Three Reasons Why Therapy is a Good Investment

By Adam Wright, Clinical Psychologist.

In the context of medicine, psychological therapy is relatively new. Therapy as we know it today has really only taken off in the last 45-50 years. In Australia, the Better Access to Mental Health Care scheme, which made Medicare rebates for therapy available (and seeing a psychologist affordable for many Australians) has only been around since 2006.

As a result of its relative newness, a lot of people really don’t know much about therapy, and so approach the idea of seeing a psychologist with some trepidation. One major barrier to seeing a psychologist is still the cost. Despite Medicare making therapy more affordable than ever, therapy can still represent a significant amount of money, as usually multiple sessions are required to achieve the goals of therapy.

With any financial decision, it is important to weigh up costs and benefits. For today’s post I thought I would present three reasons why therapy can be considered a good investment.

  1. Therapy has been proven to be more effective than you might think.

All medical treatments are routinely researched to determine how effective they are in improving health outcomes. This is usually done through clinical trials, where researchers apply a treatment to a group of individuals under experimental conditions and monitor the effects. This has been done for the many different type of therapy that are available today.

Another aspect of medical research is called a meta-analysis, where researchers take the results of hundreds of different studies and use statistical methods to determine whether the entire body of evidence suggests a treatment is effective. In 1977 researchers Mary Smith and Gene Glass took 400 studies of therapy and found that overall, an individual who has therapy is better off than 75% of individuals who didn’t have therapy. This effectiveness statistic is actually better than what medical research has found for fluoride in terms of your dental health, and equivalent to bypass surgery for heart problems!

  1. You might not need as many sessions of therapy as you think.

The image of therapy that gets popularised by the media is the kind where the person lies on a couch and talks incessantly while the therapist writes notes and doesn’t say anything back. And it seems like on TV, everyone who sees a therapist is in for years at a time. This image has been helped, no doubt, by Woody Allen’s neurotic comedies of the 70’s and 80’s where his characters seem to find it normal to be seeing a therapist for 15 years!

While it is certainly possible for some people or some therapies to require many sessions, for the majority of people the amount of times you see a therapist would be much lower. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), the main treatment used in Australia, typically suggests treatments go for no more than 20 sessions. One study by Krause and Orlinsky in 1986 found that 60-65% of people felt significant symptom relief within one to seven visits, 70-75% felt relief after six months and 85% at one year. So for the majority of people, therapy is ultimately a short term process rather than a years-long endeavour.

  1. The cost of therapy may offset other hidden costs

A concept well-known to economists is that of opportunity cost – the idea that a cost can be the loss of a benefit a person could have received but gave up taking another course of action. In therapy, this can occur, for example with work stress and depression. Early intervention with CBT or other therapies can provide a person with the skills to manage their mental health at work more effectively, which could result in them being able to either return to work more quickly or not have to stop working at all. But later intervention when the symptoms are at their strongest could mean having to take holidays, extended leave or even leaving a job entirely, with obvious potential loss of income. In this example, the early investment in therapy can result in dividends in quality of life for the future.

Overall choosing to see a therapist is a deeply personal decision with a lot of things to consider. I hope by reading this blog it has prompted you to understand more about the benefits of therapy and help you come to the right decision for you.

Adam is a Clinical Psychologist, a practitioner at the Resilience Centre and a regular contributor to this blog. Find more about Adam here.

Letting Everything Become Your Teacher – Lessons in Mindfulness – Part 2

Letting Everything Become Your Teacher – Lessons in Mindfulness
Extracts from bestselling author Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book ‘Full Catastrophe Living’
Part 2 – Self-discipline, conscious intention, basis instructions
For those who want to learn more about mindfulness

Mindfulness doesn’t just come about by itself because you have decided that it is a good idea to be more aware of things in the present moment, and less judgmental. Mindfulness is not merely a good idea. A strong commitment to nurturing yourself and mustering enough self-discipline to preserve in the process is essential to developing a strong meditation practice and a high degree of mindfulness. Self-discipline and regular practice are vital to developing the power of mindfulness.

The spirit of engaged commitment to meditation is like that required in athletic training. The athlete who is training for a particular event doesn’t practice only when he or she feels like it, for instance, only when the weather is nice or there are other people to keep him or her company or there is enough time to fit it in. the athlete trains regularly, every day, rain or shine, whether she feels good or not, whether the goal seems worth it or not on any particular day.

