Droplet of water - staying calm during the pandemic

Overcoming Anxiety in The Time of Pandemic

Let’s begin by looking at what we mean by the word anxiety.

Anxiety is the emotional/physical response that occurs when our thoughts attach to fear. There are times when fearful thoughts serve us and are adaptive. Currently, these thoughts may help us maintain vigilance in keeping our distance from others and being hygienically scrupulous.

Yet there are thoughts that don’t serve us as they seek out fear. These are often thoughts that seek certainty and demand to know the future. The future is called the future because it obviously isn’t knowable. But if your thoughts demand to know what can’t be known, the result is anxiety.

Our thoughts wage war with uncertainty. And uncertainty always wins. The pandemic provokes an extreme of uncertainty. The more you need to know the future the more anxious you will feel. It’s that simple.

We cannot know when the coronavirus will retreat, whether there will there be a second wave or all the ways in which the virus might be transmitted. There is a limit to what we can currently know. The more your mind demands certainty, the greater the fear, distress and anxiety.

Exercise:

Reflect on what anxious thoughts you have based upon the unknown of the future?

Ask yourself right now:

“What is causing me distress and anxiety? Does it have something to do with my fear of uncertainty, of what could go wrong in the future?”

New thinking:

I’m ok right now in this moment. If I stay focused in the moment, this moment will unfold into the next moment and become the future that I’m so apprehensive about. Keep your thought in the present and release your need to know the future.
Create a healthy and resilient future by staying focused in the present.

Capture the fearful thought, see it and release it. Think of this like the concept of catch and release that people may employ when they fish.

Remember, reality is actually uncertain and the pandemic in particular presents extreme uncertainty. This is why anxiety is so ramped up. Paradoxically, we must accept uncertainty.

Accepting uncertainty allows you to remain present in the moment. Unless you or a loved one are in danger or ill in this moment, keep your thoughts in the present. When your thought wanders off fearfully to the future, it evokes anxiety.

As I explained in my TEDx talk, Breaking Free from Anxiety, training your mind to accept uncertainty and remain present in the moment frees you from distress.

Exercise:

See your fearful thought.
Say to yourself it’s just a thought.

I don’t need to become the thought.
Set your intention to keep your thoughts focused in the present.

Of course, there are many other challenges that may be causing anxiety. Financial concerns, loss of freedom, isolation, enduring conflicted relationship, and managing children in containment are just a few. We’ll be discussing these in upcoming articles and podcasts.

In the meantime, remember the pandemic will pass. As George Harrison sang, “All things must pass.
__________________________________________________________________

In these daunting times, emotional and psychological resilience are invaluable. To that end I’ve launched a pandemic support network from which I’ll be sharing articles, podcasts, videos and most importantly the launch of live Zoom conferences in which up to 1,000 people can participate. Please join us.

Subscribe to my mailing list, and keep your pulse on crucial coping strategies and tips through my articles, podcasts, videos, and support forum. You can grow stronger than ever through this pandemic as you turn crisis into opportunity.

Join Mel’s pandemic support network for articles, podcasts and live zoom conferences.


Mel Schwartz, Psychotherapist in Westport CT, podcast 024 staying psychologically resilient during the coronavirus pandemicListen To The Latest Podcast

The Possibility Podcast Episode 24
In this special episode, Paul Samuel Dolman, host of the What Matters Most podcast and the author of several memoirs and other works, joins Mel as they share approaches for staying healthy on all levels as the coronavirus (covid-19) crisis impacts all of humanity.

Mel shares his techniques for sustaining a vigilance of mind, through which we don’t succumb to fear. The coronavirus ushers in frightening new realities, yet underneath this crisis new opportunities emerge for our growth. Remember that opportunity is always the flip side of crisis.  Trying to ward off uncertainty only induces greater fear. Learning to remain present in the moment is within our power.

The challenges we face through isolation and sheltering in place no longer allow us the distractions to which we’ve  become acclimated. However, the challenges of this pandemic provide us the opportunity to develop deeper levels of connectedness with those we shelter with- and others, from a distance.

Thankfully, the internet allows us this connectivity. We seem now to really be all as one; separation appears truly a myth. The homeless person may ultimately impact the health of the billionaire. We must utilize this connectivity to deepen our sense of humanity, with compassion and empathy.

Staying Psychologically and Emotionally Resilient Through the Pandemic

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How to make better decisions during the COVID19 pandemic. Two faces looking outwards.

