How to get people to believe a big lie.

 

Telling the big lie.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

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

You can use conspiracy theories to get people to believe almost anything.

If you can convince people that others are out to get them and that you are telling them the truth, you can get them to sign on to believe almost any lie. Trying to get people to accept things that aren’t true isn’t a new idea. Propaganda has been used to push political and religious beliefs as far back as we have recorded history. Marketers and advertising specialists try to convince you to buy their product or give them your money.

But the use of conspiracy theories, the blaming of other people for all your ills, is a recurring phenomenon. Dictators and totalitarian regimes have always used the big lie. The battle between truth and the big lie isn’t a new one. But in the age of social media, the big lie can be spread rapidly. Groups of people using multiple social media accounts and encouraging everyone to share their posts, whether they read them or not, can spread untruths so far and wide the people begin to believe them. Here are some of the ways manipulators convince people to think something bogus.

If you tell your lie loudly and often enough, it gets believed.

Keep putting that lie out there, even if you must keep changing your story. Spread it on social media any way you can. Encourage everyone who reads it to share it with everyone they know. Keep that bizarre idea live by how often you tell the story and how fiercely you defend it.

When challenged, keep changing your story.

Use contradictory beliefs. Offer lots of arguments in favor of the lie you’re telling, even if they contradict each other. Don’t worry about contradicting yourself, simply present lots of reasons people should believe you. Your goal here isn’t to prove you’re telling the truth. What you want to do is create so many doubts about the reality that the lie seems plausible.

If you get pinned down, tell them that it might be true.

You can avoid responsibilities for your lie if you quote others and say you don’t know, but it might be true. Saying that someone else believes something can be mistaken for evidence that your lie is the truth. You can get away with spreading lies if you don’t take responsibility for what you’re saying.

Tell people to be suspicious of anyone who disagrees with you.

Try to convince people that authority figures always lie to them. Tell them that scientists fake their data. The medical profession is out to cheat them out of their money. Any news media or authority who agrees with the established opinion must be in on the conspiracy. Anyone quoted as an authority it must be part of the secret plot. Keep changing who you blame. The more possible suspects, the more people will believe someone has perpetrated a crime.

Tell them all authority figures are evil.

If you attribute evil motives to everyone else, it’s easier to get people to believe you. You would never lie to them, would you? Accuse anyone who disagrees with you of intentionally harming others to get what they want.

Keep saying the official version is fishy.

Keep telling people something must be wrong. Keep them looking for reasons to believe your lie and disbelieve the facts. Sowing doubt about the facts opens lots of possibilities. You don’t have to prove your big lie; you just have to get people to doubt the truth.

Tell people they are victims.

Keep insisting that someone or something is out to get us. No matter how gigantic the conspiracy would need to be, insist that someone is trying to take advantage of all of us. Blame the rich. Blame the corporations or the government. Blame some hidden secret society.

Tell people not to believe any evidence that disagrees with you.

If you want to sell your lie, well keep telling your victim that everyone else is lying to them. Tell them not to believe anything they read in the news. Insist that all evidence that disagrees with you is just further proof of how vast the conspiracy is.

Keep trying to find patterns even when they don’t exist.

People who promote conspiracy theories, those who try to get us to believe fantastic things, love to look for meaning in seemingly random events. If you watch any compulsive gambler, you’ll see them looking for patterns in the cards or dice. If the number seven hasn’t come up for a while, bet on it, it’s due any minute. Probability theory tells us every number is equally likely. People who are trying to get you to believe a fantastic tale will take evidence from various countries, various points in history, and try to connect them into a pattern and then tell you that some secret power is controlling you.

How do you avoid being the victim of conspiracy theories?

Remember that a secret only stays a secret until one person tells a second person. The idea that massive numbers of people could’ve come together to perpetuate a lie for any reason and then keep a secret from the rest of the world is highly unlikely. People want to manipulate you by lying to you will keep pointing to some unknown force, which is the cause of things. Learn to do critical thinking. What are the chances that all the authorities are wrong, and the person who wants you to believe something else has somehow discovered the secret?

