Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Passing of an Icon and The Challenge to Love--Mr. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”Nelson Mandela

This week we witnessed the passing of an incredible icon. Mr. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela based his entire life on the principle of dialogue and the art of listening and speaking to others.  And he was convinced that if we all did this, we could have a profound impact on the world. He encouraged people to enter into dialogue – often about difficult subjects – in order to address the challenges we face today.  I've been moved by the sentiments shared by so many at his passing. I'm struck by the fact that, as I look back on his life, his many trials and tribulations, I feel challenged to act. To do something designed to make this great world better.  Former Secretary of State, Gen. Colin Powell, talked about what it would be like if our politicians attempted to carry out there duties with the level of love and compassion that Mr. Mandela eventually showed. I loved this quote from BBC News:

Mr Powell said that Mr Mandela was a guide to him when he became the first black US secretary of state:

What I liked telling people was I was the first secretary of state who happened to be black, and I put that descriptor behind the title. We have to get beyond these labels depending upon your gender or your colour or your background. I'm proud of being black, and I'm proud of being an immigrant of British subjects, but at the same time I want to be seen as an American. And I think Nelson Mandela was able to create that kind of an image within South Africa. We are not black South Africans or white South Africans, we are South Africans who happen to be black or white. We are one family, one nation, one people.

I really think that says it all!

I'll finish this post by sharing with you the lyrics to one of my favorite songs by India Arie:

Yeah Yeah!
Yeah Yeah!

[Verse 1:]
I wish there was a video game
to teach you your ancestors name
I wish there was a phone number

like 1-800-Save-Your-Brother
I'm thankful for the radio station
Not afraid to put the truth in rotation

there is certain information
That you can only get in conversation when...

Young People, who talk to
Old People, it would make us
Better People, all around...
(Yes it would)

And if Old People would talk to
Young People, it would make us
Better People, all around....
(Yes it would)

[Verse 2:]
We went from radio to TV
Now we're going from LP to CD
Don't be afraid To try something new

I can help you with the brand new technology
Help me with the age old philosophy
Together there's so much we can do when

Young People, who talk to
Old People, it would make us
Better People, all around...

And if Old People would talk to
Young People, it would make us
Better People, all around....

They say that every
Generation gets worse
They call it a generational curse

These problems don't just drop out the sky (yeah)
Listen to Mahatma Ghandi's words
Be the change you want to see in the world
Start with yourself and healing will multiply
AAAAAAH, that's what happens When..

Young People, who talk to
Old People, it would make us
Better People, all around...

If Old People would talk to
Young People, it would.....
Better People, all around....

If black people
Would talk to white people
It would make us
Better People
All Around....

If Republican people would
Talk to Democratic people
It would make us diplomatic people
[laugh] All Around.....

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, WINDSWEPT HOLDINGS LLC

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Fun With Relationships! A Rational Guide to Screwin' 'Em Up!

Hey, All!
     I was having a conversation with a friend of mine a couple of days ago and he was lamenting the challenges he's having in his current relationship. And by now, you guys know me. I'm sensitive. I'm supportive. I'm compassionate.  And I'm totally impatient with the idea that other people are responsible for making us feel we feel! Now I know that relationships can be incredibly hard. And I recognize and appreciate that the desire to have a partner with whom to share our lives is very human. In fact, I believe that it makes us better people overall! When done correctly, and it's working well, it drives us toward our capacity to be our best selves! And that's great for the whole world! Of course, the vast majority of us have also had relationship challenges. And there are effective ways of managing ourselves during these challenging times and less effective ways…

     Okay back to the friend I was telling you about. He actually said to me, "Dude I seriously hope that I can get back together with her! She is awesome! I mean, you know… I'm not all that great. Whenever I'm around her, she makes me feel like I'm not that smart or not very interesting. I mean I look okay, but...she's AWESOME!"  In an attempt to be supportive all I said was, "So you don't feel really good about yourself when you're around her?" And my friend replies, "Oh no! You can't apply your "rational" (air quotes here) stuff here! This is emotion stuff man! And we men have emotions too! I think I've gotta be more emotional with her. (Oh yeah, I think to myself, I'm sure that's exactly what she needs!). And then before I can even defend my "rational stuff", my friend says to me, "okay fine! Go on and do your "rational thing"! (More air quotes) Tell me how that would even fit in this real life situation. I was like, cool. Then I told him about some Emotional Blocks to Relationships.  I talked to him about some possible ways that he might be making himself upset or angry.

Thoughts (Internal self-statements):
I'm not very (smart) (interesting) (attractive)… Why would anyone be interested in me?

FEELINGS (which we experience as a result of the self statements)
putting ourselves down, depression

BEHAVIORS (how we act then)
Acting shy, avoiding contact, not initiating conversations, etc.

While I'm not perfect, I am certainly not worthless! And while I make mistakes, I recognize that I'm human and I am likely to make mistakes. But I can still value myself and desire to be valued by the person I'm in a relationship with!

I need the approval of this significant person in my life or I'm no good at all!

putting ourselves down, depression

Acting dependent on the person for happiness, well-being, direction, etc.

Just because another person doesn't like something about me, or doesn't value something in me, does not mean that I am worthless!