How to Make Better Decisions and Stay Safe Through the Pandemic

In the coming weeks and months we’ll be addressing many of the challenges you’ll likely be facing and new ways of thinking to overcome them. I welcome you to join me in this participatory, interactive experience. Please feel welcome to email me with your questions. I’ll also be announcing a live, participatory web conference in which we’ll pursue ongoing discussions and establish a virtual support forum for one another. Please contact me if you’d like to be added to this mailing list.

Acting sensibly-whether for others or for yourself-often requires embracing dissonance. Here’s what I mean by the word dissonance.

During life prior to the coronavirus pandemic, I can recall the tension I might feel when out to dinner, the waiter might ask, “What would you like for dessert?” The very description of the tasty sugary treat produced endorphins. I felt a visceral urgency to order that dessert.

But another thought might arise and do battle with my desire. That thought might be, “you’ll feel like crap later and regret this.” Or, “I know how unhealthy this will be.” Learning to hold the tension of this internal conflict helps us make better choices. Engaging the battle of competing choices allows us to become more complex and mindful. This ability separates us from the baser instincts of the animal kingdom.

Nowhere–and at no time­– is this tension more vital to our well-being and survival than in the midst of this pandemic. This realization crystalized for me as I was facilitating a virtual therapy session with a high school student just the other day.

Her behavior was reckless as she continued to party with friends, sharing joints as they got high. When I asked her if she was aware that her behavior exposed her, her friends, their parents and countless others to infection from the virus, she sheepishly agreed.

“So why do you do it,” I asked? Her reply was stunningly to the point. “Because I want to.” I discovered that she was simply blocking a dissonant reality, that her behavior could wreak terrible harm. I see this troubling behavior often, often among younger people, but common to all ages. Avoiding the tension of conflicting thoughts damages us as it reduces us to an ignorant simplicity.

Exercise.

If you’re considering breaking quarantine or not social distancing and you have a thought “I’ll be fine,” ask yourself how you came to that belief? If the issue isn’t with yourself but with your children or friends, ask them, “What makes you think you’ll be fine.” That is a belief not a fact. What makes you think your belief is true?

New thinking: “I’m having a thought that’s telling me I’ll be fine.” “Why do I believe that thought to be true?” Invite in the discordant thinking that sets up conflict.

Trust that you can resolve the struggle between opposing thoughts in a healthy way. The ability to invite in dissonance enables us to grow in our relationship with ourselves and with others, but for the moment let’s stay focused on its vital importance in this pandemic.

This may sound counterintuitive but we need to heighten our comfort with the tension around the choices we make. When we open to opposing thoughts, we buy a few extra moments to reflect on dearly important decisions. That space between your thoughts offers you both insight and illumination. Slow down and think as you break the spell of misleading thoughts.

In the nanosecond between your thoughts, you exist in a state of pure possibilities. Try to extend that moment and you can achieve wisdom. —The Possibility Principle


Mel Schwartz, Psychotherapist in Westport CT, podcast 024 staying psychologically resilient during the coronavirus pandemic

Listen To The Latest Podcast

The Possibility Podcast Episode 24

Staying Psychologically and Emotionally Resilient Through the Pandemic

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The domino impact - how your thoughts impact emotions during COVID19

Staying Resilient Through the Pandemic: Maintaining Vigilance of Mind

All of us­ are sharing something in common. Our lives feel in upheaval of as we plunge into the chaos of the unknown. I’d like to help you sustain your emotional and psychological resilience through this storm. And in some cases, we’ll even find new opportunities through this crisis. In these daunting times we can benefit from new ways of looking at things, developing new coping strategies and opening to an ongoing support system. That’s my offer to you.

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be exploring many of the challenges you’ll be facing and new ways of thinking to overcome them. I welcome you to join me in this participatory, interactive experience. Please feel welcome to email me with your questions. I’ll also be announcing a regular web conference in which we’ll pursue ongoing discussions and establish a virtual support community for one another. Please contact me if you’d like to be added to this mailing list.

Undeniably this pandemic engulfs us with substantive reasons for fear. They run the gamut from illness, death, isolation, fear for loved ones, loss of income and on and on. Although these apprehensions are reality based, we need not fall victim to them. Anxiety and distress surface when our thoughts attach to fear.

As I wrote in my book The Possibility Principle:

The most important relationship you will ever have is not with your parents, not with your children, not with your spouse or partner. The relationship that will impact you far more than any other is with your thoughts. They are your constant companion. Your thoughts can be your greatest ally or your worst antagonist.

