How Can You Tell if Someone is Suicidal?

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Thoughts on Obsessive Thoughts

Thoughts on Obsessive Thoughts: Nothing is as Important as You Think it is, While You're Thinking About It

I still remember their names to this day: classmates of mine from seventh and eighth grade. I envied their athletic prowess and basketball self-confidence playing on the asphalt behind St. Rita Grammar School.  I'll bet I thought about them and their talent nearly every day and probably wished as often I could be just like them.  There have been many times in my life that I have been so caught up as well by an idea (marketing employee assistance programs in 1985) or an event (not getting into DePaul University in fall 1973).  This kind of thinking has often struck me as merely and stubbornly obsessive.  I came across another explanation recently that I find more compelling and freeing.

Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist at Princeton University, describes this cognitive distortion as a Focusing Illusion, namely “Nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it.”  I invite you to recall two or three times in your life where you may have been so lasered in with concentration on something and test out whether it still matters to you today with the same importance.

In treating depression and anxiety issues, I have found this kind of sticky preoccupied thinking present.  Using Kahneman’s observation both respects the thinker and dislodges the thought.  I have not found successful ways to argue myself or others out of strongly held viewpoints.  I think intentionally remembering that whatever we obsess about as “true and forever” will be so until we think about something else.

On a minor note, if you have not heard The Moth storytelling radio show on NPR, I’d recommend it.  The show presents true stories told live.  I know when I hear it, it gives me something else to think about.

Till the next line…

David

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Your Guide to a Peaceful Household

Let's face it. Conflicts are inevitable.

Kids have different ideas, different solutions, and different ways to approach problems. Because of this, resolving conflicts peacefully is a key skill that kids need to succeed (1). It’s also one of the 40 Developmental Assets (2). As kids grow up, it’s important that they learn how to resolve conflicts peacefully, without giving in, and how to get along well with others.

Did You Know?

  • The number one way young people resolve conflicts is by fighting (3). Most kids say that if someone hit or pushed them for no reason, they’d hit or push right back (4).
  • Teenage guys are twice as likely as teenage girls to say they would try to hurt someone worse than that person had hurt them (5).
  • Kids who bully others tend to have difficulties in their relationships with parents and friends (6).
  • Younger teens (those in sixth grade) are almost four times as likely as twelfth graders to talk to a teacher or another adult if they’re having trouble resolving a conflict (7).
  • High-school seniors are almost twice as likely as seventh graders to talk to the person they’re in conflict with and try to work out their differences (8).

Conflict resolution skills are gained by experience and practice—so help your child start building these crucial abilities by engaging in peaceful conflict resolution at home. If your child is able to work through problems well at home, she will have an advantage when it comes to conflicts at school and beyond.


References

  1. Peter Benson, All Kids Are Our Kids: What Communities Must Do to Raise Caring and Responsible Children and Adolescents (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006), 55.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Search Institute, Developmental Assets: A Profile of Your Youth, Executive Summary, (Minneapolis: Search Institute, 2005), unpublished report, Appendix A-18.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. ScienceDaily, “Children Who Bully Also Have Problems with Other Relationships,” ScienceDaily, March 26, 2008.
  7. Search Institute, ibid.
  8. Ibid.
Anger

It’s Just Not Fair: Anger and Anger Management

It's Just Not Fair: Anger & Anger Management

Anger is an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage. Like other emotions, it is accompanied by physiological and biological changes; when you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of your energy hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.

Expressing Anger: Is There a Right Way to Express Anger?

The instinctive, natural way to express anger is to respond aggressively. Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats; it inspires powerful, often aggressive, feelings and behaviors, which allow us to fight and to defend ourselves when we are attacked. A certain amount of anger, therefore, is necessary to our survival.

On the other hand, we can't physically lash out at every person or object that irritates or annoys us; laws, social norms, and common sense place limits on how far our anger can take us.