And for the 3rd example I tackled his anxiety-producing self-statements!

I just couldn't stand being rejected or thought badly of! Especially by that special person. Or "I couldn't stand being feeling uncomfortable"


Being nonassertive or self-conscious. Withdrawal; failure to take risks, to become intimate with others.

I don't like being rejected, but I can handle it. It's not awful and it's not horrible! It's only uncomfortable, and it won't kill me!

Not don't get me wrong. It's possible that he really could be in a bad relationship. If you really do find yourself feeling like crap all the time when you're around your partner, maybe this relationship really is eating away at you…

If that's the case, it's time to get out!

Of course I could go on, but you guys get the picture  So go out there and do your relationships up right! Remember that the way that we talk to ourselves can not only impact our own experiences, but also impacts our relationships! So...

I almost said "Good luck", but a really bright friend of mine (thanks, Marie!) pointed out something really interesting to me the other day. She said that luck isn't something that you have any control over at all and thus, you can't take any responsibility for what happens. Instead she prefers "Good success!" That encourages us to go out and do something and do it well. I like that!

Dr. Saz

***** If you have questions, comments, or challenges please feel free, no, feel encouraged, to post in the comments section below! Oh, I accept positive feedback, too! I'm just kind like that. 😉

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gaylord Opryland Resort is Mind-bendingly Huge!

  Once a year I attend the annual meeting of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies
  in order to get my scientifically supported treatments fix and to mix it up with some seriously high-powered psychological minds! As you might imagine, it's five days of intellectual frolic and fun.  Actually this organization is made up of thousands of psychologists, psychiatrists, clinical social workers, and other mental health professionals who are seriously committed to the idea that the only mental health treatments that should be used are those which have been demonstrated to be effective. They all believe that people who are suffering, and those who simply want to enhance their function and well-being, deserve only the most sound and ethical treatment possible. It really is a fantastic organization. 

And this year, where was the conference held, you ask? Well, none other than the absolute heart of Country...Nashville, Tennessee! At the Gaylord Opryland Resort!  Leave it to a bunch of mental health professionals to choose a place with the size and feel of the Vegas strip, without the gambling, for getting down to some serious psychologizing! I mean, look at this place!  I've never walked so much in my life!

And this is only a small part of it! I'll bet it has it's own zip code and can to seen from outer space! (At the very least, I'm sure the country music can be heard throughout the galaxy!) And during all of this psychological, scientific power-lifting, we've got to let loose for a bit! And where was that done? Why, we're in Nashville, so of course we'd have our traditional ABCT Conference Saturday Night Dance at, none other than the World Famous Wildhorse Saloon!

We had the top two floors! And how did we know that the top floors were reserved for us? Why, this feller told us!

As an aside, perhaps some of you kind readers who are better versed in the phenomenon of country music culture could help me understand country line dancing. Wouldn't you want to mix it up a bit every few songs or have, I don't know, maybe a "free dance" segment...

Anyway, of course the conference isn't all song and dance (ha! I think I made me laugh with that one!).  Now you've got to picture me sitting there soaking in all in! Feeling my psychological juices flowing and taking part in intense conversations with people of like mind!  Ok, not all of the conversations were exactly intimate...

(Can you guess which seat I sat in for this talk? I'll make you a fantastic dip if you can.) but there is some seriously fantastic work being done there. And honestly, by some of the greatest thinking available!

So that was my last few days.  ABCT keeps me excited about my field. And I love that, as a part of this organization, I'll always be driven to not only provide the best care that I can, but to continue to use psychological science to further my understanding of what truly works in recognizing, assessing, treating, and preventing psychological suffering.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

It's not How Big Your Holiday Is...It's How You Use It!

Hello, All!

   It's that time of year again! Wait, actually it's not quite here yet.  Despite the fact that all the department stores are playing Christmas music and hawking Christmas wares. Regardless of the homes in the suburban sprawl already kicking off the Christmas lights competitions,

 and the not-so-cute little doggy and kitty sweaters flying of the shelves...

it's not here yet! I mean, come on! Advent doesn't start until December 1st and Hanukkah is still over two weeks off! (It doesn't start until November 27th!).  So you would think that all of this early preparation indicates a huge level of enthusiasm. NOT necessarily.  The "holidays" seem to be beginning earlier and earlier. I'm certain the stores love this, but for many, the onset of the holidays can be a harbinger of stressful times! 

    I figure now would be a great time for us to head off potential holiday stress. For many people, the holidays are a fun, exciting, and happy time. A time filled with joyous gatherings with family and friends, parties, and all manor of celebrations. But for others, it is a time of sadness, stress, disappointment, over eating, and hangovers. One of the reasons this happens is because we often enter the holidays with very unrealistic expectations of the way the holidays will be. This brings us to:

Thinking error #7: Super Idealistic! You hold romanticized pictures of reality. You have beautiful but unrealistic expectations for yourself, for parents, for marriage, children, love, a profession, your workplace. Naturally, nothing in the real world measures up to this kind of thinking!

     As we begin this discussion, it's important to point out that some people who experience depression, anxiety, and excessive feelings of loneliness and isolation during the holidays may actually be suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Symptoms of this disorder typically coincide with the decreased number of daylight hours during the winter months. If this is the case, I always encourage you to talk with a professional about it! (In person!) In the meantime, making a point to increase your exposure to bright fluorescent light often helps more than you might imagine.