You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.

Our lives are so complex and our minds so busy and agitated most of the time that it is necessary, especially at the beginning, to protect and support your meditation practice by making a special time for it and, if possible, by making a special place in your home where you will feel particularly comfortable and “at home” while practicing. Just making this amount of time every day for yourself will be a very positive lifestyle change and gift to yourself.

This time for formal meditation practice needs to be protected from interruptions and from other commitments so that you can just be yourself without having to do or respond to anything. This is not always possible, but it is helpful if you can manage to set things up in this way.

One measure of your commitment is whether you can bring yourself to shut off your telephones for the time you will be practicing and let them take messages. It is a great letting go in and of itself only to be home for yourself at those times, and great peace can follow from this alone.

This is where conscious intentionally comes in, the intention to practice whether you feel like it or not on a particular day, whether it is convenient or not, with determination of an athlete, but for its own sake, because this moment is your life.

Mindfulness doesn’t just come about by itself.

Regular practice is not as hard as you might think once you make up your mind to do it and pick an appropriate time. Most people are inwardly disciplined already to a certain extent. Getting dinner on the table every night requires discipline. Getting up in the morning and going to work requires discipline. And taking time for yourself certainly does to.

Perhaps the ability to function more effectively under pressure or to be healthier and to feel better, or to be more relaxed and self-confident and happy, will suffice as reasons to take up meditation seriously. Ultimately you must decide for yourself why you are making such a commitment.

Happily, once people start practicing mindfulness, most quickly get over the idea that it is “selfish” and “narcissistic” to take time for themselves as they see the difference that making some time to just be has on the quality of their lives and their self-esteem, as well as on their relationships.

To get back in touch with being is not that difficult. We only need to remind ourselves to be mindful. Moments of mindfulness are moments of peace and stillness, even in the midst of activity. When your whole life is driven by doing, formal meditation practice can provide a refuge of sanity and stability that can be used to restore some balance and perspective. It can be a way of stopping the headlong momentum of all the doing and giving yourself some time to dwell in a state of deep relaxation and well-being and to remember who you are.

For one thing, we tend to have little awareness of the incessant and relentless activity of our own mind and how much we are driven by it. That is not too surprising, given that we hardly ever stop and observe the mind directly to see what it is up to.
Ironically, although we all “have” minds, we seem to need to “re-mind” ourselves of who we are from time to time. If we don’t, the momentum of all the doing just takes over and can have us living its agenda rather than our own, almost as if we were robots.

Given all the momentum behind our doing, getting ourselves to remember the preciousness of the present moment seems to require somewhat unusual and even drastic steps. This is why we make a special time each day for formal meditation practice. It is a way of stopping, a way of “re-minding” ourselves, of nourishing the domain of being for a change. It’s a way of “re-bodying” too.  In practising meditation, we don’t try to answer questions, rather we just observe the impulse to get up from the sitting, or to get caught in the thoughts that come into the mind.

Each time we become aware that the mind is off someplace else, that it has forgotten the present, we first note what is actually on our mind in that moment, whatever it is, and then we gently bring our attention back to our abdomen, back to the sensation of the rising and falling of our belly, no matter what carried it away. If the attention moves off the breath a hundred times, then we just calmly bring it back a hundred times, as soon as we are aware of not being in the present and where our mind has alighted.
By practising in this way, you are training your mind to be less reactive and more stable. You are making each moment count. You are taking each moment as it comes, not valuing any one above any other, in this way you are cultivating your natural ability to concentrate and calm your own mind.

By repeatedly bringing your attention back to the breath each time it wanders off, concentration builds and deepens, much as muscles develop by repetitively lifting weights, and by repeatedly noting. Without reaction, what is on your mind when it is carried off, you are developing greater awareness of the mind itself and insight into how self-distracting and emotionally turbulent it can be.

Mindfulness does not involve pushing thoughts away or walling yourself from them to quiet your mind. We are not trying to stop our thoughts as they cascade through the mind. We are simply making room for them, observing them as thoughts, and letting them be, using the breath as our anchor or ‘home base’ for observing, for reminding us to stay focused and calm.

