Category: Mental Health

Lazy Sickness

Symptoms for Lazy Sickness include spending more time than you intended engaged in non goal directed or frivolous activities.
Symptoms for Lazy Sickness include spending more time than you intended engaged in non goal directed or frivolous activities.

Lazy Sickness

There are many behavioral, cognitive and emotional patterns that are pathological and destructive. Many have “official” diagnosis, symptoms and treatment protocols. Many don’t. Many conditions are quite common, yet we don’t acknowledge or recognize them in the standard mental health vernacular. We should. A condition I call lazy sickness is a good example.

Lazy sickness is identified by a behavior of spending an inordinate amount of time wasting time ie computer games. The hallmark of these activities is they are not goal directed. Due to these activities, priorities often become skewed and responsibilities go by the wayside ie computer games over homework. Lazy sickness is compulsive, chronic and obsessive. The intensity of laziness begins to impact interpersonal relationships and important obligations and reresponsibilites are ignored.

Physical activity is believed to help us grow willpower reserves
Physical activity is believed to help us grow willpower reserves

Treatment for Lazy sickness

1. Recognize and acceptance are hallmarks in the treatment for most pathological conditions. Most people that I have worked with who have lazy sickness are aware of it. They may not admit it to their families, but in counseling they will be honest and admit to profound laziness.

2. Do a honest pro/con analysis of the behavior. What is it costing you? Flunking out of college because of a computer addiction is quite  a cost. Is it worth it? Working with a therapist during this stage is crucial if defense mechanisms such as denial and minimization are used to justify behaviors.

3. Set goals for change – Identify specifically what the change will look like? Realistically, how can the problem improve in one week, month, or year?

4. Make a decision regarding treatment. When a person decides they cost of laziness outweighs the benefits it is time for a treatment plan.  Problems solving skills, strengths and resource inventory, and coping skills help mobilize the tangible skills to reach his goal

5. Behavioral modification with positive reinforcement – Use rewards to reinforce non-lazy behaviors.  For example, when you do homework (instead of computer games) you get a reward (favorite meal)

6.  Behavioral modification with negative reinforcement – Engaging in the behavior you are trying to change results in an unpleasant experiences you would rather avoid. The room is intolerable with either noise or temperature manipulation while playing computer games.

7. Taking in the Good – Neuroscience tells us that we naturally cling to negative thoughts with a great deal more energy than positive thoughts. Therefore, when we make positive steps in the right direction, it s very helpful to purposefully enhance the positive experience. Rick Hanson provides practical guidance in his book Hardwiring Happiness.

8. Become friends with Discomfort – Not-liking, unsatisfactory conditions, and frustration are ongoing conditions. By the end of this minute, hour or day we will likely experience them. Learning coping skills to deal with discomfort is very important.

9. Willpower – The kryptonite of laziness. The use of affirmations is simple yet can be effective in helping us to build our willpower reserves

10. Aerobic exercise – Some researches describe aerobic exercise as the Willpower Miracle. Studies indicate that aerobic exercise strengthens the centers of the brain where Willpower sits.

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Lazy Sickness, Control Freak Disorder and Sefish Illness

My Proposed Mental Health Diagnosis

 Lazy Sickness, Control Freak Disorder and Selfish Illness

An accurate mental health diagnosis is important because it lays the foundation of mental health treatment. It will determine the medication you are given, and the type of therapy you receive. However, it’s not unusual during assessment  for mental health clinicians to disagree on a person’s diagnosis . Don’t be surprised. Mental health diagnosis and assessment is less of a science that you would think. Often subjective measurements such as questionnaires and observation are used as assessment tools. I have observed a number of common behaviors or character flaws which reach a pathological state and create a tremendous amount of problems for individuals. While they are not a part of our current mental health vernacular, they make as much sense to me as some of the diseases that make up our current mental health vernacular.   You will probably recognize some of the proposed conditions which include Lazy Sickness, Control Freak Disorder and Selfish Illness.   

Lazy Sickness – Symptoms include an excessive presentation of lethargy, sluggishness, and a lack of goal directed activity.  Lazy Sickness  Sufferers  (LSS) typically have very little self control or discipline.  Individuals who suffer from lazy sickness have often been enabled by family members. Lazy sickness sufferers are often financially dependent on another person  because they have not cultivated  an academic or professional career. This may result in an inability to live autonomously, even as adults. Much of their time is spent engaged in frivolous activities. These activities may have similarities to addictive behaviors ie unsuccessful attempts to stop activities. As adults, LSS have often been enabled for a period of time by their family members.  Treatment should include family therapy to help enablers learn how to stop enabling.

Control Freak Disorder (CFD) – Presenting symptoms include attempts to control the behaviors, thoughts, and emotions of the people around them.  The spectrum of dominating behaviors is often overbearing and may become intolerable. Therefore, one of the primary symptoms of the Control Freak is a lack of close relationships.  The Control Freak often has few friends, is not liked by family members and may be isolated. The Control Freak often becomes angry or feels threatened  when others  act, emote or think differently than him. Due to his lack of emotional control and need to dominate others, the control freak often responds with insults, criticism and sometimes threats when others act as an individual. The Control Freak may cling very strongly to his beliefs and opinions  and harshly judges others who do not share the same beliefs.

Selfish Sickness – Symptoms include an obsessive focus of self. A person who presents with selfish sickness feels as though their experiences are very different, unique, and grander than they actually are. Their problems are often an obsessive focus, and are generally blown out of proportion. Selfish Sickness makes it difficult to empathize with the difficulties of another person. Other people’s problems are greatly minimized. If attention is not directed toward a person with selfish sickness they may get angry or engage in sabotaging behavior in order to draw attention back to themselves.  Selfish sickness presents with a great deal of sensitivity on special occasions such a Birthdays or Holidays. If a great deal of attention is not received, selfish sickness sufferers react with anger or are deeply hurt. While it is not impossible for an individual with selfish sickness to feel compassion for another, the compassion it is not sustained. Selfish Sickness individuals often have little tolerance for other people who may be experiencing problems.  

You probably know someone with one of these make-believe disorders because they are common flaws. I try to stress the importance of using mental health diagnosis as a term which uses broad strokes to define a cluster of symptoms. It is not you. It is a label. A label that many people would argue has less validity and empirical evidence to support it’s existence than the make believe disorders. Don’t attach to hard to your labels. Break out of them

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man holding chin and thinking

Logicpalooza – thinking and rock star status

thinker

Logicpalooza- thinking and rock star status

Who does not like logic? Logic is great, really. Without logical thinking it would be difficult to solve simple problems. Without the advances that have resulted from logical thinking our lives would be more difficult in many ways. However, logical thinking should not always take the center stage of our mind.

We bestow rock star status to the cognitive process of logical thinking

As a society, we bestow rock star status to logical thinking. However, this cognitive process is not always the right or best response. When is logical thinking not the right response? Some answers would include situations in which a more emotional space will help you to feel the moment, connect with another, or find peace in acceptance. For example, when you are looking at a sunset, kissing your partner, holding a baby or acknowledging a well deserved compliment logically analyzing is perhaps not the right response.

We want answers

In some traditions of Zen Buddhism, students are often given a koan to contemplate while they are meditating. Think of a koan as a puzzle or riddle. One of the functions of koan is to illuminate the inadequacy of logical thinking. We want answers, but sometimes there are no answers. Sometimes it serves us to accept, let go, or let it be. Perhaps, the function of our mind quite naturally keeps the wheels spinning with relentless thinking and analyzing.  It seems to take conscious effort to maintain awareness yet relinquish the desire to have an answer. Relinquishing logical thinking in the right space and at the right time, helps us to obtain a greater sense of  peace and acceptance for those things in our life that are the most difficult, the most magical, and the most inspiring.

with peace – diane   

 

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Top 10 Suggestions for Good Mental Health

Top 10 Suggestions for Mental Health
Top 10 Suggestions for Mental Health

Top 10 Suggestions for Good Mental Health

Good mental health must be cultivated. There is a direct correlation between the time, effort and discipline one uses to cultivate good mental health and one’s actual mental health.

My top 10 list for cultivating good mental health falls into three basic categories : Behavior Modification, Skills Mastery, Self Mastery

Behavior Modification  –  Positive changes in the realm of physical health may also improve mental health.

10.  Exercise – Releases hormones and neurotransmitters associated with positive emotions.   

9  Healthy Diet  – Not only does a healthy body need good nutrition, so does a healthy mind. Our relationship with food is also significant and includes body-image, issues of control and emotional eating.  

8  Hobby  – Spending time engaged in activities which bring us joy fosters well-being.  

Skills Mastery  – A few basic skills can be of a tremendous help in relationships and self growth

7  Relationships Skills – Many skills such as assertive communication, active listening and attending to relationships cultivate the loving relationships where we find support, validation and a sense of belonging  

6  Take in the Good – According to neuropsychologist Rick Hanson we have a biological and evolutionary propensity to be negative. Our ancestors had to remember the location of the hostile tribes, not necessarily the location of the gorgeous waterfalls in order to stay alive.  To stay positive, notice the positive. Stay with them and try to enhance the experience.

5  Learn to Set Boundaries- Most of us have  a tendency of either passive or negative energy when we set boundaries.  Learning assertive behaviors and communication is empowering and fosters confidence and a sense of control.

Self Mastery – These skills allow us to master our thoughts, emotions and responses to our environment

4. Energy Hygiene – We are energetic beings. The intensity of negative emotions can be  diminished, and positive emotions can be easily instilled by learning and using simple energy hygiene exercises such as Emotional Freedom Tapping. 

3   Know thyself  – What have you packed away in your ego? We all have something. Is it an inflated (egotistical) or deflated (low self esteem) sense of self ? Discovering how you define self is a fascinating journey. Yet, the ego remains unconscious to many of us, even though it defines how we see and respond to the world.

2  Mindfulness – When we stay in the present moment, we touch life.  We become aware of the miracles around us. We begin to think more clearly and can subsequently respond to our environment in a more adaptive manner.

1  Meditation –   Is the deepest of mindfulness practices. As we focus on the breathe we observe our  thoughts as they arise. This is different from attaching to our thoughts. Meditation also generates  a sense of peace, improves concentration, and slows down racing thought patterns.  

with blessings – diane

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The Energy Of Anger

flameThe High Price of Anger

We all know what it feels like to be angry. We may even have a general idea of the high price we pay when we act on our anger. I say general because if we would stop and think before expressing anger and remember the high cost we are going to pay, perhaps we could remember to act in non-anger. The opposite of acting in anger would be to act in Understanding. The right action of Understanding has many different forms and is dependent on the situation. Very often an Understanding response would be to remain silent. For some people who passively accumulate anger as they allow others to exploit them, an Understanding response would be to set a boundary using the appropriate level of firmness.

The Energy of Anger

The energy of anger is hot and strong and often can be felt in our head in the form of pressure, pain and tightness. It is thought that nearly 85% of the blood in the pre-frontal cortex area of our brain is drained to support the automatic “fight or flight” response that is activated by anger. The pre-frontal cortex area of the brain is needed during higher levels of cognitive processes such as judgment and creativity. That is why when we are angry we become “blind with anger”. The brain cannot support clear thinking and anger at the same time.
Damage to our health is a another price we pay when we are angry. We should be grateful that our bodies accommodate our needs and the fight or flight response is triggered when we truly need it. However, a traffic light that inconveniently turns red, a waitress who is slow to bring your meal, or a rude response from a colleague does not really necessitate the barrage of neuro-chemical, muscular, and hormonal changes that are instigated when the fight or flight response is triggered. It is good when we need it, but damages our bodies when over used.

We can all probably identify with the consequences that anger can have on relationships. Angry words and angry deeds can destroy relationships. We may shatter spirits, joy, creativity, and peace with anger. This is a very high cost. That is why it is important to address our anger and know how to respond to it.
The possibility of feeling and acting in anger is in all of us. Please share with me. Have you found a skill that reduces your anger? Have you found a skill that changes the energy of anger into the energy of Understanding?

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Energy Healing Therapy… Much Ado About Something

Energy Healing Therapy…Much Ado About Something

Energy Therapy uses the subtle energy of our thoughts and emotions to promote psychological health.
Energy Therapy uses the subtle energy of our thoughts and emotions to promote psychological health.

There is currently a great deal of buzz and excitement in mental health regarding the multi-faceted modality known as Energy Healing. While specific techniques used in energy healing may vary, the various protocols rely on manipulating the subtle energy within our body in order to promote healing. Because we are made up of energy, we can influence our health by attending to the subtle energies which are thought to be aspects of thoughts, emotional reactions and neurological responses.  Like our heart, our temperature, and the protons and electrons that make up every atom of our body, thoughts and emotions are assumed to also have an expression of energy. We can therefore diagnose and heal through the expression of energy contained in our emotions and thoughts.

How Does It Work?