People use a variety of both conscious and unconscious processes to deal with their angry feelings. The three main approaches are expressing, suppressing, and calming. Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive — not aggressive — manner is the healthiest way to express anger. To do this, you have to learn how to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others. Being assertive doesn't mean being pushy or demanding; it means being respectful of yourself and others.

Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or redirected. This happens when you hold in your anger, stop thinking about it, and focus on something positive. The aim is to inhibit or suppress your anger and convert it into more constructive behavior. The danger in this type of response is that if it isn't allowed outward expression, your anger can turn inward—on yourself. Anger turned inward may cause hypertension, high blood pressure, or depression.

Unexpressed anger can create other problems. It can lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior (getting back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on) or a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile. People who are constantly putting others down, criticizing everything, and making cynical comments haven't learned how to constructively express their anger. Not surprisingly, they aren't likely to have many successful relationships.

The Goals of Anger Management

The goal of anger management is to reduce both your emotional feelings and the physiological arousal that anger causes. You can't get rid of, or avoid the things or the people that enrage you, nor can you change them, but you can learn to control your reactions.

Are You Too Angry?

There are psychological tests that measure the intensity of angry feelings, how prone to anger you are, and how well you handle it. But chances are good that if you do have a problem with anger, you already know it. If you find yourself acting in ways that seem out of control and frightening, you might need help finding better ways to deal with this emotion.

Why Are Some People More Angry Than Others?

Some people really are more "hotheaded" than others are; they get angry more easily and more intensely than the average person does. There are also those who don't show their anger in loud spectacular ways but are chronically irritable and grumpy. Easily angered people don't always curse and throw things; sometimes they withdraw socially, sulk, or get physically ill.

Is It Good To "Let it All Hang Out?"

Psychologists now say that this is a dangerous myth. Some people use this theory as a license to hurt others. Research has found that "letting it rip" with anger actually escalates anger and aggression and does nothing to help you (or the person you're angry with) resolve the situation.  It's best to find out what it is that triggers your anger, and then to develop strategies to keep those triggers from tipping you over the edge.

Strategies To Keep Anger At Bay

Relaxation

Practice the following techniques daily, and learn to use them automatically when you're in a tense situation.

  • Breathe deeply, from your diaphragm; breathing from your chest won't relax you. Picture your breath coming up from your "gut."
  • Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as "relax," "take it easy." Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply.
  • Use imagery; visualize a relaxing experience, from either your memory or your imagination.
  • Nonstrenuous, slow yoga-like exercises can relax your muscles and make you feel much calmer.

Cognitive Restructuring

Simply put, this means changing the way you think. Angry people tend to curse, swear, or speak in highly colorful terms that reflect their inner thoughts. When you're angry, your thinking can get very exaggerated and overly dramatic. Try replacing these thoughts with more rational ones. For instance, instead of telling yourself, "Oh, it's awful, it's terrible, everything's ruined," tell yourself, "It's frustrating, and it's understandable that I'm upset about it, but it's not the end of the world and getting angry is not going to fix it anyhow."

Problem Solving

Sometimes, our anger and frustration are caused by very real and inescapable problems in our lives. Not all anger is misplaced, and often it's a healthy, natural response to these difficulties. There is also a cultural belief that every problem has a solution, and it adds to our frustration to find out that this isn't always the case. The best attitude to bring to such a situation, then, is not to focus on finding the solution, but rather on how you handle and face the problem.

Better Communication

Angry people tend to jump to—and act on—conclusions, and some of those conclusions can be very inaccurate. The first thing to do if you're in a heated discussion is slow down and think through your responses. Don't say the first thing that comes into your head, but slow down and think carefully about what you want to say. At the same time, listen carefully to what the other person is saying and take your time before answering.

Using Humor

"Silly humor" can help defuse rage in a number of ways. For one thing, it can help you get a more balanced perspective.

The underlying message of highly angry people is "things oughta go my way!" Angry people tend to feel that they are morally right, that any blocking or changing of their plans is an unbearable indignity and that they should NOT have to suffer this way. Maybe other people do, but not them!