     But all the pressure that we put on ourselves during the holidays can bring about a significant amount of stress! We expect ourselves to function at an incredibly high level, usually on less sleep, while decorating for the holidays, attending parties, planning meals and celebrations with families, friends, and coworkers, and shopping, shopping, shopping!  During all of this, we expect our parents to be supportive, our spouse to be understanding and nurturing, our children to behave perfectly and appreciatively (ha!), and our coworkers to be accommodating! The only problem is, they're all dealing with the same holiday stressors that we are!  

     So what do we do?  With the help of the excellently awesome Albert Ellis Institute, I give you these 10 great "Happiness-Producing Rational Beliefs!"

                                        "Happiness-Producing Rational Beliefs!"

1. Don't blame others for not making you happy! Take responsibility for making yourself happy this holiday season! And do things that you think others will be happy about, because it's always more fun to be around people when they are happy!

2. Give yourself permission to make yourself happy… Even if when you do so, others make themselves unhappy!

3. Make time for yourself to do things which bring you pleasure and enjoyment in the short-term.

4. Do some things for others and your community without expecting anything back in return. Remember, it feels good to do good! And you deserve to feel good this holiday season!

5. Sacrifice short-term pleasures and put up with short-term discomfort in order to achieve longer-term gains. Call a truce with that family member or friend with whom you've been having a conflict. You'll be amazed at how much more enjoyable and how much less stressful your holiday gatherings will be!

6. Accept the fallibility of others and yourself!  You will make mistakes, you'll do things that are absolutely silly, maybe even make a fool of yourself! But instead of saying then "I'm awful", "I'm terrible" or "I'm worthless", say instead "I make mistakes, but I'm still pretty darn ok." And make a point to apply that same rational thinking when others behave in ways you don't like!

7. Don't take things personally this holiday season!  It's possible that the person who is grumpy at the holiday gathering you're hosting has actually had some really stressful times lately! (Or could be suffering from SAD! But they also just might be a jerk! And if that's the case, why would you expect their behavior to be any different!?! Just remember that their words and behavior do not determine your being!)

8.  Take a chance and try something this holiday season that you've always wanted to try, even though you might fail. 

9. Remember that what people think about you doesn't really matter so much as you might think!

10. Give yourself the gift of a lower stress holiday season!  One where you will appreciate your own value this year. I certainly value you!

     If you have any questions about dealing with holiday stress and challenges, feel free to post the question and I'll respond!


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Me, Myself, & Me!

     So we're having dinner several nights ago, and I hear Colin (my astonishing 7-year-old) say, "I can't talk about that. That would be bragging."  When I ask what he's referring to, he reveals that he is referring to how well he did on a challenging assignment at school. Now I don't mean to imply that my kids are better than-or more talented than-the average kid.  I mean, instead, to claim it blatantly! The kid is BRILLIANT! Ok, that being said, we had gone to his parent-teacher conference and his teacher had shared a story with us about how well he did on this assignment that was designed to "test their limits" and apparently Colin spanked that assignment and made it his b?+€#!  When we got home we told Justin (our equally stupendous 13-year-old) what the teacher had told us about his little brother.  It was this that Justin was asking Colin about during dinner.  When Colin said that he couldn't talk about it because "that would be bragging" I, being the conscientious dad that I am...told him that it's not bragging to simply acknowledge success that came about as a result of hard work. (I thought that was pretty good!) but Colin informed me, in no uncertain terms, that to say good things about yourself is bragging and that's really bad and no one will like you! Are you f-ing kidding me!?!  This is where it begins!'s ON now!

     Time for Thinking Error #6: Self is Bad!  You believe that you can function well in the world while ignoring the value and importance of your SELF!  Why do we expend so much time and energy making sure that we prove we are more self-effacing than everyone else!?! We even go so far as to say that if we do good things because we feel good when we do them, then we are bad! What the heck!?! I am so confused! Are we to believe that a good dead is only good if it is "selfless", as in a "selfless act of kindness"? I respond with a resounding NO! If these acts of kindness are selfless, who is committing the act? When I commit an act of kindness, I commit it!  I do.  Me. Myself!  And when you do something kind, you do it! To devalue the self is preclude acting in any kind or generous fashion because without the self, the is no one to commit the act! The self comes before the act! 

  Ok readers, ask yourself this question. Have you ever heard someone say that they would make a contribution to some good cause, but only if they can make the contribution anonymously? Now I understand if it is some well known company, corporation, or other institution making the contribution and they do it anonymously. But this is not an individual self.  Besides, people might ascribe all sorts of ulterior motives to the contribution. I can also understand if it is some celebrity or pro athlete with fat pockets. However, in a very real sense, a celebrity is, for all intents and purposes, not just an individual self, but a Brand, much like ,, and! (Can you tell that I have children?) But for and individual, why would it be so important that the contribution be anonymous? Ask someone and they'll tell you something to the effect of, "I don't want it to be about me." And when they say that, ask them, "Who doesn't want it to be about you?" And they'll say (with a confused look in their eyes) "I don't!" Then say, "But it is about you, and that's not only fine, but it's GREAT!" And they'll say, "No! It's not about me!! (Now with a slightly annoyed look, with a slight tinge of fear...). Then you ask them, "So why contribute then?" And they'll say, "Because I see the great need there is and I have the resources to help out. I would feel awful knowing that there is such a need that I could help with and I did nothing about it! My heart just aches at the thought of it!" And at the end of all of this just say, "Who's heart?" And they'll say, "MINE!!!" You could then go on to point out that they made at least 6 perfectly laudable "I" statements during that explanation and follow up with, "See? I told you it was about you!" (And you'll also get the added entertainment value of watching the head of an otherwise perfectly sane individual spontaneously explode) 