Try this exercise:

Try to notice your thoughts.  You can learn to see them as they clamor for your attention. These thoughts create the filter for your experiences and feelings. Thoughts are always coming at you. Ask yourself what thought you’re having right now in this moment. Don’t judge the thought, just witness it. If you do this exercise diligently and often, you’ll be developing an essentially important new muscle memory.

If you learn to see your thought, you don’t have to become your thought. That is what I call thinking.

Thought might be telling you: I could die from this. Ok, if you attach to this thought, if you become this thought, what’s the result? Fear, panic, anxiety. That makes things far worse.

New thinking: Say to yourself, I’m having a thought which is telling me I could die or get sick.

OK, that’s possible but if I attach to and become that thought, the outcome will be disastrous on an emotional, psychological and physical plane. What good does this possibly do for you? See this thought and choose to let it go.

New thinking: As far as I know I’m alright in this moment, so why not stay in this moment and maintain calm?

Another exercise:

When you notice fearful thoughts trying to grab your attention, place your forefinger vertically in front of your lips and say “shhhhh” to the thought. You can choose not to open the door to fearful thoughts. Be persistent and you will transcend fear.

Thoughts and feelings work in tandem. If you succumb to fearful thoughts, you will feel anxious.

Our fear of uncertainty lies at the root of anxiety. Now, more than ever, we cannot know the future. That is how reality operates. Don’t allow your thoughts to wander off into the dread of the future. Stay present in the moment, and do what you must to be safe. Safe in terms of social distancing, safe in terms of washing your hands, and safe in terms of developing a healthy vigilance of mind.

Remember, it’s natural to look at how the coronavirus has negatively impacted your life. Again, the consequences may be isolation, enduring conflicted relationships in constrained quarters, loss of freedom, boredom, financial loss, etc. If our thoughts focus on the loss, we’re screwed.

What we need to do is look at our circumstances through the framework of relativity.

I recently had a virtual therapy session with a high-school student complaining about the restrictions his parents were placing on his social activities. It felt like his life had come to a screeching halt. I took him through a thought experiment. I asked him to imagine his being a teenager 30 years ago. There were no cell phones, no FaceTime, no Netflix. He’d be completely cut off from deeper interaction and connection with friends. His opportunities for learning and entertainment through the internet non-existent. Just imagine that, I told him. Just picture yourself there. Now come back to where you are and feel some relief.

Imagine you were sitting in a prison cell with virtually none of the opportunities your life provides even under the circumstances of a pandemic. Or worse still in the end stage of a terminal illness. Does that make you feel better? It should.

Train your mind to zero in on what you can be grateful about. This will result in a healthier state of mind.

Keep your focus on the relative advantages you have even in today’s pandemic compared to how things might have been in the past. Once again, where your thoughts take you summon up your accompanying emotions. The only thing you can and should try to control in your life is your thinking. The pandemic can’t take that away from you.

Mel is currently offering his services to individuals, couples and families virtually by phone, FaceTime or zoom. 


Mel Schwartz, Psychotherapist in Westport CT, podcast 024 staying psychologically resilient during the coronavirus pandemic

Listen To The Latest Podcast

The Possibility Podcast Episode 24

Staying Psychologically and Emotionally Resilient Through the Pandemic

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Getting Unstuck: Overcoming Anxiety and Distress

In any given year approximately 40 million Americans will suffer from a debilitating encounter with anxiety. Over the course of your lifetime, there’s a 25% chance you’ll experience a diagnosable anxiety disorder. This is such a staggering rate of affliction. It appears we’ve adapted to a new norm—one of mass disquiet. We have become habituated to—and normalized—an epidemic of anxiety.

If 40 million people fell suddenly ill, The Center for Disease Control would be working overtime to find both the cause and the cure. As a culture, we only look superficially into the cause of anxiety and focus more on the treatment—typically management through medication. We need to do much better. As a practicing psychotherapist, I’ve been looking at why we are suffering in this way. It’s time we disrupt our complacency around our victimhood.

Stress is normal in our hurried lives. We can look at stress as a byproduct of our adapting to the challenges that confront us. Stress is the result of our deeper engagement with life that can lead to growth, new learning and productivity. But when stress turns into distress it impedes our ability to live well, to live joyfully. Distress calcifies into anxiety. So, the question is: why do we suffer from this avalanche of anxiety? Here’s what I’ve learned.

