your anger level is a 7 or above on a scale of 1-10 (1=low anger, 10=high anger) walk away because you are probably not communicating anyway.
*Try listening to your partner rather than thinking only about what you want to say and talking over him/her.
*Bite your tongue when it comes saying hurtful things. Once it is out of your mouth you can’t take it back.
*Show compassion. Try to put yourself in the other person’s place.
*Learn to forgive.
*If your anger is far beyond what the situation calls for, you are probably angry with someone from your past and bringing it into the present.
*When angry take a few deep breaths and imagine yourself in a quiet relaxing place. Keep your blood pressure under control. Exuding calm can be contagious.

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Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

by on Mar.23, 2013, under Articles

Glass Half Empty or Half Full?
Do you see the glass as half empty or half full? Joan is a pessimist she sees the glass as half empty. If she is not dwelling on the past, she lives her life like “chicken little”—always feeling like the sky is falling, the sky is falling.” When she got a “did not meet expectations” on her performance review at work, she was sure that this meant that she was going to get fired, that her career was over, that she will probably perform poorly in other aspects of her life, and that it must be because she was stupid and undeserving. This is an example of the mindset of a pessimist. Once this type of thinking is set into motion, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy and only reinforces what the pessimist thinks to begin with—that they are no good.
Learning to be pessimistic can start in childhood and become more engrained over time. Studies show that people who are pessimistic as children are much more likely to become depressed later in life. Pessimism is not just seeing life in a negative way, but also has to do with how you explain events in your life. If you attribute the good things in your life to luck or chance but the things you perceive as bad, to your own personal qualities (e.g., stupidity, unworthiness), you are likely a pessimist. Pessimism, like depression usually results from some type of loss such as divorce, death of a loved one, illness. When these events happen during childhood, the child may learn to become distraught, but not necessarily hopeless. He/she then carries this mindset throughout life. Although, a pessimist learned to see the glass as half full, it does not have to persist.
According to Martin Seligman, the expert on learned helplessness (i.e., a perception that you have no control over the things that happen to you) as it relates to depression, says that pessimism can also be a precursor to depression. Your attributional style (i.e. how you explain why good and bad things happen in your life) can determine whether you learn to become an optimist or a pessimistic. The three P’s, permanent, pervasive, and personal causes of bad events can determine in which category you might fall. This behavior has been shown empirically to be learned, usually from messages that the mother, transmits to her children, more so than the father and is not genetic. If you see the event as permanent, you probably cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel and fail to see the situation as temporary. If you see the event as pervasive, you may think that this one bad thing generalizes to all other aspects of your life. And finally, if the event is personal, you believe that there is something inherently wrong with you.
To illustrate Seligman’s approach as outlined in his book Learned Optimism, in contrast to Joan’s outlook, Susan also got a “did not meet expectations” performance review at the same company. However Susan’s outlook on life is very different from her friends’. Susan’s response to her review was that this is just one review and that she will work to do better in the next six months–Permanence. She decided to write a rebuttal to be put in her file for the things she disagreed with and set goals to accomplish the rest. She then wrote in her journal about the other accomplishments in her life, to remind herself of her other good qualities so that she did not let her disappointment about this review, spread to other aspects of her life–Pervasiveness. And finally, she did not beat herself up by making self-denigrating statements. Instead she said, “I am a capable person and am good at what I do, I just need to make some adjustments–Personal.
You can see how the thinking of a pessimist can go downhill pretty quickly. Since explanatory style, optimism or pessimism, can begin in childhood, by the time you become an adult, you have had years of looking at the world in a certain way. Though not always easy, learning to become an optimistic is within your reach and usually in your best interest. Although there are some advantages to pessimism, such as being more reality based and tempering idealism, in general you need a lot of optimism with a dash of pessimism. More often than not optimism has more benefits than pessimism. Studies have shown the following:
*Pessimism promotes depression
*Pessimism produces inertia rather than activity in the face of setbacks
*Pessimism is self-fulfilling. Pessimists don’t persist in the face of challenges, and therefore fail more frequently—even when success is attainable.
*Pessimism is associated with poor physical health.
*Pessimists are defeated when they try for high office
*Even when pessimists are right and things turn out badly, they still feel worse. Their explanatory style now converts the predicted setback into a disaster, a disaster into a catastrophe.
Taken from Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life (Seligman, Martin, 2006)
Now that you know why becoming an optimistic is a good thing, you may ask the question, how does one go about changing such an ingrained thinking and behavior pattern? Fortunately, there are self-help books, like the one mentioned above as well as others that are based on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that focuses on changing distorted or irrational thinking patterns. You might also seek treatment with a psychotherapist for the same. In the meantime, you can start today by asking yourself how you explain bad events in your life. Catch yourself, before you go down that pessimistic path and try to redirect yourself. Ask yourself the following questions, “Is this going to last forever–Permanence, Does it affect all other areas of my life–Pervasiveness, and Did it happen because I am inadequate or unworthy–Personal?” The answer is probably no in each case. But if you answered yes, you have some work to do. Find the silver lining in the bad event, learn from the situation, and move on. You will have many other opportunities to learn from your mistakes.