When you feel connected to something, that connection immediately gives you a purpose for living.

Liberation comes not as we would like to be but accepting ourselves as we actually are.

Interpersonal Effectiveness

By Joe Alberts
Clinical Psychologist, The Resilience Centre

To use interpersonal skills effectively we have to decide the relative importance of:

  1. Achieving our objective
  2. Maintaining our relationship with the person(s)we are interacting with, and
  3. Maintaining our self-respect

It is important for us to know what we actually want – in other words what our goal is.  This is easier said than done and many interactions go off track when emotions interfere with knowing what we want.

Try this before your next “difficult interaction” with someone.  Decide before hand what you want to achieve and be clear in your communication.

Objectives Effectiveness 

The key question to ask yourself here is “What specific result or change do I want from this interaction”?  It may be what the other person is to do, to stop doing, to commit to, to agree to, or to understand.  It is important for the objective to be as specific as possible.  The clearer you are about what you want, the easier it will be to apply objectives effectiveness skills, and the clearer you will be as to whether or not you succeed in reaching your goal.

Examples are:

  • Refusing an unwanted or unreasonable request and making the refusal stick.
  • Requesting others to do something in such a way that they do what you ask.

Relationship Effectiveness 

The key question to ask yourself here is “How do I want the other person to feel about me after the interaction is over (whether or not I get the results or changes I want)?” At its best, you will get what you want and the person may like or respect you even more than before.

Examples are:

  • Acting in a way that makes the other person actually want to give you what you are asking for.
  • Focus on their needs and happiness and listen attentively. People who feel understood often wants to help in return.

Self-respect Effectiveness 

The key question to ask yourself here is “How do I want to feel about myself after the interaction is over (whether or not I get the results or changes I want)?”  Self respect effectiveness means acting in ways that fit your sense of morality, and that make you feel a sense of competence and mastery.

Examples are:

  • Standing up for yourself
  • Defending a friend
  • Stepping forward to say something courageous.

Deciding on the Relative Importance of the Three Effectiveness Types 

  1. All three types must always be considered
  2. Each type of Effectiveness may be more or less important in a given situation
  3. Each type of Effectiveness can be overused to our own detriment

As always balance is the key: 

Objectives Effectiveness – If we always focus on achieving our objectives others will feel unimportant or even used.  Choose wisely when you pick your objectives.

Relationship Effectiveness – Always subverting your needs in an interpersonal relationship does not work.  You lose yourself in the relationship and also lose the respect of others.

Self-respect Effectiveness – Some individuals make maintaining their self-respect the major issue in almost all interactions.  Always wanting to be on top or to have control or power, wanting to prove a point or defend  a position no matter what will compromise long term effectiveness.

This key lesson in Interpersonal Effectiveness was taken from the Dialectic Behaviour Therapy (DBT) Skills Training Manual by author Marsha Linehan and published in 1993.  Dialectic Behaviour Therapy is proven to help with emotion dysregulation, including people who have traits of Borderline Personality Disorder, suicidality, self harm and addiction problems.  The Resilience Centre offers a fully adherent Comprehensive DBT program consisting of Individual Therapy, Group based skills training, telephone coaching and therapist peer support.

When everyone is benefiting from your life – except you!

By Ruth Fordyce
Psychologist, The Resilience Centre

Are you a driven person? Do you hold yourself to high standards? Are you rushing around trying to keep everyone happy, but with that gnawing feeling inside that you’re going to drop a ball soon and it will all come crashing down?

It may be that anxiety is actually driving these thoughts and patterns of behaviour in your life.

‘High functioning anxiety’ is not an official category of anxiety when it comes to mental health diagnosis, but it’s a descriptive term that has been showing up on websites and social media for a while now (see here for an example). Most simply put, it means that a person is functioning quite well on the outside, but is struggling with anxious thoughts and feelings on the inside.

The term ‘high functioning anxiety’ is clearly resonating for many people who may not have previously considered that they have a form of anxiety. I think it’s a descriptor that is also helping us all recognise that many successful, high achieving people have underlying anxious traits.

