Rethinking Anxiety

rethinking anxietyWhen a dysfunction such as anxiety – or depression, for that matter – becomes so commonplace, we must turn to our culture, which is our aggregate way of living, and examine how and why it’s producing such distress. Those suffering from anxiety are often simply mirroring an overwrought, anxiety-laden way of living. Turning the victim into the problem makes no sense at all. Such a preponderance of people suffering in this way must be a reflection of the effects of enduring an incongruous, if not insane, way of living, fostered by our prevailing worldview. In effect, the way that we are living produces this tragic result.

It is essential to address the underlying causes and not simply suppress the symptoms. The difficulty is that in our quick fix mentality, we believe that if we can quiet the symptoms, all is well. This may benefit the pharmaceutical-psychiatry industry, but not those so afflicted. We must come to see anxiety not as the enemy but as an expression of our struggle in adapting to a way of living that actually imperils us. From this vantage, anxiety is paradoxically sensible as we are reacting to conditions that are toxic. The anxiety can be seem similarly to a fever, which is simply a call to attention that all is not well. So the irony is that by medicating our symptoms away, we ensure continued suffering, for the struggle is never resolved toward a breakthrough; it is merely placated.

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Dr. Peter Breggin, acclaimed psychiatrist and author, interviews Mel Schwartz

Mel-SchwartzJoin Dr. Peter Breggin, acclaimed psychiatrist and author of Toxic PsychiatryTalking Back to Prozac and Talking Back to Ritalin, as he interviews Mel on a range of provocative subjects ranging from the philosophy of science and psychology to pragmatic everyday approaches to improve our lives and our relationships.

“Mel Schwartz, a therapist, and for me a brilliant philosopher of science and psychology, brings Emergent Thinking to everything from how we envision the physical universe to how we can improve our lives and our marriages. Good listening; good stuff.”  
– Dr. Peter Breggin

You can visit Dr. Breggin’s site by clicking here.

Please be sure to “like” my Facebook page to see my quote of the day, follow me on Twitter, and join my LinkedIn network.

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Making New Year’s Resolutions Succeed

New-Year_Resolutions_listYear after year, we make New Year’s resolutions that over time wither and fade into failed attempts to transform some aspect of our lives. The goals may range from health, exercise, relationships and finances all the way to spiritual and personal growth. The moment that we elect to make a significant change, we may begin to feel a bit of an endorphin rush as we fantasize what it would feel like. Yet, what begins with hopeful optimism gets swallowed into the basin of our life’s disappointments. Once again the high derived from the vision of change surrenders to the dulled resignation of the status quo.

It’s curious as to how we try to evoke change in the same way — year in and year out — with similar results. If we conducted a survey six months after the New Year and asked people about the success of their resolutions, we’d no doubt find an abysmal rate of failure. Our struggle with change is resoundingly stubborn and scant attention is devoted toward understanding why that’s the case. Let’s take a look.

Change begins as a thought, underscored by a wish or even stronger, an inspiration. This may set in motion an even stronger feeling, an intention. Most people find themselves somewhere within this continuum. Clearly, where you fall within that range is important toward the eventual outcome but nevertheless insufficient for an assurance of reaching your goal. Read more

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Seeking Authenticity

What does it mean for someone to be truly authentic? And how many people do you know actually fit that description? Do you feel that you’re authentic? Let’s take a look at what this word truly suggests and just what blocks us from achieving authenticity. 

Naturally, the word authenticity evokes an image of something pure or unadulterated. A letter of authenticity confirms that a certain object or work of art is not a counterfeit. The act of authenticating is a process of determining that something is indeed genuine, as it is purported to be. Experts receive training to authenticate precious objects, memorabilia, and documents, among other rare items. Yet we have no such method for ascertaining the authentic nature of people.

Short of being caught in a bold-faced lie or transgression, methods of determining an individual’s authenticity often go unexplored. One’s authentic nature is revealed in their ability to express and share what they think or feel in a relatively unadulterated form. Diplomacy, political correctness, false flattery, people pleasing, avoidance and silence may, in fact, be designed to mask the authentic, unfiltered self.