Do not take yourself too seriously. Anger is a serious emotion, but it's often accompanied by ideas that, if examined, can make you laugh.

Changing Your Environment

Sometimes it's our immediate surroundings that give us cause for irritation and fury. Problems and responsibilities can weigh on you and make you feel angry at the "trap" you seem to have fallen into and all the people and things that form that trap.

Give yourself a break. Make sure you have some "personal time" scheduled for times of the day that you know are particularly stressful. One example is the working mother who has a standing rule that when she comes home from work, for the first 15 minutes "nobody talks to Mom unless the house is on fire." After this brief quiet time, she feels better prepared to handle demands from her kids without blowing up at them.

Some Other Tips for Easing Up on Yourself

Timing: If you and your spouse tend to fight when you discuss things at night—perhaps you're tired, or distracted, or maybe it's just habit—try changing the times when you talk about important matters so these talks don't turn into arguments.

Avoidance: If your child's chaotic room makes you furious every time you walk by it, shut the door. Don't make yourself look at what infuriates you. Don't say, "well, my child should clean up the room so I won't have to be angry!" That's not the point. The point is to keep yourself calm.

Finding alternatives: If your daily commute through traffic leaves you in a state of rage and frustration, give yourself a project—learn or map out a different route, one that's less congested or more scenic. Or find another alternative, such as a bus or commuter train.

Do You Need Anger Management Counseling?

If you feel that your anger is really out of control, if it is having an impact on your relationships and on important parts of your life, you might consider counseling to learn how to handle it better. We can work with you in developing a range of techniques for changing your thinking and your behavior.

Our course of action is not designed to "put you in touch with your feelings and express them"—as that may be precisely what your problem is. With counseling, we say, a highly angry person can move closer to a middle range of anger in about 8 to 10 weeks, depending on the circumstances and the techniques used.

Remember, you can't eliminate anger—and it wouldn't be a good idea if you could. In spite of all your efforts, things will happen that will cause you anger; and sometimes it will be justifiable anger. Life will be filled with frustration, pain, loss, and the unpredictable actions of others. You can't change that; but you can change the way you let such events affect you. Controlling your angry responses can keep them from making you even more unhappy in the long run.

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The Role of Friendship in Rebuilding a Relationship

The Role of Friendship in Rebuilding a Relationship: A Strong Foundation

Do you know anyone whose relationship fell apart and then months later came together again? It happens quite frequently and if you were to run a microscope over their relationship, you would most likely find one common thread – friendship. Not common friends, although they can help. We’re talking about friendship with each other.

Rebuild Your Relationship by Going Back to the Beginning

You would be surprised to see that most of these reunited couples did so by going through a getting-to-know-you dating process first. And it can work, if friendship is there from both sides. What is more interesting is the success rates of these renewed relationships – they have a very good track record. There are a lot of psychological issues at play and  many clichés that run true, remember, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, or “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” that is until you get there.

There is often one far more important issue at play – and that is maturity. Often, the first time around was more a love/lust relationship than one based on friendship. The second time around, being more mature, and with friendship as the base, the relationship has a much better chance of success – and happiness.

Is your partner your best friend? He or she should be. Close friends can talk to each other often without fear of retribution. Sure, best friends argue, and they may even go through a period of not talking to each other, but somehow, over time, they mend their bruised egos and the friendship reforms. You can do the same with your relationship if you are prepared to take it slowly, and to start by becoming the very best of friends.  If you need help, give us a call.

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Helping Blended Marriages Succeed

How to Help Blended Marriages Succeed with Family Counseling

One of the benefits of a mobile and Internet savvy society is that information is easily shared. Today, we are learning and sharing new data and new techniques that ultimately help families survive as a single healthy and happy unit. However, we still see a large number of relationships fail.  As a consequence, blended marriages have become part of the norm. They bring with them a mountain of problems and can be the hardest to maintain, especially without outside assistance.

While two adults may come together and share a common bond, that doesn’t mean their children will as well. Some blended marriages work brilliantly and these are serving as great guides when it comes to teaching others about how to embark on a similar path. This is where the sharing of techniques and ideas has been such a bonus. We now know that when two parents are considering a blended arrangement, their first steps should be to seek counseling.

Unfortunately, most people rush in where others would fear to tread. In a blended relationship, the consequences can be pretty harsh where even the smallest things get on people’s nerves. By participating in several family-based counseling sessions before coming together as a single family unit, expectations and fears can be discussed. One of the most important outcomes from these sessions. is that each member of the new family now has a firm idea of the fears and expectations of everyone else. They can also learn better communication tactics and techniques for dealing with problems when they arise.

Family counseling can be undertaken after an event, but keep in mind, this is like trying to treat a problem. By undertaking counseling prior to committing to a full time relationship, you are essentially vaccinating the family against future problems. There are no guarantees and members of blended families do have to work harder to make them succeed. Early counseling sessions are one valuable tool that should not be dismissed too lightly.

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Anxiety Help for Fears and Phobias

Anxiety Help for Fears and Phobias: You're Not Alone

Looking for anxiety help? If you struggle with panic attacks, chronic worry, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, phobias or obsessive compulsive disorder, here's help that’s practical and powerful.

Anxiety disorders are generally very treatable, but people who experience them find them hard to overcome. The reason is that while most people have the ability to recover, anxiety literally tricks them into using methods that make their fears worse rather than better.

This is the most natural thing in the world. People think of chronic anxiety as something that invades their lives, something they have to resist and oppose. However, the worst problems come from our efforts to resist and remove anxiety, rather than from the anxiety itself.

People do not get fooled by this trick entirely on their own. All too often well meaning friends, doctors, and therapists get fooled by it as well, and unwittingly suggest methods to their patients that make the situation worse.

For instance, there’s a well publicized technique called “thought stopping”, in which you snap a rubber band against your wrist when you have an anxious thought, and say “stop!” to yourself. It's hard for me to understand why professionals still suggest this idea, because it's very unlikely to be of any help. The more you tell yourself not to think something, the more you’ll think about it.

If you want a quick demonstration right now, take two minutes and don’t think about dancing elephants.

See what I mean? Don’t even think about thought stopping.

When anxiety tricks you, you get fooled into using recovery methods that actually make your fears stronger and more persistent. The more you fight an anxiety disorder, the more it grows. It’s like putting out fires with gasoline.

When your fears and worries and undue anxieties overcome you, give us a call.  We can help.

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Infidelity Doesn’t Have to Destroy a Relationship

Infidelity Doesn’t Have to Destroy a Relationship

Infidelity in a relationship is often one of the hardest problems to overcome, yet rarely is it a serious sign that a relationship is over. There are couples that are completely devoted to one another yet involved with others outside the relationship. Of course, let’s not kid one another, infidelity can also mean the relationship is well beyond its save-by-date.

The difference between the two lies behind the reasons for infidelity. Have you ever wondered why people engage in extra-marital relationships? They will often tell you its more exciting, more fun and totally different to what they experience at home. But then, it should be. The whole experience is heightened by several factors, one of which is the fear of discovery and the second being the tasting of the forbidden fruit. If you could translate that to the home, things would be different there as well.

A relationship doesn’t have to end because one person in the relationship has been unfaithful. What is needed is a careful appraisal of where the relationship is and why that person found the need to venture outside the relationship. Once those issues have been dealt with, you will then need to deal with issues of trust.

When it comes to infidelity, what destroys the relationship is loss of trust. If you can rebuild that trust then the relationship can continue to grow, often much stronger than before. If you cannot rebuild the trust then that relationship could be doomed to failure. It will certainly see its fair share of arguments, accusations, and counter accusations.

If infidelity has affected your relationship, consider your options. Can you forgive, forget, and move on, or do you need help? If you need help, call us.  We can assist you in rebuilding the trust.

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