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High Blood Pressure–Are you working yourself to death?

by on Jan.19, 2013, under ARTICLES

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
ARE YOU WORKING YOURSELF TO DEATH?

Hypertension is a chronic medical condition that is characterized by an elevation in arterial blood pressure. Blood pressure is measured by systolic (top number) when the heart muscle is contracting or diastolic (bottom number) when the heart muscle is relaxed between heart beats. A reading of 120/80 is typically thought of as normal blood pressure, but can range between 100-140mmHg systolic, over 60-90mmHg diastolic. If a person’s reading is consistently at or greater than 140/90 hypertension exists. Most people have primary or also known as essential hypertension, with no underlying medical cause. Less than 10% of the population have secondary hypertension, which is caused by some other medical condition. Essential hypertension, can be the result of many factors such as age, weight, eating and exercise habits, genetic predisposition, and stress. Stress can influence blood pressure because the chemicals that are released during the stress/fight or flight response results in a constriction of the blood vessels, which raises blood pressure. Over time, the daily hassles of life can add up and cause prolonged elevations in blood pressure, which can result in hypertension and many other associated medical problems, such as stroke and kidney failure.
My dissertation research at The University of Chicago Hospitals revealed some interesting things with respect to hypertension and psychosocial factors in black women. Specifically I looked at a concept proposed by Sherman James called, John Henryism, an active coping mechanism used to deal with exposure to prolonged stressors, such as social discrimination. As the legend goes, John Henry was a slave, who could reportedly out- perform the mechanical steam drill, but at the expense of dying from over exertion. James, an epidemiologist, during his data collection for his research, interviewed a man named John Henry Martin, who had characteristics similar to the legendary John Henry. John Henry Martin was a black man who freed himself from the sharecropper system to successfully farm 75 acres of his own land through hard work and determination by age 40, but at the cost of serious health problems by age 50, including hypertension, arthritis, and peptic ulcer. James developed the John Henryism Scale to measure the degree to which a person relies on hard work and determination to achieve their goals. My research findings using female subjects were consistent with James’ research with males, which revealed that those women who scored high on John Henryism tended to have higher blood pressures than those who scored lower.
I have learned over the years as a psychologist that sometimes trying too hard can be detrimental in the long run. For instance, relaxation techniques, which are meant to calm the body and mind and counteract the effects of stress, require a person to give up control. Trying too hard to relax, like trying too hard to go to sleep just doesn’t work. It is not until the person gives up control that sleep comes. Pushing too hard can elicit a stress response which counteracts the relaxation response. There are times when taking control in an active way is beneficial, like when trying to complete a task or playing a sport. It is important to know the difference when you need to take control or give up control.
Many studies have shown the benefits of relaxation techniques (e.g., biofeedback, meditation, diaphragmatic breathing, imagery) in reducing blood pressure. I have used a self-regulation strategy called heart rate variability (HRV), which involves using computer software that is able to measure a person’s heart rate (HR) and HRV—what happens between heart beats. This activity occurring between heartbeats can be affected by negative emotions such as anxiety, stress, anger, and frustration. A clip is attached to the individual’s ear lobe, where the HR and HRV are transmitted through a wire into the computer and the software transforms this information into a graphic that gives feedback as to the level of these physical activities. The trainee uses breathing and imagery techniques to learn to control their HR and HRV. Oftentimes imagery techniques involve thinking of something relaxing and your body responds by becoming more relaxed. In the case of HRV training, the trainee is taught to think of images of love and appreciation, because studies show that it tends to have a more positive effect. My patients who have used these techniques have been very encouraged in learning to control their blood pressure.
At our clinic, BioSynergy, this process involves taking the blood pressure first to get a baseline. Next, the trainee goes through a round of HRV, and then takes their blood pressure again. A training session of HRV involves playing games on the computer where the trainee is able to achieve a goal, like having images on the screen do certain things like having a rainbow go into a pot and fill up with coins or keeping a balloon afloat, as a result of making the HRV go up or down. The goal is to obtain coherence, meaning a smooth HRV pattern. High coherence guarantees success in playing the games. As mentioned previously negative emotions can have an adverse impact on coherence, making the HRV patterns more erratic. Low coherence can result in a stress response being elicited and all the things that go along with this response, such as release of stress hormones, which can in turn increase HR, HRV and a host of other physiological responses.
Most people are not aware that the heart has a brain of its own that sends signals to the rest of the body, just like the brain in your head sends messages down to the body. Therefore, by controlling the heart, one can learn to control other systems in the body voluntarily. You can try this for yourself at home, by taking your pulse or blood pressure, try thinking of something relaxing or a situation where you felt loved or appreciated for ten minutes, and take your measurements again and see if there is a difference. Keep in mind that you are doing this without the benefit of technology. Imagine what you could do, if you had a little help. The mind is a powerful tool, the body is a highly efficient machine, and computers are intelligent devices. Learning to control the interaction of these three entities, create a dynamic force that can take your mind and body to new levels.
These techniques are not meant to be used in replacement of medication or other medical advice. Consult your doctor before considering using these strategies to manage your blood pressure. DO NOT STOP TAKING YOUR MEDICATION WITHOUT YOUR DOCTORS CONSENT. Contact us today for an appointment. We have offices in Illinois and Indiana and take most insurances.

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