Anxiety— at its source— is due to our relationship with our thoughts. In particular these are the thoughts which are perpetually seeking certainty. We want to know what the future will bring, and what the consequences of our decisions will be. But that future is of course unknowable. And so, we become anxious as we try to ward off the unknown. This results in our not being in the flow of life as we try to hold back the future. Ask yourself, “What causes me distress and anxiety?” Does it have something to do with your uncertainty about the future, your fear around decision-making?

I had been working with a middle-aged woman who came to see around her anxiety regarding her future. She had been unhappily married for quite some time and shared that she and her husband had been unsuccessful in marital therapy. They had grown apart, were contentious and had little in common. She felt that her marriage was a drag on her life. Given that she had no children and was financially independent I inquired why she was opting to stay married. She said, “I don’t know who I’d be as a divorced woman.”

There it was. Her fear around the unknown—which offered her possible relief and new possibilities—kept her imprisoned with anxiety. She was actually choosing to stay miserably in the known rather than face the uncertainty of a different path—one that might have brought her joy. The question, “Who would I be?” froze her with fear.

We invite uncertainty into many aspects of our lives. We enjoy watching sports and movies because of the thrill of not knowing. But in our personal lives we become choked by predictability and certainty. Seeking predictability stunts our relationships, our curiosity and our greater engagement with life.

So how did we become so attached to needing to know the future in advance? I track the cause to the great 17th century scientist Isaac Newton. He instructed that if we had sufficient information—in today’s jargon we might call that data—we could reasonably predict the future. This became known as determinism. And we have become addicted to this way of thinking.

Determinism has benefited us in many ways, but at the extreme it’s led to much pathology. We live life as though we were playing a chess match. We sit back and calculate our next move. We might fret over whether our decision will be a “mistake.” We slice and dice and analyze the possible consequences of our decisions and we get frozen. We don’t move forward as this straitjacket of fear blocks our flow of life. If you feel anxious around decision making, you’re likely addicted to seeking predictability.

Here’s the good news! It turns out we’ve been living from the wrong game plan. Over the last hundred years quantum physics has revealed an astonishingly different picture of reality. Unlike Newton’s determinism, reality appears to be thoroughly uncertain and that’s actually good news. It seems that nothing is fixed or inert. The universe appears to be perpetually flowing and bubbling with potentiality, a virtual sea of possibilities.

We too can join into this new worldview. When we learn to reframe our relationship with uncertainty, we invite in new possibilities. Remember that what you resist you make more formidable. Paradoxically if you choose to welcome uncertainty it becomes your ally. When we welcome uncertainty and literally embrace it, we are in movement, joining in the flow of the universe. We are then able to navigate our life as it unfolds, in real time.

Think of it this way; Uncertainty = Possibility. If reality is uncertain and we continue to demand certainty we will dysfunction and anxiety will be the result. To embrace uncertainty, we must change our relationship with our thoughts. Try to notice your thoughts. What are they telling you? If you see your thoughts trying to predict the future, release the thought. It’s just a thought, you don’t need to become that thought. “In the nanosecond before your next thought, you exist in a state of pure potential.”

When you free yourself from the torrent of addictive thoughts seeking certainty, you join in the flow of your life and anxiety retreats. It turns out that the epidemic of anxiety is primarily due to living from an outmoded game plan for life. It’s time to embrace what we’ve been resisting and make uncertainty your ally. Uncertainty can become the wind in the sail of our change process.

 

 

 

 

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Why We Suffer From Anxiety and How We Can Overcome It

In any given year approximately 40 million Americans will suffer from a debilitating encounter with anxiety. Over the course of your lifetime, there’s a 25% chance you’ll experience a diagnosable anxiety disorder. This is such a staggering rate of affliction. It appears we’ve adapted to a new norm—one of mass disquiet. We have become habituated to—and normalized—an epidemic of anxiety.

If 40 million people fell suddenly ill, The Center for Disease Control would be working overtime to find both the cause and the cure. As a culture, we only look superficially into the cause of anxiety and focus more on the treatment—typically management through medication. We need to do much better. As a practicing psychotherapist, I’ve been looking at why we are suffering in this way. It’s time we disrupt our complacency around our victimhood.

Stress is normal in our hurried lives. We can look at stress as a byproduct of our adapting to the challenges that confront us. Stress is the result of our deeper engagement with life that can lead to growth, new learning and productivity. But when stress turns into distress it impedes our ability to live well, to live joyfully. Distress calcifies into anxiety. So, the question is: why do we suffer from this avalanche of anxiety? Here’s what I’ve learned.

