One family’s struggle with Bipolar I — and the mental health system

Posted by on Jun 30, 2012

This is an a incredibly well written feature that does two things. It shows how hard it is to care for a loved one caught in the grips of the darker side of mania. It also shows how the institutions and laws we have offer little hope of providing any kind of treatment for someone who doesn’t want it — even if they have shown themselves to be a danger or unable to care for themselves. Balancing public safety (which often means family members) with civil rights in the case of conditions like schizophrenia and Bipolar I, proves to be a challenge — one we are failing to meet adequately.

When My Crazy Father Actually Lost His Mind (NY Times)

Mood & Emotion

Why more choice makes us unhappy

Posted by on Jun 23, 2012

The explosion of choice in affluent countries, argues psychologist Barry Schwartz, not only leads to paralysis, but dissatisfaction with our choices and ourselves, as there are always other choices which might have been better than the one we selected. He starts by detailing the explosion of choice, from salad dressings to mutual funds, and then at 7:50 begins explaining why more choice leads to more unhappiness. This is a good listen for all, including parents who might get more clarity on why limiting our children’s choices and freedoms, and keeping their expectations within reasonable limits, may actually help them feel better about themselves.

Cognition, Mood & Emotion, Parenting & Children

Yes, I Suck: Self-Help Through Negative Thinking

Posted by on Jun 21, 2012

The model I have found most useful in my work as a therapist has been Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, which is one of what some call the “Third Wave” of therapies (following the first two waves of behavior therapy and cognitive therapy). It is based on the premise that due to the inherent nature of language, we are unable to avoid, change or erase troubling thoughts and feelings. Rather, our goal is to lean into and accept these difficult thoughts and feelings in ways that do not restrict our ability to move forward and create a meaningful life.

This short TIME article points out several studies that illuminate the futility of just trying to think good thoughts, or avoid that which troubles us…

Yes I Suck (TIME Magazine, 7/8/09)

ACT, Cognition, For clients

Suspending the “self” and living from our essence

Posted by on Jun 19, 2012

“We each have a self — but I don’t think we are born with one.” This is an eloquent and powerful 14-minute talk on the struggle with self-identity by movie actor Thandie Newtown, daughter of a white man from England and a black woman from Zimbabwe. But it is not just about racial identity. It is about the relationship between who we are, our essence, and the “selves” we have constructed, which she says are “projections our clever brains create”. “When the self is suspended” as when she is fully engaged in dancing or acting, she says, “so is divisiveness, and judgement.”

I honestly believe, that the key to my success as an actor, and my very progress as a person, has been the very lack of self that used to make me feel so anxious and insecure. I always wondered why I could feel others’ pain so deeply, why I could recognize the somebody in the nobody.It’s because I didn’t have a “self” to get in the way. The thing that was a source of shame, was actually a source of enlightenment.

Thandie Newton TED Lecture

ACT, Anxiety & stress, For clients, Relationships and relating, Values and what is important

Watching cognitive distortions in flight

Posted by on Jun 18, 2012

Cognitive distortions + rumination = “super creepy”. This powerful 15-minute radio drama uncovers the raw, scary places our minds can take us if we aren’t paying attention. It is gripping; don’t start it unless you have time to finish it.

Listen to Episode 462 of This American Life by clicking below:

Episode 462: Own Worst Enemy
Apr 13, 2012
Stories of people who can’t seem to stop getting in their own way — sabotaging everything from their romantic relationships to their physical health. Featuring a new radio drama by Jonathan Mitchell.

Cognition, Relationships and relating, Uncategorized

Unconditional love

Posted by on Jun 18, 2012

What does unconditional love look like — really. Two of the features in this broadcast paint a powerful picture that makes many of us parents look like we have it easy. The other story highlights the work of psychologist Harry Harlow in the 50s. He pioneered — with the help of rhesus monkeys — the then-outlandish idea that children need love. While his own children say his parenting came up short in the affection department, our children (and our generation as well) owe him a debt of gratitude for opening up their parents’ arms.

Listen to Episode 317 of This American Life by clicking below:

317: Unconditional Love
Sep 15, 2006
Stories of unconditional love between parents and children, and how hard love can be sometimes in daily practice.

Parenting & Children, Psychology 101

Eat broccoli, walk and… be alone

Posted by on Jun 16, 2012

Psychology and Western culture have had an unfortunate emphasis on the negative side of being alone. It’s as if alone=lonely. However, there is a growing body of research — nicely described in this article — that points to the values of alone-time: creative thinking, increased empathy, better memorization, deeper spirituality and (paradoxically) an increased ability to connect with others. Like exercise and good sleep, it turns out that solitude is an important part of healthy living.

The Power of Lonely (Boston Globe, 3/6/11)

Anxiety & stress, Cognition, Mood & Emotion, Parenting & Children, Relationships and relating