You can grow your personality.

personality disorder
Can Personality change? Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Personality characteristics aren’t as fixed as we used to think.

Research has found that personality characteristics can change gradually across the lifespan. Data from national health plans has helped identify this change. People who have taken personality inventories multiple times throughout their lives often show a slow, gradual change as they age. Not everyone changes, but it happens often enough that we now believe personality traits are not fixed but are changeable.

The change in any short period of time is relatively small, but cumulatively your personality in your retirement years can be quite different from your personality in childhood or adolescence. For some people, this is a good thing; for others, not so much.

The belief that personality characteristics are largely unchangeable spawned the group of diagnoses called personality disorders, such as narcissism, borderline personality, and antisocial personality disorder, which are considered pervasive patterns of behavior and very difficult to treat. Understanding how life experiences contributed to creating these disorders has also helped us understand how they can be changed.

There can be sudden spontaneous shifts in personality.

Transitions from adolescence to young adulthood can alter personality by exposing a young person to new situations. Agreeableness, openness, and conscientiousness tend to increase while extraversion often decreases. However, the personality in the teen years is a better predictor of success in later life.

Undergoing a stressful or traumatic experience can also result in a shift in worldview. While some people who experience trauma develop PTSD, others can develop posttraumatic growth. How someone navigates this traumatic experience can impact their future behavior and the way their personality is expressed.

There are multiple ways in which personality can change across the lifespan.

Some personality changes may be the result of aging.

Extraversion and conscientiousness tend to decline across the lifespan. Openness to experience tends to be relatively stable, then gradually decreases in old age. Neuroticism that largely undesirable characteristic that leads to an increased risk for depression and anxiety tends to be high in childhood and adolescence, declines throughout middle age, and often increases sharply among older people.

You can deliberately change some personality characteristics.

A significant amount of personality changes happened because of your life experiences rather than deliberate efforts to change your personality. But there are ways in which people’s deliberate efforts have resulted in a long-term change in their personality. The research is pretty clear that simply wanting to change your personality will not be sufficient. Personally induced personality change requires conscious effort and action.

The personality traits most often chosen as the goal for change are to decrease neuroticism, that excess of negative emotions, and to increase extraversion. Extraversion can be increased by deliberately going out of your way to say hello to people you encounter or putting your hand out when meeting a stranger at a meeting. Not only does developing these behaviors make you less uncomfortable around others, practiced often enough, but you also begin to be more extroverted, a change that will eventually show up if you take repeated personality inventories.

Your behavior can change your personality.

Engaging in uncomfortable behavior can result in significant personality change as you become more comfortable doing things that used to be outside your normal range. Simply wanting to change your personality will not be effective without engaging in the new behaviors. If you want to be more extroverted, you must act “as if” you are more extroverted. Planning to do personality-changing behaviors but then failing to do them backfires. If you say you want to be more extroverted but then chickened out on the opportunity to talk to a stranger, you reinforce being introverted.

Do you like your personality? What parts of your personality would you like to change? And are you willing to take action to create that change?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seems like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Introvert.

Introvert. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Introvert.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

“Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured.”

― Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

“I am rarely bored alone; I am often bored in groups and crowds.”

― Laurie Helgoe, Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength

“I’m an introvert… I love being by myself, love being outdoors, love taking a long walk with my dogs and looking at the trees, flowers, the sky.”

― Audrey Hepburn

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. There are an estimated 100,000 words in the English language that are feelings related. Some emotions are pleasant, and some are unpleasant, but all feelings can provide useful information. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Look at these related posts for more on this topic and other feelings.

Emotions and Feelings.

Inspiration

Extrovert.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

“There is no greater plague to an introvert than the extrovert.”

― Pierce Brown, Golden Son

“Hardly anybody ever writes anything nice about introverts. Extroverts rule. This is rather odd when you realise that about nineteen writers out of twenty are introverts. We are been taught to be ashamed of not being ‘outgoing’. But a writer’s job is ingoing.”