Some features of ‘high functioning anxiety’

  • From the outsider’s perspective you are functioning well – for example, you may be doing quite well in your job, you are well organised, seen as a good friend/parent and so on
  • You may be described or thought of as driven, a high achiever, a perfectionist
  • Your anxiety propels you to work hard to stay on top of things, but internally you are often criticizing yourself, and worried your efforts aren’t good enough or that it’s all going to fall apart soon
  • Quite often, no one else is aware that you are anxious – or perhaps only a partner or your closest family member is aware
  • You are often thoughtful of others and eager to help, so frequently people think highly of you. You however, find it hard to believe their positive appraisals of you and struggle to enjoy the fruits of your efforts.

I often comment to my clients who have this sort of ‘high functioning’ anxiety that in fact, “everyone is benefiting from your life – except you!”

What I mean by this is that everyone else around you is benefiting from the fact that you are always thinking ahead, planning, preventing problems, helping and organising. However, you are the one missing out on enjoying life and actually feeling good about your efforts. Being somewhat anxious can actually lead to many helpful and productive behaviours, but it’s a matter of keeping it in check so that it does not end up costing you your peace of mind and satisfaction with life.

So what can you do?

  1. Engage in activities to slow you down – yoga, swimming, learning some relaxation skills, and practicing mindfulness meditation are some good examples. Each of these activities will encourage a slowing of your breathing which in turn lowers your heart rate and decreases the stress responses in the body. These activities can also help to slow down racing thoughts and help your brain to take a short ‘holiday’ from anxious thinking.If you’ve never tried meditation, Smiling Mind is a free mindfulness website and app worth trying.
  2. Lower your standards – it’s likely that your standards for yourself are a lot higher than anyone else would expect of you. For example, being excessively worried about making any mistakes at work when you are actually quite new to the role, or thinking that letting a friend down once might lead to your friend rejecting you. Everyone makes mistakes, and lets a friend down from time to time. It’s part of being human. If you have high functioning anxiety, it’s likely that you could lower you standards a little, and not a single person around you would even notice! You are still going to be thoughtful and hard working, just with a little more room to breathe.
  3. Give yourself the same compassion that you would give to a friend – this is another good way to challenge self-criticism and perfectionism. Why are you holding yourself to much harsher standards than you would expect of anyone else? Why are you beating yourself up for a mistake, when you would offer kindness and understanding to a friend in the same situation? Accept and embrace that you are ahuman, just like the rest of us – imperfect, but still worthy of love and value.
  4. Tell someone – granted, it pays to be wise about who you are going to tell. You need someone trustworthy and non-judgmental. Obviously a psychologist can be of great benefit but I find it also makes a huge difference if just one or two people in your ‘real life’ can also be a support to you. For many people with high functioning anxiety, half the battle is learning that people can love you, not just for your outside ‘success’, but for your whole, messy, vulnerable, self. But they can only do that if you let them in.

Options for getting more help

  • See your GP and get a referral to a psychologist
  • Do a course online that helps treat anxiety – This Way Up and MindSpot are two great examples
  • Start small and check out our Resilience Centre seminar on decreasing stress – it’s just over an hour in length and will introduce you to some practical ideas
  • If you are feeling unsure about seeking help or wary about trying some of the steps above, why not do a little reading first.
    For example, if you are a fast-paced driven person, the idea of doing mindfulness meditation might seem ridiculous to you. I’d highly recommend you have a look at Dan Harris, author of “Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics” (I love this title!)
    If you are looking for more general information about anxiety, Beyond Blue is a great place to start.

If you have high functioning anxiety, I can guarantee that you will be trying your hardest to do things this week that will make life better for the people around you.

But what are you choosing that will make life better for YOU?

 

Ruth Fordyce is a Registered Psychologist at The Resilience Centre in Sydney. Find out more about Ruth by clicking here.

“Till Death Do Us Part” – the marriage journey

Written by Ivette Moutzouris

 

Marriages and partnerships are hard work and many people enter it without exploring some of the necessary ingredients to make it work and thrive. Sometimes however it is life’s challenges such as having children, financial hardships or health issues that disrupt our once happy and connected partnership to the point where we are left wondering – “who is this person and do I want to spend the rest of my life with them”. Have you ever had these thoughts or doubts about your relationship?. It is not uncommon but I would like to suggest that you persevere and start to reflect on the aspects of the relationship that you would like to change as well as focusing on the parts that are functioning well or at least used to be.