     So look, I am convinced that one of the reasons that we have such a hard time taking care of ourselves is because we have been socialized to believe that to care about ourselves is "selfish" and selfishness is the worst kind of bad! While, selfishness may be problematic at times, (and I'm not convinced that it is when it doesn't lead to lack of consideration for others) care for and about the self is necessary for healthy living and giving! I think it's time we coined a new term, Selfulness! Let's define it simply as "recognition of the importance and value of the self in our inner experience and outward behavior."  Yeah, I think I like it! Think of how much more good could be done in the world if we could say, "I do good things because I feel good when I do them!" Without people saying that you're selfish or full of yourself!  Instead, let's say, "Damn, man! That's seriously selful of you!"

    I'd love to talk with you guys more about this, so ask me your questions in the comments section and I'll respond!  Who will? I WILL

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Great Expectations...Schmexpectations!

Thinking Error #5: Blind Expectations! This thinking error occurs when we have experienced something over and over again, even to the point where we are almost certain it will happen again, yet we expect it to be different every time! Then we are either devastated or pissed off when it doesn't happen the way we expect it to!  We say things like, "I can't believe she did it again! I knew she was gonna do it! I'm so pissed that she did it!" 

Man oh Man! If I had a nickel for every time I here someone falling prey to this one! Not sure what I'm referring to?  Ok, let me clear this up for you guys.  Your friend (let's call her Snooky, just for kicks) comes home from a date and she's distraught! Being the good friend that you undoubtedly are, you offer support. You ask what happened and Snooky tells you that her date treated her badly, making fun of her the whole time and being patronizing. He even went so far as to disparage her bump-do!!  You think to yourself, "Wait, isn't that the way he always treats you?" However, because you're "supportive" you keep it to yourself and instead say, "Oh, I'm so sorry he was such a jerk to you!" Unfortunately, what's really happening here is that Snooky knew exactly how he was likely to behave, yet, she "blindly expected" him to behave differently! And when he didn't, that meant her expectations were not met, so she became distraught.  So, being a really good friend, instead of saying you were sorry that he was such a jerk, you might have done better to say something like, um...I don't, "Wait, isn't that the way he always treats you!?!" This happens far too often! We know that someone behaves badly, yet every time it happens, we respond with the same upset! 

     Why does this happen? You guessed it! It's because we are saying crappy stuff to ourselves about the situation! You might remember that our goal is to avoid saying stuff to ourselves that is unhelpful, distorted, or irrational. We say things to ourselves like, "He'd better be good to me this time!" Or "That coworker of mine never does her work! She had better get her job done today!" Or "My brother is always calling to ask for money! And I get pissed every time!"  

     Are we seeing a pattern here? Now you might be pempted to say, "Yeah, I see a pattern! People are a$$#@|£$!" But no, again, you'd be looking in the wrong place for the person to blame for your upset.  For that, you'd have to look to your own self-talk! As I pointed out in a previous post, expectations are nothing less than implicit demands! And when our demands are not met...look out!  

     My question to you is, why do we expect people to act differently in these situations? And when they fail (unsurprisingly) to act the way we expect, why do we get so upset? We could easily apply our ABC model of rational self management here:

A (activating event) -- Brother calls on the phone, immediately asks for money.
B (belief; unhelpful, distorted, irrational) -- People should act the way I expect them to act! And if they don't, that's awful! TERRIBLE!
C (consequence/emotional) -- Depression, frustration, and/or Anger/aggression 
C (consequence/behavioral) -- Withdraw from the world/stay in bed (and probably send him money anyway). Or, yell at your brother and call him names you know you'd have gotten in trouble for when you were a kid (and still probably send him money anyway)

Now that we see where the thinking error is, we can fix it! This is where the ABC Model becomes the ABCDE Model!  The "D" stands for Disputes. It is here that we identify the irrational beliefs (B) that were activated (A) by this situation, and we dispute them! Finally, we come up with "E"' which stands for effective rational beliefs.  We then replace our irrational beliefs (B) with these more rational ones!  So,

D (disputes) -- Who says people should act the way you expect them to? Is it really awful (like a tsunami wiping out and entire city awful) when people don't act the way I expect them to?
E (effective rational beliefs) -- I would like it if people acted the way I expect them to, but I can handle it when they don't. Sometimes people behave in crappy ways!  And when they do, it's not the end of the world!

Ok, I'm almost certain you guys'll have some challenges/questions for this one! Let 'em fly! 

As always: ***** If you have questions, comments, or challenges please feel free, no, feel encouraged, to post in the comments section below! 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Feed Me Seymour!!

