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  1. Many high-achievers share a dirty little secret: deep down they feel like complete frauds. They worry that they’ll be exposed as untalented fakers and say their accomplishments have been due to luck. This psychological phenomenon, known as Impostor Syndrome, reflects is the core belief that you are an inadequate, incompetent, and a failure — despite evidence that indicates you’re skilled and successful. Impostor Syndrome makes people feel like an intellectual fraud, rendering them unable to internalize — let alone celebrate — their achievements. Studies have shown this lack of self-belief is correlated with anxiety, low confidence, and self-sabotage. From a psychological standpoint, Impostor Syndrome may be influenced by certain factors early in life, particularly the development of certain beliefs and attitude towards success and one’s self-worth. Let’s take a look at exactly what thoughts run through the minds of people with Impostor Syndrome. Do any of these apply to you? 1. “I’m a fake and I’m going to be found out.” People with Impostor Syndrome believe they don’t deserve success. They may believe about themselves, “I can give the impression that I’m more competent than I really am” or “I’m afraid my colleagues will discover how little I really know.” They fear being unmasked and having their perceived phoniness revealed. Feeling as if they just narrowly escaped professional catastrophe time and time again creates a constant feeling of stress and anxiety that can color all of their work and relationships in a damaging way. 2. “I lucked out.” Those who believe themselves to be impostors often attribute their accomplishments to luck. They may think, “I was in the right place at the right time” or “That was a fluke.” These thoughts signal a fear that they won’t be able to repeat the success in the future, and speaks to a deep-seated belief that their achievement has nothing to do with their actual ability. 3. “If I can do it, anyone can.” People with Impostor Syndrome think they’re nothing special. Whatever they’ve achieved, others can too. They’ll think to themselves, “Oh, that was nothing. I’m sure my teammate could have done the same thing” or “I don’t offer anything special to the company that no one else could.” The irony is that studies have shown that people who feel the effects of Impostor Syndrome most acutely have multiple advanced degrees and demonstrated track records. 4. “I had a lot of help.” “Impostors” aren’t able to internalize their wins and find themselves deeply uncomfortable with praise. As such, they often credit others for helping them. They may think back to when they had a hand in editing a presentation or coordinating a launch. They may think, “This was really a team project. It wasn’t all me” or “Since I didn’t do this completely by myself, it doesn’t really count as a success.” They grasp on to any evidence that will confirm their unworthiness. 5. “I had connections.” Networking is the best way to land new opportunities, no matter what your industry or goal. But “impostors” believe that whenever they’ve gotten an assist through a professional connection, that discounts their achievement. They’ll think, “This was entirely thanks to my investor’s hook-up” or “Since I wouldn’t have gotten my foot in the door without my uncle’s connection, it doesn’t really count.” 6. “They’re just being nice.” Many “impostors” can’t accept praise at face value. They assume that the flatterer is just being nice. They might believe, “They have to say that. It would be impolite not to” or “The only reason he’s congratulating me is because he’s a nice guy — not because I deserve it.” 7. “Failure is not an option.” There can be a huge amount of internal pressure on “impostors” to avoid failure so they won’t be exposed as a fake. Paradoxically, the more success “impostors” experience, the more pressure they feel because of the increased responsibility and visibility. They think, “I have to give 300% to live up to this” or “I’ve got to work even harder than everyone else to prevent them from discovering who I really am.” This becomes an escalating cycle in which they feel more frantic about proving themselves. 8. “I’m pretty sure” or “I kind of think” “Impostors” use a lot of minimizing language because they don’t feel fully confident. They might say out loud or think to themselves, “I’m not sure if this might work” or “I’m just checking in,” instead of nixing such belittling words as “might”, “just,” and “kind of.” 9. “I made it up as I went” People with Impostor Syndrome often discredit their achievements by thinking or saying things like, “I totally BS-ed my way through that” because they feel their expertise isn’t justified. Even if they accomplish something huge, they’ll write it off as not a big deal. What To Do If You Struggle With Impostor Syndrome Some of these thoughts may play on a loop in your head and contribute to the self-doubt that fuels Impostor Syndrome. They may be unconscious or you may be aware of the. You may identify with some of the above thoughts and feelings, but not others. A great first step in overcoming Impostor Syndrome is to acknowledge the thoughts to yourself and even to other people. You can also take this free course on managing self-doubt and developing unstoppable confidence. Remember to also share your experiences with trusted friends, family, and colleagues. You’ll be surprised how many can relate. View the full article
  2. How do you enter conversations with people you don’t know? I grew up with gregarious parents and have enthusiastically emulated them. Although my mother referred to herself as shy, I never observed her that way. She seemed to be able to engage with people in various scenarios. My father was raised in South Philly (home of the iconic pugilist character Rocky) where talking to people on the stoop or street corner was commonplace. He learned how to communicate with those from all walks of life from his own blue collar, working class sensibilities. No matter where our family went, it seems my father always knew someone, and it took forever to say goodbye as we attempted to take our leave. I would also marvel as he would strike up conversations with people he had never met. As a therapist, I work with clients who, in some cases, experience social anxiety, which is defined by the Social Anxiety Institute as “the fear of interaction with other people that brings on self-consciousness, feelings of being negatively judged and evaluated, and, as a result, leads to avoidance,” and don’t have the comfort level that would allow them to do that. The jury is still out about whether it is nature or nurture. What some tell me is that they don’t know how to initiate or join in. I think of it like jump rope and knowing when and how to jump in without tripping over the rope held on either end as it spins over your head and on to the ground. Call out your inner nerd I have also used a tool with my teen clients who often walk down the hallways at school, head down, as they avoid eye contact, wishing themselves invisible. I ask them to imagine cartoon character-like thought bubbles above the heads of their classmates as they make their own way to classes. In each one is a self- deprecating message, like “OMG, I can’t believe I’m such a dork.” “How could I have blown that test?” “She’s never going to go out with me, since she’s out of my league.” “Why did I wear this dress today? I look so fat.” By the time we get through this exercise, they are usually laughing as they realize that everyone harbors an inner nerd who thinks others are way cooler than they are. I add to it that when I was their age (more than four decades ago), I never felt like one of the cool kids. It wasn’t until I attended my 35th high school reunion that some of those I looked up to and wanted to be like, informed me that they thought I was one of the cool kids and wanted to be like me, including one who said he had a crush on me. I asked, “Couldn’t you have told me that back then? It would have prevented a lot of adolescent angst.” What keeps people from throwing caution to the wind and jumping in? Fear of not having anything meaningful to say. Stumbling over their words or