The following is by no means comprehensive but it is a taste of the ingredients that you may need to invest into this sacred partnership.

  1. Your attitude = I encourage you to explore what it means to be working in a partnership. Does it mean that you always get what you want? Does it mean that you compartmentalise your life into different segments? Do you continue to behave the same way with your partner even if it is yielding negative results? In your opinion it is almost always the other persons fault?

I would like you to really understand what the word partnership means because your marriage is an important partnership like no other. I looked up the meaning of the word partnership and these are the synonyms for this word= collaboration, alliance, union, compact, fellowship and connection to name a few. You need to consider the fact that a marriage is not just about you and your needs, there is a significant other involved and their needs also need to be considered. You should not withdraw when it gets tough and hope things will sort themselves out…you need to get more involved in creating positive change. Now at this point you may think that yes you are willing to do this but your partner isn’t. May I suggest that even change from one partner can have a positive ripple effect so don’t feel discouraged if you are taking the first step. It is an indication to yourself and your partner that you value this partnership enough to reflect on its condition and move forward. You want to get it to a place where it was functioning better and hopefully beyond. Individuals in the marriage need to truly give, just like in work relationships it is healthy to consider and take on board the other persons views, desires, skills, strengths and so on. Your partner is not you and you are not your partner but together you can become a loving team that functions well.

 

  1. Communication = Connection. Again using the example of a work relationship what do you think would help the team members to feel included and valued? Maybe if they felt heard and believed that what they said and contributed mattered. This of course doesn’t mean that you always get what you want when you share but it does help create connection when you know the other person is willing to try and sees things from your perpective. Arguing is a negative form of communicating so I would suggest instead to try talking things through when emotions are not running so strong and when you can see that you other person is ready to listen. This is healthy communication. Also avoid playing the blame game, this is never helpful and is just puts your partner in a defensive position. It is much better to communicate what your needs are and how you would like things to be and how you are feeling instead of attacking. I know this is often difficult to do but nothing will change if you don’t share what is going on for you. Your partner cannot read your mind!!!

In regards to communication I also want to point out that there are various forms of communicating. Some people are better with words, others with touch and affection, and others communicate through their actions. This brings me to my next point which is to look out for what your partner is trying to communicate.

 

  1. Listen– You need to work on your listening skills in order to get to know your partner better. Listen to their words, observe their actions. Mindfully consider the other person. Are they trying to communicate something about how they feel, their day, their concerns? It is helpful to make time to pay attention even though you are dealing with another adult. We often make more time to listen to our kids or our colleagues and friends and encourage them to talk but we may not make time for our partners. Be humble. What I mean by this is listen even if you are struggling to understand or agree. If you take a humble approach you will learn more about your partner. You will learn about what motivates and excites them, what brings them down, what their values are, what their strengths are, what their hopes and dreams and expectations are, what their fears are. This then leads to better understanding which helps you to be a better partner as you respond to their needs.

 

  1. Patience/Perserverence – You are not perfect and neither is your partner which means that you will both need to be patient with each other as you explore healthier ways of partnering through the challenges of life. Helen Fischer, a renowned anthropologist, who has done extensive research into human behaviour and specifically human love, describes the various stages of relationship and the chemical changes that occur in our brains as a result of love feelings. Basically these initial chemical reactions stabilise but this does not mean that our relationship should be less meaningful as a result. We need to create meaning as partners and work to together through the various stages of life and use the years as an opportunity to explore and learn more about each other.

 

  1. Strengths– We also have strengths and weaknesses and too often in our relationships we focus mainly on what is not working. I am not suggesting to ignore this I am only saying that a lot more attention needs to be directed at what is good and functioning or what has been good. Try to reflect on this as you consider your partnership and share how you would like this to continue, that is, what you would like to see more of or like to continue. Remember we are talking about your individual strengths that you bring to the relationship (probably what helped to create initial attraction and attachment) as well as your strengths as a union. You are in partnership but you are also individuals and you need to acknowledge and celebrate both of these aspects of the union.

 

  1. Forgiveness – Forgiveness isn’t easy and can take a very long time but the truth is that we live in an imperfect world with imperfect people. We are not always going to get it right, in fact we are destined to make some mistakes along the way. Forgiveness is one way of working through those times and even if doesn’t result is a repaired relationship it will result in a freer, wiser self. I encourage you to work on presenting the best version of yourself to the relationship as well as helping your partner to be the best version of themselves. If we have this attitude in our relationship then surely positive and lasting growth and change will occur.

 

 

If you have issues working through some of the above I suggest that you seek help from a professional.

Alternatively below is a list of reading material that you may also find helpful.

 

Johnson, Sue.  Hold Me Tight – Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. Little, Brown and Company. 2008.

 

Fisher, Helen.  Why We Love. The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love. St. Martin’s Griffin. 2004.

 

Weiner-Davis, Michelle. Divorce Busting. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. 1992.

 

Letting Everything Become Your Teacher – Lessons in Mindfulness

By Ida Soghomonian
Psychologist, The Resilience Centre

Extracts from bestselling author Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book ‘Full Catastrophe Living
Part 1 – Nonjudging, Patience and Beginner’s Mind
For those who want to learn about mindfulness

Whether you are trying to learn patience, cope with pain, deal with stress and challenges, improve your relationships or free yourself from destructive emotions, thoughts and behaviours, you must remind yourself that you have deep inner resources to draw upon, the most important of which is the present moment itself.

In part your vision will be moulded by your unique life circumstances, by your personal beliefs and values.  Another part will develop from your experiences, from letting everything become your teacher: your body, your attitudes, your mind, your pain, your joy, other people, our mistakes, your successes and nature.  This lifelong commitment to continual inquiry and a willingness to modify your perspective as you acquire new knowledge and arrive at a new level of understanding and insight.

Awareness requires only that we pay attention and see things as they are.  It doesn’t require that we change anything.  Healing requires receptivity and acceptance, a tuning to connectedness and wholeness.  None of this can be forced, just as you cannot force yourself to go to sleep.  You must create the right condition for falling asleep and then you can let go.  The same is true of mindfulness.

To cultivate the healing power of mindfulness requires much more than mechanically following a set of instructions.  It is only when the mind is open and receptive that learning and seeing and change can occur.  In practicing mindfulness, you will have to bring your whole being to the process.

Healing does not mean curing, although the two words are often used interchangeably.  While it may not be possible for us to cure ourselves or to find someone who can, it is possible for us to heal ourselves.  Healing implies the possibility for us to relate differently to illness, disability, even death, as we learn to see with eyes of wholeness.  Healing is coming to terms with things as they are.

Mindfulness is cultivated by assuming the stance of an impartial witness to your own experience.  To do this requires that you become aware of the constant stream of judging and reacting to inner and outer experiences that we are all normally caught up in and learn to step back from it.  When we begin practicing paying attention to the activity of our mind, it is common to discover and to be surprised by the fact that we are constantly generating judgements about our experience.

The habit of categorizing our experience locks us into mechanical reactions that we are not even aware of and that often have no objective basis at all.  These judgements tend to dominate our minds, making it difficult for us to find any peace within ourselves.

If we are to find a more effective way of handling the stress in our lives, the first thing we will need to do is to be aware of these automatic judgements so that we can see through our own prejudices and fears and liberate ourselves for their tyranny.

When practicing mindfulness, it is important to recognise this judging quality of mind when it appears and to intentionally assume the stance of an impartial witness by reminding yourself to just observe.  When you find the mind judging, you don’t have to stop it from doing that.  All that is required is to be aware of it happening.  No need to judge the judging and make matters even more complicated for yourself.

Patience is a form of wisdom.  It demonstrates that we understand and accept the fact that sometimes things must unfold in their own time.  We must cultivate patience toward our own minds and bodies when practicing mindfulness.  We intentionally remind ourselves that there is no need to be impatient with ourselves because we find the mind judging all the time.  Patience can be a particularly helpful quality to invoke when the mind is agitated.  It can help us accept this wondering tendency of the mind while reminding us that we don’t have to get caught up in its travels.  Practicing patience reminds us that we don’t have to fill up our moments with activity and with more thinking in order for them to be rich.  In fact it helps us to remember that quite the opposite is true.  To be patient is simply to be completely open to each moment, accepting it is its fullness, knowing that like a butterfly, things can unfold only in their own time.

The richness of present moment experience is the richness of life itself.  Too often we let our thinking and our beliefs about what we ‘know’ prevent us from seeing things as they really are.  We tend to take the ordinary for granted and fail to grasp the extraordinariness of the ordinary.  To see the richness of the present moment, we need to cultivate what has been called ‘beginner’s mind’, a mind that is willing to see everything as if for the first time.  An open ‘beginner’s mind’ allows us to be receptive to new possibilities and prevents us from getting stuck in the rut of our own expertise, which often thinks it knows more than it does.

No moment is the same as any other.  Each is unique and contains unique possibilities, beginner’s mind reminds us of this simple truth.  The next time you see somebody who is familiar to you, ask yourself if you are seeing this person with fresh eyes, as he or she really is, or if you are seeing only the reflection of your own thoughts about this person.

It is impossible to become like somebody else.  Your only hope is to become more fully yourself.  Ultimately you must live your own life, every moment of it.  In practicing mindfulness, you are practicing taking responsibility for yourself and learning to listen and trust your own being.  The more you cultivate this trust in your own being, the easier you will find it will be to trust other people more and to see their goodness as well.

Just keep practicing…

 

Dealing with the Dark Days (correct podcast for this title posted 28 November, 2018)

 

Leigh Hatcher interviews psychologist Sarah Piper and her client “Robyn” who came to Sarah looking for support through her depression. Gain insight into what happens in a session with a psychologist, by listening to a re-creation of a segment of a past session with “Robyn”. They also discuss the importance of getting the right “fit” when choosing a practitioner to work with.

Apologies to Sarah and our listeners for incorrectly posting one of Sarah’s previous podcasts (Psychologists are Human) under the title ‘Dealing with the Dark Days’.

20th Anniversary

Clinical psychologist, Lyn Worsley reflects on her journey into psychology, 20 years of The Resilience Centre and her passion to help people to connect. She discusses with Leigh Hatcher her interest in a solution focused rather than problem focused approach to helping people deal with life, and references the Pied Piper effect of computerized devices leading our children away from connecting with their community.

Why do we all get so frightened?

Why do we all get so frightened?
Have you ever thought of why we get so frightened? What part of the brain has this function to make us feel frightened?
Flight or fight is the natural instinct that we human beings possess so that our brain can quickly notify our body to make biological changes to save our life. Usually we only notice some physiological changes when we are fearful or running away such heart bounding, breathing rate increases, clammy hands, and butterflies in our stomach, difficult to breathe, tight chest, etc. Usually we only focus on our behaviour rather than knowing how it works in the brain and why it happens like this. Where does this fear message come from? Let’s look at which particular part of the brain does the alarm job to heighten our awareness to “fight or flight”.

The emotional part of the brain comprises of the limbic system, the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the basal ganglia.

The limbic system is the main areas for the experience and control of feelings. It sets the emotional tone of the mind, which filters external events through creating emotional coloring. It tags events as internally important, and stores highly charged emotional memories.

Although we know that generation of emotion is located in multiple areas and interconnected, we only focus on the amygdala, the limbic system, the hippocampus and the basal ganglia in here.
This critical task is processed by the structure called amygdala, which is regarded as the “fear centre” of the brain. It belongs to a small region of the brain called temporal lobe and is located at a point a line goes through your eye and your ear that intercepts with each other. It plays a key role in activating emotion. When it receives information form other parts of the brain, it will assign a level of emotional significance to whatever is going on and rings the alarm bell. For example, when a dog is fiercely barking at us, and is running towards our direction and appears to attack us, the fear centre will send sensory information to the other part of the brain and notify us to “escape or fight back”. At this time other body system will activate the release of the stress hormones cortisol for us to respond to this threat.

In addition, the amygdala also helps us remember a traumatic experience. Take the dog attack as an example. Next time when we see a barking dog coming to our direction even not showing any intention to attack us, we will flee to avoid the threat.

How does the connection work? The amygdala is connected to the hippocampus and runs like a circuit. The hippocampus is involved in storing highly charged emotional memories, both positive and negative. The amygdala is involved in negative emotions and the hippocampus is involved in aspects of memory. When we experience a threat, the memory is being registered in the hippocampus. Next time when a similar event happens, the hippocampus will send the sensory information to the amygdala to alert us that a threat is imminent. This process is going to promote survival in instinctual ways.

Sometimes a situation occurs when the circuit connecting between the amygdala and the hippocampus is dysfunctional. It may produce interference in stopping the amygdala or hippocampus within the limbic area, and as a result it cannot differentiate real from unreal information (Bradley 2000, pp259-260).
The basal ganglia are a set of large structures surrounding the limbic system. It is involved in integrating feelings, thoughts, and movement, as well as helping shift and smooth behaviour. It is also believed that the basal ganglia are involved in forming habits.

Research suggests that the basal ganglia are involved with setting the body’s anxiety as well as forming habits. When we are excited the basal ganglia will cause us to jump; when we are nervous it causes us to tremble; and when we are scared we will freeze.
When the basal ganglia are overactive, we are more likely to be overwhelmed by stressful situations and have a tendency to freeze or become immobile (in thoughts and in actions). To soothe the basal ganglia, research demonstrates that practising mindfulness skills would be able to slow down the activity of the basal ganglia and hence it calms the basal ganglia down, and thus our anxiety reduces.

Tips to calm our amygdala and other parts of our brain include:
1. Start using diaphragmatic breathing. This is the link from the youtube teaching diaphragmatic breathing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kgTL5G1ibIo
2. Meditation – research has shown meditation can calm stress and enhance brain function
3. Remove caffeine and cut down sugar will help reduce a high lactate/pyruvate ratio’s connection with anxiety.
4. Vitamins B1, B3, and B6 help decrease anxiety by increasing the body’s ratio of pyruvate to lactate.
Gabriel Wong
Clinical Psychologist
References:
Amen, D. (2016). Change your brain change your life. New York: Crown Publishing Group.
Lazarus, P. (1995). Healing the mind the natural way. New York: G.P.Putnam’s Sons.

Helping your child transition to school

By Kristen Bayliss
Psychologist, The Resilience Centre

At this point in the year the minds of many parents of preschool aged children
turn to the challenges and excitement of starting school for the first time.
We know that there are many transitions coming up for these children- from the
identity transition of ‘becoming a big school kid’ to the context transitions of
negotiating greater independence for tasks such as independent toileting, lunch
box balancing and lost hat finding.

While much emphasis can be placed on trying to accelerate classroom skills
teachers and researchers agree that children being ‘ready to learn’ at school has
a lot more to do with the socio-emotional skills and attitude to learning that a
child brings.

Being able to concentrate at a task for longer than 10 minutes and then switch
tasks successfully is an important foundation for a kindergarten child who has to
remain engaged and responsive to numerous different activities in a day- each
one important for their overall learning development.

At this stage children who are able to generate social solutions and negotiate
compromises amongst their peers are well placed for building stable and varied
friendships. These skills also form the foundation of logical problem solving and
the emergence of emotional intelligence. Families can enhance these skills by
asking their child to reflect on fairness and inviting them to solve common family
problems and disagreements with fairness and empathy. Co-operative board
games provide a fun opportunity for kids to experience working together for a
common goal, while traditional board games such as Ludo or checkers are a
useful education in winning graciously and losing well.

Starting school is also an important time to make sure your child’s emotional
literacy is developing well. School-ready children should be moving beyond the
basic ‘mad, bad, sad’ labels for their feelings and are ready to grapple with the
complexity involved in identifying emotions such as frustrated, lonely, left out,
disappointed, nervous, excited and proud. Being able to describe their
experience and feelings in these specific ways makes it more likely that a teacher
will be able to quickly get to the bottom of ‘tricky’ feelings and help your child
find solutions to problems in the classroom and playground.

Much can be made of the newfound independence and identity transition of
school starters and parents often feel the temptation to expect alot more from
their child’s behavior. Supporting independence at this stage often means
accepting some level of regression in behavior and self-regulation. Children who
are putting their all into adjustment to new routines, expectations and
relationships often have nothing left in the tank when it comes to managing
sibling squabbles, completing regular chores and maintaining an even emotional
keel through the week. Knowing your child’s weak points (tiredness,
possessiveness or wanting to throw off the shackles of conformity) can allow you to prepare to provide after-school experiences that refresh and rejuvenate them-
and you!