Yep, that beastly plant from Little Shop of Horrors that we all love to fear has been on my mind much this weekend! 

I think I mentioned to you guys in a previous post that I really do live my life according to the things that I've been talking about in this blog so far. And for the most part, I think I'm doing a pretty good job. In fact things go pretty well for me emotionally. Pretty well-rounded guy over all. But… Not always!  And this weekend happens to be one of those weekends where the irrational thoughts and the negative self statements just grew and grew and GREW!  They started out harmlessly enough, cute and cuddly little self statements like, "Hm. I really want to get these daybeds completed for my boys this weekend." That's harmless enough right? Sorta like little Audrey II,  at the beginning...

Isn't she just such a little cutie!?!  But you can imagine what those self statements turned into by the time this was the daybed condition by the end of the weekend…

Well despite how cute and cuddly that first self statement was about getting these monsters completed, it soon morphed into beastly self statements such as, "Darn it! I've got to get these things done!" (and of course I got the icky facial expression to go with it as I'm saying it to myself!).  Add to my building woes, the fact that I am a fairly staunch Cardinals fan! MAnd, as I'm sure many of you are aware, my beloved Cardinals are once again in the World Series! 

And from there, it degenerated into a litany of negative self statements and irrational thoughts!
"Crap! I didn't finish those blankety-blank beds! That sucks!"
"Crap! I'm going to be so busy this week, there is no way I'm going to ever get these things finished! That sucks!"
"Crap! Why did Wong run!?! That was wrong of Wong! That sucks!"
"Crap! The Cardinals really needed to win game 4! But they lost! That sucks!"

You get the picture.  My sweet little mostly harmless, cute, and cuddly self statements at the beginning of the weekend had turned into this monstrous and unwieldy negative self-talk that was definitely frustration-inducing! Little Audrey II had become BIG Audrey II and she wated blood...

But fear not everyone, I did get to a point where I realized what I was doing to myself. Of course I didn't realize it until I'd given myself a massive headache from frowning so much!  And when I realized it, I stopped saying all those irrational things to myself and replaced them with things that were more rational and true, such as

"I didn't get those two daybeds finished this weekend but I actually enjoy working on them and it is a pretty huge project!"
"It's going to be a busy week, but there's always next weekend! And it's not like the boys are sleeping on the floor right now!  Well..."
"Wong ran. Get over it."
"Yes, the Cardinals lost game 4. But the fact of the matter is, that just means the series is tied 2-2! And that's pretty exciting!"

I replaced all those negative self-statements and irrational thoughts with ones that were more rational and, most importantly, true! It's incredibly important that we use only true statements when we are replacing our irrational thoughts. Because if we don't replace them with statements that are true, we set ourselves up for more upset in the future! For example, I could've said "I'm going to finish those daybeds tomorrow"! Which I know is not true and I would have been all the more upset when I didn't finish them tomorrow!

So that's enough for now.  That brings us to our 4th thinking error: Very Negative. You notice only half-empty glasses and ignore all the positive features in your life.  You make unrealistically gloomy predictions about the future as well. You use words like "empty, doomed, and hopeless."

Okay, that being said… Good night to you!

Remember: ***** If you have questions, comments, or challenges please feel free, no, feel encouraged, to post in the comments section below! Oh, I accept positive feedback, too! I'm just kind like that. 😉

Monday, October 21, 2013

Broad Irrational Thoughts in Line At Lowes

So I'm at Lowes purchasing lumber and hardware for another "Oh God, Saz is out in his garage workshop again" project, when I have quite the interesting encounter.  I had recently built a patio table (check it out!)  

And I was there at Lowes to buy the materials to build the matching bench. By the way, just thinking about all that lumber at Lowes makes a brotha's hands tingle! (Ok, may as we'll show you that, too!)

I know that you're thinking, "Wow! That man is an incredible craftsman!" But I can't take all the credit. I do use a LOT of plans from Ana White's blog,! That woman ROCKS!  But I digress. (Those of you who know me and have heard me lecture will find digression no great surprise!)

So I'm wheeling my lumber cart through the store, because after I had gotten all of my lumber on the cart, I remembered that I needed to grab some pocket hole screws (poket holes are awesome, and that's why you can't see any screws in the table top! Even though there are 118 2-inch screws in there! Ok, I gotta show you:
See! No visible screw holes! But again, I digress.)  These screws are located, not at the lumber end of this magnificently huge store, but all the way at the other end, in hardware.  This is where people buy all those "little items" that actually fit in a regular cart. But since I had wheeled my honkin' lumber cart all the way down there, I thought I'd go on and check out down there too. In order to avoid blocking the entire aisle with lumber, I stood a bit back from the person in line before me.  This left a bit of space, into which another customer (accompanied by her sweet, aged mother I might add) promptly stepped! As I was thinking to my self, "Hm.  Did she not notice me and my magnificent lumber?" The woman did turn around and notice me. She was very apologetic and told me that she was so, so sorry! And that she and her mom would gladly get behind me.  She went on, before I could even respond, to smack her open palm against her forehead several times while chanting "stupid, stupid, stupid!", Chris Farley style!

