Give this a try

  • Perspective: The Gatekeeper Perspective: The Gatekeeper

    Perspective: The Gatekeeper

Perspective: The Gatekeeper

Often we are hard on ourselves when we don’t need to be, particularly when it comes to how much things that have happened to us continue to affect us. We like to think that we can just let things go, move on, and get over it but that’s just not how things actually work. Our past experiences continue to affect our current perception of events unless we actively try to overcome this natural tendency. Similarly, it is very difficult for a tall building to stand straight when the foundation is crooked. The only way to straighten the building is to work on the foundation, not the 30th floor. Often, when discussing current struggles with my clients, they will remark that they feel a lot of anxiety or depressed feelings “for absolutely no reason”. This is rarely the case. It is more accurate to say that they are feeling anxiety for no known reason, or no current reason. There’s always a reason. One way that is helpful for people to unlock the true impact of the past on their present is to get them to see it from outside of themselves. No, this does not involve high doses of hallucinogenic mushrooms, […]

  • Fighting Back Against Negativity Fighting Back Against Negativity

    Fighting Back Against Negativity

Fighting Back Against Negativity

Our brains are wired to look for the negative. Why is this? Stated simply, it’s about survival. Think about it: if you lived in the jungle and on your way home at the end of the day, if you didn’t stop to notice the pretty flowers, would it endanger you? No. But, if you didn’t notice the poisonous snake or the scary tiger or the cave-to-cave salesman, then you might actually be in danger. Thus, it is advantageous to our survival to keep an eye out for negative, unsafe, dangerous things. However, we don’t live in the jungle anymore and the threats to our survival aren’t quite as literal anymore. We haven’t yet gotten rid of this natural instinct however; it has just transferred to other threats, social threats. We look for signs of rejection, exclusion, not belonging, not measuring up, etc. We do so because belonging to the group equals safety. Or at least it used to; that’s another fossil from our pre-industrialized past. With the development of cities and technology, a man can actually be an island and survive. I’m not saying he will be the happiest man, but he will be alive. So, how do we overcome […]

  • Define This: Clarifying in Order to Communicate Define This: Clarifying in Order to Communicate

    Define This: Clarifying in Order to Communicate

Define This: Clarifying in Order to Communicate

You might read headlines in the newspaper such as “watching TV leads to depression” or “poor sleep habits linked to suicide risk” or “Justin Bieber is a train-wreck in progress”. All of these headlines are designed to grab your attention, summarize hours of research into a bite-sized piece of information (at least the first two), and lead you to a particular conclusion. While the truth of these statements is debatable, one thing they all have in common is their use of operational definitions. Operational definitions may not be the ones you find in the dictionary but they are adopted for the purpose of investigating a question, to ensure that everyone is on the same page. For example, if a researcher is interested in determining which kind of pasta is the most delicious, they must first define the terms pasta and delicious. Does pasta refer only to noodle-based dishes from Italy or does it include noodles from other regions such as Southeast Asia, India, or Japan? Should we include pasta dishes with sauce or without sauce? Should there be a limit to the ratio of sauce to pasta? How do we measure delicious? Can we objectify something as subjective as taste […]

  • Dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

    Dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

It is not uncommon for people to refer to their idiosyncratic tendencies as “my OCD”. Youtube comedians Rhett and Link even wrote a hilarious song describing a person’s preference for things to be parallel and clean. While the song and video are funny, they don’t begin to capture the anguish experienced by individuals who actually suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. If you are wondering what it is like, imagine that when things are the way you like them, such as the bed being made just right, or the doors closed and locked, everything is at peace in your mind. However, when a corner of the sheet isn’t flattened out properly, a high-pitched screeching noise pierces your eardrum, causing blinding pain. If the only way to remove the offending noise was to flatten the sheet, it stands to reason that you would be highly motivated to do so. While this isn’t literally what happens in the OCD brain, it is the metaphorical equivalent. One man, suffering from Tourette’s Syndrome, which shares many commonalities with OCD, stated that the compulsion to yell out inappropriate comments or make twitching movements with his shoulders was as strong as the desperation to breathe if someone […]

  • A Control Budget: Picking Your Battles A Control Budget: Picking Your Battles

    A Control Budget: Picking Your Battles

A Control Budget: Picking Your Battles

Here’s an idea: We are all born with an instinct to resist other people’s attempts to control us. This instinct is designed to help us stay safe. To one extent or another, anytime something bad has happened in our lives, it is when we are not in control. The brain learns to associate this state of powerlessness with negative events, such as pain and danger. The greater the pain and danger associated with powerlessness, the greater the brain’s drive to avoid that state. In other words, with an awareness of the origins of this association, we can understand the reflexive statement, “you’re not the boss of me” in a whole new context. Negative events don’t just include instances of physical harm and danger, but also emotional harm and danger. To a young child, few things are as instinctively dangerous as disapproval from a caregiver or trusted loved one. Parental attempts to control, no matter how well intended, are usually rebuffed, especially as the child begins to develop a sense of self somewhere around 18 months old. This is what we refer to as the terrible twos. It’s not a coincidence that as the child learns that they can resist parental […]