― Ursula K. LeGuin

“We have an assumption here in America that the kind thing to do is to be “friendly,” which means being extroverted, even intrusive. The Japanese assume the opposite: being kind means holding back.”

― Laurie Helgoe, Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. There are an estimated 100,000 words in the English language that are feelings related. Some emotions are pleasant, and some are unpleasant, but all feelings can provide useful information. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Look at these related posts for more on this topic and other feelings.

Emotions and Feelings.

Inspiration

What are the Big Five Personality Traits?

personality disorder
Can Personality change? Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Personality traits lie on a continuum.

The big five personality traits are one way of understanding people’s personalities and why personalities vary so much from individual to individual. This theory and the research behind it come to us primarily from psychology, which involves looking at presumably normal people and why they think, feel, and act the way they do.

Being low or high on a trait does not mean you have a mental illness.

With rare exceptions, these personality traits describe preferences or tendencies in people’s thinking, feeling, and behavior rather than abnormalities. People with a specific mental illness may be more likely to lie at the far end of these continuums.

The Big Five Personality Traits don’t cover everything.

There are many theories about why people have a specific personality and why one trait is more pronounced in some people than in others. Genetics, environment, and learning are postulated to play roles in the development of personality. Other commonly applied theories include the Myers Briggs types, or the similar one by David Keirsey, plus the Enneagram.

Here’s a summary of the Big Five Personality Traits.

In this theory, none of these traits are necessarily more important than others, and being at a higher level in a particular trait is neither a good nor bad thing. These traits describe differences in the way people approach life and the environment.

1. Openness.

People who are low in openness want concrete facts. People high in openness think in abstract terms and theories and are likely to be adventurous and interested in art, ideas, and new or novel experiences. People who are low in openness prefer tradition and may feel safer when there are rules to direct behavior and tend to be extremely practical.

2. Conscientiousness.

People who are high in conscientiousness are determined and easily exercise self-discipline. They likely are high in “won’t power,” the ability to forgo current pleasure for future positive rewards. People who are impulsive or easily distracted will score low in conscientiousness. The trait of conscientiousness also lumps “willpower,” the ability to do unpleasant things now for future rewards, together with many other self-discipline characteristics.

3. Extraversion.

The trait of extraversion measures more than merely being outgoing. People who are high in extraversion are energized by time with others. People who are low in extraversion, sometimes called introverts, need time alone to recharge their batteries. It’s important not to confuse being an introvert with an emotional problem such as social anxiety disorder. People with Social Anxiety Disorder are not necessarily energized by being alone. They simply avoid the fear of being around others by isolating themselves.

People who are high in extraversion are likely motivated by the praise and attention of others. They will do things for the applause of the crowd. Introverts are more likely to be highly internally motivated, and their own opinion of their accomplishments matters more than recognition from others.

4. Agreeableness.

Being high in the trait of agreeableness doesn’t mean that you go along with others and give in. People were agreeable don’t have to give in because what others want is okay with them. People with high and agreeableness are more likely to be motivated by doing things that benefit others and society in general. They are high in empathy, typically trusting, and willing to forgive.

People who are low in agreeableness are more likely to have conflicts with others. They are seen as competitive, aggressive, and often antagonistic. Being low in agreeableness increases the risk that you will have falling outs with others, and your life will be full of conflicts.

5. Neuroticism.

People who are high in neuroticism are much more likely to experience negative emotions. They experience more anxiety, fear, sadness, depression and may experience guilt and shame. Of all the Big Five Personality Traits, this seems the most likely to overlap with mental illness. People who are high in neuroticism are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression disorders.

Neuroticism also seems to have more connected with life experiences than most of the other personality traits. People who experience traumas or severe negative life experiences are more likely to test high in neuroticism.

In the early days of mental health, there were only two disorders recognized, neurosis and psychosis. Psychoses are those severe things that are most likely to be treated by medication. Those things we call neuroses are more likely to respond to talk therapy. Not everyone high in neuroticism has impaired functioning or qualifies for a diagnosis of a mental illness. But if you are high in neuroticism, you should consider whether counseling might help you live a healthier, happier life.