Most of the ideas for this blog post were originally published on:

The Conversation

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six 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.

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

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?

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.

Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

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

Books are now available on Amazon.

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

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

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.

How to become more hopeful.

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

Hope

Hope.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Hope lies on a continuum from low to high.

In a previous blog post titled Stocking Up on Hope, we talked about how hope lies on a continuum, and people can move from low levels of hope to become a high hope person. If you’re feeling less than hopeful right now, there are some things that you can do to increase your levels of hope.

While hope is certainly a feeling, it’s also an attitude towards things. Whether you’re a high hope person or a low hope person, your hope of achieving a specific goal can fluctuate dramatically as time, and you change. People who lose hope of reaching their goals give up trying and become depressed. Once someone comes up with a plan to reach their goal, their level of hope increases, sometimes dramatically.

Hope appears to have two separate components.

Hope seems to be the result of the interplay of two separate factors. First is your belief that reaching your goal will be the result of your own actions. If you believe that outside factors control your fate, that’s not hope, that’s wishful thinking. The second factor in building hope is developing a plan so that your actions take you where you want to go. Let’s look at these two separate factors.

Believing in your abilities increases the motivation to act.

One component of hope, at least according to hope theory, is agency. Closely related to self-confidence and affected by your self-concept, agency is your belief that you might be able to take actions that would lead you toward your goal. Those actions can be all sorts of different things. You might seek out help from friends, family, or a professional. You might begin to develop a plan of action yourself. Any one of these steps is likely to increase your level of hope.

Having a roadmap to take you to your goal increases hope.

The second component in hope theory is developing a plan of action. If you believe there are pathways you can take, which might lead you closer to your goal, this is certain to increase your level of hope. Let’s look at some of the ways that developing a plan of action can increase your level of hope.

Breaking goals into smaller doable steps increases hope.

If you try to eat an elephant in one bite, you’re going to choke. I see lots of people who try to accomplish one big major goal in a short period of time and end up defeated. You decide you don’t like your current job and you’re going to go back to school and get a degree so you can get a better paying job. If you try to take too many classes that first semester, you’re likely to overload yourself, do poorly in those classes, and give up.

One reason people lose hope is that they radically overestimate what they can accomplish over the next year. People who accomplish a lot of their life goals discover that important goals are rarely achieved in a single year, not even in a single step. Those same people often underestimate what they can accomplish in five years. You probably won’t get a college degree in one year. But going a little at a time over five years or so, can result in a college degree and a whole new career.

People often have a goal of getting out of debt and saving for retirement. They try to not spend anything the first month or two using all their money to pay off their credit card. The process becomes so unpleasant that they give up. Changing your spending and saving habits so that each month you spend a little less than you make, and that surplus goes to paying down your past debt can result in being debt-free over a period of years.

More options mean more hope.

People who have only one possible pathway to reaching their goal are likely to get frustrated, become hopeless, and give up. In developing a plan to reach your goal, it’s useful to have multiple options. You might select one option, option A, try that, and if it’s not taking you where you want to go, revise your plan. Multiple options mean you will be more hopeful of eventually reaching your goal.

Goals take time to accomplish.

Most goals, the worthwhile ones, will take time to accomplish. A thinking trap that leads to low hope is the belief that there is some magical action that will produce your goal quickly. If you expect someone else to solve your problem, you’re likely to become disillusioned. Often the solution to the problem requires you to develop specific skills. Even if a family member can get you your dream job, if you don’t have the skills and education required for that job, you’re not likely to keep it very long.

Specific goals are easier to accomplish, then vague ones.

Lots of people have vague general goals. They want to be wealthy. Failure to quantify that goal means that no matter how much money you make, you won’t feel wealthy. Lots of people who say they want to “be wealthy” try to make themselves feel wealthy by spending like a wealthy person. Wealthy people who spend that way don’t stay wealthy long. Being wealthy is about making more money than you spend or said the other way, spending less money each month then you make.

The numbers have changed over the years, but the principle is the same. When I asked students how much money they would need to have to be wealthy I frequently get numbers in the millions or even billions. The truth is that a very small amount of money will put you into the wealthiest of all Americans. More than half of all Americans owe more on their credit cards than they have in the bank. If you can pay off your credit card balance, and save a small amount of money, somewhere between 500 and 1000 dollars, you will rapidly move into the wealthiest one half of all Americans. Depending on the economy somewhere between $3000 and $5000 will move you into the wealthiest one-third of all Americans.

Setting a goal of paying off your credit card and saving even a small amount of money, rapidly increases your security, and takes you in the direction of being a wealthy American.

So, there you have the essential ingredients to having more hope.

For more on this topic, please see the category, Hope.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six 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.

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

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?

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.

Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

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

Books are now available on Amazon.

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

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

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.

Stocking up on hope.

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

Hope

Hope.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Hope lies on a continuum.

The way people talk, and some of the articles I read on the Internet, might lead you to believe that hope is a genetic factor, like eye color, hair color, and so on. In this way of thinking, when your genes are being blended at the time of conception, God, or random chance, decides on what genes you will get from the pool available and, therefore, what you will be like, and you’re stuck with that. While some genes are yes or no, like hair color, even those genes can change in the way they are expressed across the lifespan. My gene for black hair now produces white hair.

Hope is one of those things like your weight, which lies on a continuum. Your environment, early childhood experiences, possibly genetics, may start you off with high hope or low hope or somewhere in between. But throughout your life, a great many factors can move you along the continuum resulting in increases or decreases in hope. This is good news for someone low in hope. But it’s also a caution for those who are high in hope, that they need to nurture that high hope.

Hope is a way of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

Many people think of hope as a feeling. It’s easy to think that whatever your feelings are, they were caused by outside influences, and therefore you have no control over them. I don’t believe that’s accurate. Hope, like other feelings, is fed or starved by what you’re thinking and by the way you behave.

This connection between thinking, feeling, and behaving, is the basis of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is one of the most recognized therapeutic approaches. We know that changing the way you think about things can change your feelings. As your feelings change, you are likely to alter your behavior. So, keeping track of your thoughts, avoiding rumination, and challenging unhelpful thoughts can all change the way you’re feeling.

This process also works in the other direction. If you begin to behave in a more positive manner, you begin to feel better, and your thinking about your situation will change. Repeated research has shown that aerobic exercise can treat depression. Depressed people who walk for twenty minutes a day, five days a week or more, even when they don’t feel like walking, often experience a reduction in their depression. This approach is summed up by the old recovery proverb that people who want a different result in life should “act as if.”

High hope people tend to follow this system. Whether they are aware of the value of cognitive-behavioral therapy or not, high hope people repeatedly tell themselves they can do something. These self-statements, sometimes called positive affirmations, change the way they feel about things. These new feelings result in high hope people taking action towards those goals, and as a result, they begin to feel more hopeful.

When you run low on hope you need to replenish your supply.

Once you begin to understand that hope is on a continuum and you’re not stuck with a low amount, the possibility that you can replenish your supply opens up. So, if you are currently low in hope, there are things you can do to increase your level of hope and create a happier, more productive life.

Reaching out for help increases your supply of hope.

Hope is one of those emotions that isn’t reduced by sharing. Sometimes when people can’t see even a faint glimmer of the light of hope, others around them can help them find the hope they are lacking. Just the act of reaching out, talking to your friends, positive family members, or professionals, can increase your supply of hope. Sometimes what you need is an infusion of hope from friends or professionals.

The counselor’s office has a good inventory of hope.

If there’s one thing you don’t want to run out of during these difficult times, it’s hope. If you watch the news too much, you are likely to believe that hope is in even shorter supply than toilet paper. When you need groceries, you go to the grocery store. When you need medication, you should visit a pharmacy. When you’re going through difficult times and running short on hope, there’s no better place to find it in your therapist’s office, whether that office is a physical place or a virtual office. If you’re not finding hope when you talk to your counselor or therapist, then you may be shopping in the wrong place.

What varieties of hope are counselors stocking these days?

Counselors have a remarkably good supply of hope. And no matter how much hope they give to their clients, more seems to arrive each day. When clients arrive at a counselor’s office, just the fact that they made it through the front door often increases their level of hope. Being able to take an action that you think might be helpful raises the possibility you have something to hope for.

In future posts, I want to give you some additional information about hope. We’ll talk a little bit about how to grow more hope, and some of the technique’s counselors use to help clients find the hope they need.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six 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.

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

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?

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.

Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

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

Books are now available on Amazon.

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

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

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.

Hope fuels the successful life.

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

Hope

Hope.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Genuine hope doesn’t get the respect it deserves.

As we go through this challenging time in our history, we all need to hang onto our hope. Not much gets accomplished by people who give up and stop trying. One of the most important things a counselor can do for their clients is to help that client develop a sense of hope.

While there’s a general understanding that hope plays a role in a successful life, there is not a great deal of agreement on what hope is and where you go to get more of it. I decided now would be an excellent time to look at the research on hope, see what it is, and how people go about developing an adequate supply of this scarce commodity called hope.

Lots of unrelated ideas masquerade under the name of hope.

The more dictionaries you look in for the term hope, the more confusing it becomes. Remember, dictionaries don’t start with the one correct meaning for the word. The way dictionaries are created is to look at the way writers use a word and then record what it meant in that context. The more comprehensive the dictionary, the more meanings you will find for any one word.

As I’m writing this blog post, my editing program keeps trying to get me to substitute words such as optimism, faith, belief, confidence, concern, desire, for the word hope. While all those words have similar or related meanings to the word hope, we need to be sure we’re talking about one specific thing.

One of the ways the word hope is used is in a very passive, wishful sense. Someone might say, “I hope nothing bad happens today.” People hope they’ll be rich someday, but they don’t do anything about improving their financial condition. Hope, in this sense, is nothing more than a vague wish, and hopefully, we all know by now wishes rarely come true without action.

There’s a field of psychological research called hope theory.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve read quite a bit of research into the area of hope and discovered there’s an entire field of study in psychology called hope theory. A researcher named Snyder has researched and written extensively about hope theory. I’ll try to explain what I got from reading the research and hopefully won’t distort it too much in the process.

Hope is best understood as goal-directed behavior. While not all the researchers agree on all the fine points, there seems to be a general agreement that people who are high in hope are frequently happier, more productive, and are more successful at reaching their goals. People who are low in hope have difficulty taking action, and in my view, this lack of hope creates them not taking action to get what they want out of life. Why would you do anything about your current problematic situation if you believe changing the situation was outside your control?

Hope theory divides the concept of hope into two distinct categories.

Hope consists of two separate processes, agency, and goals. People who are high in hope generally believe that their own actions will affect the outcome. If they want to be wealthy, whatever that means to them, they don’t depend on the death of a rich uncle or expect to win the lottery as their primary path to financial security. What they do is work, spend less than they make and, over time, save their money.

Agency is the belief that your actions matter.

There is a lot of similarity between the idea of agency and things like self-confidence and self-esteem, and self-efficacy. But in this application, the concept of agency seems to be the idea that your actions matter. People who are high in hope have the belief that they are not helpless victims. They generally believe their efforts have some impact on the outcome. They either have the skills to accomplish something, or they think they can develop those skills.

High hope people believe there’s more than one road to their goal.

People who are low in hope get locked into the belief that there’s only one way to do something, and they keep doing it over and over even when they don’t get the result they want. This inflexibility is probably a good operational definition of crazy behavior. People who are high in hope develop a list of alternative ways of reaching their goal. They start work on the most likely method. But if that route doesn’t take them where they want to go, they have the flexibility to alter their approach and try another path.

What are the benefits of being high in hope?

People who are high in hope keep trying until they find a way to be successful. I found research that says high hope people have better relationships. They are more likely to reach their goals. People who are high in hope don’t get stuck in ruts.

Is it possible to increase your hope?

Absolutely it is possible to increase your level of hope. Your current level of hope is not something you’re just stuck with because of your past experiences. But there are two things you must do to develop higher levels of hope. One is to believe that your actions matter. The other is to create multiple pathways towards reaching your goals. In future blog posts, I want to explore this idea and show you how people who seek out professional help, medical doctors, counselors, or therapists, often become more hopeful even before their first appointment with that professional.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six 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.

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

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?

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.

Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

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

Books are now available on Amazon.

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

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

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.

Brain myths many people believe.

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

PNG of brain.

Brain.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Many things people believe about their brains are myths.

Knowledge in brain science, like other areas, has been growing at a phenomenal rate. The result of this new knowledge is that many of the things we used to think were true about the brain have turned out to be myths.

You lose brain cells as you age. – Not true.

The brain tends to shrink with age, so the nerve cells become closer together. The number of connections between cells influences thinking, and older people have just as many synaptic connections. The idea that you are destined to lose cells and therefore thinking ability as you age turns out to be false.

As an increasing number of people are living long enough to reach old age, we are seeing more people develop brain disorders. With a more significant portion of the population reaching the oldest-old category, brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s have become much more noticeable. But the idea that everyone loses considerable cognitive abilities as they age no longer appears to be true.

Glial cells don’t do much.

When I first studied the brain back in the 1960s, we learned that glial cells were basically “packing material” that kept the brain from collapsing or electrical circuits from shorting out. It turns out glial cells do a whole lot of essential things. Glial cells can influence information processing. They help create and eliminate synapses or connections between nerve cells, which are vital for memory and information processing. Glial cells also appear to be a part of the chemical manufacturing and recycling, which goes on in the brain.

Alcohol destroys nerve cells.

Alcohol destroys the insulation on nerve cells, so they don’t work as well. The brain can rebuild insulation to some extent. Alcohol does affect various parts of the brain in different ways. The frontal lobe, the decision-making part, is most affected by heavy drinking. Dehydration from alcohol contributes to the brain shrinking.

Most people only use a small percentage of their brains.

The idea that people use only a small fraction of their brain has been repeated a lot. The idea of saying this was to encourage people to do more with their brains. Think of this as moving from your old apartment into a 20-room house. With so much room, you can spread the furniture out. So, you put the dining table in one room, and each of the dining chairs in separate rooms. While every room in the house is in use, there’s room for a whole lot more. Human brains continue to grow new connections. That’s how we remember things. While you’re using your whole brain, you have a lot of extra space in every one of those parts of your brain to store more information.

There were four brain myths that over 40 percent of the participants in one study thought was definitely true: that the brain is very well designed; that after head injury, people can forget who they are and not recognize others, but be normal in every other way; that we have five senses; and that our brain cells are joined together forming a vast network of nerves.

For more on brain myths, see the book – Great Myths of the Brain.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six 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.

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

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?

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.

Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

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

Books are now available on Amazon.

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

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

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.

Is your thinking full of bad habits?

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

Is your thinking full of bad habits?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Poor mental health can be the result of bad thinking habits.

People diagnosed with both depression and anxiety disorders often engage in a lot of thinking behaviors that therapists call “unhelpful thoughts.” Sometimes these unhelpful thoughts are called dysfunctional or irrational thoughts. I prefer the term unhelpful thoughts because when you have them you don’t experience them as either illogical or dysfunctional. What may be missing from these discussions is how often those “unhelpful thoughts” are the result of bad thinking habits.

Recently I have been reading some research on habit formation. When we talk about bad habits, we are usually talking about behaviors. But experimenters have shown that they can influence how people think about events, and with enough practice, people can learn automatically to have very “unhelpful thoughts.” Let me give you an example.

How to create an unhelpful thought.

One way to measure unhelpful thought formation is to have people complete a sentence whose ending is ambiguous. Imagine for a moment that a friend’s child or grandchild has come over to your house for a visit. The child is full of energy and wants to go out in your backyard and play. Let’s assume the back yard is fenced. And that you don’t live in a neighborhood with a lot of drive-by shootings.

After 10 minutes, you look out to check on the child, and what you see is this child is ______.

How did you fill in the sentence? People who are high in anxiety or depression often fill in the sentence by imagining that the child is: missing or dead. If you are high in anxiety and try to anticipate all possible negative outcomes, you are likely to worry about things and imagine the worst possible alternative. People with depression also show bias towards unhelpful thoughts.

People who are lower in worry or depression are likely to complete the sentence with something like – After 10 minutes you look out to check on the child, and what you see is this child is _____, playing with a ball, or excitedly running around chasing the dog.

People whose worry rule is “only worry about the big things” are likely to imagine the neutral or happy endings for the sentence. People whose worry rule is “worry about every possible negative outcome” are much more likely to imagine something terrible has happened to the child.

The way you complete the sentence alters the way you think and behave.

People who repeatedly complete ambiguous sentences with negative or unhelpful endings become increasingly depressed or anxious. You can start to mistakenly believe that by keeping the child in the house, you are protecting them from undesirable outcomes. Unfortunately, children who don’t get to go out in the yard and play and are kept continuously where the adult can see them are often babysat by TVs and electronic devices.

The results of your unhelpful thinking that if the child can play in the backyard, something terrible will happen to them, results in children who don’t get enough exercise and are at increased risk of developing type II diabetes and ADHD.

It’s easier to develop a bad thinking habit than to change them.

When people come for counseling, they tend to believe that if they think something is dangerous, it is. Therapists call that emotional reasoning. And it is an especially unhelpful thought. Most of these unhelpful thoughts people have been practicing for a long time. And just like behavioral habits, unhelpful thinking habits can be hard to change.

The first step in changing unhelpful thoughts is to notice that you have developed certain thinking habits. Becoming aware of those unhelpful thoughts can help you to start challenging them and to develop more helpful thinking habits.

A warning about trying to change thinking habits.

Don’t try to change a negative thinking habit into an unrealistically positive thinking habit. We often use positive affirmations to help people move from negative thoughts to positive ones. But don’t try to fool your brain by lying to it. In the example above of the child playing in the backyard, it’s best to substitute a more neutral outcome for the negative one you habitually think. Don’t try telling your brain that your child is so smart that nothing terrible will ever happen to them. Your brain will know you’re lying and disregard that kind of positive affirmation. He also may want to check on the child every few minutes just to reassure yourself.

Become aware of your thoughts and how unhelpful thoughts may have become a bad thinking habit you need to work on changing.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six 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.

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

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?

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.

Sasquatch. Wandering through a hole in time, they encounter Sasquatch. Can they survive?

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

Books are now available on Amazon.

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

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

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.

How do you break a bad habit?

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

Breaking Bad Habits.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Do you have some bad habits you’d like to stop?

Many people have behaviors they would call a “bad habit,” they say they would like to stop. Habits by their very nature are things we do automatically, without thought, which makes them extra challenging to stop. Psychologists have studied habits, how to create them and how to break them. There are some things you need to consider if you want to change a habit.

You have been doing the things that have become a habit for a long time. In the early stages of habit formation, it may not take long for something to become a new habit. If a fast-food restaurant gets you to come in for three visits in a row you will probably be a regular customer. Breaking that habit will probably take a lot longer. Highly reinforcing habits such as drugs and alcohol will require even more effort to end.

Is this habit something you can really stop?

There’s a difference between changing a habit that you need and want you don’t need. Many people would like to stop overeating or reduce the amount of food they eat. Humans must eat some food so the techniques you would use to reduce the amount of food you’re eating, would be very different from the methods you would use to end a bad habit such as drug use, that needs to be stopped completely.

Do you really want to stop this “bad habit?”

I’ve mentioned more than once that my purchasing of books has become a bad habit. I buy a lot of books. Sometimes more than I can read. I also download quite a few free Kindle e-books. While I say I need to stop accumulating books faster than I can read them, this is not a habit I especially want to break. It’s easy for me to excuse this habit on the grounds that I’m an author with at least six publish books, and if I’m going to write books, I need to read a great many also. I don’t actually want to stop this habit.

Many of the clients I work with, in my therapy practice, have bad habits such as drug use, which they want to stop completely. The techniques you use for ending a bad habit altogether, are different from the methods you use if you’re only trying to keep your habit from getting out of control.

What techniques can be used to end a bad habit?

First, let’s look at the ways to end a bad habit you want to eliminate entirely. Second, we will look at some techniques for modifying “bad habits” you want to reduce or control. Lastly, let’s look at some methods that might be useful regardless of whether you want to stop altogether or want to reduce the time and money you spend on the “bad habit.”

Eliminate cues that remind you to engage in this bad habit.

Most habits have cues that automatically trigger a response. Your phone rings and you reach and answer it. It’s hard to ignore that ringing phone even when you want to do something else. Turning off the ringing sound may help you avoid answering it when you need to focus on something else. Reducing or eliminating cues is an essential step in ending a bad habit.

People in substance abuse recovery are encouraged to get rid of drugs, alcohol, and any paraphernalia they might use. For recovering alcoholic, that means getting rid of your collection of beer-themed decorations or your collection of shot glasses. People use other drugs should get rid of things like pipes.

Avoid places you used to go to engage in this bad habit.

For an alcoholic stopping at the liquor store, even to pick up a gallon of milk, or some bread is a risky behavior. Hanging out in the bar, even if it’s only to play pool is likely to trigger urges to drink. Hanging out with people who drink or use drugs is also a risky behavior. Seeing them engage in the action you’re trying to stop is likely to cue intense cravings.

How might you alter a habit you don’t want to end completely?

Here are some suggestions for modifying a habit when you don’t want to end completely. Psychologists have suggested these for things such as eating less or not drinking as much.

To eat less, reduce the amount available.

Serving food on smaller plates can help you cut down on how much you consume. Using smaller size glasses can reduce the volume of fluids you drink. Purchasing things like chocolate in smaller container sizes can reduce your consumption. Limiting the amount of food or beverages you consume by using smaller containers will only work if you don’t make repeated trips back to refill.

Use your nondominant hand for eating or drinking.

Using your nondominant hand slows down the eating or drinking process. People who ate popcorn with their nondominant hand ate smaller amounts, especially when the popcorn was stale. Changing how you do something, slows the process down, and may result in doing less of it.

Driving the “mindbus” can help you ignore automatic thoughts.

Sometimes it feels as if they’re a bunch of voices in your head urging you to do things you don’t want to do. I’m not talking about the voices that people with a serious mental illness experience. When you have those automatic thoughts telling you to do things you know, they are thoughts coming from your own brain. But when your mind is telling you that you need some more chocolate or another drink, it’s hard to ignore those automatic thoughts.

In the mindbus technique, you picture yourself as the driver of a bus taking yourself somewhere you want to go. All those loud voices in your head that are trying to distract you are the passengers on your bus. Ignore the noisy urges clamoring for you to turn the bus and take it in a different direction and stick to the route you have selected.

Substitute a positive behavior for a negative one.

If you have urges to eat some more chocolate, select a carrot or other fruit instead. Instead of heading to the bar go to an AA meeting or religious service. Rather than eat mindlessly go for a walk or do another exercise. By substituting positive behaviors for negative behaviors, you reduce your bad habits and improve the quality of your life.

What bad habits do you want to modify or end altogether?

For more on this topic, you might want to check out the British Psychological Society podcast on Breaking Bad Habits.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Six David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Dark Family Secrets: Some family secrets can be deadly.

What if your family secrets put you in danger?

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?

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?

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.

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

Books are now available on Amazon.

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

For videos see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

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.

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.

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.