Because therapy is expensive, but sharing mental health tips is free.
How you were treated in your past can cast a shadow over your life.
Go ahead – pretend you’re better than you are.
You can be your own worst enemy.
How many times are we going to let rapists reoffend before we decide enough’s enough?
Have you ever wondered why certain people get together, or why some people are attracted to a specific type of person?
For example, let’s take a look at men who are specifically attracted to capable women. These ladies seem to manage having a fulfilling carer, friendships, their family and perhaps a couple of kids. While other women may be in awe of exceptionally capable women, why don’t all men find them appealing? What makes others seek the damsel in distress instead?
I’ve done some research on this topic and like any form of attraction,it all comes down to personal preference. Yet, where does this preference come from?
The psychology of attraction
The psychology of attraction is really interesting stuff and has been studied for years. There’s a lot to it. Actually, a heck of a lot to it with many different theories. I always found one of the most intriguing theories of attraction based upon how people end up with a particular who are so much like their opposite sex parent. Not in looks necessarily but in traits and personality. Seriously, how on earth does this happen?
Obviously, this isn’t a conscious thing. People don’t intentionally seek out a surrogate of their opposite sex parent and the mere mention of the similarity is a total turn off. Dear old Sigmund Freud didn’t think so, though – he studied this theory for years. But perhaps old Sigmund had some serious mummy issues!
In reality, there’s much more evidence to support this attraction being based upon familiarly. This is why certain men will be attracted to capable women and why others won’t find them appealing. Sure, she may be gorgeous, sexy as all hell and have a super appealing personality, but something deep down inside a man will tell him that this lady, despite her obvious beauty, really isn’t for him.
Like it or not we generally seek out partners with whom we feel familiar. That feeling begins when we are babies and for most of us our first familiar bond is to our mothers. We hear her voice, heartbeat and body working while we’re inside the womb and we seek this familiarity out once we are born. This provides us comfort as babies and why this initial bond is such a significant one. It’s been studied relentlessly and has been found as a key determinate in all prior relationships.
Bonding is helped along by the release of oxycontin, the love hormone. Hopefully you can see where I’m going with this. This hormone makes us feel good, and like anything that makes us feel good, we want more! So basically, when a man meets a lady with similar personality and traits to his mother, oxycontin is released and it makes him feel good, hence, attraction begins.
Obviously there’s way more to attraction than mothers, bonding and oxycontin. There has also got to be physical attraction, compatibility and a whole range of other factors. However, this does help us understand why certain people find particular traits more appealing than others.
Image via dailymail.co.uk
Mark Twain said that quitting an addiction to tobacco was easy; he had done it often. But what is an addiction? According to Psychology Today, an accepted definition for an addiction is: ‘a condition that results when a person ingests a substance or engages in an activity that can be pleasurable but the continued use/act of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities.’
We intuitively know what an addiction is; when a behaviour becomes an addiction is more problematic. Is someone watching television for eight hours a day an addiction? Do two cigarettes a day constitute an addiction? Is gambling £10 a day an addiction?
Quite what causes a treat to lapse into an addiction is open to debate. Addictions such as smoking and drug abuse will arise as some form of biological alteration, where the brain and body decides that it likes a certain chemical and wants more. When an attractive and pleasurable behaviour occurs in the animal brain the neurotransmitter dopamine is released into the system, but the brain can grow to desire more, and the initial hit is not enough – combine that with cues around us such as availability and advertising, and the hit becomes irresistible.
Other addictions may be generated by one’s life situation or state of mind. Behaviours such as polishing off pints of alcohol, placing £100 on Arsenal to win, and purchasing wigs do not seem rational or even comparable, but each may counteract a feeling of emotional stress. That stress might be counteracted by one behaviour, or many; a highly-addictive personality might swap between an uncontrollable need for alcohol or drugs, simply because they must quell the needy parts of their behaviour.
This substitution method at least gives an option for the person desperate to kick a habit. Smokers worldwide, for example, have tried many methods of breaking their addiction such as gums and nicotine patches, with varying results. E-cigarettes however not only recreate the addictive chemical element of nicotine, but also the physical actions of lifting a tool to the mouth and drawing.
It is perhaps no surprise then that sales of patches and gum fell by 3% last year, dropping for the first time since 2008. Meanwhile vaping device sales grew by 75%, thanks to the efforts of scientifically astute companies such as EL-Science, creating an alternative to traditional smoking that’s fun, funky and a viable alternative to smoking.