I calmly told her, "Please, go ahead. You have so few things anyway" and I smiled. She told me, "No! I feel so awful! That's like most inconsiderate thing I've ever done! I'm so stupid!" I said, "Really, it's not a problem at all! I enjoy my time in Lowes and will savor these extra few moments!" She replied by telling me that I'm the nicest guy ever! She also said, "You're like the sweetest guy! If someone would have jumped in from of me in line like that I would have lost it! Even though my mom is with me and she would have been all embarrassed! I'm always doing stupid things like that!" I told that it really was ok, and that it takes a lot more than someone stepping in front of me in line for me to get all upset.  Then she told me again that I was the nicest guy ever and that she wishes she could just let things roll off her back like that!  And because it was too perfect an opportunity, I said to her, "Are you sure I'm the nicest guy ever? I mean, because for the most part, I'm pretty much the incarnation of evil. Don't let this one act of kindness fool you into thinking it's actually representative of me as a whole!"--and I said all of this with a smile! She then proceeded to laugh and tell me, "God! You're also, like, the funniest guy! Maybe if I handled things like you do I wouldn't be having such a hard time all the time!"

So you'd think that I have to make these things up to make the point I've been trying to make in these blogs, but no! I see people talking to themselves in these distorted and unhelpful ways far too frequently!  Which brings me, finally, to our next error in thinking: Very Broad

In this very broad thinking error, you generalize beyond the specific facts of a situation and use words such as, "always, never, everybody, nobody, anything, and nothing."  Or you label yourself or someone else in a very broadly negative (or positive) way that goes far beyond the poor (or good) behavior that you were originally thinking about. You end up labeling people (or yourself) as "bad, stupid, ugly, lazy, incompetent, inadequate, worthless."  When we do this to each other, we are failing to recognize the richness and variety in each others' characters and abilities. And when we do it to ourselves, we actually deny ourselves that same richness and variety. And given my belief that one of the many wonderful things about human beings is our rich and sophisticated nature, I find doing this to ourselves particularly sad. Because you are so much more! And you have so much more value!

Remember: ***** If you have questions, comments, or challenges please feel free, no, feel encouraged, to post in the comments section below! Oh, I accept positive feedback, too! I'm just kind like that. 😉

Sunday, October 13, 2013

For All Those Who Long for Peace of Mind and to Know Their Own Power.

     Who is this week's post for? For all those who see themselves as a total failure if their performance falls short of perfection. For all those who dare to chance a look at their lives, and when they do, they see gloom and hopelessness. For those who are convinced the the tasks ahead of them are more than they can stand, greater than they can handle. It is for those who find themselves feeling empty and forlorn without the approval of others.  For those who feel broken because their mind won't stop racing as they lie awake in bed longing for the escape that is only found in sleep. For those who often find themselves angry or frustrated because they insist that things must be the way they want them to be! They use words like "should, must, ought to, and has to be!" It is for those who breathlessly wait for someone, anyone, to tell them that they are good enough! That they are worthy. That they have value. That they are loved. It is for those who instead hear that they are worthless. That they have no value. That they would be loved "only if..."  For those who constantly put out feelers designed to detect the least little hint of what they expect to find, and what they expect to find is disapproval, judgement, failure, and loss. For all those who long to be free of the yoke of others' perception. For those who look out at this world and all it's inhabitants and find nothing but fault, because that is what they see when they gaze into a mirror.  It is for those who cannot experience the sense of security and oneness that comes with trust for fear that the world will punish them for their openness. This week's post is for those who close their eyes to the perceived darkness they believe is in the world around them, only to look within and see pain. And this post is for all those who work every day to trust, to love, to share, to be open, and to experience joy, only to "have it ripped from them" by the callousness or uncouth betrayal of another.  This week's post is for all of us. 

Last week I told you guys that I would help us start to talk to ourselves differently and thus change the way we experience our world. Here's a bit of that promise from last week:
      "I've mentioned in previous posts that changing the way that we think (our self-talk) can have a  profound impact on our lives. Whether it's anger-producing irrational beliefs, negative thoughts that lower frustration tolerance, anxiety-producing irrational beliefs, confidence crushing negative self-statements, thinking errors that interfere with relationships, irrational beliefs associated with high work stress, or distorted thinking about our socializing, learning to recognize when our thinking is contributing to our life challenges can change our entire experience! So, next week, I'm going to share with you some wisdom left behind by the inimitable Dr. Albert Ellis about learning to recognize thinking that is unhelpful, distorted or irrational. Then, we will go about tackling those problematic thoughts and replacing them with ones that are anxiety-reducing, confidence-building, and productively self-affirming!"

So, let's start out by identifying how we usually respond to anything that happens to us. Things that happen in our lives, things we respond to, are going to be called "activating events" (A) because these things "activate" our beliefs, values, and perspectives. An activating event might be meeting someone new, breaking up with a significant other, starting a new job, having an argument with a sibling, going out on a date or being cut off in traffic by another driver. Anything in our lives can be an activating event. When these events occur we talk to ourselves in ways that are consistent with our "beliefs" (B).  If we like the event we say to ourselves, "Hey! I like that event! That event ROCKS!" And then we experience the emotional "consequence" (C) of happiness and/or pleasure. We also experience a behavioral consequence. This is what we do as a result of experiencing the activating event. We liked it and said really good things to ourselves about it so we do things to ensure that this event happens again!  Now if we experience an activating event that we do not like, we say to ourselves, "Crap! I hate that event! That event SUCKS! And we experience the emotional consequence of anger, frustration, or depression. And the behavioral consequence of withdrawal, isolation, aggression, etc. 