Anxiety— at its source— is due to our relationship with our thoughts. In particular these are the thoughts which are perpetually seeking certainty. We want to know what the future will bring, and what the consequences of our decisions will be. But that future is of course unknowable. And so, we become anxious as we try to ward off the unknown. This results in our not being in the flow of life as we try to hold back the future. Ask yourself, “What causes me distress and anxiety?” Does it have something to do with your uncertainty about the future, your fear around decision-making?

I had been working with a middle-aged woman who came to see around her anxiety regarding her future. She had been unhappily married for quite some time and shared that she and her husband had been unsuccessful in marital therapy. They had grown apart, were contentious and had little in common. She felt that her marriage was a drag on her life. Given that she had no children and was financially independent I inquired why she was opting to stay married. She said, “I don’t know who I’d be as a divorced woman.”

There it was. Her fear around the unknown—which offered her possible relief and new possibilities—kept her imprisoned with anxiety. She was actually choosing to stay miserably in the known rather than face the uncertainty of a different path—one that might have brought her joy. The question, “Who would I be?” froze her with fear.

We invite uncertainty into many aspects of our lives. We enjoy watching sports and movies because of the thrill of not knowing. But in our personal lives we become choked by predictability and certainty. Seeking predictability stunts our relationships, our curiosity and our greater engagement with life.

So how did we become so attached to needing to know the future in advance? I track the cause to the great 17th century scientist Isaac Newton. He instructed that if we had sufficient information—in today’s jargon we might call that data—we could reasonably predict the future. This became known as determinism. And we have become addicted to this way of thinking.

Determinism has benefited us in many ways, but at the extreme it’s led to much pathology. We live life as though we were playing a chess match. We sit back and calculate our next move. We might fret over whether our decision will be a “mistake.” We slice and dice and analyze the possible consequences of our decisions and we get frozen. We don’t move forward as this straitjacket of fear blocks our flow of life. If you feel anxious around decision making, you’re likely addicted to seeking predictability.

Here’s the good news! It turns out we’ve been living from the wrong game plan. Over the last hundred years quantum physics has revealed an astonishingly different picture of reality. Unlike Newton’s determinism, reality appears to be thoroughly uncertain and that’s actually good news. It seems that nothing is fixed or inert. The universe appears to be perpetually flowing and bubbling with potentiality, a virtual sea of possibilities.

We too can join into that new worldview. When we learn to reframe our relationship with uncertainty, we invite in new possibilities. Remember that what you resist you make more formidable. Paradoxically if you choose to welcome uncertainty it becomes your ally. When we welcome uncertainty and literally embrace it, we are in movement, joining in the flow of the universe. We are then able to navigate our life as it unfolds, in real time.

Think of it this way: Uncertainty = Possibility. If reality is uncertain and we continue to demand certainty we will dysfunction and anxiety will be the result. To embrace uncertainty, we must change our relationship with our thoughts. Try to notice your thoughts. What are they telling you? If you see your thoughts trying to predict the future, release the thought. It’s just a thought, you don’t need to become that thought. “In the nanosecond before your next thought, you exist in a state of pure potential.”

When you free yourself from the torrent of addictive thoughts seeking certainty, you join in the flow of your life and anxiety retreats. It turns out that the epidemic of anxiety is primarily due to living from an outmoded game plan for life. It’s time to embrace what we’ve been resisting and make uncertainty your ally. Uncertainty can become the wind in the sail of our change process.

 

Transcending Anxiety, Stress and Depression.

A 6 week Live Streaming Online Workshop. Starts Wed. March 7th


 

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Detoxing Your Mind

Many people participate in cleanse programs to eliminate toxins they’ve accumulated over their lifetime. These poisons drain our vitality and denigrate our health. Detoxing has gone mainstream as more and more people seek wellness. As well, a vast number of us work out regularly, tending to our physical wellbeing, so we can take care of our physical fitness or even the hygiene of us and our family using products as the best deodorant for kids which help a lot with this. But there’s a most important aspect of ourselves that we ignore—the health and vigor of our minds. We need to detox our minds from the false and limited thinking that disrupts our lives and our relationships.