stuttering. I tell my clients the story of actor James Earl Jones whose stuttering was almost debilitating until a teacher helped him to recover by having him read poetry aloud. Jones was featured on the website for The Stuttering Foundation. Fear of forgetting what they want to communicate. Poor self-image and a belief that they are not worthy of another’s time or attention. Reinforcement by caregivers and other adults of their worst perception of themselves. Not wanting to be rude by joining a conversation without invitation. Feeling under-educated about current events. Somatic symptoms such as dry mouth, heart palpitations, perspiration, facial flushing, and dizziness. Recently, when I walked into a local gathering place to hear a friend perform, I asked to sit at the end of a table where a few others had already made themselves comfortable, beverages in front of them. A woman smiled and motioned me to be there. I enjoyed the music and then overheard part of their conversation about having been married by a monk in Thailand and (with only a slight hesitation), I invited myself in and inquired about the experience. As an interfaith minister, I am fascinated about how couples meet as well as their unique wedding ceremonies. They welcomed me in and a conversation ensued about the state of the world, relationships, The Dalai Lama — who I interviewed in 2008 — spirituality, life in our town, and serendipity/synchronicity. None of that would have happened, had I not been willing to ask to sit with them or initiate conversation. I am also an adept listener who is truly interested in hearing other people’s stories. I had inquired of others on social media: “What allows you to converse with strangers?” “I am good at interviewing people, so I like to ask them questions but not private stuff. Many people like to talk about themselves and like knowing someone is interested. I am not good at walking up to people and introducing myself. I do like to listen though.” “I am very good at walking up to people and introducing myself, but insecurities immediately set in — about people being silently turned off by what I’m saying, about talking too long, about dragging out unwelcome topics — which sends me into a communication death spiral of anxiety & self-consciousness.” “I can go into a ladies’ room and come out with three new friends.” “I’ll talk to anyone. My husband says he’s learning to do the same thing. It can be the weather, kids, or anything. Went to the post office for my house and a woman came in. We ended up taking about kids, grandkids, her thyroid issues, my thyroid issues, her recent bone scan.” “When I moved from CT to PA, I knew almost no one and had no ready-made social circle. I am naturally introverted and have some social anxiety, so I would bring yarn with me most places. I crochet and often people would stop to talk to me, comment on what I am making, and then sometimes start a longer conversation. I still bring yarn with me a lot of the time. Most of what I make are gifts for people, usually new babies. If no one talks to me, I am still enjoying something I love and making something beautiful for someone.” Remember that everyone you now know, and love was once a stranger and your relationship with began with a conversation. View the full article
  3. I am not proud of it. A few weeks ago and for the first time in many decades, I unpredictably dipped into a depression that, to put it mildly, kicked my ass. Haha, I’m joking. Actually I’m not. For the most part, throughout my life, my mental health issues have stemmed from severe anxiety and agoraphobia, with moderate depression rearing its ugly head only every now and then. But not this time. This one was more than ugly, it was hideous. Blue days, black nights — the whole shebang. According to the Mayo Clinic, depression is a “mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest … You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities and sometimes you may feel like life isn’t worth living …More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness and you can’t simply ‘snap out of it’ … Some people may feel generally miserable or unhappy with and without really knowing why.” When I was younger, I was intolerant of my unusually sad thoughts. And as the definition describes above, I often felt unhappy but I had no clue why. I believed that depressed people, including myself, used feeling down-in-the dumps as an excuse to give up and not be accountable in life. Or worse, that they simply wanted attention. In other words, I believed being depressed was a choice. Last week I watched the 1957 film Gunfight at the OK Corral with Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster. Douglas plays Doc Holliday; an ex-dentist turned rogue gunslinger and avid gambler. He is wanted by bounty hunters and lawmen everywhere. Doc Holliday is also dying from tuberculosis. His character is coughing incessantly, gasping for breath and needing periods of bed rest. Despite his illness, he is feared by everyone and does his share of killing bad guys throughout the film. There is a memorable scene when Holliday is playing poker at a saloon. The poker table he is sitting at is right in front of a window. At the same time a gang of rough riders are shooting up the town. Gunshots and people screaming and yelling can be heard outside. Bullets fly past Holliday shattering lamps, liquor bottles and boring holes in the walls of the saloon. The frightened card dealer is trembling for his life as he ducks from the screaming assault of bullets. He begs Holliday to end the game and take cover. But Holliday does not flinch, blink or move a muscle despite the blizzard of lead whizzing by his head. Holliday says stoically, “Just keep dealing. I’m not breaking this run. Hit me!” The doomed Doc Holliday does not care if he takes a bullet. He knows his illness will eventually kill him, so he chooses not to move. His fate is already sealed. Depression can be similar. When it’s acute you don’t give a hoot. You don’t care what happens to you. The problem is most don’t get to choose like Doc Holliday. When we are depressed, we don’t choose our thoughts — depression chooses for us. That is chilling. It’s as close to the bottom as you can get. Another character who is desperate and suffering from an incurable disease is Walter White in the highly successful TV series Breaking Bad. White bravely and honorably chooses to make sure his family is taken care of financially before he expires from cancer. Granted he chooses a life of crime, which I am not condoning, but he is oblivious to the consequences of the law, as Doc Holliday is oblivious to the bullets. The difference again is that both characters choose — same desperation, different cognitive process. Plus, Doc Holliday and Walter White are really dying. When you’re depressed it only feels like you are dying. I realize now why I have always related to characters that have nothing to lose. It’s because I feel less alone when I put myself in their shoes. I know the feeling. Their resigned perspectives comfort me. One of my teachers in middle school told me that depression was an attitude. It was a spineless way of surrendering to the fight. It was an option. I believed him just as I believed everything adults told me when I was a child. Unbeknownst to my teacher, hearing that cemented much of the shame I carried about my emotions for years. The truth is until you experience it yourself, until you know what it’s like to not care if you get hit by a bullet or stricken with a fatal illness, the deep reality of depression is too profound for the untried mind to grasp. So, I treated my depression with every tool that I had. The most vital one was reaching out to others because I knew I couldn’t do it alone. However, twenty years ago and beyond I would have simply invalidated my hopelessness as a faulty weakness and would not have taken steps to get well. I would even have chastised myself for “letting this happen to me.” Although I am not Doc Holliday or Walter White thankfully, or anyone with nothing to lose, I can still commiserate with the utter desperation. When I say desperation I don’t mean being afraid. I mean the existential malaise of having temporarily lost your purpose in life and not knowing how to get it back. In other words, the lack of desire to thrive. German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once defined his own antidote for the existential malaise of depression: “A happy life is impossible; the best that a man can attain is a heroic life” Thank you, Doc Holliday and Walter White. View the full article
  4. The fear response is triggered when facing danger. The “danger” could be not measuring up to a desired or imposed standard, not getting done what you set out to do, not fulfilling expectations (your own or someone else’s), being seen as less than perfect or failing at something. There is also the “danger” of not fitting in and being noticeably different from the norm. All these fears and anxieties stem from questioning your ability to cope with life’s challenges and people’s responses to your actions. External messages from the media and authorities are also powerful triggers of anxiety and fear. Believing the world to be a dangerous place creates a pervading sense of powerlessness that undermines your personal power and inner strength in many different ways. Fear manipulates you into forgetting how strong and competent you really are. Fear negates your resilience. Feelings of helplessness trick you into believing that you do not have what it takes to tolerate hardship and bounce back from adversity. Fear narrows your focus to mainly notice problems, damage, hurt or harm. Fear impairs realistic thinking so the scale and likelihood of potential danger is often overestimated. Unless you live in a war zone, a dangerous neighborhood, an abusive relationship or have just experienced a significant natural disaster, most commonly assumed dangers are less prevalent or disastrous than imagined. Avoidance is one of the responses to fear. Self-imposed restrictions on where you go or what you do limit your options and shrink your world. Fear sabotages creative self-expression. Instead of aiming for your aspirations and dreams you may censor yourself and remain within the safety of your comfort zone. Fear prevents you from living in the here and now. Worrying what might happen and anticipating dangers and calamities in the future removes your attention from the present, the only place where you can function to the best of your ability. Dwelling on past events instead of focusing in the present also clouds your perception to the realities and opportunities of the now. Survival emotions such as anger (fight); worry, panic and anxiety (flight); depression and hopelessness (freeze) limit your emotional expression and narrow your emotional range. Negative feelings drag you down and deplete vital life force while positive emotions such as trust in yourself, courage and hope strengthen and nurture you. Fear cuts you off from the flow of life and universal benevolence you could tap into. Destabilized by fear you lose your firm grounding in your own power. This diminishes your ability to recognize potential agendas by external sources of fear. As a consequence you become an easier target for manipulation and abuse. Fear is the result of an ancient physical mechanism involving the adrenals and various other body systems. In cases of real and acute danger this is useful as it alerts you to the need for action. However, the same kind of responses are also triggered by imagined danger. With the lines between real and imagined danger often blurred in modern life, fear in all its forms can become chronic. Tricking you into believing that you are weak and without inner resources or that a catastrophe is imminent, fear and its allies are some of the most damaging emotions to allow into your life. You have a choice what you do with your fear: stay in its thrall or make the decision not to be pulled into it and question its associated — and usually automatic — thoughts. There are many different ways to defuse fears. All of them involve feeling it without trying to suppress the feeling or run away from it. Like other emotions, fear follows a bell curve where it rises, peaks and eventually subsides if you stay with it as a witness rather than disappearing into it. When you have weathered the emotional storm and feel calmer, take a good look at your thoughts and the reality of the situation. Examine your triggers and the beliefs associated with them. What is their origin, do they reflect the truth? What is your fear about? How you see yourself, how other people might think of you, what you are told about the world? What keeps you in a state of fear? Depending on your situation, devise your own path to freedom. You may decide on “gradual exposure”, i.e. approaching a feared situation not at once but in several small increments over a number of days or weeks. You could also draw a “fear ladder” with your “little” fears at the bottom rungs and the “big” ones on top. Begin addressing the less difficult ones and gradually work your way up. It will show you that you do not have to give in to fear and let it define your life and how you see yourself. Enlist help and support if you need it, but ultimately no one can do this work for you. Remember, you are much stronger and more resilient than fear will allow you to know. What role does fear play in your life? What have you found useful in overcoming fears? If you are struggling, what is your difficulty? View the full article
  5. Beth came to therapy because she could not stop her mind from worrying. She’d think about the same things over and over, get stuck in a thought with no solutions loop. She’d wake up obsessing about her future and blaming herself for past mistakes. Intellectually she knew she just had to do her best and take everything a day at a time. But she could not quiet her mind. Ruminating, as defined by Webster’s Medical Dictionary, is “obsessive thinking about an idea, situation, or choice especially when it interferes with normal mental functioning; specifically: a focusing of one’s attention on negative or distressing thoughts or feelings that when excessive or prolonged may lead to or exacerbate an episode of depression.” Ruminating feels awful and is exhausting. Many people resort to prescription medications like Klonopin and Xanax to help calm the anxiety that drives ruminations. But there are other ways, more lasting ways, to calm anxiety and experience some relief. It helps to first learn a little about the relationship between ruminating, anxiety and core emotions. I diagrammed it on the Change Triangle for Beth: Core emotions (fear, anger, sadness, disgust, joy, excitement and sexual excitement) are natural, universal, unavoidable, and automatic. And they produce energy for action. Sometimes emotional energy has nowhere to go. The result is anxiety: trapped energy swirling around our body. It feels terrible! Both core emotions and anxiety are visceral; they are called “feelings” because when we become aware of them we can literally, physically FEEL them. Our natural tendency is to escape uncomfortable sensations, so our brains — often unconsciously — lead us to avoid the bad feelings by escaping into thoughts. Just as anxiety is trapped energy churning in our body as a result of avoiding the feelings of core emotions, ruminations are thoughts churning in our minds to avoid feeling anxiety. The way out? Work your way back around and down the Change Triangle: tune into your body, discover which core emotions are at work, and safely process them. When the body calms down the mind will soon follow. I asked Beth, “As you notice your ruminations right now, can you scan your body from head to toe and share what you notice?” Beth immediately said that she was anxious. “How do you know you are anxious? What physical sensations tell you that?” I asked. “My arms and legs are jittery, my heart is beating fast, and I feel agitated.” Beth did a great job noticing her sensations. This ability to notice the specifics of how her body felt, which she would hone and practice both with me and on her own, would be the key first step to quieting her mind. The recipe for a calmer mind is getting better at welcoming emotions. Quiet, calm minds have learned through practice that the pain of safely experiencing our emotions is temporary, while avoiding emotional discomfort