In energy healing, we begin  by honoring the notion of mind-body connection. Certain thoughts, memories, images stimulate a reaction in the brain which is followed by a reaction in body. These reactions can be classified as energetic reactions. Let us take a specific example. Let us assume a person suffers from anxiety. An anxiety provoking thought activates a certain part of the brain, neurons fire, neurotransmitters are released. These signals tell the body to react in a specific manner. In this example perhaps we begin to sweat or our heart rate increases.  In Energy Healing, energy points are activated through touching, tapping or holding as we attune to the anxiety producing thought.   Stimulating the energy point  adjust the energetic reaction that was occurring in the brain and our feelings of anxiety are reduced.  Researches postulate that activating the energy point desensitizes the memory. The result is a change in neurological reactions with lower levels of stress related neurotransmitters and rewiring new neural pathways.

Does It Work?

I know this might seem a little to “out there” for many. Keep in mind, we still cannot prove, measure or explain several expressions of “healing” that are relatable to each of us such as positive thinking, intention, intuition or visualization.  However, several clinical trials support the use of Energy Healing to treat many mental health problems such as anxiety, PTSD, and phobias. These studies are being conducted by esteemed institutions such as Kaiser Permanente, Harvard Medical School and other institutions around the world. Not only are the results demonstrating Energy Healing as effective, in many cases the number of treatments used is much less than traditional psychological interventions such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Much ado about something … indeed

with blessings – diane

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This Moment Points At Me

This Moment Points at Me

Mindfulness practice and a craving for pancakes points to some truths about me

This moment, the essence of now, points to the truth. The grips of grasping, attachment and delusions which control our behaviors and thinking are revealed in the now.  The essence of now points to the essence of me. Who am I? Who am I in this moment?

As I sit at my desk, visual, auditory, kinesthetic stimulation influence “me”.  I am slightly aware of the soreness in my back. I see my dog.  The house is currently quiet. Pleasant sensory stimulation.  I feel calm, happy and grateful. But the pleasant sensory stimulation will change. It always does. Just give it some time. Will I be able to remain mindful, calm, happy and grateful when the neighborhood dog starts barking? If my back pain gets worse? If my dog becomes insistent that I take her for a walk?  If the stimulation provided to my five senses changes from pleasant to unpleasant, how will I change in that moment? And what does that say about me? Which sensory change will have the most impact? The barking dog, back pain, or interruption?

The Sense of Mind

We have another sensory faculty which has a strong influence on the present moment and points to “Me”. This is the Sense of Mind. Our Mind Sense includes beliefs, intentions, cravings, perceptions, will, concentration, general tone (good or bad mood), and desire.

I become aware of my mind sense, it’s influence on the present moment, and what that reveals about “me”. I am aware of my intentions. At this moment they are clear. Intentionally write a blog about mindfulness. Through mindfulness practice I know that my intentions are not always clear. I have gained some insight as to how/why they become muddled through mindful attention.

Cravings are starting to hijack me the longer I sit. I can’t stop thinking about pancakes.  I want pancakes for breakfast. Mindfully, I have observed my cravings. I look inward to them. My cravings often have specific themes of food and general themes of comfort. There is  knowledge about me when I look at what I  crave.

Mindfully I recognize a vague belief about making pancakes. I believe that making and eating pancakes for breakfast brings peace to Sunday mornings. This is a delusion. I wish it were so easy. Pancakes cannot guarantee peace.

I am hopeful that this will be a peaceful and happy Sunday morning. If I stay mindful, I believe it will.

with blessings – diane

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Righteous Anger

Righteous Anger

Is Anger ever the right response? Is it possible that the “right” expression of anger, used in the “right” circumstances serves a purpose? Is it possible for anger to be expressed consciously? Jesus was certainly enlightened and conscious, and he became angry. Flipping over tables in the temple, rebuking Peter, and calling the Pharisees hypocrites are a few examples. Are we enlightened and conscious enough to use righteous anger in a productive manner?

Anger Begets Anger

A husband becomes angry with his wife after she is caught lying about her impulsive and out-of- control shopping and spending which is threatening their financial future. The husband has been patient, understanding and supportive up until now. After the husband reviews the facts about the spending, and the financial implications to their family, he begins to outline the consequences of her behavior. In a raised voice he states her actions have changed their relationship. He can no longer trust her, particularly with money. He then sets boundaries and outlines the steps he will take to separate their credit and finances. The wife in-turn becomes angry and defiant and accuses the husband of being controlling, stingy and harsh.