Alrighty then.  Here it is in a nutshell: We experience something, it activates our beliefs and we "talk to ourselves" about the event. If we liked the event, we say really great stuff to ourselves.  However, if we didn't like the event, we say really crappy stuff to ourselves. As a result, we experience emotional consequences that can be good, bad, or neutral. (Happiness, anger, indifference). Finally, we experience a behavioral consequence that is consistent with how we talked to ourselves about the activating event! 
A-- Significant other breaks up with you
B-- "I suck! I'm really worthless and no one will ever love me!" or "How dare (s)he break up with me!      What a f#€¥!^£ b!#€#!!
C-- (emotional) Depression or Anger/aggression 
C-- (behavioral) Withdraw from the world/stay in bed. or Send inappropriate emails to your ex's boss from your ex's email account!

So there is an example of how we talk ourselves into our emotional and behavioral responses! I want you all to feel free to ask me questions about this understanding of our emotional and behavioral responses. Really, the only way that to can get your questions answered is to ask them!  So I want you to ask your questions!  Now, before I sign off for the night, I'm going to give you one example of thinking that is unhelpful, distorted, or irrational. Thanks and props go out to the Ellis Institute for these! Each week I'll talk about at least one of these irrational ways of thinking and how they effect us! Remember to tell me in the comments section if any if these sound like you!

Thinking that is VERY CATASTROPHIC -- You greatly exaggerate bad events until, in your thinking, they are full blown catastrophes! You use words like "awful, horrible, terrible, tragic, and end of the world!"

Remember: ***** If you have questions, comments, or challenges please feel free, no, feel encouraged, to post in the comments section below! Oh, I accept positive feedback, too! I'm just kind like that. 😉

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cul-de-sacs, Fire-pits, and Libations.

     This weekend my wife and I decided that, instead of going on our weekly date on saturday night, we would switch it to sunday evening so that we could join our neighbors "at the end of the cul-de-sac" on saturday for a bit of fun, neighborly interaction, and...libations.  These gatherings occur often on our street and never cease to entertain!  It may come as no surprise that the subject of the Saz Says blog came up. Unfortunately, or perhaps as a matter of course, this happened at a point in the evening when the gathering of neighbors at the end of the cul-de-sac had progressed to "party at the end of the block" status, due to the free-flowing libations! Someone mentioned that she had read my blog and thought it was "very interesting." Upon hearing this, another neighbor asked what the blog is about. Here is a snippet of the conversation:

Saz: "So far, it's about how people are so convinced that other people and events upset them when, in fact, they make themselves feel upset in the way they respond to those people and events! 
(I was pretty proud of myself for articulating that so clearly despite being mostly distracted by some really cool flashy-things that the fire pit was doing as we talked--told you...the libations were free-flowing)  Then, as I basked in the combined glows of my ability to articulate the nature of my blog so concisely and the very interesting fire pit, I hear my neighbor say, 
Neighbor: "Well that's a load of bulls#!+."
Note that I did not use an exclamation point, because he didn't say it with any particular emphasis, on the contrary, he said it very matter-of-factly.  You know, like "The hotdogs are done." Or "The fire pit is lit." (Which, by the way, is how I'd have described most of us by that point...) I was a little taken aback by this. Not because he believed it, I know that belief is all too prevalent, but because of the nonchalance with which he stated it! So I replied, 
Saz: "No. Really. You have more power over your emotional experience than you give yourself credit for." 
Neighbor: "Yeah, if we all lived in your "perfect little world" (Here he actually did air-quotes) maybe that s#!+ would be true.  But we all have to live in "reality"! (You guessed it, more air-quotes)
Saz: "Oh. So your reality (I left out the air-quotes) is that everything outside of yourself has more control over your emotional experience than you do?"
Neighbor: "Yeah! I don't piss myself off!"
Saz: "What pisses you off?"
Neighbor: "A lot of s#!+!"
Saz: "Your boss?"
Neighbor: "Yes!"
Saz: "Your kids?"
Saz: "The guy who cuts you off on the highway?"
Neighbor"Oh yes!"
Saz: "And every one of them has more control over your emotional reactions than you do?"
Neighbor"Yes! No. Wait.  If I punched you in the face you'd get pissed off!"
Saz: "Are you sure? Are you absolutely sure that I wouldn't get scared? Or confused? Or afraid?"
Saz: "How do you know?" (Of course I know what's coming next)
Neighbor"Because it would piss me off!"
Saz: "How's about we grab another drink and we'll talk about this some more?"

My neighbor, like most of us, is absolutely convinced that everything outside of himself has all this power over his emotions. Almost like the idea that he can change the way he responds to events in his world is a threatening idea! Even more threatening than all the emotional upset and psychological distress that he endures as a result of his misguided belief that others control his emotions!  Imagine if I asked you if you believed that other people can control your thoughts. You'd reply with a resounding NO!  And you'd be thinking to yourself that a person would have to be crazy to think that other people can control your thoughts.  But if I asked you if other people can control your emotions, how would you reply?