According to journalist Johann Hari, who has researched drug addiction across the globe, a combination of cues and an unhappy, deprived lifestyle can often be the impetus behind an addiction. His theory, revealed in the Huffington Post, was partially based on experiments on rats that had developed an addiction to drugged water before being placed in more pleasant conditions and subsequently kicking their habits.
Combine that with worldwide evidence that seems to suggest placing people in recuperative, replenishing and pleasant environments to conquer their demons, as opposed to punishing them, and the likelihood of success is higher. Much like prisoners, removing negative cues and giving a sufferer a desire to achieve, and more than anything, human connections, seems to work.
Ever been on a diet, lost the weight and then put it back on? This has to do with conditioning; a type of learning that occurs, which dictates how we behave. If you want more control over your weight; learning about conditioning is better than any diet, you will ever try.
What is conditioning?
Conditioning is the basis of how we learn to behave. This includes our habits, which cause us to be the weight we are. Three types of conditioning have been identified; classical, operant and observational. Each plays a vital role in controlling weight gain and loss.
Learning via association. For example: have you ever been to movies and headed straight to the snack bar for some popcorn, even though you aren’t hungry? That’s classical conditioning at work. In many people’s minds, they associate a trip to the movies with popcorn or a snack, while they relax and enjoy a movie.
For people wanting more control over their weight, they need to be aware of conditioning which pre-exists for them, about food and exercise. As an example; if you consume your nightly meal on the lounge, in front of the TV (as many people do); each time you sit down to watch TV, there is a greater chance of you associating this activity, with eating. This is why it’s recommended that you find a designated place to eat; like at the dinner table. This reduces the likelihood of eating in front of the TV at night.
Some people also find that they eat when they experience different moods or physical states; such as being tired, anxious, confused or worried. Eating, is therefore, a coping mechanism. From past experience, food made them feel better and it becomes a viable solution, each time they experience this feeling. The only way to cease it, is to identify, acknowledge and change these types of associations.
Learning via consequences. For all behaviours, we are either rewarded or punished. Rewards encourage us to increase a behaviour, while punishment reduces it. These can be added or removed. For example; when we diet, we are usually rewarded with removal of weight. However, when we gain weight, we are punished by addition of weight.
Rewards and punishments, encourage which behaviours to choose. Sometimes the punishment of weight gain, isn’t enough to deter, increased weight gain. Perhaps the reward of consuming particular foods, overrides the compulsion to avoid the punishment of excessive weight gain.
Learning via observing others. For example; large people usually have large family members. Sure, genetics comes into play, but learning and adapting the habits of parents is much greater. Children are like sponges, absorbing a significant amount of knowledge from their role models. If their role models are healthy and active; they will likely, be so too.
By the time kids reach adulthood, they have learned a great deal from mere exposure. For example; if you take the kids shopping, be aware, they are learning what types of foods to put into the trolley. Even if it appears they aren’t really paying attention; repetition and exposure is teaching them. This is primarily where most habits begin.
Lastly, when you become fully aware of the roll food and exercise plays in your life, long term weight control can be achieved. Ask yourself these 6 vital questions and you will be well on your way.
- Why are you eating?
- When are you eating?
- Where are you eating?
- What are you eating?
- Who’s watching you eat?
- Exercise… pleasure, pain, chore or choice?
By Kim Chartres
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness.
Inner peace doesn’t come easily; yet learning to love yourself and practice self-compassion are important life skills essential for self-growth and development, for self-compassion and our well-being are inextricably linked. You can be a great, kind and loyal best friend to others, but your own harshest critic, which is very self-defeating; a destructive form of self-sabotage if ever there was one.
Being kind to yourself is important to avoid depression, misery and sadness; you have to give yourself positive daily messages to build and retain self-confidence, self-worth and your own inner peace and happiness. And self-care isn’t about being indulgent – in fact, it’s vital for our good health and well-being.
Brisbane psychologist Kobie Allison, 31, concurs, with self-compassion a hot topic in psychology right now. The psychologist/director of a private practice – which specialises in children, teens and families and acute and complex trauma – says self-compassion is essentially the art of being your own best friend.
Kobie, (pictured), says research has shown that a lack of self-compassion can lead to “depression, anxiety and stress, eating disorders, perceived helplessness, negative affect, and maladaptive coping behaviour.”
“In essence, self-compassion is treating oneself as worthy of the upmost love, respect, warmth, care and compassion,” she says. “Self-compassion is giving to you, what you so freely give to others.
“It is the inner-realisation that your feelings matter, that your pain and suffering matter, that ultimately you matter. Self-compassion is embracing and allowing your humanness and suffering to be exposed to yourself and others, and to experience this with self-kindness and respect.”
Kobie says American self-compassion expert, Dr Kristin Neff defines the three vital elements of self-compassion as:
Self-kindness: Being empathic, forgiving, sensitive and warm towards ourselves when we have suffered, failed, or we feel inadequate.
Common humanity: Recognising that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of being “human”. It is our shared human experience of feeling vulnerable and imperfect that provides a connection to others through our shared human experience.
Mindfulness: This allows people to observe their negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity, so that they are held in mindful awareness, rather than suppressing or denying their feelings.
So, we know that self-compassion is imperative for our own happiness, but how does it affect our close relationships? “People with higher levels of self-compassion report higher levels of life satisfaction, social relatedness, reflective and affective wisdom, personal initiative, curiosity and exploration, optimism, emotional intelligence, self-determination and more,” Kobie says.
“And research has also shown that self-compassion is also a positive predictor of healthy romantic relationships. It is through cultivating a sense of kindness, common humanity and mindfulness that we are enabled to be kinder and more supportive to those we care about.
“Interestingly, Kristin Neff found that individuals who practice self-compassion, tend to describe their partners as more affectionate, intimate, accepting and autonomous. In summary, this researcher noted that if an individual has a high-level of self-compassion, they are able to better take responsibility, forgive, and learn and grow from experience.
“In addition, an individual who is able to meet their own emotional needs through self-compassion, places less expectation and pressure on their loved ones. This allows both partners to be more giving and generous with one another.”
So, rather than falling prey to the self-destructive “princess myth” and looking for that white knight to rescue you, Kobie says look within for strength and the ability to self-soothe and calm, as relationships based on need often lead to drama and disappointment. What’s more, if you’re having a really bad day, practising the art of self-compassion can really help.
“Self-compassion can aid a person in times of suffering, such as having a bad day. Suffering affects our happiness, the happiness of those around us, and our behaviours throughout the day,” Kobie says. “For instance, suffering can lead to stress, frustration, anger towards others, feeling bad about yourself, feeling rushed, distraction, procrastination, not exercising, unhealthy eating and a lack of gratitude.
“Therefore, developing a self-compassion practice allows us to approach triumph and tribulation with understanding, kindness and compassion. So, rather than beating up ourselves up, we should instead acknowledge our suffering and ask ourselves: “What do I need in this moment? What kind gesture can I provide myself in loving-kindness?”
So, in learning self-compassion, Kobie advises us to try taking a “self-compassion break”. Think of a situation in your life that is difficult, that’s causing you stress. Call the situation to mind, and see if you can actually feel the stress and emotional discomfort in your body. Now, say to yourself:
- This is a moment of suffering: That’s mindfulness. Other options include:
- This hurts.
- This is stress.
- Suffering is a part of life: That’s common humanity. Other options include:
- Other people feel this way.
- I’m not alone.
- We all struggle in our lives.
Now, put your hands over your heart, feel the warmth of your hands and the gentle touch of your hands on your chest. Or adopt the soothing touch you discovered felt right for you.
- May I be kind to myself: Say this to yourself. You can also ask yourself: “What do I need to hear right now to express kindness to myself?” Is there a phrase that speaks to you in your particular situation, such as:
- May I give myself the compassion that I need.
- May I learn to accept myself as I am.
- May I forgive myself.
- May I be strong.
- May I be patient
This practice can be used any time of day or night and is said to help you remember to evoke the three aspects of self-compassion when you need it most.
Image via psychcentral.com
Do you have a string of bad relationships? Can’t quit smoking, reach that goal weight or feel worthy of that promotion? What about finishing things? Perhaps you have some attainable goal that just seems to keep evading you? All these things are negative life patterns at work. Unconsciously you may be doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome or stuck in a familiar way of doing things.
Unfortunately life patterns can be much easier to recognise in others than acknowledge in ourselves. For example, we can often see our friends or relatives enter the same types of relationship time after time but never find happiness. The problem is they seem oblivious to what’s right in front of them.
We all experience this in one form or another. For some it’s worse than others, such as people who unintentionally sabotage themselves with unhealthy behaviours or continue to place themselves in violent relationships. It’s only when life patterns are recognised and acknowledged that change can begin.
How life patterns form
Barbara Findeisen, psychotherapist and world renowned expert in pre-and perinatal psychology, believes life patterns form before birth whilst still in the womb. She explains that here we begin learning patterns of trust and security.
This strongly supports the theory that life patterns evolve on a sub-conscious level. For example, knowing that things covered in fur which have four legs are usually animals. We don’t remember when we learn these things, but most of us eventually do.
We also learn what to expect in various situations and from other people. Like if we walk down a dark alley alone at night we’ll probably feel scared, or if we’ve done a good job at work we may receive praise. Combined these things form our unconscious perception of what we know and what we anticipate to happen. If we anticipate a negative or positive outcome we act accordingly.
Remember this happens on a sub-conscious level. Many of us aren’t aware that we intentionally set ourselves up for success or failure, but ironically that’s exactly what happens. The only way to move forward and overcome it is to recognise your life patterns for what they are and make some essential changes.
Negative self-defeating life patterns
If you have a string of bad relationships, can’t finish things, feel stuck in a rut or just can’t seem to meet goals you set for yourself, you may have a self-defeating life pattern. People with this type of life pattern learn a negative perception and often repeatedly behave in a way that supports it. This is called a self-fulfilling prophecy and occurs due to positive feedback between beliefs and behaviour.
For example, they may be attracted to a particular type of person and this is why the relationships they enter into end badly. Maybe they sub-consciously feel they can’t be in a relationship or that they don’t deserve happiness. They will choose partners based on this unconscious perception which supports this belief. When the relationship ends badly it’s familiar and expected, which in turn strengthens this belief.
How to fix negative life patterns
According to Kevin D. Arnold, a psychologist and Board Certified Cognitive & Behavioral Psychologist, there are some simple ways to overcome negative self-defeating behaviours.
1.Know what triggers your self-defeating behaviour
When you know what you want to change, work out the pattern which has lead you to defeat in the past. For example, you might eat when you’re tired rather than hungry. You might have a date with an ideal partner but not answer their call for a second date. Each behaviour has a trigger, so keep a diary and work out what you’ve been doing in the past which has prevented your happiness or success.
2.Control your triggers
This is pretty self explanatory, but pull yourself up on whatever the behaviour is when the trigger presents itself. Recognise it and the best method of control is replacing a negative behaviour with a positive one.
3.Replace Self-defeating habits
We learn every behaviour and most are a reaction to a trigger. The idea is to swap the behaviour for a non-defeating positive behaviour. Identify one which will work and replace the behaviour which is holding you back. It will become a habit over time and far easier to sustain a change.
4.Keep moving forward
We can’t change the past, so focus on the present and future. The idea is to shift your perspective of negative self-belief into positive self-belief. The power of positive thought works equally as well as negative thought, so if you have a choice, why focus on the negative? Over time your new behaviours will change your perception. They will confirm your positive perceptions and new self-fulfilling prophecies will develop.
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Unfortunately, we aren’t born with instruction manuals or have a go to book we can open, when we hit technical difficulties. For many of us, Personal Boundaries (PB) are leaned because we discover we really need them. Healthy ones can be pretty tricky to master, especially if you’ve never been taught.
There are different types of personal boundaries, but the psychological ones are what we use most in relationships. They are basically like an imaginary line, which either prevents or allows entrance, to cause us personal harm. Not many people realize there are 4 different varieties; rigid, porous, non-existent and healthy. It’s helpful to know which type you have and how to make some adjustment.
Often referred to as “having a wall up”, people with these boundaries find relationships difficult. They won’t allow anything to flow in or out, like having a blocked filter.
People of this type have a penetrable boundary. Others are able to push through it at will; however, boundaries are set for themselves; like how much they choose to share. Regardless of this, they allow themselves to be hijacked and can suffer the consequences of others. If you’ve ever let someone make you fell guilty, you may have a porous personal boundary.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, to rigid boundaries, non-existent types are equally as harmful to a person. There is no filter of what comes in and what goes out. Therefore, the imaginary line is completely absent. Without a filter, they can offer too much personal information about themselves; which can lead to others taking advantage of them. Plus, they often lack the capacity to say no. This can be a dangerous combination.
