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