I've mentioned in previous posts that changing the way that we think (our self-talk) can have a profound impact on our lives. Whether it's anger-producing irrational beliefs, negative thoughts that lower frustration tolerance, anxiety-producing irrational beliefs, confidence crushing negative self-statements, thinking errors that interfere with relationships, irrational beliefs associated with high work stress, or distorted thinking about our socializing, learning to recognize when our thinking is contributing to our life challenges can change our entire experience!

So, next week, I'm going to share with you some wisdom left behind by the inimitable Dr. Albert Ellis about learning to recognize thinking that is unhelpful, distorted or irrational. Then, we will go about tackling those problematic thoughts and replacing them with ones that are anxiety-reducing, confidence-building, and productively self-affirming! 

***** If you have questions, comments, or challenges please feel free, no, feel encouraged, to post in the comments section below! Oh, I accept positive feedback, too! I'm just kind like that. 😉

Dr. Saz

Monday, September 23, 2013

I think I'm Feeling Something...Wait, No I'm Not.

Hey hey everybody! This week I thought I'd write about a conversation that I had with a very intelligent and highly competent friend of mine. She was telling me about an argument that she had with her hubby (another intelligent and competent friend of mine). Of course she was convinced that he had "made her angry", but by now I'm sure we know better than that!  Anyway, during the course of our conversation, we inevitably came to the topic of feelings.  I then found myself discussing with her the difference between thoughts and emotions and how even the highly intelligent tend to fall prey to a simple case of mistaken identity when it comes to these two! And how that has lead to many an unnecessary coulpe's spat!

It's important to understand that not only is there a difference between thoughts and emotions, but it's also important to understand that mixing them up can have a catastrophic effect on your relationships and on other interactions!   It also has huge implications for the discussion about emotions that has come before.  Now, to get us caught up, what I've been suggesting so far is that people can't make us feel anything! We make ourselves feel in the way that we respond to them. (That will now become our mantra) Now I think it's important that I make a point here. Feelings are a big deal. They're real and powerful and they are a major part of what makes us uniquely human. And I am convinced that no feeling we experience in invalid! NONE!  The problem arises when we start to confuse thoughts with feelings... Here's why.  Feelings are immutable. They are ours, and are not subject to interpretation or refutation by others. If I say to you, "I feel sad😢" you can't very well respond by saying, "No...I disagree!"  Sad is an emotion, a feeling, and it is mine! I own it, and you can't tell me otherwise! And since it's an emotion, you can't disagree with it. A thought, on the other hand, you can disagree with. In fact, a thought can be flat out wrong!  I might tell you that I think it's going to rain and you might say, "No...I disagree!" Or I might say "I think this steak weighs 2 pounds!" (I love steak), and I might be wrong. No one would bat an eye if you responded, "No way! That steak couldn't be more than 1.5!" But instead, we say things like, "I feel like you don't care about me anymore." And our significant other replies, "no...I disagree! I care very much about you!" But that reply falls on deaf ears because, since we told ourselves that we feel like it's true, we experience it like it's an emotion! And remember, you can't argue with an "emotion"!  The problem is, this is a thought, not and emotion! And thoughts can be wrong!  So our significant other argues with that thought and we respond as though they are "invalidating our feelings".  This is a classic case of mistaken identity. We expressed a thought, told ourselves it was a feeling, and got even more upset when our significant other told us that the thought was wrong! Here are some more examples of thoughts that we tell ourselves are feelings. Tell me in the comments section if you've heard any of these:
"I feel like we never talk any more."
"I feel like you never want to spend time with me!"
"I feel like you put your work/school before me."
"I feel like everybody is staring at me."
"I feel like nobody is going to like me at this party."
"I feel like you're always judging me!" 
"I feel like I'm really gonna mess up in this interview!"
"I feel like everybody else knows what they're doing and I'm the only one who doesn't!"

Each and everyone of these is a thought.  And, for the most part, they are all likely to be wrong!  None-the-less, because we tell ourselves that they are feelings, we experience them as though they were TRUE! And we'll defend them as though they really were our emotions!

Wanna know the first cue that you're expressing a thought (which could be wrong) and not an emotion? Well, emotions are usually only 1 word! In fact, I'd be hard pressed to think of an emotion that's more than one word:
"I feel lonely."
"I feel abandoned."
"I feel amused."
"I feel embarrassed."
"I feel enthusiastic!"
"I feel anxious."
"I feel shocked!"
"I feel euphoric!"

Each of these is an emotion.  If we are experiencing them and we express them to someone, they do not immediately find themselves prepared to argue with them. They are ours!  So when you find yourself starting to say, "I feel like... " just stop!  And ask yourself, "What emotion am I feeling?" If it's a single word, you're probably on the right track! 

There's so much more to be said about this, but I'm feeling tired. I think next week I'll talk with you guys about cruddy ways that we talk ourselves into being more upset than we deserve to be!

📢 If you have questions, comments, or challenges please feel free, no, feel encouraged, to post in the comments section below! Oh, I accept positive feedback, too! I'm just kind like that. 😉

Dr. Saz

p.s. When all else fails, take it from Steven: