Brain and Behavior

The Need to Struggle

Are you tired of struggling? Do you want to reach your goals without having to work so hard? Do you yearn for the glamour without the grit? Achieve! Accomplish! Actualize yourself! Yes, you want to do all those things. But why does it have to be so hard?

It used to be fun. You were excited about stuff. As a kid, you wanted to do everything. You picked...
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Brain and Behavior

The Joy of Giving

In The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm wrote: “Giving is more joyous than receiving, not because it is a deprivation, but because in the act of giving lies the expression of my aliveness.” The more we give, the more we experience the world as the creation of our efforts and as a reflection of our aliveness. In the well-being of individuals that we support, we experience our aliveness. In the growth of communities to which we are genuinely dedicated, we experience our aliveness. The entity that we care for, whether it is a community, a fellow human being, or any living or nonliving form, is the source of our empowerment. In it we see our power; through it we feel alive.

For experimental psychologists, a cause and effect relationship, no matter how plausible and beautiful it sounds, cannot be accepted unless it is confirmed by means of experimentation. To test whether giving contributes to our well-being and whether giving is more joyous than receiving, Elizabeth Dunn and colleagues conducted an experiment at the University of British Columbia, Canada.

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Brain and Behavior

Family Constellation Work

For all of us who have experienced family life and its impact, with all of its places of light and darkness, there is a wonderful group process that fosters present-day healing. It is called family constellation work and is a day-long workshop run by a trained facilitator.

Family constellation workshops were started by Dr. Bert Hellinger, a family therapist from Germany, and are now available worldwide. Participants target an area of their present life that needs clarity, resolution, or healing. It does not have to relate to family history, nor are the processes always related to the family of origin.

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Anger

How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Us

The statistics are alarming. From 2009 to 2014, the number of girls between the ages of 10 and 17 hospitalized for intentionally cutting or poisoning themselves has more than doubled. This isn't the first time I'm reading about this. But it's certainly time to talk about it.

In my work with inherited family trauma, when I see a child who injures herself, I've learned to probe into the family history. The self-injurer could well be reliving aspects of a trauma she inherited from her parents or grandparents, though this is not always the case. Self-injurious behaviors can arise for other reasons as well.

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Brain and Behavior

Squeezing a Rubber Ball May Boost Creative Thinking

Psychological research suggests a simple brain hack for temporarily boosting creativity and all it requires is a rubber ball. The technique itself is extremely simple: all you have to do is squeeze a rubber ball with your left hand as hard as you can for about a minute.

An original study on this technique by four Israeli researchers (Goldstein et al., 2010) found that subjects who squeezed a rubber ball with their left hand solved noticeably more problems on a remote associates test, a standard test of convergent thinking. This form of creative thinking, usually contrasted with divergent thinking, is most useful for “connecting the dots:” combining existing information, comparing and juggling ideas, solving problems with some specified criteria, or extracting ideas from other information. A lot of real-world innovation or typical business problem-solving depends heavily on convergent thinking.

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Anxiety and Panic

4 Things That Hurt Your Thinking & Keep You Stuck

It's easy to get stuck in life. Most of us have experienced this feeling of "stuckness" at one time or another, feeling that despite everything we try and do, we can't move forward in our life.

One characteristic of being stuck is that our brain doesn't move forward. While our brain is nothing like a computer processor (which can handle millions of instructions per second), it does have a set, finite capacity of our attention. It can't be thinking of a hundred things all at once and attend to them all equally.

With a limited attention span and "brain cycles," what kinds of things can bring our brains -- and our lives -- to a screeching halt?

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Brain and Behavior

4 Tips for Feeling Successful

"If I try to fail and succeed, which have I done?" - Anonymous
I use the above quote with my college students. I try to challenge them to look at life from a different perspective. In challenging our perspectives I am not merely playing semantics -- I firmly believe that words actually do hold meaning. Words have the power to affect our emotions. By challenging ourselves to look at our own definitions from a new perspective, we have the ability to change how we feel.

How I define success influences how I feel about myself. Many of us have culturally learned that success is defined by tangible goods and wealth. We hear expressions such as “If I have more things than someone else, I am successful” or “if I have a title or initials after my name, I am successful.” Does someone else's level of success negate my perceived level of success? In other words, is one's success defined in relation to another's accomplishments?

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Brain and Behavior

Compassion Fatigue in the Animal Welfare Community

Before becoming a psychotherapist, I had a career in animal welfare. I’ve worn both the boots and the sandals -- that’s jargon for working on the law enforcement side and the shelter side -- and I’ve seen my fair share of trauma.

Whether you’re a humane officer or a shelter volunteer, a vet tech or an animal rights activist, you have likely seen, heard about, or experienced things that most people can’t even begin to understand. Long-term exposure to abuse and neglect, euthanasia, and grief-stricken clients not only can affect your work productivity and satisfaction, but it can also wear on you mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. If you feel like you care so much that it hurts, you may be struggling with compassion fatigue.
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Anger

How to Neutralize Emotions

There has been a lot of discussion on all sides regarding “emotion processing” and how to successfully handle what are coined as “negative emotions.” In the Pixar film "Inside Out," a few different emotions are cleverly assigned individual personas so that children (and adults) can interact with them in a tangible way.

So what are we to do with negative emotions? Which ones are they? They are broadly defined as sadness, anger, bitterness, greed, hate, jealousy, fear or anything that makes one feel bad about themselves. So when an unsavory emotion surfaces and it starts to cause you guilt, what do you do with it?

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Anxiety and Panic

Mind Games

What does your morning shower feel like?

“Come again, Matt?”

Yes, what does your morning shower feel like?

“Why? Before work, I typically hop in and hop out. Can’t be late for boss -- he’s a real jerk. I rinse off in 10 minutes. Why? Are you planning on opening a Turkish bathhouse?” you snidely remark.

Not quite. But I am interested in washing away the incessant worry that pervades our daily lives. That humming cacophony drains us, greying life’s days.
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Anger

The 5 Most Damaging Things You Can Do to Your Relationship

What’s the most damaging thing you can do to your relationship? Right away, most people would probably say infidelity. But cheating is far from the only way we feel betrayed. There are a lot of other behaviors that harm relationships. The scary thing? They’re much easier to do, and much harder to notice, than infidelity. Read on to find out what they are and how to avoid them.

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Addiction

Hitting Rock Bottom: Some, Not All

Hitting rock bottom is a phrase I hear all the time when people talk about addiction. “She needs to hit rock bottom to stop drinking.” “Once he hits rock bottom, he will realize the damage that drugs have caused.” “After they hit rock bottom, they will understand how negatively addiction has affected their careers, finances, and families.” These are common phrases I hear when people talk about friends, family, or acquaintances with addiction.

Yet, what does it mean to hit rock bottom? Literally speaking, it means someone has fallen so far -- perhaps off a cliff -- that they have hit the ground. Metaphorically, hitting rock bottom describes a point in one’s life when they reach a definite low as a result of addiction problems. People generally see it as the lowest point possible, an epiphanic moment or process where one becomes cognizant of their addiction’s destructive nature. This point may be financial, emotional, physical, social, or spiritual.

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