can lead to lasting anxiety, ruminating or other debilitating defenses. Over time, Beth learned to safely listen to her core emotions and sometimes act on them. She validated her deep sadness from having virtually no relationship with her mother, allowing herself to cry both alone and with me, and fully mourn her loss. She took night classes to finish college which eased her biggest fear. She learned to stop judging herself or her emotions and to give compassion to her suffering parts without comparing her hardships with those of others. With each of these steps her body and her mind became calmer. Noticing and getting comfortable with the emotions in our body is the main practice for diminishing our worries and ruminations. Ready to try a little experiment? Scan your body from head to toe and use the sensation and emotions charts on the resources page of my website to put words on your physical sensations — reviewing the list will help you put language on what you are experiencing, which helps calm the brain. Stop at your head, heart area, stomach, abdomen and limbs. Write down the sensations, however subtle, that best describe any anxious feelings in your body. As you do this, be sure to have a loving stance towards yourself: try not to judge anything you notice and strive to be as compassionate to your pain as you would be to a beloved friend, child, pet, or partner. See if you can name all the core emotions you are holding, again without judging or needing to know why or whether they make sense. Consider everything on this list: Fear, Anger, Sadness, Disgust, Joy, Excitement, Sexual Excitement. Getting comfortable with the physical sensations produced by anxiety and emotions is one of the secrets to calming the brain and healing from psychological distress and trauma. And, it is a practice, not a perfect. It’s not necessarily a quick fix either. However, with work, the brain and body absolutely heal and move us towards states of peace and calm. Hard work now, leads to greater peace for a lifetime. Congratulations for getting started! A+ for trying! Further reading: It’s Not Always Depression: Working the Change Triangle to Listen to the body, Discover Core Emotions and Connect to Your Authentic Self Unconditional Confidence, an audio to help stay with feelings, by Pema Chodron View the full article
  6. Recently I was attacked by several people online, saying I must not have “real” mental illness since I am able to work, be in grad school, and have stable friendships and a marriage. Those words hurt me deeply. I don’t know what constitutes “real” mental illness but I have dissociative identity disorder, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. My everyday struggle is real. Here are 10 things I want you to know about being high-functioning and managing multiple mental illnesses. Just because I seem happy doesn’t mean I am. If I wore my emotions on my face all the time, it would make for a lot of awkward conversations. I smile because it’s easier, because it’s safer that way. When I’m with my friends or husband I relax and show my true emotions. I try to hold it together in public. If I am smiling, I may not be happy. I may be a good student and employee, but at home I fall apart. I can go to school, smile, do well in my classes and get along with everyone, but then at home I sit around, frozen, too tired to do anything, crying, and feeling numb. It took me years of work to get to where I’m functional. I didn’t leave the psych ward of a hospital and immediately jump back into school and work and regular life. It took me a long time to recover from hospitalizations. It took me years of therapy in order to figure out relationships, to become self-aware, and to develop coping skills. It takes me a lot of work to get through a day. Lots of everyday things are hard. Like this morning I went grocery shopping and almost had a panic attack since the store was so crowded. This afternoon I was frozen and dissociating. This evening I canceled plans since I don’t feel up to going places and seeing people. I’m tired all the time. I can function well for a while, but then I turn off and collapse. When I get home I’m so tired that it’s hard for me to do housework, or cook dinner, or get anything done. It’s hard for me to find energy to do a lot of everyday things. I can’t live in the moment. When I have a good day, I have to do homework. I have to do my homework and chores ahead of time because I don’t know what next week will hold. Will I be manic next week? Will I be having panic attacks? Will I be dissociating? I may be barely functioning. So I have to get everything done now. I have to constantly assess myself in order to function well. I can’t just relax and be myself. I have to constantly be assessing myself. Am I happy or am I getting manic? Am I just anxious or am I about to have a panic attack? My life consists of constantly applying coping skills. Someone asked me recently what I do with my free time. I answered that all I do is apply coping skills. That is my entire life. It’s not terribly fun, but that is how I am able to function. Since I have a group of different mental problems, I keep lists of things to do for each issue. I have lists of coping skills for mania, depression, dissociation, thoughts of self-harm, etc., etc. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it so I can accomplish things in my life. I always have to invent a plan B. I make plans but then know I might have a panic attack and have to leave. Or I might be too tired to go out and not be able to make it there. I invent back-up plans. I find escape routes. I warn friends that I might need to leave early. I make a plan B so that I’m not stuck when my mental illness floods me. It’s hard for me to make plans in advance. I just never know who or how I will be next week. So I’m afraid to make any plans. It’s easier to take it one day at a time. But then it’s the weekend, and I’m stuck at home, sad, while my friends are out having fun. I could have made plans with them… but I was tired of inventing plan B’s. It is lonely having severe mental illness and being high functioning. I don’t take anything for granted. I know that tomorrow I could have a psychotic episode or a dissociative problem, and it might trigger things and I’ll have a setback. I may go through periods where I don’t function well. I may have to take time off school or work to pull to deal with something. But I am thankful that right now I can do things and still manage my illness. I hope I can encourage others like me. View the full article
  7. Author don Miguel Ruiz who penned the best seller, The Four Agreements, sagely says, “Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” Easier said than done at times. While it doesn’t mean that we are exempt from correction and re-direction, those who feel a need to hurl critical words often do so because of their own insecurities and world view. What happens when those harsh words echo from within our own cranium? Scott Kalechstein Grace is a California based singer songwriter whose music is inspired by his personal psycho-spiritual journey, some of which has included addiction and recovery. His song parodies are like that of Weird Al Yankovich. Scott refers to one of the most insidious self-deprecating addictions as ‘critiholism,’; indeed, one to which I and many others I know fall prey. It reflects the paradoxical poster I saw near the time clock of a place I worked many years ago, that commands, “The beatings will continue until morale improves around here.” I laugh still and use it as an example for my clients who are harshly self-critical. They nod and smile knowingly. I notice my own chattering mind running amok with thoughts such as, “You should know better, since you are a therapist with a Master’s degree.” “How come you keep falling into that same pattern of taking on other people’s issues and feeling a need to fix, save, heal, cure and kiss the boo boos to make them all better?” “You need to practice what you preach.” “What will it take for you to finally have it all together?” This last one is said with an exasperated sigh. What has become increasingly clear is that I still have work to do in that area and that when I am most concerned about what others think about me and especially the work I hold dear, my inner critic becomes embodied in someone else. Many of the professional hats I wear, beyond that of social worker/therapist are rather unconventional and revolve around the use of healthy, non-sexual touch by consent in the form of a workshop, as well as Laughter Yoga (a modality that is deemed legitimate such that NASW (National Association of Social Workers) offered 16 CEUs (Continuing Education Units) when I took the weekend training. Over the past few months, whenever I have posted something about either of these topics on social media, inevitably, someone I know professionally has chimed in about how ‘strange, odd, weird, creepy and silly,’ these interests are. This person indicated that they are not befitting the professional they know me to be and can’t understand how I could see them as valid methods of teaching skills in the areas of communication, relationships, boundary setting, assertiveness, childlike playfulness, trust and safely stretching comfort zones. I am clear that although they are not therapy, they do have therapeutic value. Whenever I have attempted to explain the validity and value, the response has been to dig in more deeply, repeating the criticism. When I have suggested that this person step back and re-evaluate the way they express their objection, I am met with a response that sounds like, “When you place something in a public venue, you can expect some disagreement, or do you only want people to agree with everything you say?” It had me pausing and asking a few well-chosen questions: How important is this person’s opinion? Am I not solid enough in my own estimation of what I do that I put too much stake in what others think? Why do I feel a need to defend my position? The answers I came up with harken back to the erroneous belief that I had to make everything look good and I needed to be seen as competent and confident to combat childhood asthma and pediatric problems. I was viewed as precocious by the adults in my life and didn’t want to disappoint anyone. It was my own version of ‘the empress has no clothes,’ while I clutched at the invisible garments that were supposed to cover my emotional vulnerability. These days I am far more willing to be transparent, knowing that by doing so, I am exposing myself to external critique. I am learning to soothe the aspect of myself that I refer to as ‘Perfectionista,’ who seeks approval, both internally and externally. When inquiring of others how they face their chattering monkey minds, their responses were as diverse as those responding: “I use deep breathing and the conscious redirection of thoughts and images to focus on. Positive affirmation and moving the body also helps.” “Essential oils/blends. Yoga works great. YouTube meditations a short walk, a conversation with a colleague.” “Lots of internal dialogue, reminding myself of my survival rate thus far (100%), all that I have accomplished (more than the average bear), and that I am clever and smart and can solve anything life throws at me, because so far, I have, and the best predictor of future behavior/ is past behavior/outcome. And I take naps.” “Counting my breaths till my mind calms. Yoga before sitting is essential for me (the whole point of it right!)” “I am not great at meditation, but I am one heck of a visualizer. That is my surest way of quieting monkey mind. I visualize anything that holds my interest at the moment, and then I see it in exquisite detail. Voila, all quiet upstairs. And it has the added benefit of creating something in my mind that may actually get translated in the future to a piece of art, some home decor, a garden design, etc.” “Meditation and journal writing.” “Turn it into a song.” “I allow the words… Then I add, and I love that about you. I started this years ago and it’s quieted my inner critic. I still do it occasionally, this week it looked like this. “You have gained so much weight… And I love that about you.” “Sit in my car and look at lake at Peace Valley Park.” “Meditation, mantra and Vedic astrology.” “Let it go let it go let it go.” “Always get a good night’s sleep and do integral yoga and meditation.” “Learn to observe the chatter rather than having ownership. “ “Review, acknowledge release!!” “When my chattering mind is going, I consciously change my thoughts, it’s the one thing I do have control over in my life. This could be singing a song, doing a chore or an activity and redirect my thoughts.” “I can shut mine off at will.” “I go for a run or bike ride.” “Of course, we need the little fellow, but when I feel it is getting in the way more than helping, I take a deep breath and send it to bed.” “Yes… Creative Activity… Physical Activity… Social Activity… Meal Activity.” “I redirect my mind to gratitude.” I am willing to tame my inner critic. View the full article
  8. Happy Holidays, Psych Central readers! With this edition of Psychology Around the Net, I’m passing along some meditation tips for the holidays (because let’s fact it: they’re not exactly stress free), research on why helping others boosts our own mental and physical health, what really makes for a happier holiday season, and more. No matter how you spend your holiday weekend, I hope you’re surrounded with everyone you hold dearest in life! A Meditation for Vacation and Holidays: The “most wonderful time of the year” isn’t often — if ever — completely stress-free. Here’s a meditation practice to help you remember what makes you grateful. Can Lying About Santa Now Hurt Your Child Later? Is it actually possible that by continuing with the myth of Jolly Ol’ Sant Nick, parents — not their children — are the ones to suffer emotional damage in the end? The Psychology Of Service Work: Giving Back Is So Personally Rewarding: We help others to help others, but by putting other people before ourselves, we’re actually practicing self-care. Not only does it cause our brains to emit dopamine and oxytocin, but also it helps ease depression and lower blood pressure. Experts Reveal What Makes for a Happier Holiday. Hint: It’s Not More Stuff: Elizabeth Dunn is a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia and Ashley Whillans is an assistant professor at Harvard Business School who specializes in studying our choices on time, money, and work. Let’s see what they have to say about tapping into what really brings us happiness during the holiday season. Space Aging and Psychology Among Experiments for Canadian Astronaut: Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques is scheduled to fly to the International Space Station December 2018 and he’s spoken about several of the experiments he plans to conduct once he gets there — including experiments related to the state of his psychological health. Facebook Admits Social Media Can Harm Mental Health: We’ve heard from mental health professionals. We’ve even heard from people who used to earn their paychecks from the social media kingdom. Now, let’s hear from Facebook itself. How does it affect our mental health? ‘Improv Saved My Life’: The Comedy Classes Helping People With Anxiety: Says Alex MacLaren, an improvisational comedy teacher in London, “You learn to say yes even when you don’t know where you’re going to end up.” View the full article
  9. Joe Biden’s recent interview with Meghan McCain on The View was heart wrenching, powerful, authentic and emotional. It was a beautiful connection, and his word of advice was clear for the McCain family. He has stressed the importance of this one thing over and over again. The necessity to maintain it, no matter what life brings. And Joe Biden certainly has been through a lot. “You have to have hope.” – Joe Biden Time, USA Today, NY Times, Vanity Fair, CBS, CNN… they all reported on that one thing, and many in the headlines. Which I think alludes to the magnitude of the message and relevance for today’s world. It was a powerful segment — and critical in these times as hopelessness is a primary symptom of depression and the number one predictor of suicide. In the US, 36% of young girls are reporting depression prior to high school, and suicide is the leading cause of death for teens age 15-18. Yes. Such truth. We MUST have hope. And across sectors, from politics to music, there is an agreement. In an article for Lenny, singer-songwriter Kesha talked about this same thing, specifically as it related to her depression: “I know that I was never abandoned by my fans, my animals, or my family, but when you are depressed — really, truly depressed — you feel like you have nothing. Even having my kitties sleeping next to me in my darkest of hours couldn’t bring me light. It is in these moments when even the most cynical among us are forced to turn to something other than ourselves — we turn to prayer, or something like it. You look past your shame, past your desire to hide, and admit you need help.and channeling it into music. An article in Rolling Stone quoted Kesha as saying: “And I think the beautiful part is that you hold onto hope … and you keep showing up for yourself.” These are beautiful and important testaments to the work we are doing to promote hope through our Global Hope Challenge. As we agree, no matter what life brings, you must have at least #OneThing that brings you #Hope, even in your darkest of times. For some, it may be music. Others, a friend. Maybe it is work. Or kids. Or nature. Or it could be the person on the other end of the suicide hotline. No matter what, each and every one of us must have something. Please consider joining the challenge, and sharing your #OneThing for #Hope. It just may inspire someone else. You never know. My #OneThing? At the moment, my work teaching Hope via our program Hopeful Minds inspires me. We teach it as a skill. While in infancy stages, we saw positive results in Northern Ireland with reduction in anxiety, and an increase in hope and emotional regulation skill. So my #OneThing is ultimately the thought that we can somehow, someday prevent anxiety and depression from occurring. I’d love to hear yours. View the full article
  10. The best antidotes for very anxious people. I first encountered social anxiety during my sophomore year of high school. I started dating a girl named Melanie, who participated in many of the same school activities that I enjoyed. She was the perfect combination of smart and sweet. Melanie was also extremely shy. She was quiet and kept to herself, but I found that mystique intriguing; I seemed to gravitate towards other kids who were a little on the fringe. Melanie wore loose-fitting clothing — not a popular style at the time — because she felt self-conscious about her disproportionately large chest. Looking back, it’s apparent her physical characteristics caused her to develop social anxiety that manifested via her shyness and alienating behaviors. She rarely hung out with our classmates, avoided school dances, and never spoke up in class (despite typically knowing the answers). I did my best to demonstrate that I was interested in her as a person and not her physical features, but Melanie seemed to never get the message. She slowly pushed me out of her life and our relationship fizzled out after a few months. Crucial Tips for Loving Someone With Anxiety As most 15-year-olds would, I took Melanie’s avoidance as rejection. I overanalyzed the situation and second-guessed my actions. I felt bad about anything offensive I might have inadvertently said and I worried that I subconsciously had avoided being romantic because I didn’t want her to misinterpret my intentions. Many years later, I realize Melanie pushed me away as a coping mechanism. She delivered a preemptive strike to avoid rejection, sabotaging our relationship before it started. This is not an uncommon situation. Numerous relationships and marriages must overcome issues related to social anxiety, but it’s easier said than done. By taking the time to communicate openly and honestly, couples can manage their stress and mental health to strengthen and cultivate lasting romantic relationships. How Anxiety Undermines Relationships Social anxiety and the quality of romantic relationships are inversely related. Recent research by Christian Hahn at Western University (formerly known as the University of Western Ontario) shows a direct link between higher levels of social anxiety and lower levels of relationship satisfaction. Specifically, social anxiety disorder translates to less trust and perceived support from romantic partners. Social anxiety can cause people to view others as overly critical and hostile. People who have social anxiety sometimes struggle to notice positive feedback. They also might seem overbearing, attempting to control significant others as a way to reduce their own insecurities. They could also appear to be overly clingy, demonstrating their anxiety via jealousy. People can also turn away from a relationship altogether — as in the case of my ill-fated high school romance — or hold back parts of themselves to avoid rejection. While social anxiety undoubtedly complicates relationships, couples can still have an optimistic outlook. By keeping warning signs in mind and focusing on open and honest communication, partners can work together to combat negative consequences. How to Establish Trust And Lessen Anxiety The most important element of any relationship is a foundation of trust and support. The same holds true of relationships involving social anxiety. How do you do that? Through effective and positive communication. Unfortunately, social anxiety can cause people to shut down and stop talking with their partners. Worse yet, they might adopt negative forms of communication that include criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. The best antidote to these detrimental behaviors is a combination of knowledge, respect, and persistence. Here are the ways on how to cure anxiety when it’s affecting your relationships: 1. Address issues head-on. Anytime you have a concern, be completely honest with your partner. Discuss the issue as soon as possible to ensure you don’t stuff emotions and eventually begin to express those feelings via criticism. Direct criticism can feel like an attack — piercing your partner to the core — so offer a caring critique by sandwiching any negative comments with positive feedback. 5 Relationship Problems People With Anxiety Have (and How to Fix ‘Em) 2. Treat your partner with respect. When you communicate with your partner, do so in a manner that you would like him or her to mirror. Lashing out, yelling, mocking, eye-rolling, or using sarcasm will only undermine your message and lead to larger issues down the road. This behavior can cause someone who has social anxiety to feel worthless and possibly hated. By treating your partner with respect, you can help ensure you receive the same level of care and understanding. 3. Know that it’s not about you. Social anxiety can manifest itself in accusations and aggression. This behavior can cause the recipient to become defensive, attack in response, or make excuses. While they might feel right in the heat of the moment, none of these behaviors foster productive communication. Instead of tossing excuses and attempting to justify your behavior, listen to your partner’s perspective on the situation and appreciate his or her take on the matter. 4. Keep communication open. Communication can be tough with anyone, but it presents a unique challenge when you throw social anxiety into the mix. Don’t avoid difficult interactions or close yourself off from your partner. A lack of dialogue will only cause you to bottle up your feelings and lead the relationship to spiral into negativity. Be honest and open and confront problems as they arise. Had I had these tools at my disposal back in high school, things might have gone differently with Melanie. I hid my feelings from her in an attempt to protect her — and perhaps myself, as I feared her rejection. When she slowly pushed me out of her life, I allowed it to happen instead of discussing my feelings. Loving someone who has social anxiety doesn’t have to be difficult. Understanding the disorder is key to moving forward in a true partnership. While it might be a challenge to foster and maintain open lines of communication, the benefit of a healthy and happy relationship makes it all worthwhile. This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: How To Stop Your Social Anxiety From Ruining Relationships. View the full article
