Healing Trauma: Victimization Has No Grey Area

"I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it." -- Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter
An important step in healing from sexual, physical, and emotional abuse is accepting that it is in fact abuse. There is no grey area. We know on a gut level what abuse is, and we know it is wrong. But for some reason it's hard to accurately identify when it's happening to us. Surely, in our case it’s something different. We think there must be another explanation.

Accepting that we have been abused means having to trust our perception and accept that something horrible has happened to us -- and will change us. It's much easier to see abuse as a grey area, as something "open to interpretation." Although sexual abuse and child abuse are both specifically defined by the American Psychological Association, in my mind there was wiggle room and I didn’t trust myself enough to label it.
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Memory and Perception

When Abuse Becomes Denial

“The victim who is able to articulate the situation of the victim has ceased to be a victim: he or she has become a threat.” -- James Baldwin
I used to think that abuse victims who lived in denial of their situations had to know they were in denial. Who could possibly ignore what's happening to them? Who could just pretend that nothing's wrong year after year? From the battered wife who claims "he's a changed man" to the alcoholic who doesn't "have a problem," I thought they had made a concerted effort to ignore reality. And then my own reality hit me.
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Brain and Behavior

4 Steps to Stop Seeking Approval from Others

Humans share an innate drive to connect with others. We’re evolutionarily wired to crave inclusion. Eons ago, this was linked with our survival; in prehistoric times, rejection triggered fear. If someone became isolated or was ousted from the group, his or her life would be at risk.

Because the consequences of being rejected were so extreme, our brains and behavior adapted to avoid disapproval from others. In fact, research has shown that social rejection activates many of the same brain regions involved in physical pain, which helps explains why disapproval stings.
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Anosmia & the Smell of Books

The shock came shortly after I had recovered from The Mother of All Colds -- a vicious, lingering, energy-sapping upper respiratory monster that I quickly communicated to my poor wife. Both of us hacked, sniffled and suffered with the thing for several weeks. I soldiered on with hot tea, saline nasal spray, decongestants and what seemed like quarts of cough syrup. Slowly, grudgingly, the monster relaxed its grip -- but at a cost.

My sense of smell had all but disappeared -- a condition doctors call anosmia.

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Brain and Behavior

Can’t Make a Decision? 4 Things to Try

You’ve just worked your third 12-hour day in a row, with no sign of the craziness winding down in the days ahead, when a client calls you with yet another problem that needed to be solved -- yesterday.

In that moment, it may seem like your brain simply gives up while your client is still on the line, waiting for you to provide another one of the quick, brilliant solutions that she’s come to depend on you for.

This moment of mental paralysis, or the inability to make an effective decision in a brief moment, even if it’s normally easy for you, is what’s known as decision fatigue.
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Psychology Around the Net: August 22, 2015

Happy Saturday, Psych Central readers!

Check out stories about managing ADHD as a grownup, what do to if you feel a depressive episode coming on, how to handle "ghosting" out of a relationship, and more in this week's Psychology Around the Net.

What It's Like to Have ADHD As a Grown Woman: Read one woman's account of living life as a grown up with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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The Surefire Way I Stopped Feeling Sorry for Myself

“We can always choose to perceive things differently. We can focus on what’s wrong in our life, or we can focus on what’s right.” -- Marianne Williamson
I was down in the dumps the other day and was feeling sorry for myself.

For some reason everything was just off. You know when you have one of those days when nothing seems to go right? And you get easily irritated and extra sensitive with everything?

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Creativity for Better Performance

A long term-patient told a fascinating story a couple of weeks ago which points to the power of creativity in strengthening critical thinking. The person’s identity is well-disguised so no confidentiality is breached.

For several years I have been treating a young man (we’ll refer to him as Collin) with psychostimulants for chronic ADD and psychotherapy to address his perfectionism. We’re also working on finding a work environment conducive to combining his entrepreneurial proclivities and his considerable technological savvy. (He taught himself to code a complicated computer program that would benefit his industry.)

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Brain and Behavior

Banish Negative Thoughts Forever

Makes a lot of sense.

When you've hit your lowest low, bouncing back on your feet often seems impossible. You're not where you want to be professionally, mentally or physically, and it's really starting to get you down.

But that doesn't mean you have to let yourself fall deeper into a pattern of destructive thoughts. Sometimes, it may feel easier to wallow in your funk but the truth is that it isn't healthy, and will only make things worse.
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Brain and Behavior

Why the Mundane Matters

We’re always looking forward to the next big thing in our lives, whether it’s a long-awaited trip abroad, graduating from college or getting a promotion at work. So it makes sense that when we set out to document our lives on paper, through photos or on video, we usually focus on the bigger or more unusual happenings.

But while these out-of-the-ordinary moments are certainly worth remembering, research shows that recording even our most mundane everyday experiences can be more meaningful than we realize. We’re generally not very good at predicting what will matter to us down the line.
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You’ve Got a Story to Tell

Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here. ~ Sue Monk Kidd
You’ve been through a lot in life: exceptional experiences, powerful passions, happy happenings, sorrowful situations.

On occasion, you’ve thought to yourself, “I should write about what’s happened to me.” You may not even be sure why. Would you be writing a memoir for yourself, for your kids, for kindred souls? Or should you consider writing a book for publication?
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Anxiety and Panic

Musical Intervention: From Calming Nerves to Weaning Patients Off Ventilators

Music can be a powerful tool. We use it to self-soothe, to brighten our walk to the store, to iron out frayed nerves, and to cut loose.

Because music can elicit a particular emotion at any given time, it can be an effective coping strategy. Music therapy can lead to stress reduction and ease depression symptoms. Our musical taste can even tell us more about ourselves and help us to work through emotions. But can music help us heal? The results of a new study suggest it can.

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