Anger : The Slippery Slope of Emotions

Anger can be a slippery slope because Anger often begets Anger. That does not mean it is wrong, it just means that you should be prepared to accept these consequences. The expression of Righteous Anger can result in a person finally hearing and recognizing the consequences of their actions. However, shame, resentment, defense are common reactions. So, if you must use anger to be heard, be prepared for the emotions that anger may illicit. Jesus probably did not make new friends at the temple after turning over the tables. Also be sure of the motivation for your anger. If you are angry because your ego has been threatened or challenged, then pull back. Acting with anger is probably not the right response. Instead, take a deep breath and a step back. If your anger is about you, it is not righteous. If you act in anger because something bigger than you is under attack, exploited, cheated etc. perhaps using anger productively might be the emotional response that gets through, that is heard, and helps a person to realize the consequences of their actions.

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Alternative Treatments for Mental Illness

Alternative Treatments for Mental Illness

Many people have become increasingly apprehensive of traditional healing methods which often rely on prescription medicine as the “go-to” treatment plan. The side effects and risk associated with prescriptions, and the desire for more treatment options has resulted in many patients actively seeking and using a variety of “alternative” modalities. For mental illness, several alternative healing modalities exists such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Reiki, hypnotherapy, Energy Psychology, Meditation, and Visualization. While generally considered “alternative” many of these modalities are the desired treatment for those who suffer with a mental illness.

Placebo, Prescription or Hypnosis

As a clinician, I have always been interested in alternative remedies. That is not to say that I am anti-prescriptions. I am for what works. I am for a reasonable balance between results and risk. If that means placebos, prescriptions, or hypnosis, if a person’s suffering is reduced or diminished then give the modality the benefit of consideration. I have seen many clients who genuinely seem to improve through the right blend of psychotropic medication and counseling.  However, I have also seen alternative treatments used with astounding results.

An Arm and a Leg

Sadly, many alternative methods are disregarded. Although often clinically effective, alternative treatments are often portrayed as “quackery”.  It is important, if not imperative that physicians, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies acknowledge and respect the healing capacities of alternative healing modalities. In fact, we can no longer afford to dismiss clinically sound healing modalities be it traditional or alternative. Estimated cost for mental health care is reaching the proverbial arm and leg threshold. From a purely financial perspective, politicians and tax payers need to stand up and take notice. According to a recent New York Times report, there are approximately 11.5 million Americans who receive mental-health services with an estimated value of $150 billion annually.  I suggest that alternative treatments are no longer just experimental hobbies for the tie-dye wearing hippie living in a commune. I am suggesting that viable, and clinically sound alternative therapies are for the millions of people struggling to find effective treatment.

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Jesus and Buddha on Awakening

Awakening

Zen Master Hyon Gak Sunim discusses the spiritual teachings of awakening as presented by Jesus and the Buddha.

Jesus and Buddha both made references to awakening according to Hyon Gak Sunim.  Born in New Jersey, educated at  Yale and raised in a devout Catholic family, Hyon Gak Sunim provides an opportunity with which to understand Buddha teachings through a lens of American culture. Perhaps because of his background Hyon Gak often draws attention to the similarities found in the spiritual teachings of Jesus and Buddha.

Jesus and Buddha

The definition of Buddha is a person who has become enlightened or awake. Becoming awake is one of the central themes of Buddhism. If you accept this definition then Jesus and Buddha were both enlightened spiritual teachers. Hyon Gak Sunim references Jesus discussing enlightenment with his disciples. In the book of Mark, Jesus speaks of “having eyes yet not seeing” and “having ears and not hearing” and is speaking of a non-awakened state.

Right Response

If we wake up what do we wake up to? I believe we wake up to TRUTH. We see things (ourselves, situations, others) as they truly are. If we see things as they truly are we foster understanding. Following understanding we are able to respond with the right response, not a response formed from delusions and ignorance. Given the complexity and problems of our world, the right response is needed and needed now. Environmental stewardship, conscious consumption, care of the elderly, caring for the ill and weak, responding to crime all need a right response, or at least a “right-er” response. The right response is needed not only for global and social concerns but also individual concerns. If we open our eyes to see, and use are ears to  hear, how would we care for our own suffering?  With more compassion, gentleness, letting go perhaps. May we all be following a path which fosters individual and global awakening.

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