The Placebo Effect may get you.

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

Drugs

Placebo?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Things you might not know about the placebo effect.

The placebo effect is important for everyone. Research finds that often the placebo effect is equally as strong as the actual effective treatment. Even when you know you’re taking a placebo, it may be affecting you. Here are some of the things you may not know about placebos.

Placebos affect you even when you know they are placebos.

You don’t have to be tricked for the placebo to work. Even when the doctor tells you that this is the placebo, but you can try it if you want it’s likely to help you particularly for issues that can be affected by your emotional state. People knew they were taking a placebo saw improvement in their hay fever and back pain but not in the healing of wounds.

The more the placebo looks like medicine, the better it works.

People who were injected with saltwater reported it helped relieve their symptoms. Placebos are another place where more is better. People took for placebo pills a day said it helped their symptoms more than if they only took one pill.

The appearance of placebos matter.

If the placebo comes in the package of the well-known medicine people are more likely to report it works. Companies who have an effective product find they can sell other medications simply by putting their brand name on the package.

In repeated studies, capsules work better than pills. People report that two colored capsules work better than white capsules. The color of the capsule matters. More people will report positive effects from blue capsules than from pink capsules.

Your personality influences the effects placebos have on you.

Optimists are more likely to report positive effects taking placebo pills. Friendly people, as well as people with more resilience, also respond more strongly to placebos.

People believe treatment is more effective when they liked the provider.

Most counselors believe that the effects of counseling depend on the relationship between the client and the therapist. It turns out this is also true in medical settings. The more you like your doctor and the more confidence you have in them, the more effective the treatment.

Placebos can make you smarter and more creative.

People taking smart drugs even when the drugs are placebos may perform better on tests. People who were told that particular scents would make them more creative scored higher on tests of creativity.

Things you do every day may be a placebo.

If you believe something you do every day is healthy, it may improve your health. People who were told the kind of work they do is the equivalent of healthy exercise, perform better at work and feel better. People who believe they are getting more sleep than they do feel better. In one study people who believed they were exercising more than their peers were healthier and lived longer even when they were exercising less than they thought.

The nocebo effect is equally dramatic.

People who are warned about the side effects of medication are more likely to experience them. The nocebo effect can take place even if the medication you’re taking is inert. People who are told the medication may nauseate them or make them drowsy are likely to experience these effects.

You will find more about the nocebo effect in this post.

The more researchers study the placebo effect the more we conclude if you think it’s good for you it probably is and if you think it will harm you it likely will. Absent any evidence that your placebo is harmful you might as well keep on taking it.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Four David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

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

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

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

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter.

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Why you shouldn’t trust psychological research.

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

The Psyche

Why you shouldn’t trust psychological research.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Do not trust psychological research.

Much psychology research is unhelpful.

In writing this blog, I read a lot of research. I’m looking for ideas and suggestions for ways to be helpful to people struggling with life’s problems.

Occasionally I find some extremely well-done research that is enlightening and helpful. Much of the time, what I encounter is a lot of published studies of dubious value. Let’s look at the problems with much psychological research and why it may be less than helpful.

Most of the research is not about you or your problems.

If you are a person struggling with depression, anxiety, loneliness, or low self-esteem most psychological research will not help you. If you’re encountering memory problems, you may find a lot of studies about how rats memory works. Don’t expect a whole lot of practical help. If you’re a businessman looking for ways to convince people to buy your product, skip the psychology research and take a good look at marketing research.

For a discipline that began with the lofty idea of being the science of thinking and behavior how did it get so far off into academic research with so little value to people in distress?

Psychology research often is performed on a select group of people who are very different from the general population and predominantly different from those people who struggle with mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. People most likely to seek treatment for problems are systematically excluded from many research studies.

A recent study I read about attitudes towards relationships which highlights this issue: this research was conducted using a convenience sample of students in a psychology class. The majority of the respondents were 18 to twenty-year-old female college students at a private 4-year college who were living at home, were unmarried, and had never been in a relationship for more than two years. While this study may tell you something about the attitude of young women who are not yet in a relationship, towards relationships it is not very applicable to working with couples who have relationship issues. Here is a highlight of the problems you may encounter when reading psychological research.

Psychological research is often conducted in fantasy land.

A lot of research is done by professors at four-year colleges. Much of this is driven by their need to create something to publish if they want to keep their jobs. The sample in the studies is often full-time students who attend during the day. Two-thirds of these students are female. This results in excluding most men, most people with full-time jobs, night students, community college students, the employed, and the unemployed, and so on.

Minorities, the elderly, and other special populations are underrepresented.

Our population is aging. Depression is common among the elderly. Repeated studies have found that minority populations are not engaged in treatment. Results of most studies will not generalize to the most impacted people.

Psychological research excludes people who are incarcerated.

Mental health and substance issues are common among incarcerated populations. Excluding those populations biases the results by underestimating the number of people with a problem and by excluding people with multiple issues.

People with substance use disorders are excluded.

The majority of people in treatment for substance use disorder also have a mental illness. At least half the people with a mental illness report a substance use disorder. Counselors working in treatment settings are primarily working with people with one or both problems. While some psychological research may include people with depression or anxiety, most exclude anyone with a diagnosable disorder.

Anyone with less than 12 years of completed education is excluded.

One result of doing psychological research on average people in academic settings is to exclude all those people who dropped out of school or failed to complete a high-school education. As our society has become more technologically focused more years of schooling has become a necessity. Excluding people who are not enrolled in college in research studies has excluded the people most likely to be seeking help in public settings.

The verbal yardsticks used in psychological research may be inaccurate.

One of the significant challenges in treating mental illness is the difficulty of communicating through words. Many clients lack a functional feelings vocabulary. When you try to use words to describe symptoms not everyone agrees on which words describe which symptoms. A great deal has been written about the “big five” psychological constructs. Those Big Five constructs were created from more than 100 different possible constructs. Introverted versus extroverted personality, doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone.

The sample size and research are often microscopic.

Grab any 10 or 20 people off the street and asked them a series of questions about their feelings, their life, and their problems and you can get radically different results. Results done at one school in one district may not reflect results you would obtain at other schools in other areas. When it comes to specific mental health issues, I have seen studies published with fewer than ten people. The chances that those ten people represent in any way millions of other people is nonexistent.

Results of many psychology experiments can’t be replicated.

Back in the 1960s, many people were “psychology majors.” The promise that psychology as a discipline could help us improve our selves, society and solve problems seemed great. Unfortunately, much of what people learned back then and since has turned out not to be accurate. Today psychology is experiencing a replication crisis — many of the things I learned in psychology classes were the results of one “landmark” famous experiment. As the years have passed, other experimenters tried to reproduce those results. Unfortunately, doing the same research more than once has produced different results.

Results psychological research do not generalize to other populations.

The “Psychological principles” we discover in one place and at one time haven’t held true when applied somewhere else or in some other year. Experiments, particularly surveys about attitudes and issues, done in America don’t necessarily hold true in other countries. Results of studies on young, white, female, college students have in no way remain valid when applied to minorities, men, the unemployed, the mentally ill, the addicted, and so many other populations.

Mental health is about abnormal psychology.

One small branch of psychological research deals with “abnormal psychology.” The things we now call mental illness and substance use disorders are included in the field of abnormal psychology. Unfortunately, more than half of all the people in America will experience a mental health or substance use disorder. “Normal psychology” is not about normal people. The majority of normal people will experience one or more episodes of something described by “abnormal psychology.”

The next time you read about a startling new revelation from the field of psychology, you may need to take out your salt shaker. I still read a lot of that research, but I’m much more skeptical now that I was in 1966 when I thought I might want to be a psychology major.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

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

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

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

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

The meaning changed again – concept creep.

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

Concept Creep.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Problems increase when the definitions expand.

Recently psychologists have been studying an idea called concept creep. The principle involved is that once we have identified a problem, more and more things are included in the definition we are using. This expanding definition can be either good or bad depending on your point of view. It’s possible that once we recognize the existence of a problem we begin to find more cases of that problem. Problem recognition is related to the expert effect; if you don’t know what something is, you may not recognize it when you see it.

It’s also been suggested that having once created a category of problem, additional things which used not to be considered a problem get defined into the category. Besides expanding a problem category by adding things to the category, our view of problems may increase as milder things get defined as problems. Expanding categories creates the impression that there is an “epidemic” and that we are all now at risk to experience this problem.

When a concept expands, what used to be normal, is now a part of our definition of problems. I am not arguing here that these changing definitions are a bad thing. But what we need to look at is how these definitions have changed over time and how these words may have very different meanings to different people. Remember that looking words up in the dictionary will not help us here. Various dictionaries will have different meanings for the same word, and the dictionary creates its definition based on the way people have been using the word.

Let’s look at some categories of problems that have expanded.

Mental illness used to be rare.

The term mentally ill used to be roughly equivalent to the label crazy. Today professionals don’t use the term crazy because it implies the condition is not treatable, and this labeling appears to be a case of blaming the victim. Originally mentally ill people were labeled psychotic. The kinds of emotional problems normal people had, were defined as neurotic. Today’s list of mental illnesses includes over 400 separate conditions with an additional 400 or so issues included in a list titled “conditions for further study.”

Increasingly mental illnesses are seen as falling along a continuum from mild to moderate to severe. Mild clusters of symptoms are now considered cases of illnesses where in the past these symptoms might have been attributed to the person’s personality. A person who in the past was described as having a sour, negative attitude might today be diagnosed with Persistent Depressive Disorder or even as having a case of Major Depressive Disorder – mild.

Is that self-abuse?

Our definitions of abuse, both abuse of the self and others, have not just changed, some of them have been turned upside down. Masturbation was once the poster child for the evils of self-abuse, a practice parents frantically sought to contain before this behavior sent their children to the torments of hell. Today masturbation is seen as a normal expression of sexuality.

Beating yourself with whips and chains along with cutting your skin and crawling across broken glass has moved in the opposite direction. These kinds of self-inflicted pain used to be viewed as “mortification of the flesh” a positive spiritual behavior. Today pretty much any episode of self-inflicted damage to the body is viewed as “nonsuicidal self-injury” a symptom of a serious mental disorder.

Sometimes abuse of others doesn’t involve abuse.

Abuse of someone else used to be extremely clear-cut and easily recognizable. Abuse back then referred to beating someone, resulting in visible physical harm. Hitting children with a small stick was considered disciplining that child, a parental responsibility. Such beatings were often accompanied by the old biblical adage “spare the rod and spoil the child.”

Today we are all reasonably clear that any hitting of a child that leaves marks meets the criteria for child abuse. Some people will even argue that any corporal punishment is child abuse. Please don’t misunderstand me here; I’m not suggesting that abuse is okay. What I’m trying to do here is chart the way in which our understanding of the concept of abuse has changed.

Abuse now includes not just physical beatings but also includes neglect and emotional abuse. The concept of abuse as also been expanded to include spousal abuse, elder abuse, and animal abuse. When it comes to elders, financial abuse is also a recognized form of abuse that triggers reporting by a mandated reporter.

“Goldsmith and Freyd (2005) considered emotional neglect, or “emotional unavailability,” to be a form of emotional abuse.” Quoted in Haslam, 2016.

Some of these expanded definitions of abuse spilled over to inform the next example of concept creep, bullying.

Would you recognize bullying if you did it?

I looked up the word bully in my trusty old “Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia” from 1898. It gives us two separate definitions of the word bully depending on whether the word is used as a noun, the person doing the bullying, or it is used as a verb, the act of bullying.

The root of the word bully comes from an older word which means noisy. Bullies were people who were blustering, quarrelsome and overbearing. A Bully was someone who was trying to dominate others. In common usage, back then a “bully” was a term for a pimp, someone who lived off the earnings of a prostitute.

The thing a bully did, when he was bullying, was to be overbearing, blustering, or menacing. A bully got what he wanted by making others fear him.

The concept of bullying is exploding. In the 20 years, 1990 to 2010, annual production of research articles on bullying increased 100 times, (Olweus (2013) Quoted in Haslam, 2016.)

Today the definition of bullying has expanded. Bullying now includes cyberbullying, actions not only to intimidate but to make people feel bad and which happen in the online world. The concept of bullying has also expanded into the workplace were things that used to be considered typical workplace politics may now be construed as “a hostile work environment.” Some researchers have suggested that excluding someone from the social group, or efforts to get others to exclude that person should also be included in our definition of bullying.

Why are they calling the police about that?

Media reporting on crimes, conspiracy theories, and a rash of calls to police reporting things that don’t meet most people’s understanding of crime may all be examples of concept creep in the area criminal behavior in public safety. More on these topics in an upcoming post.

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

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

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

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Cocaine and methamphetamine-induced paranoia

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

Grim Reaper

Paranoia.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Stimulant-induced paranoia isn’t exactly a diagnosis.

Paranoia is common among drug users. It’s especially common among stimulant users. When crack cocaine users first began to show up in hospital emergency rooms, there was a lot of confusion between drug-induced psychosis and the onset of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. For a while, it looked like there was an epidemic of new cases of schizophrenia. Then picture emerged, something was very different about these new cases of psychosis.

The key features of psychotic disorder, schizophrenia, and some other related disorders are delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thought and speech, and grossly disorganized or abnormal motor behaviors. Some loss of normal functioning called “negative symptoms” is also part of psychosis. People with drug-induced psychosis don’t show those same levels of “negative symptoms.”

What most of us think of as paranoia fits generally under a couple of types of delusions, persecutory delusions, and referential delusions. These are the beliefs that people are out to get them and that what others are saying and doing is directed at them. Researchers have discovered that symptoms of paranoid can fall on a continuum from some mild suspiciousness and trust issues to potentially dangerous psychotic paranoia.

Psychosis and presumably paranoia can occur at multiple points in the drug using experience. For any drug of abuse, we expect to see one set of symptoms while the user is under the influence and another set of symptoms during withdrawal. Some conditions will persist, sometimes for years, even after the drugs have left the users system. These conditions are called drug-induced. It’s also possible that a drug user had a particular mental illness before they began using or had a risk factor for an illness and the drug use was enough of a stressor to result in the appearance of that illness.

I should also mention here all these descriptions are based on the idea that mental illnesses are categories. That’s the way the diagnostic manual is designed. You either have the illness, or you don’t. Increasingly research has been suggesting that most of the things we are calling symptoms are on a continuum. You can have more or less of a symptom such as paranoia. This implies that counseling and the ways people think can result in changes in symptoms of something like paranoia, regardless of whether the person with paranoia has a diagnosable mental illness or not.

Paranoia among cocaine users.

Cocaine-induced paranoia is primarily reported during cocaine intoxication. It involves extreme hypervigilance for possible danger in the environment. Up to 70 percent of cocaine users exhibit temporary paranoia even after ruling out mental health diagnosis which would include paranoia. Cocaine users on average report developing paranoid symptoms after about three years of using cocaine. The quantity that was used or the patterns of use do not seem to affect the onset of paranoia (Rosse, et al., 1994.)

Methamphetamine-induced paranoia.

Studies of paranoia among methamphetamine users are generally newer than the ones involving cocaine. One noteworthy difference was that methamphetamine users who became paranoid were more likely to get a weapon and to attack someone. Meth users had typically been awake for 48 hours or more when the paranoia began. The majority experienced auditory and visual hallucinations. Almost 40 percent of the methamphetamine users also reported tactile hallucinations. These results not only overwhelmingly reported paranoia but fit more closely with the diagnosis of psychosis in the studies I found of psychosis in cocaine users (Leamon, M., et al., 2010.)

Other drugs probably cause paranoia also.

Most of the early research on stimulant psychosis was done using patients who had been addicted to crack cocaine. In the years since that research, it has become clear that other stimulants, methamphetamine and the so-called “bath salts,” also produce psychotic episodes and an increase in paranoia. Studies of paranoia among cocaine users were largely done in psychiatric settings while the studies of methamphetamine and paranoia were mainly done in outpatient drug treatment which leads me to believe that paranoia is probably much more common and more likely to lead to violence among those who develop severe methamphetamine use disorders.

Paranoia and hallucinations occur among users of dextromethorphan.

Since most drug users use multiple drugs as well as drink alcohol and many also have mental health issues, it’s hard to be sure about causes. One thing does seem certain almost all drugs of abuse and excess alcohol use result in an increased risk that you will develop some level of paranoia.

For more on this topic see:

Trust

Paranoia

Dextromethorphan and paranoia.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

SasquatchWandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive? The guests had come to Meditation Mountain to find themselves. Trapped in the Menhirs during a sudden desert storm, two guests move through a porthole in time and encounter long extinct monsters. They want to get back to their own time, but the Sasquatch intends to kill them.

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

Books are now available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and many other online stores.

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

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Coping with life’s regrets.

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

Regrets.

Regret.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Don’t let regrets about the past ruin the present and future.

Do you have regrets? Maybe they are small ones; you wish you bought the other color or model. Maybe your regrets are big ones, actions that caused you or others pain, things you wish you could go back and change. But you can’t change the past. Almost everyone has regrets, some small, some large, a few even gigantic. So, what to do with those regrets? How do you get past the pains of your past?

Fix the things you can.

You can repair some things. You said or did something that damaged a relationship. Sometimes you can apologize, say you’re sorry. If you owe somebody money you can pay it. Sometimes an apology is not enough. Maybe you need to do something to make it right, to make your amends to the person you have injured.

Undo yes and no decisions.

You can undo some decisions. You said yes to a job or attending a party and now you wish you hadn’t said yes. You’re entitled to change your mind. Call that person, send them an email. Maybe you said no to something or someone, and now you wish you had said yes. Check it out; sometimes it’s possible to change your mind.

Pick a new alternative from life’s menu.

Sometimes changing your decision is no longer a possibility. For example, you wanted to attend a concert but didn’t buy the tickets in time. Look for other options. Maybe the person or group you wanted to hear is performing somewhere else nearby. Maybe there’s some other event you would enjoy instead. Don’t stay stuck in regret over the relationship that didn’t work out, maybe it’s time to meet someone new.

Only take responsibility for your part of the problem.

A lot of life’s regrets are about relationships. Maybe it was an argument with a family member or friend, that conflict cost you a relationship. Take responsibility for your part of the conflict. You can’t take responsibility for what the other person did or said. If you can fix it do so, but not at the cost of ignoring the other person’s part in the problem.

Reevaluate the alternatives. You may have picked the best alternative you had.

Sometimes you must pick between two bad choices. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You may have made the best choice you could under the circumstances. Be careful of hindsight. If you would have had the information you have now back then, you might have made a different decision. But you didn’t have that information, and you had to choose. Don’t spend the rest of your life stuck in regret.

Learn from your mistakes.

Don’t be one of those people with tons of regret who keeps doing the same things over and over. Stop piling up new regrets by learning from your mistakes and making improved decisions in the present.

Practice extreme acceptance.

Staying stuck in regrets can use up a lot of energy. Practice accepting that what happened is in the past. Avoid ruminating and allowing your mind to enlarge the pain. Shift your focus from regrets about the past to opportunities for better future.

Stop looking over your shoulder at the past.

The past is gone. Don’t keep looking back at the things that can’t be altered. When the thought of that regret comes up, practice shifting your focus to the future. As long as your alive there will be more events ahead on the road of life. Look forward to making your future the best it can be. If you only look for the bad in life, you will find it. It’s quite possible that all around you are opportunities for happiness here in the present and in the future.

Do some psychological repair.

Make healing from life’s regrets a priority. Sometimes you will have a close friend with whom you can talk it through. You may need to be careful about who you tell what. Telling family or friends about things you regret may damage your relationship. If you are not sure how someone will react to hearing about your regrets, that person may not be the one to talk with. Once you tell that secret, it can’t be untold. Some people find it useful to journal, write out how they feel in a document meant for only them to see.

If you’re having trouble processing and dealing with regrets, you may need to seek professional counseling help. Don’t stay stuck in a life dominated by regrets. Use some of these approaches to change what you can, and accept what you cannot change.

You find more about this topic under Regret.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

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

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

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Preventing life’s regrets.

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

Regrets.

Regret.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

How can you prevent accumulating painful regrets?

Are there any ways you can anticipate things you might regret and live your life in ways that would prevent having to recover from regrets?”

Here are some of the ways you can prevent a life filled with regrets and some thoughts about what to do when you discover your regrets.

Consider potential regrets before acting.

Most of the things people regret fall into one of 2 categories, things they did they wish they hadn’t and things that didn’t do they wish they had. Before taking any major action, ask yourself, will I regret this? If the answer is yes I will regret it, this course of action bears some more thought. A lot of the things people regret were those impulsive “spur of the moment” decisions. Often these are the result of jumping to conclusions or acting on impulse without considering the consequences.

Can this decision be undone?

Some decisions can easily be undone. You sign up for class and wish you hadn’t; you can drop that class if you do so quickly. Make a date with someone and get cold feet, you can cancel that date. For some things undoing that action may have a cost. But it’s often wiser to cancel that purchase and pay the fee, than to be stuck making payments on a car or house you don’t want, for years to come.

One of the major areas which can’t be undone is relationships. Once you’ve slept with someone, it is harder to break up. You can break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, but your baby’s mother or father is forever. Once you’re married, with or without children, ending that marriage comes with both emotional and financial costs.

Delay your decision until you have more information.

Many of the decisions people regret having made were a result of not giving yourself enough time to think it over. In some places, buyers have a time period to void the sale of a major purchase. I don’t recommend you count on this. I think it’s a good idea to give buyers of expensive items time to check their purchase out and rescind the transaction is there something wrong with the item they bought. But don’t expect to return something just because you changed your mind. Once you have used something you can’t return it in the same new condition it was in when you bought it. There are lots of other actions in life, especially when it comes to relationships with other people, where you don’t have to act the moment the idea enters your head.

Think carefully about possible outcomes.

Regret often comes from the human tendency to think all your ideas are great ones when you first think them. Where possible, before you act on your inclinations, ask yourself what are the possible outcomes? Are any potential negative outcomes so severe that you’re not willing to take the chance? Regardless of how good or how exciting this possible action is if there’s a large chance it could result in a death or ruin the rest of your life you must be realistic in evaluating the risks. Be careful of the natural human fallacy to believe that you’re lucky or smart and that only the good outcomes will happen to you.

Don’t waste time on the impossible. What alternatives are available to you?

Don’t make the mistake of choosing between an action and an impossibility. Sometimes you will be forced to pick the best of 2 bad options. Sometimes you’ll hesitate because your preferred choice turns out to be an impossibility. If you are choosing between 2 very likely, very good options, use some of the other decision-making rules coming up. But, if you don’t feel comfortable with any choice, make sure you have ruled out all the impossible choices.

Consider how you feel about possible outcomes.

Many people make the mistake of trying to be totally logical and rational about the choices. Choose with your head, and you will feel the regret in your heart. While your feelings shouldn’t rule you all the time, feelings do provide valuable information. If in your heart, this doesn’t feel right, you probably should not do it.

Search for other alternatives.

Before you decide something, ask yourself are there any other possible choices? A significant source of regrets are times people chose between 2 options, say picking A instead of B, neither of which were that good a choice. Where they went wrong was failing to think about some of the other letters of the alphabet that might have been better choices.

What would a good decision maker do in this situation?

When faced with a difficult decision think about the people you know. Who that you are aware of appears to be exceptionally good at making decisions? What would that person choose?

How does this decision relate to your life goals and values?

Don’t get distracted by things the promise short-term pleasure and excitement, the next bright shiny thing. You will make better decisions when you pause to think about what are your personal values?

Once you decide against an alternative stop looking for evidence to support it.

Seems to be a part of human nature to doubt yourself. There is a problem with the way the human brain works. It’s called confirmatory bias. If we want to do something all we are likely to see re other reasons in favor of it. Unfortunately, people who decided against an alternative keep going back to that thing they decided against and looking for other reasons to go ahead and do it anyway. Once you have decided no, it is probably best to stay with that decision. On the other side of the coin if you decided to do something and suddenly get some new information that makes that decision look like one you’ll regret, don’t disregard that new information.

Use an outside expert’s advice and feedback.

Sometimes we get hung up on our own thinking. Because we think something, it must be true. When the decision has huge consequences, costs a lot of money, or might get you stuck in a situation that would be hard to get out of, it pays to seek advice from an expert. If that expert is a counselor they probably won’t, and shouldn’t, tell you what to do. What they can do is help you sort out your conflicted feelings and provide you with information about what has happened to other clients faced with this decision. Sometimes it helps just to know you’re not the only one who has had trouble making this decision.

Weigh the consequences of not deciding.

If it’s a tough decision, you need to ask yourself, what will it cost me to put the decision off? Not responding to a lawsuit or a bill may make the situation worse. Just because it’s the “best price of the year” doesn’t mean you should decide to make that purchase today. It is quite possible that the difference between today’s “best price of the year” and next week’s “sale price” won’t be all that different. Don’t convince yourself that if you don’t get into a relationship with the person you’re out with now, you will never have another chance and you’ll be alone the rest of your life. If you have doubts about relationships, it may save you a lot of pain to wait until you are sure.

For many people, life’s greatest regrets are the things they wanted to do but never did. Don’t live your life putting off getting the education you want. Reach for your dreams. Try out for that acting job. Write your book. Have you let fear keep you from deciding to do things that are especially important to you?

Talk your decision through with an empathetic person.

Besides professionals, most of us have close friends and family we can talk to about the decisions we are struggling with. Ask yourself who among them are empathetic and can understand the struggle you’re going through to make this decision. It can help to talk it out with an understanding person. Pick that person carefully. You don’t need somebody telling you what to do or putting you down for what you’re thinking.

Expect to have regrets; they are an unavoidable part of life.

Nobody gets through life without having some things that they regret. Accept that you must live life and you will never have all the information before the decision that you will have afterward. Everybody must make some decisions, and they will regret some of those. Expect those crystal balls to be cloudy and hard to see into.

If you have regrets, make repair efforts a priority.

As you move through life, you will accumulate some regrets. Where possible, try to make repairs. Forgive yourself for your mistakes. If you have regrets because you have harmed others, do your best to make your amends and make things right with them.

Learn from your mistakes, improve decision-making skills.

Make conscious decisions. Consider each decision you make in life another learning opportunity. Learn from your mistakes. Watch how others around you live and learn from their mistakes. Become aware of how you make your decisions and make them consciously. Most importantly learn from those things that you regret and try to stop making the same mistakes repeatedly.

Some additional posts about regrets:

Top 6 life regrets

Will you regret doing that?

Top regrets after the breakup.

Regret. 

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

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

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

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

How do you stop unwanted thoughts?

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

Thought Stopping.

Thought Stopping.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

How do you get rid of painful, unhelpful thoughts?

Thought Stopping.

Thought Stopping.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Changing unhelpful thoughts is an important part of the process of recovery. These techniques are commonly used in cognitive behavioral therapy, a proven, effective, treatment for emotional problems. Thought stopping is one of the common ways of attempting to prevent the impact of recurring negative, unhelpful thoughts. In a previous post, I wrote about what thought stopping is, when you might want to use it and some of the problems you might encounter. Now let’s look at some specific, related methods you might use to stop those unwanted, unhelpful thoughts. Different theoretical orientations and the various mental health specialties may use different names for these techniques, but the ideas are essentially the same.

Distracting yourself from negative thinking.

As a short-term solution, thought distracting, can interrupt the train of unhelpful thoughts (Wegner et al., 1987). Be careful to not to look all around your environment at a lot of things which might later become cues for the unwanted thought. Use a transitional object that has helpful, positive associations. Religious symbols, a piece of jewelry that brings back positive memories, inspirational quotes can all be helpful in interrupting the current negative thought.

Thought substitution – think about something else.

Shifting your thinking to something more helpful has been shown to result in forgetting the thought you were trying to stop. One approach to grief work is to shift your thinking from the pain of the loss to the happy memories that you have of the person who is no longer in your life.

When dieting, rather than trying to not think about food, try to think about the improved health towards which you are working. Think about how much money you’re saving by not buying cigarettes, not about your efforts to stop smoking.

Think about a hobby or project you want to work on. When you’re busy thinking about redecorating a room or fixing your car, there’s less mental space to ruminate about unhelpful thoughts. If you’ve ever experienced flow, you have been so engrossed in an activity that you lost track of time; you may have noticed that thoughts of problems, addictions, and worries disappeared.

Moving towards positive, helpful thoughts is much more effective than trying to sit and not think unhelpful thoughts.

Use stress reduction behaviors.

Mindfulness and meditation can be helpful in reducing the tension you would feel while wrestling with unhelpful thoughts. Physical exercise can also be helpful. The human brain doesn’t like to do the slow, tiring work involved in deep thinking. As you begin to walk faster, your brain is more likely to drop the unhelpful thoughts to stay focused on your exercise routine.

Make friends with your feelings.

Efforts to avoid negative feelings by suppressing them don’t work. Neither do efforts to solve your emotional pains by focusing on them, ruminating over them, constantly asking yourself why. Trying to avoid sadness by not feeling can render you numb and unable to feel happiness.

Come to recognize that feelings you don’t like are likely to come and go, but they do provide you with information. Feeling lonely can motivate you to seek out other human companionship. Learn to surf the waves of emotion in your mind rather than insisting that you shouldn’t be feeling what you’re feeling.

This approach is sometimes called monitoring your thoughts and feelings. You simply note that the thought has come, and then you watch it go. Not wrestling with your feelings allows you to escape their grasp.

Cognitive restructuring can help you change unhelpful thoughts.

Cognitive restructuring often begins with keeping a thought record or journal. The goal is to learn to recognize your own mental processes. Not every thought you have requires an action. Just because you think it, doesn’t make it so. Rather than getting carried away by unhelpful thoughts, learn to evaluate your thinking. Practice increasing your helpful thoughts and becoming more optimistic.

Practice reframing your thoughts by setting positive goals you wish to approach rather than giving unhelpful thoughts more prominence by focusing on the things to be avoided.

Disputing unhelpful thoughts.

Many negative, unhelpful thoughts are based on faulty assumptions. You walk into the room, and people start laughing, it’s easy to think they’re laughing at you. Learn to argue with these unhelpful thoughts. Maybe someone just told a joke, maybe they’re all having a good time.

Remember, you don’t have to believe everything you think. If you have a magic, magnifying mind probably you have had many experiences of thinking that other people’s behavior has something to do with you. If they look at you, did you think they were judging you? Check these thoughts out with someone you can trust. There’s a good chance they looked at you because you were there.

Evaluating the evidence for the thoughts you have.

People who are depressed or high in anxiety, frequently have a lot of negative, unhelpful thoughts. You get a bad grade on the test, and you may have told yourself you’re stupid or a failure. If you look carefully at the evidence, you may find that your scores on tests are about the same as other students in your class, possibly even better. Getting a “B” on the test is not the same thing as failing.

Think you’re extremely fat? Sit for a while outside the shopping mall, preferably with a reliable friend, and keep track of how many people entering the mall appear to weigh more than you do. If you tell yourself the truth, you may find out you’re about average. Certainly, you may have room for improvement, but calling yourself names and judging yourself is unhelpful. If you want to motivate yourself to exercise and get into shape, you will do it more effectively by praising yourself for the efforts you make to eat healthily and increase your exercise.

Train your brain to stop thinking those thoughts.

You can use conditioning techniques to train your brain to avoid unhelpful thoughts in the same way you might train a child not to do something dangerous. When the unhelpful thought enters your mind, yell “STOP” either verbally or mentally. Pair thoughts of smoking with pictures you have seen of seriously ill people.

For some conditions, professionals recommend keeping a rubber band around your wrist and snapping it to remind you not to think that thought. This kind of conditioning probably works better for helping you not do things that may seem enjoyable in the moment but have long-term negative consequences.

In using conditioning techniques be careful to avoid behaviors that might be harmful or addicting such as cutting or other nonsuicidal self-injury.

For the alcoholic, when the automatic thought “I need a drink” occurs they can automatically tell themselves “no I don’t, I’m in recovery and can handle this situation without a drink.”

Coupling these self-conditioning methods with some of the other techniques above can train your brain to automatically shift from an unhelpful thought to a positive, helpful thought.

Which of these thought-changing methods do you think would help you?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

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

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

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.