  11. Can’t Make That Decision?

    You’re baffled. You don’t know what to do. You have an important choice to make, but you’re worried that you’ll regret your decision. It could be changing jobs, investing your money, committing to a new endeavor. You’re anxious realizing that if you make the wrong choice, you’ll have wasted time, money and energy that you may later regret. Feeling so indecisive, you postpone making a choice. At least that way, you avoid making a big mistake — until you realize what you haven’t done. You may kick yourself for not making those big bucks that so many have made in the stock market. And you may feel sick when you think about the job you could have had, if only you had acted on it instead of hesitating, as usual. And it’s not only the major decisions that plague you. Perhaps, you drive yourself crazy trying to decide where to go on your next vacation, which laptop to buy, or even what to have for dinner. The ability to make good decisions without excessive angst has become increasingly important for all of us for one simple reason. We have an abundance of choices! Hence, becoming a smart decision-maker is a great skill that will serve you well throughout life. This doesn’t mean that all your decisions will work out exactly as expected, but it does mean that you’ll improve your ability to choose and suffer less angst. A worthwhile goal, don’t you think? Here are three suggestions that I hope will be helpful to you in a variety of situations. Get Started. Postponing decisions is okay for a while. But, if you put things off for too long, you’re just compounding the problem. Let’s say you have money just sitting in the bank. You know it could be invested for better returns. But how? You’re terrified about losing money; you’re not sophisticated about the financial markets. So you do nothing — for years. One way to begin is to find out what your options are. Speak to a few non-aggressive experts in the field who will listen to your concerns, educate you and help you decide, without pressuring you. Ask yourself the right questions. This is more difficult than it seems. For you need to know your objective before you ask your questions. If you don’t know it will be easy for you to meander down the wrong road. As an example, you may be debating whether you should return to college to get a degree when the more basic question is something different. It might be, now that my children are almost grown, how do I want to spend the rest of my life? This might mean returning to work, developing a skill, seeking out therapy, getting involved politically, returning to college or something completely different. Asking the wrong questions makes it difficult to find the right answer. Understand your tolerance for taking risks. People differ in their tolerance toward risk. Some like to play it safe, others love to live on the edge. Feeling anxious about risks can easily paralyze you. For example, let’s say you’ve worked for someone else for a long time but dream about going into business for yourself. You hesitate, not sure that you will be successful. How can you decide whether to take the leap and go for it? You need to know not only your risk tolerance but also how to deal with the risks you must face. The more you know, the more sure of yourself you can be. There’s nothing as risky as plunging into something about which you know very little. Good decision-making is an art and a skill. Some seem to have a natural talent for it. Most of us, however, need to deliberately learn how to clarify uncertainties, evaluate risks, increase our options, accept tradeoffs and motivate ourselves to face whatever anxiety is stirred up. © 2017 Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. View the full article
  12. Has cabin fever struck you yet this winter? Find out ways to beat it, plus the latest on a new scientist-created version of oxytocin, how orange light therapy might help mental illness symptoms, why global teamwork might be helpful for psychological studies, and more in this week’s Psychology Around the Net! How to Beat Cabin Fever When You’re Stuck Inside This Winter: Try a couple — or all — of these ideas for combating cabin fever (or, in some of our cases, the funk that comes along with shorter days and less sunshine). Can Teamwork Solve One Of Psychology’s Biggest Problems? Psychologist Christopher Chartier has launched the “Psychological Science Accelerator” based on the idea that if psychological studies happen at the same time in multiple labs around the world, we’ll be able to get larger data sets from a more diverse pool of subjects compared to studies done in one place. Phone Addiction Is Real — and So Are Its Mental Health Risks: It’s probably no surprise that that many of us feel addicted to our phones and their associated pastimes, like social media, and it’s also probably no surprise that this addiction can lead to mental health troubles; however, it might be surprising to know just how deep those troubles can go. Scientists Create New ‘Love Hormone’ That They Say Could Treat Mental Illness: Scientists have created a new version of oxytocin, the “love hormone,” and they hope it will prove effective at treating mental health conditions such as anxiety and schizophrenia, as well as helping us understand the role of oxytocin in health. First Trimester ADHD Drug Exposure Increases Risk for Congenital Heart Defects: New research shows an association between intrauterine exposure to methylphenidate during pregnancy and a small increased risk for cardiac malformations; the research did not show an association with amphetamines. According to Krista F. Huybrechts, PhD, from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, this is important research for pregnant women and women of reproductive age to consider when looking at different treatment options for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Can Orange Light Help Patients With Mental Illness? Researchers at an emergency psychiatric center in Norway are testing out orange light as a way to manage mental illness, especially in patients with bipolar disorder. View the full article
  13. My small Clinical Mental Health Counseling Practicum class gets out twelve minutes early. I strain to catch the eye of my classmate and friend on the other side of the room, a tall Indian woman with her hair in a sagging bob and sympathetic eyes locked on another classmate. I turn impatiently towards our classmate, who favors red lipstick and dramatic retellings of her life events. Sighing, I give up and turn around, shifting my backpack’s weight on my back and folding a paper plate in my hands, evidence of enjoying a slice of the twelve pizzas someone had dumped in our counseling center that afternoon. I step into the narrow hallway and run into two classmates grabbing pizza. I spin around, looking for a trash can. People keep brushing against me. I keep stepping nervously, refolding the plate in my hands. The room begins to spin. As the walls buckle, my chest constricts and I struggle to breathe. A classmate next to me says, “There’s a trash can behind the microwave.” She gestures. I lurch over to the microwave. Conversations and shadows echo around me. I become light-headed as everything begins to fade to black. Just before I faint, I rush out of the center and into the main hallway, gasping for air. Speed walking past my professors’ offices, I collapse on a table around the corner. I sit there, stunned. I just had a panic attack while at the counseling center, where I am currently learning how to become a counselor. I just came dangerously close to people finding out that this future counselor struggles with mental illness herself. There is still a strong stigma against counselors with mental illness, though many counselors may have them. People are generally drawn to work in the mental health field due to life experience. I have met counselors who have shared that they have had mental illness or they have colleagues with mental illness. These professionals tell me that their struggle with mental illness helps them relate to clients, and their recovery process has uniquely equipped them to be more effective counselors. Still, few counselors come out publicly as having mental illness. The stigma against counselors with mental illness seems to hold people back. Mental health professionals know the potential for recovery from mental illness, but also the potential risk. If you look at my medical chart, you see risk written over it in red script. There are my four hospitalizations, though they were fourteen years ago. There is my decade-long struggle with self-harm, although I have stopped. Most importantly, there are my diagnoses: Bipolar Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and Dissociative Identity Disorder. I was in another Clinical Mental Health Counseling program six years ago. I was working nights and going to school full time during the day. My psychiatrist warned me that working nights is not good for people with bipolar disorder; it can throw off our cycles. I thought I was handling everything well, but looking back now I see that I was rapid-cycling and lacked the self-awareness to realize when I was drifting towards mania. I took a year off to get a better job and living situation. When I reapplied, my application was rejected. I felt blindsided. Essentially, I was informed that due to my history of mental illness I was considered a liability who would over-identify with clients. My lack of self-awareness was cited as proof of my instability. I’m still not sure if it was discrimination or an accurate assessment. Whatever the case, I manage my illnesses much better now. Working at the counseling center feels natural to me, perhaps because I have been in personal counseling for ten years, so I know how it goes. I am a creative person and use poetry and music in my sessions with clients. I have been careful not to reveal my mental illnesses around professors, until this semester when I confided in my instructor and supervisor for practicum. A petite doctoral student with a level intensity honed from years of working in a crisis center, she is a firm believer in my counseling ability but has warned me to be careful telling other professors or supervisors, since they may not be as understanding. She asserts that my self-awareness and ability to consistently perform well as a counselor and a student, despite my changing mental states, make me an asset rather than a liability. Fifteen years ago, I was told that due to a mental breakdown I would never be well enough to go back to school or work. I returned to college and graduated summa cum laude. I have been working since then and am now excelling in a graduate program. It has taken me ten years of therapy and fifteen total years of recovery for me to get to the point where I am healthy enough to counsel others. Now I have an arsenal of coping skills, a deep self-awareness, and a steely determination that continually pushes me through obstacles. My mental illnesses do make me vulnerable at times. More importantly, the knowledge and skills I have acquired over years of coping with chronic mental illness will make me a valuable counselor. View the full article
  14. Happy Saturday, Psych Central readers! This week’s Psychology Around the Net takes a look at what “self-care” actually means for many people with mental illnesses, the different types of depression and anxiety a new study has identified, which people are more prone to sleep paralysis, and more. Let’s go! This Twitter Thread Perfectly Sums Up What Self-Care Is Like for People With Mental Illnesses: Author and blogger Jenny Trout drops some eye-opening truth bombs about what “self-care” means for many people with mental illness. (HINT: It’s ain’t Instagram-worthy bubble baths.) Mindful Yoga Can Reduce Risky Behaviors in Troubled Youth: A long-term study out of the University of Cincinnati researches the link between stressful life events and an increase in problems like irresponsible sexual behavior and alcohol and drug abuse among a diverse group of 18- to 24-year-old young adults and the positive effects of mindful yoga and other coping strategies. Experts Challenge the Science Behind Ban on Psychiatrists Discussing Politicians’ Mental Health: While the American Psychiatric Association (APA) stands by its Goldwater Rule — which states that it’s unethical for psychiatrists to offer professional opinions about public figures unless they’ve conducted exams and received authorization — some mental health professionals are challenging the ban and even asserting that watching and listening to a person from the sidelines — rather than during an interview exam — could be more effective in getting accurate insights. Many Different Types of Anxiety and Depression Exist, New Study Finds: In an effort to “disentangle the symptom overlap,” researchers from Stanford have identified five new categories of mental illness, defined by their symptoms and areas of brain activation: tension, anxious arousal, general anxiety, melancholia, and anhedonia (the inability to feel pleasure). Mental Health Apps Made Me Feel More Overwhelmed Than Ever: While Samantha Cole admits some of the many, many, many mental health apps out there are backed by peer-reviewed research and could potentially help change lives, she notes that more of them than not are actually “at best bloatware bulls*t — and at worst, actively harmful.” Sleep Paralysis Is Linked to Stress (and Supernatural Beliefs): Alice Gregory, a professor of psychology at Goldsmiths University of London, says sleep paralysis “occurs when features of REM sleep, specifically muscle paralysis, continue into our waking lives.” But what exactly causes that to happen? View the full article
  15. Everything always going wrong? Ask yourself these questions. Do you think that your life should be a reality TV show since it’s just a series of dramas every year? Are your friends and family in a position of constantly getting you out of some sort of actual or emotional crisis? If you said yes, life must be tiring for you and people around you. Actually, it seems mostly tiring for others because you must be gaining some thrill out of all the drama, or you would re-evaluate your decision-making process to stabilize your life. For example, Denise is 30 years old. She has gone through one relationship per year for the past 10 years, which begins with an elated emotion, introducing the guy to her friends and family, asking their opinion, then fighting with friends and family members about their opinions. She fights to get a commitment from them, finally moving in with the guy and telling him about her friends and family’s negative opinions. She says it’s just to prove to everyone that they are wrong, but then there’s fighting weekly till the relationship breaks up. How To Make It Through The Day (And Life) When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed Then she feels shame, hurt, and embarrassment, and faces the friends and family’s “I told you so” attitude, which she fights anyway. Then she rests in her low self-esteem for a bit until she gets the strength to go back out there for dating. Her commitment to her goal of getting married is clear. However, the desperateness of achieving the goal does not allow her to evaluate what form of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are workable and which are not in choosing a mate, evaluating them for marriage, and establishing communication and conflict resolution. Therefore, she keeps repeating the same thoughts and actions hoping for miraculous different results. As Denise’s experience adds, her hopelessness rises. Her self-esteem and confidence lower, and her reputation in the eyes of her friends, family, and community lower as well, which raises her powerlessness and hopelessness. Now she has created a vicious cycle. Denise began doing the exercises from the Awareness Integration model to distinguish between her thoughts, beliefs, emotions, behaviors, and the impact of these in her life and her relationships with her mate, friends, family and the community at large. She was able to assess the skills that she did not have and had never acquired from her family. Denise realized that she was feeling anxious when her relationship was going well and love was in the air. Her anxiety would stir up her fears and then she would begin fighting with her mate about mundane daily matters since she could not fight for a negative future that hadn’t happened. She had the insight that since her parent’s marriage was rocky and filled with fighting, she had never seen a healthy marriage, so when all went well, she felt like a fish out of water and she began flipping to create chaos to feel at home again. Noticing this unworkable cycle, she acknowledged her emotions, shared it with her partner, re-envisioned what she wanted in her relationship, and then acted accordingly toward her goal. Craig has a fifteen-year history of work with seven companies that all ended with him fighting with his boss. He subconsciously began a passive resistance toward his boss’s directives. When his boss would confront him, then he would be verbally rebellious. Then, he would request other co-workers to back him up. But just like his siblings at home, they would follow the boss’s directives, and Craig would feel hurt and betrayed. Then he would fight with his co-workers about this matter, and it would end up in the boss’s office again and finally in HR. Craig realized he had to either gain the skills to have his own small business so that he would not be an employee or to follow his boss as an authority figure and learn to follow direction. When Craig could see that these were just roles people play for some hours during the day for the purpose of the efficiency of production, he stopped feeling like he needed to fight to prove that he was more. This realization and implementation helped him stop fighting with his boss. He even learned leadership roles and moved to a management position where he could see the balance of receiving direction from upper management and giving direction to the employees that he managed. 7 Tips for When You Feel Super-Stressed and Overwhelmed At Work So, if you are exhausted from finding your self in a middle of a dramatic vicious cycle, ask yourself the following questions: What is my complaint? Is this complaint in one area or several areas of my life? What is my result in this or these areas? Which one of my thoughts or beliefs has contributed to this result? What emotions are constantly arising for me that are contributory to this result? Which behaviors are creating this result? What is my assumption about how other people are thinking and feeling about me? How do I observe other people behaving toward me in this area? What is the impact of my assumptions on my result? What do I think of myself, and how do I feel about my self in this area and about this result? You can end the vicious cycle and create the result that you intend and deserve by being aware of how you contribute and taking responsibility for the outcome. The skills that you create will help you get to where you want to be and work toward your intended result, which will help eliminate conflict and drama in your home and work life. This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: How To Break Your Addiction To Drama (And The Toxic Cycles You’re Stuck In). View the full article