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Turning Crisis into Opportunity

Crises come into our lives, no matter how we may try to avoid them. They are troubling, unwanted experiences or events that take us out way out of our comfort zone. Typically, crises result in some type of loss. The very nature of crisis is antithetical to our core values of certainty and predictability as they vanish in an instant.

We desperately try to restore order to our lives, as chaos seems to prevail. Yet, if we learn to reframe how we see crisis, we might actually take advantage of it. There is the potential for alchemy as the crisis unfolds into a gain, provided we learn to stop resisting the unwanted change.

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Collapsing The Wave: Creating New Realities

Some of the remarkable discoveries from quantum physics can be adapted to help us break free from the groove of our past and unleash real change in our lives. The quantum world reveals that light has a somewhat schizophrenic nature. It has the dual capacity to exist either as a wave or a particle. This tendency is referred to as the wave/particle duality. This seemingly illogical notion is naturally counterintuitive and rubs against our common sense of logic. Ordinarily, we believe that things either are or are not. This is not the case here, however.

It appears that when the light photon is not being observed it exists in waveform, but at the moment of observation, the wave collapses and becomes a particle. The act of observing actually collapses the wave. Prior to making the observation the wave represents a state of pure potentiality. That potential only becomes manifest into a fixed state when we look at it. I have come to see that a very similar phenomenon occurs in our lives.

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Breaking Free from Your Comfort Zone

Our Most Intimate Relationship

The most intimate relationship we will have in our lives is not with our parents, our spouses, our children or closest friends. It is with our thoughts. They are our constant companions. Our thoughts will impact our lives far more than any relationship. In fact, they will greatly impact those relations. The quality and nature of what our thoughts tell us will largely script the experience of our lives. Learning to break free from the confines of old thought is the key to personal growth.

Thoughts can either be our supportive allies or our critical antagonists.  They are the very filters through which we experience our lives. A particular thought – embedded as part of a larger belief – can either imprison or liberate us. Our thoughts very much tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies.

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Creating Resilient Relationships

The wonder of first meeting and falling in love is in part due to the curiosity and passion of learning about each other. Regrettably, over time most relationships tend to wear down as predictability, distraction, communication issues and/or boredom set in. What can we do to ensure that our relations are resilient, that they have elasticity and bounce back from the stresses of life? We must learn how to keep our relations energized.

Relationships, and particularly marriages, are not closed systems that operate in a vacuum, but are open and natural systems that are part of much larger systems that greatly impact the health of the marriage. When we speak of a marriage, we are talking about so much more than the simple relationship of two people. The relationship of the couple is enormously impacted by infinite factors that would appear to be somewhat outside of the domain of the marriage, but they nevertheless greatly impact the relationship.

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The Problem with Perfection

In recent years, I’ve treated increasing numbers of individuals who are driven to distraction through their pursuit of perfection.  The desire to be perfect traps and burdens many people and imprisons them with unrelenting stress, often creating havoc in their lives. This is a very curious thing, given that these same people believe that seeking perfection is desirable. Like many operating beliefs and assumptions, when we take a deeper look, they may appear nonsensical.

Perfection suggests a state of flawlessness, without any defects. To be perfect implies a condition whereby your action or performance attains a level of excellence that cannot be exceeded. Seeking perfection at a particular task might be achievable, and certainly a student can strive to attain a perfect grade or you can try to accomplish a perfect execution of something. You can hope to bowl 300 or produce a perfect report at work. You certainly hope your surgeon does a perfect job on your operation.

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What is Emergent Thinking?

What I have come to call Emergent Thinking® is a process that began for me nearly eighteen years ago. I had been experiencing very significant life transitions, which were causing me some acute stress. It all began on a beautiful spring day as I ventured out for a bike ride. To my surprise, rather than basking in the warmth of that day, I began to feel quite anxious. I was experiencing what we ordinarily refer to as an anxiety attack.

I headed back to my house, not at all certain what relief that might provide. Upon returning home, I absentmindedly picked up an unread book, The Turning Point by Fritjof Capra, which clamored for my attention. The book described in fascinating detail a major shift of paradigm that was beginning to impact every aspect of our culture.

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