 

What do I mean by the toxins of your mind? Over the course of your life you probably cling to a few primary beliefs about yourself. These beliefs shape the way you know yourself and how you think. They are the filter through which you see. From these beliefs and your personal experiences, you have likely become addicted to certain recurring thoughts that write the script of your life. Regrettably, these thoughts are often self-limiting, denigrating or simply wrong-minded and keep you from living the life you deserve. Habitual thoughts confine you to being a character in your script, rather than being the author of your life narrative. Think of these limiting old thoughts as a straitjacket. Ask yourself what the central theme of your thoughts tells you. They may sound like “I’m not smart enough” or “People don’t respect me,” or “I always make the wrong choices.”

 

Stuck in a Groove

For those of us old enough to remember vinyl records, we might recall that when there was a scratch on the album, the needle would sometimes get stuck in the groove. The same sound or lyrics would keep repeating. In the groove, the tone arm couldn’t find its way into the next groove. This is exactly what happens with our thoughts. They tend to keep reiterating the same messages, time and again. When they do so, they summon old memories and old feelings and thwart our ability to change.

The replay of old thoughts and feelings preclude us from being present. We are simply replicating the past. This is such a wasteful way to live our lives as we move from moment to moment—wanting for change—but not understanding how to achieve it. The continuous repetition of old thoughts and feelings robs us of new experience. As well, it deprives us of bringing new possibilities into our lives. This groove is where fear reigns supreme. Mind detox helps free you from being trapped in the groove.

If I can’t see the thought, I won’t be having a thought  the thought will be having me!

I have been looking at this problem for some time now and have developed a method to help people detox their minds. This process helps us to illuminate the habitual thoughts that trick us into false realities. Learning to observe thought, rather than attaching to and becoming the thought, is where our change process begins. When you are able to see your thought, you are actually thinking! This is where you access your inner wisdom.

The difficulty we encounter in disengaging the thought is due to its automatic nature. Before we have an opportunity to take notice of the thought, we’ve already become the thought. You can learn to train your mind to become more alert and slow down the process, so that we may see the thought more clearly. It’s almost like seeing it coming in slow motion, as if you were a watching sports replay. When you learn to see the thought clamoring for your attention, imagine placing your forefinger vertically in front of your lips and say shhhh to the thought.

 

Slowing it Down

For an analogy let’s look at tennis. Let’s metaphorically equate thought with being the tennis ball. Becoming aware of the thought is like anticipating the arrival of the ball on your side of the net. You see our opponent’s positioning and footwork, their racquet movement and the position of the ball as it advances toward you. By the time your opponent hits the ball and it approaches the net, you’re fully engaged and anticipating its arrival. You’d hardly wait until the ball was inches from you before you began to react. Anticipation and awareness are fundamental in tennis or any sport. And so we train ourselves in this awareness and time slows in a relative sense as we come into this zone of awareness.

The very same thing can be accomplished with thought as we learn to see it in advance of becoming it. In the nanosecond before you merge with your next thought you exist in a pure state of potential. Everything is possible. You don’t need to be confined by your life history but can break free to create the life you choose. But you need to learn to think differently. Detoxing your mind is altogether achievable once you set your intention to do so.

 

Mel’s method for detoxing your mind will be discussed in detail and at length in his new book, The Possibility Principle: How Quantum Physics Can Improve the Way You Think, Live and Love.   

Detoxing The Mind Programs

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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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Is Our Society Manufacturing Depressed People?

An Epidemic of Depression

Our society is in the throes of a virtual epidemic of depression. The numbers are quite staggering. More than twenty percent of the American population will experience at least one episode of what we refer to as clinical depression. We need to look deeper into this phenomenon to understand it and overcome it. My contention is, firstly, that our cultural values and memes induce us to live in ways that are, indeed, depressing. Secondly, much of what we refer to as clinical depression is inaccurate. Most depression is situational. The symptoms of depression are often due to depressing circumstances, not disease. In other words, under certain circumstances, it makes sense to be depressed.

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The pathologizing of a culture

A young woman in her mid-twenties recently came in for her first visit with me.  Three months earlier she had experienced her first bout of anxiety and it had become more acute thereafter. She went on to explain that she had been seeing a psychiatrist who had prescribed four different psychotropic medications, simultaneously. Complaining of a blurred and disconnected feeling, she offered that she was uncertain as to whether the cause was physical, emotional and psychological—or a symptom of the gross invasion of this massive drugging.

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Do not measure thyself!

In my work as a psychotherapist I often see individuals who are plagued by a relentless measuring of themselves. These people carry on an internal dialogue whereby their critical voice is enslaving; judging and measuring most aspects of their lives. In such circumstances, these people rarely get to be present. Even when in conversation with others, they are only partly there; for a more private aspect is carrying on a self-critique at the same time.

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