What do these Big Five Personality Traits say about you?

The Big Five Traits are one way of looking at personality. Being high or low on any of these traits is not in and of itself either good or bad. I’m one who does not believe that whatever your personality, you are stuck with it. Some aspects of personality change more readily than others. Most personality characteristics change slowly across the lifetime. But if your scores on a personality test aren’t what you’d like to see, consider working with a therapist, counselor, coach, or teacher to learn new skills and shift the way your personality expresses itself.

Do the big five personality traits explain why you are the person you are?

In my opinion, no. Knowing you are high or low in any one of these characteristics doesn’t tell you what to do. Using that information may help you pick a career, a partner, or even a life adventure that’s more suited to you. Remember, these characteristics lie on a continuum. Not everyone high or low in one of these characteristics will experience it in the same way.

Words don’t adequately describe personality characteristics.

Starting with the big five personality traits is one Possible Way to begin your self-exploration, but I should leave you with a word of caution.

“consider, for example, the hundreds of adjectives summarized by each of the Big Five personality traits (Huta 2013c).” from Eudaimonia and Its Distinction from Hedonia: Developing a Classification and Terminology for Understanding Conceptual and Operational Definitions. Veronika Huta • Alan S. Waterman. J Happiness Stud (2014) 15:1425–1456

Does the idea of exploring your personality interest you? Then you might want to take this online big five personality test.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seems like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Three life questions you need to answer.

Questions you should ask yourself. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

The answers to these three questions can change your life.

To figure out your path in life, you need to figure out where you’re going. Some people get lost along the way and end up in therapy, trying to find themselves. I’ve come to believe that the first task ought to be finding the answers to three basic life questions. Throughout this coming year, I want to talk a little bit about those questions and how you go about finding the answers to them.

Resolutions are not the way to go.

This is the time of year a lot of people are making New Year’s resolutions. I fear that if I don’t get this published quickly enough, you will already have broken some of those resolutions. Some of those resolutions are external. Habits you want to change and things you want to accomplish.

Most resolutions fail because they specify a result rather than a process for reaching that result. Resolving to lose a certain number of pounds, get out of debt, get more education all sound like great goals. There will be plenty of articles throughout the universe I how to reach these goals. It’s usually missing from all of that is any discussion about if when you arrive at that goal, if you ever do, will you be happy? Will it have been worth the effort?

For most people paying off the debt only opens the door to creating more debt. Losing the weight may make you healthier if you can keep it off, but most people don’t keep it off because the process of dieting makes them miserable. Many people get more education expecting that to lead to higher income and more happiness only to find they don’t like the job there now qualified for.

Why can’t people find the answers to creating a happy life?

Despite a higher standard of living and more material possessions today than ever before in the history of the world, we also see more mental and physical illness. Looking for something external to make you happy is looking in the wrong place.

The idea that someone who is miserable can achieve happiness by finding the right romantic partner often turns out badly. It’s common for people to go through multiple failed relationships wondering why they always connect with the wrong partners. Eventually, some of those people, by trial and error or as the result of personal counseling and therapy, discovered that the answer to their questions isn’t external, but it’s internal. If you need to change something in your life, that change will need to take place inside you.

As I’m writing this, I’m thinking of all the things I’d like to talk to you about. I hope I’ve learned a few things through the years, and one of the major lessons I’ve learned is that the journey of self-awareness is an ongoing process. So here are the three essential questions I think you need to consider; otherwise, everything else you’re doing may be wasted effort.

Who are you?

Ask most people who they are, and their immediate answer will be a job title. I’m a teacher, an accountant, a clerk in the store, or some other occupation. Take that job away, whether by unemployment or disability, and suddenly the person must figure out who they are when they don’t do that job anymore.

Other people define themselves by their relationships. Traditionally that was more the way women define themselves. Ask a woman who she was, and she would say she was Mrs. so-and-so. Or she might tell you that she was this boy or girl’s mother. This is changing as more men define themselves by their relationships, and more women see themselves as professionals in an occupation. Both things are important for people’s understanding of themselves.