Described by Psychotherapist Joyce Marter, LCPC, as the “midway between Diva and Doormat”, healthy boundaries are the key to fulfilling relationships. It’s much like a dual doorway which lets others in to take a peek at who we really are and allows us access to get to know others. The difference between this and unhealthy types, is the filter. Careful screening of what goes through the filter, is achieved.
How to adjust your Personal Boundaries
Luckily, personal boundaries are adaptable. The first step is recognising which type you have. Only after acknowledging this, can it be altered. Secondly, achieving a healthy PB, is relative to how far from healthy it is. For example, if you have a non-existent PB, you have some way to go. Less, if its porous or rigid.
The third step, to achieving a healthy balance, is to clearly define the boundaries you want to set. This works with all un-healthy types. If it’s too rigid, boundaries need to be relaxed. Working out what can be divulged and accepted is the key. If porous; applying the boundaries set for themselves, to those around them, is effective. These people understand personal boundaries, but loved ones can sneak past them.
What will be most significant with non-existent PB, will be shifting from the comfort zone to a zone which is unfamiliar. PB develop over time, therefore, change will take place slowly. Identify opportunities which cause less discomfort and set boundaries; working toward more uncomfortable situations, as time passes. Practice, time and a gradual exposure to change is the easiest, most effective way to achieve a health balance.
By Kim Chartres
Are you unable to put down your smart phone? Maybe over eating or drinking is your problem? Perhaps you’re indulging in too many prescription pills? Whether someone is overcoming an illegal or legal addiction is irrelevant. Most addictive behaviours can be treated similarly and have a similar pattern and path. Once these are understood, it is much easier to overcome any type of addiction.
Addiction in it’s most basic form, is excessive behaviour. The difference between regular behaviour and an addiction, is that regular behaviour can be ceased without distress and can be absent from ones life, without causing a significant impact.
In today’s society we have many behaviours than can easily lead to addictions. The following scenario depicts an addictive behaviour, associated with mobile phone use.
You hear the tone of your phone go off during a funeral. Instead of switching it off or declining the call; you choose to pick it up and start a conversation. You therefore need to answer your phone, regardless of your physical situation. In this instance, you may have an addictive behaviour attached to the use of your mobile phone.
Why this person felt inclined to answer the call, could have been, for one of two reasons. Either they did it automatically and neglected to notice their surroundings or they felt an overwhelming compulsion to answer it. In the later, they may have needed to answer the call to relieve distress or considerable discomfort they felt, when the phone rang.
This would have occurred through conditioning. Behavioural Psychologists such as Pavolv and Skinner, did extensive research into how behaviours were learned, maintained and extinguished. This has been exceptionally helpful in the field of addiction.
According to behavioural psychologists, the first step toward changing behaviour, is recognising it. For example; alcoholism can’t be treated without the drinker being aware they have a problem. So if you or someone you know has a problem that goes unnoticed; the behaviour isn’t likely to change.
Once the behaviour is recognised as being excessive, measures can be taken to correct it. In most cases this will involve acknowledging and understanding triggers which lead to the behaviour. Triggers are those things in life which prompt a behaviour. Using the scenario above; the ring tone would be considered the trigger and answering the phone, the conditioned behaviour.
Once a behaviour is learned and has been maintained, it can be difficult to extinguish. Maintenance usually occurs so the person can avoid the negative consequences of avoiding the behaviour. For example, alcoholics and drug abusers maintain their addiction, by knowing they need to ingest their desired substance, to avoid withdrawal.
Avoiding negative consequences can be a powerful maintenance tool. Once this is overcome, the process of extinguishing can commence. This involves avoiding the behaviour and reprogramming the conditioning process. With the mobile phone scenario, an example of reconditioning could involve ignoring the ring tone so it diminishes the conditioned behaviour. It may cause the person considerable discomfort to initially ignore the tone, but after a time, it would become much easier.
To alter the behaviour to answer the phone only when appropriate; the tone should be changed and the behaviour of only answering at specific times, would be practised. This would encourage a less addictive behaviour. Similar practices are done with food intake, such as eating only at the table or designating food free zones, such as the lounge room, where people often snack on unhealthy foods.
In theory, overcoming addictions is quite simple. However, emotions complicates the process. If you view an excessive behaviour as a conditioned, rather than emotional behaviour, your chance of overcoming it will be increased.
By Kim Chartres