While your occupation and relationships are important, who you are is so much bigger than both of those.

Who do you connect with, and how, and why?

Relationships can enrich your life, but they can also impoverish it. A recurrent theme in therapy is why people keep getting into the same dysfunctional relationships. Someone who grew up in an alcoholic home falls in love with Ethel alcohol or marries an alcoholic.

People from dysfunctional homes frequently enter relationships with other people who have those same dysfunctions. One name for that losing yourself in your relationships is codependency. There’s a lot of codependent people out there. The way they eventually escape their codependency, if they ever do, is not by learning more and more about the dysfunctional person in their life but by learning more about themselves.

What gives your life meaning, and purpose?

Last week I wrote a blog post about what gives your life meaning and purpose. You might want to look at that post. I suppose it’s entirely possible to have several things that fill your life with meaning and purpose. It’s also likely that the thing that gives your life meaning or purpose at various points in your life may change.

What I’m getting at here is it’s far more critical to learn about your relationship with money and debt and decide how that affects the rest of your life than it is to go on a tight budget for a month or two to get out of debt only to end up back in debt again.

As we move through the year 2021, I want to talk to you about some of the implications of these three big life questions and how you might go about finding the answers to them. I’m continuing to learn more about my answers to these questions through research and living life.

If any of this interests you, maybe you will want to subscribe to this blog. Feel free to leave a comment or use the contact me form. Whatever the challenges this year, let’s all work on making 2021 the year to get straight on what matters.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seems like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness, and they want him dead.

Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

What gives your life meaning, and purpose?

What gives your life meaning and purpose? Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Have you identified your life’s meaning and purpose?

People can go through some incredibly challenging times if they have a good enough reason to do it. But even the simplest tasks may be overwhelming if you don’t see a good reason to do what you’re doing. Another name for your meaning or purpose might be your passion. Is there something that you are passionate about?

A few people are fortunate; they discover their meaning and purpose for life early on and then devote the rest of their days to pursuing that purpose. Some people find their life purpose after a series of trials. I think it’s sad when I see people who have lived their whole life and never discovered anything that gave their life meaning or purpose. If you haven’t put some time into thinking about this, I would encourage you to do so.

The work you do may give your life its purpose.

For some people, the work they do is their life’s purpose. Other people work a job, so they have enough money to support themselves and their family, and then they spend every available moment pursuing their passion. Your life’s work doesn’t necessarily have to be the same thing you do for your paycheck. Just make sure that what you devote your life to doing has some meaning.

Relationships are an important source of meaning and purpose.

Caring for others can give your life its meaning. This can be a child, a pet, or an older person. Caregiving, loving, and being loved are significant sources of meaning. Few relationships will be with you your whole life. Make sure you put effort into maintaining your relationships with partners, family, and friends. However long that relationship is a part of your life, it needs to be nurtured. When you look back on the life you’ve lived, ask yourself, “have my relationships been a source of meaning and purpose?”

Religious or spiritual beliefs can guide you to life’s meaning.

For some people, the anchor that holds them to a purposeful life is their spiritual beliefs. If this life is all there is, then it’s essential to live it well. But if you believe in a life after death, then this life should be a process of growth and perfecting yourself. Do your best to live your life in a manner that is consistent with your spiritual beliefs. Feeling connected to something greater than yourself is a significant contributor to a life full of meaning and purpose.

More things don’t equate to a more satisfying life.

In this era of rampant consumerism, it’s become apparent that having more things does not equate to more happiness. Having more resources certainly provide you with more options. But money and things do not equal happiness. Every day you hear about some rich and famous person whose life was empty and meaningless. It’s not the things you have but what you do with those things that matter.

These days people are focusing more on getting rid of things, decluttering, than on accumulating them. Once a year, our city has a citywide cleanup day. On that one day, the city residents pile all their unwanted items out onto the street to be hauled away to the dump. One curious feature of this free trash removal day is at the piles of refuge are higher and wider in the poorer parts of the city. The pleasure you get from buying things is temporary.

Volunteering can be better than having.

Doing for others can be a significant source of life’s meaning. Being of service to others pays dividends long afterward. The things you buy can end up owning you, but the acts of kindness you give away will be with you forever.

Have you found your life’s meaning and purpose? If not, don’t you think it’s time you started your search?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seems like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Will this winter be a catastrophe or a challenge?

Winter
Winter. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

How will the coronavirus and potential lockdowns affect you?

For many people, winter is a challenge every year. But this year, it’s likely to be a tough challenge. Coronavirus has had a horrific impact on our society. How long this will go on and how it will affect you is probably outside your control. But how it affects you mentally, there may be something you can do about that.

Currently, there’s a glimmer of hope. Over the long haul, one or more of the vaccines now in development may prove to be the solution to our coronavirus problem. But even if the vaccine works perfectly, it will be a long time until enough vaccine doses become available and enough people are vaccinated to have any impact on the prevalence of the illness. Until then, life can be a challenge.

Depending on where you live, you probably experienced one or more lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, or disruptions in your job or education. Some people would prefer the option of going ahead with their life knowing there’s a chance they will catch the infection and either die or pass it on to someone close to them.

Other people would prefer to hunker down, isolate as much as possible, and ride out the viral storm waiting for safer days. Regardless of your preference, some things are going to change. Some of these changes will be severe short-term losses for some and minor inconveniences for others. Other changes may be permanent. Businesses have closed, and more will close. Many jobs have been lost. Some will return, but other jobs may never come back. People have died. More and more of us know someone who has lost a family member.

I believe that some of these changes we’re seeing will turn out to be permanent long-term changes. The coronavirus has just accelerated the rapid pace of change. The trend toward online education was already well underway, with some colleges offering their entire curriculum as online classes. In the future, I think working from home and learning at home are going to be long term trends. These are things we may just have to get used to.

But between now and the time we reach our new normal, we will face some extraordinary challenges.

The challenge of seasonal affective disorder.

A significant portion of the population typically suffers from seasonal affective disorder. While we often think of this as seasonal depression, commonly called winter blues, there are also seasonal increases in anxiety disorders, OCD, and other mental illnesses.

Changes in the weather, especially changes in the amount of daylight each day appear to naturally alter human being’s moods. The large number of holidays during the winter may be an effort for us, humans, to cheer ourselves up during an inhospitable time of year.

What if our attitude toward the winter season is an important factor?

Not everyone, everywhere, seems to experience seasonal affective disorder. This article in the Guardian shows us another way to look at challenging circumstances.

If you approach the winter season with the attitude that it will be difficult, you’re predisposed to negative mood states. But if you take a different view toward it and view the winter season as another situation full of possibilities, you may experience a different set of feelings.

When it comes to mood, your mindset matters.

How you think about things alters their effect on you. The way you look at things can affect your mental health and your physical health. Your attitude affects your blood pressure and heart rate. People who think of things as catastrophic and tell themselves that this thing mustn’t, shouldn’t, happen experience it is much more negative than those who see the event as an opportunity.

Is it a threat or an opportunity?

How you approach things often depends on the resources you have available. By resources, I don’t mean just financial ones. Education, available opportunities, and your support system, can also alter the way you view challenging circumstances. Having a good support system, developing coping skills, and improving your resiliency all buffer you against stressful times.

Telling yourself, you’re excited reduces anxiety.

Many people experience having to make a speech in public as terrifying. Public speaking is the number one fear in America. And yet, other people enjoy speaking in public. If you are terrified of getting up on stage, becoming an entertainer will probably be a highly stressful career. But if you love the applause of the crowd, you won’t experience it as anxiety-provoking but as energizing.

Some athletes become anxious before competing, and they are at high risk of choking. But those athletes who interpret those butterflies in their stomachs as excitement can use that energy to propel them to even more remarkable achievements.

Planning positive activities reduces the impact of challenges.

Whatever your challenges this winter, and many of us will face a great many challenges, plan for some positive activities. Those little bits of pleasure and happiness, you should pay attention to them when you find them. Amid all the struggles, you should plan on becoming a happiness expert.

Admittedly the winter ahead will not be easy. There will be costs, and there will be losses. Let’s all keep our eyes peeled for the pockets of happiness ahead.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seems like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Do you trust your intuition?

Intuition. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Intuition makes up half the decision-making system in your brain.

People who study brain functioning have investigated two different ways in which people make decisions. This is sometimes called the dual-process theory. One system, the deliberate decision-making system, is slow and requires a lot of information to arrive at a decision. The other system, intuition, reaches a conclusion rapidly, often based on very little conscious information. Relying on only one of these two systems can get you into trouble. The challenge is to decide when to use the slow, deliberative decision-making model and when to use the fast, intuitive model.

When might ignoring intuition get you into serious trouble?

You’re in the big city, walking across the street. You glance up and suddenly realize a bus is speeding towards you and you are about to get hit. Which decision-making model do you think you ought to use?

If you’re a very logical person, you might want to think this over a bit. How many feet away as the bus? How fast is the bus traveling? You look ahead and see how many feet it is to the other side of the street to get out of the way of the bus. You might also want to look back to estimate if you turn around and jump back onto the sidewalk; how far must you go? While you’re gathering all this information, the bus driver is slamming on the brakes, and you are betting your life on whether he will stop before impact.

What if you decided to use your intuition?

People who use an intuitive decision-making model would leap one way or the other without thinking. If you pick the right direction, this improves your chances of survival. Of course, you could choose the wrong direction and run directly into the path of the bus. Or you might decide to turn around and run back for the sidewalk you just left. One of these decisions, maybe both, might save your life.

Are there other situations in which you might want to use your intuition?

Social situations are a time when you want to rely on your intuition. You meet someone, and they say hello. If you stand there too long thinking over what the proper greeting would be, you’re going to appear socially inept. In the pre-Covid days, if someone put out their hand, you wanted to put your hand out and shake. Now your automatic response might be to bump elbows or perform some other gesture. What you don’t want to do is stand there staring blankly.

Making good decisions in life involves using both decision-making systems.

Relying too much on one decision-making system and not enough on the other are characteristics of two specific mental illnesses. Research on decision-making tells us that people on the autism spectrum rely heavily on thinking things over. They are high on rational decision-making, but that leaves them unable to make automatic decisions based on their intuitive systems.

On the other end of the spectrum are people who make almost all decisions emotionally or using the intuitive method. Relying solely on the intuitive decision-making system is one of the characteristics of schizotypal personality disorder.

You can improve both decision-making systems.

Some people believe that they are using logic to make their decisions, but their decision-making is so full of logical errors and flaws that it’s not very useful. Studying logic and how to make better decisions can improve the slow, deliberative decision-making system.

Many people don’t realize that the fast, intuitive decision-making system can also be improved. In some upcoming posts, I want to talk to you about improving your intuitive decision-making and deciding when to trust those fast decisions and when to use the slower logical decision-making system.

Other posts on related topics can be found under the following categories.

Overthinking               Rumination                 Worry              Finding Yourself

Personality                  Inner Child                  Intuition             Personality Disorders             

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seems like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

You can change your personality.

personality disorder

Can Personality Change?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Your personality is not as fixed as many people believe.

We used to think that you were born with a specific personality characteristic. You might be an introvert or an extrovert. Long-term studies have shown that people’s personalities do change across the lifespan.

Some personality traits change more readily than others. But why those personality characteristics change has been unclear.

Some personality characteristics change as you age.

One research paper – Trajectories of Big Five Personality Traits: A Coordinated Analysis of 16 Longitudinal Samples examined these changes.

Extraversion, conscientiousness, and openness all decline with time. Not every person shows the same level of decline, and various studies have come up with different results. Neuroticism, on the other hand, seems to be the highest in both the very young and the very old. I read other research which tells us thoughts of death are highest at those extremes also. It would seem that the very young and the very old have more to worry about.

Life experiences can alter your personality.

Research has detected a significant number of cases in which is a result of life experiences people’s personality changes. If you are forced into a situation where you have to interact with a large number of people every day, and you can’t escape that situation, over time, you may become used to this, and gradually you might become more extroverted.

One of the treatments for various fears and phobias is exposure and response prevention. This treatment is especially effective in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder. Something that initially was scary, and overwhelming, becomes less fear-inducing the more you’re exposed to it, especially if that exposure is in the company of someone who reassures you.

People who have a fear of public speaking and take a class in public speaking often get over that fear. There are also groups you can join to help you overcome your fears.

Which parts of your personality change most readily?

Most researchers study personality using the Big Five Personality Characteristics, Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. Some of these characteristics change more readily across the lifespan as a result of life experiences.

Can you deliberately change your personality?

Recent research in the area personality conducted by Nathan Hudson at Southern Methodist University and his colleagues, some aspects of personality change more readily than others. It’s not enough merely to wish that your personality was different. Some of these characteristics, like muscles, require exercise to develop. Taking deliberate, intentional action to make yourself a better person can also result in a change in your basic personality.

The two traits which most people wanted to change were neuroticism and extraversion. People would like to be more emotionally stable, that is less neurotic. And most people wish they were more comfortable in social settings and, therefore, more extroverted. Interestingly, in one study of how people could deliberately change their personality, almost no one wanted to become more agreeable.

Tasks that challenge one of your personality characteristics, such as openness, vary in difficulty just as exercise for muscles can vary in difficulty. The more difficult the task you undertake, and the more often you undertake a behavior of any difficulty, the more likely it is to shift your personality.

The conclusion of the study was:

“The single largest implication of our study,” said Hudson and his team, “is that actively engaging in behaviors designed to change one’s personality traits does, in fact, predict greater amounts of trait growth across time.”

There were some qualifications in this study. People who tried a task but were unsuccessful in completing it moved their personality in the opposite direction from what they intended.

There’s also a limitation to this study in that it was conducted over fifteen weeks. While it’s likely that some people would continue to undertake tasks to improve themselves in a particular direction, whether these changes would last over a long period or be overridden by typical life experiences is still an open question. The participants in the study were psychology students, presumably young and with an interest in the outcome. I have to wonder if personality may be more changeable in young people both because of their lack of experience and the larger deliberate efforts that it would take among people farther along in the lifespan.

What do you think about changing your personality?

Are you happy with who you are and your personality characteristics? Is there some part of your personality you’d like to change? If you could change something about yourself, what would that be? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below or feel free to use the contact me form.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Signs of gaslighting.

Gaslighting
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

What is gaslighting?

Gaslighting is the attempt to manipulate a person or group psychologically. The perpetrator wants to get the victim to doubt their own perceptions. Gaslighting is done to obtain power and control over the victim. The process happens slowly and gradually until the victim comes to question their perception of reality.

The origin of the term is a play from the late nineteen-thirties, which was later turned into a movie. When someone is gaslighting, they are trying to convince you that you are insane and that what you’re seeing happen isn’t happening.

Abusers often resort to gaslighting techniques to try to convince their victims that they are not doing anything wrong. By destroying the victim’s sense of reality, the abuser gains control over that individual. Cults often engage in gaslighting to convince their followers that only the leader correctly perceives things. To be effective, the person doing the gaslighting has to get the victim to doubt their own perceptions. Gradually the judgment of the victim is invalidated, and they look to the abuser for their sense of reality.

One technique that is used for gaslighting is to repeat a lie that they want others to believe continually. Repeating something often enough and loudly enough can convince many people to believe that lie and to doubt their perceptions.

Gaslighting techniques, sometimes called disinformation campaigns, have become extremely common on social media. Something completely untrue can spread rapidly when an altered video or non-true news story is reposted often enough. Both antisocial sociopaths and narcissists make extensive use of gaslighting methods. Here are some ways that you can spot attempts to gaslight.

They tell blatant lies.

The lies are often so extreme that they are hard to believe. No matter how often they are challenged, the perpetrator sticks to their deception and attacks the victim. By using huge lies, they keep the victims from knowing when they’re telling the truth, and when they are lying. The goal is to keep the victim emotionally off-balance.

When challenged, they deny everything, even if you have evidence.

The person using gaslighting techniques never admits they’re wrong about anything. They explain away the evidence. Tell you that you miss read something or you are misinterpreting things. Their repeated denials can get you to question your perceptions.

They tell you that you are wrong, crazy, or just imagining things.

When confronted with something the gaslighter has done, they will deny that the actions ever took place. You may know you saw them doing something, but they will offer a different explanation. They’ll tell you that you didn’t see what you thought you did. That makes excuses that you’ve been stressed out recently, that you’re taking things too seriously. They may even tell you that something you remember didn’t happen or didn’t happen the way you remember it.

They withhold information from you.

The person doing the gaslighting will tell you that you don’t need to think about that. They will try to handle everything for you. As with other forms of abuse, they’ll try to cut you off from other sources of information. Abusers often take over controlling the finances and may object to your seeing your family or friends.

They wear you down over time.

The person using gaslighting never lets up. The lying and contradicting you, coupled with attacks on your perceptions, are relentless. They stick to their script, gradually wearing their victims down.

Their actions don’t match their words.

They often give you stories of what they’re going to do and why it’s for your benefit. But when you look at their actions, they don’t match the promises they made and are primarily for their own self-interest.

They distract from their behavior by projecting it on you.

Do you think your partner is cheating on you? If you confront them about this, they’re likely to accuse you of being the cheater. Criticize their drinking or drug use, and they’ll find something you do and accuse you of being addicted to reading books, watching your TV show, or eating your favorite dessert.

Degrading comments are followed by positive reinforcement.

They’ll tell you that you’re stupid or crazy. Often these degrading comments come in the form of jokes. After running you down repeatedly, they’ll offer you a small amount of praise for some minor things you did. The goal here is to get you to doubt your abilities and to be hungry for their praise and approval.

They block or are unsupportive of your growth.

Anytime you try to develop a new friendship or new interest, the abuser is likely to tell you that that person is no good for you, and you will never be able to handle the new activity.

Gaslighters hide things from their victim’s.

People who engage in gaslighting may have secret bank accounts, a second cell phone, and develop other ways to hide information.

Abusers try to change you.

They may tell you that you need to change your appearance, your habits, or your interests. They will often use derogatory comments about you to undermine your self-esteem, gradually changing their victims into the person they want them to be.

Abusers try to isolate you.

Techniques frequently used by those people who are gaslighting others are to cut them off from their families and friends. They tell you that people you are close to are jealous of your relationship and out to harm you. They may also tell friends and family that you’ve been acting crazy and are close to a mental breakdown. The goal is to eliminate any contact you have with other people so that no one supports your version of reality.

Have you been affected by gaslighting? What have you done to try to reestablish your independence?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

My newest book is now available. It was my opportunity to try on a new genre. I’ve been working on this book for several years, but now seem like the right time to publish it.

Story Bureau.

Story Bureau is a thrilling Dystopian Post-Apocalyptic adventure in the Surviving the Apocalypse series.

Baldwin struggles to survive life in a post-apocalyptic world where the government controls everything.

As society collapses and his family gets plunged into poverty, Baldwin takes a job in the capital city, working for a government agency called the Story Bureau. He discovers the Story Bureau is not a benign news outlet but a sinister government plot to manipulate society.

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Dark Family Secrets: Doris wants to get her life back, but small-town prejudice could shatter her dreams.

Casino Robbery Arthur Mitchell escapes the trauma of watching his girlfriend die. But the killers know he’s a witness and want him dead.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

Letters from the Dead: The third in the Arthur Mitchell mystery series.

What would you do if you found a letter to a detective describing a crime and you knew the writer and detective were dead, and you could be next?

Sasquatch. Three things about us, you should know. One, we have seen the past. Two, we’re trapped there. Three, I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to our own time.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel