You can grow your personality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

There can be sudden spontaneous shifts in personality.

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

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

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

Some personality changes may be the result of aging.

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

You can deliberately change some personality characteristics.

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

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

Your behavior can change your personality.

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

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

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

Story Bureau.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

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

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

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

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

What are the Big Five Personality Traits?

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

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

Personality traits lie on a continuum.

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

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

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

The Big Five Personality Traits don’t cover everything.

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

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

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

1. Openness.

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

2. Conscientiousness.

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

3. Extraversion.

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

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

4. Agreeableness.

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

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

5. Neuroticism.

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

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

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

What do these Big Five Personality Traits say about you?

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

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

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

Words don’t adequately describe personality characteristics.

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

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

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

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

Story Bureau.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

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

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

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

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Your brain’s three competing emotional systems.

Brain circuits.
Brain. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

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

Your brain’s automatic emotional regulation systems run constantly.

There’s a whole lot of things going on automatically in your nervous system. When I use the word brain here, I’m using it in the broad sense. More than half of all your nerve cells are not in your head. Some of these processes may be unconscious. Theorists believe we have two basic thinking systems. System one is that unconscious or barely conscious intuitive thinking system that is continually sending us feelings. Your life experiences can train your intuitive thinking system. Other times we use our slow thinking system, and it alters these emotional regulation systems’ settings.

Scientifically inclined people may think of this as the automatic process of moving electrical signals and chemical neurotransmitters throughout the nervous system. Some people will view this as emotions or feelings. I have seen systems that reduce all feelings to 3, 4, or 5 primary feelings. The English language has over 100,000 feelings related words. Each Sunday, I feature one of those words and some quotes about them.

Your threat system is continuously vigilant, keeping you away from danger.

Everyone has a threat system. Because of life experiences, some people have their threat systems turned up to the highest possible setting. If you’ve undergone a lot of traumatic experiences, your threat system is likely turned up high. Rumination and the worry method you adopt can keep your threat system running at maximum.

Threat systems are automatically biased towards seeing threats everywhere. Failure to detect a threat could be fatal. Unfortunately, detecting too many dangers, especially low probability threats, can interfere with having a happy or contented life.

A threat system set too high results in lots of fear, anxiety, and worry. If you’re in a dangerous situation, the threat system tries to protect you and may motivate you to change your circumstances. But if you’re not in a high danger situation, a threat system running on high can produce a lot of anxiety that interferes with your life.

Your threat system is responsible for the characteristic psychologists call a negativity bias. Your threat system sees danger everywhere. If you have an especially vocal inner critic’s voice, it can keep your threat system activated so much that it prevents you from acting.

Your threat system keeps you continually running away from things.

The drive system allows you to get your needs met.

The drive system pushes you forward to get your needs met. Those may be physical needs, emotional needs, or abstract needs such as accomplishment and status. The drive system is responsible for reducing hunger and thirst. Lack of food and water can be fatal. Too much food or unhealthy food can result in obesity and ill health. This points to a problem with the drive system. The drive system is easily turned on but often doesn’t shut off when a need has been met.

Your drive system also increases your interest in relationships. Too few relationships or poor-quality relationships can leave you feeling lonely. The drive system encourages reproduction. Too little sexual drive would have left the human species extinct. Some people get into problems when they try to use their reproductive system too often or to meet needs other than expressing love and affection.

Your drive system tells you that you must constantly chase after your desires.

The self-soothing system helps you adapt to changing circumstances.

The function of the self-soothing system is to produce positive feelings. For some people, it generates a sense of calm, comfort, and peace. Your self-soothing system can also increase resilience and help you cope with novel situations and setbacks. One way of looking at this is that most mental, emotional, and behavioral illnesses result from the threat and drive system’s overpowering the self-soothing system.

A well-functioning self-soothing system increases your sense of well-being and may result in an overall sense of happiness or contentment. Happiness is a complicated concept. Not everyone agrees on the nature of happiness or what you should do to maximize it. Throughout this year, I plan to write additional blog posts on happiness, its nature, and how to maximize it.

Running away from threats and chasing pleasure may not be the healthiest choices. Maybe it’s time you learned to like yourself and accept yourself the way you are. This year work on developing your positive emotions.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

Story Bureau.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planned Accidents The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

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

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

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

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

How do you create the best life possible?

Contentment
Contentment Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

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

Three steps to a flourishing life.

Mental health programs frequently stop at just treating mental illness. We’ve learned that merely treating your depression or anxiety or other mental illness does not create a happy, flourishing life. When I ask people what makes them happy, many people struggle for an answer.

It’s easy to confuse happiness with temporary bursts of pleasure. The only way that many adults know how to have fun is to use drugs, alcohol, or engage in sex or other risky behaviors. It turns out there’s a lot of ways to have a pleasant, contented life that don’t involve the so-called adult pleasures.

Over the last couple of decades, a new movement has emerged in the mental health and wellness field called positive psychology. Positive psychology tries to look beyond reducing pain and temporary bursts of pleasure to the creation of those peak experiences that are sometimes described as the good life, flourishing, or experiencing episodes of flow. Here are some steps to take you to whenever you would subjectively describe as your good, ideal life.

Decrease your negative emotions.

Some negative emotions are an essential part of living life. Anxiety can be a productive emotion when it warns you of danger. If something awful happens in your life, when someone you love dies, when you lose a job, or a relationship ends, it’s reasonable and even normal to be sad for a while. But suppose your life is overwhelmed by anxiety and depression. In that case, we diagnose those as mental illnesses, and the first part of the journey to a good life is overcoming those excesses of negative emotions. Unfortunately, treating mental illness is where most mental health treatment programs end.

Increase your positive emotions.

The more you can experience positive emotions, as the quality of your life improves. The human brain is biased. It places a premium on recognizing danger and unhappiness. It’s easy to walk right past beauty and positive experiences without ever noticing them. Learn to become a happiness expert. Stop and smell the roses. Along the way don’t forget to smell all the other flowers and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Many people can readily recall all the problems they’ve had in relationships. It’s common for couples who come to marriage counseling to have a list of their complaints about their partner. What is usually missing are any memories of the happy occasions. If you want a flourishing life, make sure you collect as many positive feelings and memories as possible.

Create a flourishing life full of zest and vitality.

The people who say that they have a good quality of life are almost uniformly full of zest and vitality. Sometimes these two terms are used interchangeably. Vitality generally refers to physical health. The term zest, more commonly, is applied to emotional enthusiasm. If you enjoy what you do every day, you will have a subjectively more joyous life.

People who lack zest for life drift into inactivity and can become couch potatoes. They may burn out on their work and relationships. The best way to create a life worth living is to engage in the activities that energize you rather than wear you out. When you enjoyed the work you do for a living, it won’t wear you out or pull you down. If you want an exceptionally good life, emphasize the things that energize you.

Increase your life satisfaction.

In all these ways, seek to increase your life satisfaction. You only get one life. You can live each day burdened by your cares, or life can be a grand adventure in which every day adds to your quality of life.

I’ve listed some simple takeaways from the articles I’ve read on positive psychology and having a better life. Does the life you’re living bring you joy? What activities do you engage in which give your life meaning and purpose? Feel free to leave a comment in the box below.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

Story Bureau.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

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

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

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

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

The Paradox of Pleasure.

Pleasure. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

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

What’s the connection between pleasure and happiness?

Wikipedia defines pleasure as “a mental experience that humans and other conscious animals find enjoyable, positive, or worthy of seeking. It can be a part of other mental states such as happiness, entertainment, enjoyment, ecstasy, and euphoria.” While pleasure is undoubtedly a part of happiness, it’s not the whole thing.

Positive psychology, a relatively new branch of mental health, tells us that being mentally healthy, having a good life is more than merely a lack of mental illness. If you have a mental illness such as depression or anxiety, it needs to be treated. But the elimination of a mental illness doesn’t equate with a life of fulfillment. How do you move from not being depressed to a life full of joy, happiness, contentment, meaning, and purpose? How far along that path will pleasure take you?

When most people think of happiness, they think of pleasure.

Pleasure is unquestionably a part of having a happy life, but it’s not the only part. A genuinely happy life, a life in which people are flourishing and finding meaning and purpose, needs a lot more than just pleasure. While pleasure may take you part of the way to the good life, it doesn’t take you all the way. Let’s look at how pleasure starts you out in the right direction but can get you stuck on the thing we call the hedonic treadmill.

Sometimes pleasure leads to happiness but not always.

The brain craves pleasure. Pleasure is our nervous system’s way of rewarding us for doing things that might benefit us. In small quantities, pleasure can increase your happiness. Pleasures produce the most happiness when they are unexpected. But too much of a good thing, especially on a regular basis, can be bad for you. The human brain is biased towards novel pleasures. So, each successive dose of a particular pleasure adds smaller and smaller amounts to happiness. The first slice of chocolate cake tastes good. Eating the second chocolate cake can impair your health. Eventually, most pleasures turn on you.

Pleasure wears off quickly, and this can lead to an addiction.

In psychology, this phenomenon is called habituation. The first drink can be enjoyable, but subsequent drinks each produce less pleasure. Each subsequent drink creates less subjective pleasure. When the pleasure fades, this can lead to cravings for more. Farther down the road, people find themselves drinking, using drugs, or engaging in behavioral addictions, not for the pleasure it brings them, but to prevent the cravings that come with withdrawal.

Pleasure must be taken in slowly.

Trying to maximize your happiness by consuming pleasure too quickly doesn’t work. You can’t see much of the scenery when you’re driving 100 miles an hour. Taking in pleasure slowly is a technique sometimes called savoring. In our fast-paced society, people are prone to suck in the pleasure as rapidly as possible and then move on to the next pleasurable event. This frantic search for pleasure results in absorbing very little of the pleasure from the things you do.

You can’t enjoy the taste of food when you swallow it whole.

The human brain seems to be biased to remember negative things. The threat circuits in our brain stem warn us of danger. Positive experiences, on the other hand, require effort to recognize. Modern life is moving at a pace that can be overwhelming. If you want more happiness in your life, you need to become a happiness expert. When positive events happen, we need to slow down and savor them. In this era of fast food and instant gratification savoring life’s positive experiences is becoming a lost art.

Throughout this year want to bring you some additional information about the elements of a good life and how to create a life full of joy, meaning, and purpose. If you have found ways to create a life that is flourishing, please share them by leaving a comment in the box below.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

Story Bureau.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

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

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

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

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

What does your happy place look like?

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

Can you picture the time you were happy?

Early in life, even before we have the vocabulary to store memories in our brain as stories, those memories are stored as pictures. When you think back over your life, the most positive memories often evoke images.

The exercise of imagining your happy place can be extremely helpful in managing overwhelming emotions. Once you learn to mentally go to your happy place, you can go there whenever you choose. When I think of my happy place, a picture of a particular place and time readily forms in my mind and has a calming effect.

When I try to do this “happy place” exercise with some of my clients, they seem to have difficulty imagining I happy place. If you are high in anxiety or depression, memories of happy times and places may be hard to picture. I thought I’d offer you a few images that might help take you to your happy place.

Which of these pictures most says this is my happy place to you?

The Beach
The Mountains.
Puppies.

A Theme Park
Children Playing
Flowers.

The next time you feel stressed, take a deep breath and remember your happy place. Is there another place that increases your happiness when you think about it? Please share your happy place with others by leaving a comment in the box below.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

Story Bureau.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

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

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

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

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Exploring Positive Psychology.

Positive Psychology. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com.

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

Taking a deeper look into positive psychology.

In last week’s post, I introduce the topic of Positive Psychology. In today’s post, let’s take a deeper look into the subject of Positive Psychology.

Wikipedia defines Positive Psychology as:

Positive psychology is the study of “positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions and promises to improve quality of life.” Positive psychology focuses on both individual and societal well-being.[1] It is a field of study that has been growing steadily throughout the years as individuals and researchers look for common ground on better well-being.[2]

Positive psychology emphasizes subjective well-being.

Many of the models of happiness emphasize pleasure or acquiring tangible goods. The happiness provided by pleasurable events fades quickly and requires a constant stream of pleasurable activities. The pleasure derived from buying things disappears almost instantly and can lead to overspending. Subjective well-being or having a satisfying life requires more than just temporary pleasures.

Positive psychology emphasizes contentment, life satisfaction, feelings of subjective well-being in addition to the ability to experience pleasure. Counselors who work from this perspective frequently believe that finding your meaning and purpose for life leads to an increase in subjective well-being. Having a good life can be described as “flourishing.”

Positive psychology emphasizes your strengths rather than your weaknesses.

Traditionally mental-health treats defects. For your treatment to be covered by your mental health insurance, your provider needs to assign you a diagnosis of what is wrong with you. While medication may help manage the symptoms of mental illness, no medication is known, which cures a mental illness.

The primary route of change for people with a mental health challenge is talk therapy, and several mental illnesses can be cured using talk therapy. There are many theories of what causes specific mental illnesses and how they are to be treated. One highly successful approach has been the positive psychology theory. Positive psychology looks to find your strengths and build on them. You don’t need to have a mental illness to benefit from the positive psychology approach.

Peterson and Seligman developed this classification system for identifying strengths and described it in their book Character Strengths and Virtues. The book describes twenty-four basic character strengths, which seem to be found and valued in varying degrees in all cultures. People may be high or low in any of these strengths. Positive psychology encourages people to make the most of their strengths while also improving those character strengths that may be underdeveloped. The twenty-four primary character strengths are clustered into six categories, which are described as “virtues.”

Character strengths and virtues are personality characteristics.

Many people think of character as a very limited set of values. People described as having “good character” may be described as honest, loyal, thrifty, and obedient. Characteristics such as creativity and curiosity are not usually cited as factors. In positive psychology, character strengths are personality characteristics that may prove beneficial to both the individual and society.

Six primary virtues are described by positive psychology.

The six primary virtues are wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. These are further subdivided into 24 character strengths.

Components of the virtue of wisdom.

Wisdom is subdivided into five strengths, creativity, curiosity, judgment, love of learning, and perspective.

The components of the virtue of courage.

Courage is subdivided into four components, bravery, perseverance, honesty, and zest.

The parts of the virtue of humanity.

Humanity is further subdivided into three character strengths, love, kindness, and social intelligence.

The virtue of justice.

The components of the virtue of justice are teamwork, fairness, and leadership.

The virtue of temperance.

Four character strengths make up the virtue of temperance. These are forgiveness, humility, prudence, and self-regulation.

The virtue of transcendence is related to religion and spirituality.

This virtue is subdivided into five character strengths, appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, and spirituality.

Researchers have developed specific instruments to assess each of these character strengths and virtues. Because these strengths are described using words, there’s been some variation in the definitions individual researchers used for each character strength. In future blog posts, I want to talk to you about some of these character strengths, what I’ve learned from reading recent research on that strength, and how you might learn to make better use of your strengths to create a flourishing life full of well-being and happiness.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

Story Bureau.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

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

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

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

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

What is Positive Psychology?

The Psyche
What is Positive Psychology? Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

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

Positive psychology offers an alternative to the mental illness model.

Traditional mental health services focus on a deficit model. Initially, only two categories of mental illness were identified. Over time additional “mental illnesses” have been identified and described. Today the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual fifth edition) lists over four hundred separate recognized mental illnesses. It also provides for at least another four hundred possible conditions that can be diagnosed.

There are many counseling theories that seek to explain what causes these mental illnesses and how they can be treated. With all this focus on what’s wrong with people, there has been very little focus on the positive end of the spectrum until recently. Not enough attention has been paid to what people should do to have a happy, contented, or flourishing life.

Physical health and mental health are organized differently.

Increasingly physical health systems are recognizing the importance of treating chronic illnesses. Preventative care has become a significant part of physical health programs. Mental health continues to be provided only to severely ill clients. With very few exceptions, you will need to be extremely “mentally ill” for insurance companies to pay for treatment. The primary focus is on treating mental illness rather than promoting mental health.

Positive psychology examines positive experiences.

Positive psychology is a separate branch of psychology that began about twenty years ago when Martin Seligman became president of the American Psychological Association and chose positive psychology as his presidency’s theme. The new positive psychology movement builds on numerous past philosophers and psychotherapists. What was new and novel about this movement was its emphasis on identifying ways to increase positive functioning rather than focusing on negative impairments.

Positive psychology emphasizes having a good life.

The “good life,” which is the focus of positive psychology, involves a great deal more than merely increasing temporary “happiness” or pleasure. I should mention here that “anhedonia or loss of pleasure” is one of the primary symptoms for the diagnosis of depression. What we do know about treating depression is that merely adding short bursts of pleasure does not cure depression. I want to talk more about pleasure, happiness, and the many pathways for reaching a good life in future posts.

How many strengths do you have?

One of the things many counselors and therapists are told to do is identify the client’s strengths and encourage people to use those strengths to improve their mental health. What is often missing from that training is any comprehensive list of strengths or ways to identify the client’s strengths. My experience has been that people who have severe mental illness, anxiety, and depression often have difficulty identifying any strengths they may have.

In 2004 Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman wrote a book which, at over 700 pages, is a very comprehensive compilation of characteristics that are pretty much universally accepted as desirable personality traits. The title of the book was Character Strengths and Virtues. Much of the research in the field of positive psychology is based on this classification system. Unfortunately, defining universal characteristics using words can lead to a lot of misunderstandings.

I remember a very long time ago in elementary school when we were taught how to have “good character.” Those values primarily involved being honest, truthful, and compliant with rules. People who disagreed with authority were thought of as having “bad character.” Virtues, of course, at least back then, took on the connotation of being morally right or wrong.

Neither of those interpretations appears to me to be the things Peterson and Seligman meant by using the words strengths and virtues. Their usage describes characteristics of people’s personalities that were both useful and beneficial to that person.

The book lists twenty-four character-strengths divided into six general categories of “virtues.” For example, the virtue of “wisdom” consists of the character strengths of creativity, curiosity, judgment, love of learning, and perspective. I have spent the last few weeks reading research articles on a couple of these character strengths. As I’m able to digest this information, I plan to write some additional blog posts this year about what’s been learned about these character strengths and how you might utilize and cultivate those strengths.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

Story Bureau.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

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

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

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

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Has happiness Eluded you?

Happy faces
Happiness. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

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

Happiness has three essential parts.

The statistics tell us that depression is at an all-time high. Recent events have harmed almost everyone’s life. But even when times are good, depression is a lot more common than authentic happiness. With everyone looking for happiness, why is it so difficult to find?

If you want more happiness in your life, become a happiness expert.

The human brain seems to be biased toward remembering negative, painful experiences. Remembering the bad and forgetting the good may have given humans an evolutionary advantage. Say your distant ancestors were walking through the jungle and then found some red berries on a bush. Before grocery stores and refrigeration, humans were always hungry, so your distant ancestor ate those berries. If they got sick and died from those berries – well, you wouldn’t be here, now would you? But if they ate those berries, got sick, and then recovered, they would have remembered those berries forever and avoided eating them again.

Your brain is no different than those ancestor’s brains. Something bad happens to you, and your brain doesn’t want you to ever forget that. But what about the opposite result? If that distant ancestor had eaten the red berries and enjoyed them, they may not have remembered what they look like. Just because they liked the berries once doesn’t mean they would ever encounter them again. So why use up space in memory remembering things that might not ever happen again?

It’s almost as if negative, painful experiences cut a groove into our brains, so we hold onto them forever. At the same time, happy experiences can easily slide right off your brain and disappear.

If something good happens, you need to pay attention to that happiness. If your child does something cute, or you walk by a beautiful flower, you need to stare at that positive event for perhaps as much as thirty seconds to give that information time to soak into your brain and be fully absorbed.

If you want more happiness in your life, you need to study it and become an expert on it. Unfortunately, most of us spend most of our lives studying pain and misery rather than joy and happiness. As you’re studying happiness, it’s important to realize that most experts believe there are three critical parts to having an authentically happy or, as some positive psychologists call it, a life that is flourishing and full of subjective well-being. What are the three parts to this authentically happy, flourishing life?

Pleasure is necessary, but not enough to ensure happiness.

Pleasure is essential to having a good life. Our bodies and nervous systems are designed to experience pleasure when we do things that benefit us. If you’re hungry, eating brings you pleasure. Physical affection is also a great source of pleasure. The pleasure system is designed to get humans to do more things that benefit them.

Unfortunately, pleasure by itself will not result in genuine happiness. When you engage in something pleasurable, you become satiated. Twice as much food does not make you twice as happy. To maintain the same level of happiness, humans need ever-increasing amounts of pleasure. One piece of chocolate cake is good tasting. Eating a second chocolate cake may not even be enjoyable. Eventually, you reach a point where more of a pleasurable experience doesn’t add to your happiness. So, what else is necessary for maintaining authentic happiness?

Engagement is essential for maximum happiness.

Engagement, sometimes referred to as flow, is also an essential ingredient for happiness. Engagement involves developing and using the skill of curiosity. It’s also intimately connected with the character strengths. It was initially called vitality but has been renamed zest in the more recent positive psychology research.

Vitality seems to imply both physical and emotional energy or drive. This makes sense because physical vitality and emotional zest are intimately connected. People who are in poor physical health have difficulty maintaining their zest for living. Conversely, people who lack engagement in life are at increased risk of developing many physical ailments.

Vitality or zest goes by many other names, including passion, enthusiasm, flow, or my favorite “being on the jazz.” Vitality is so connected to the use and perfection of other personality character strengths and virtues that I plan to write some posts specifically on this ingredient, which is missing from so many people’s authentically happy life.

Meaning and purpose are necessary for authentic happiness.

Regardless of how much pleasure you have for something or how enthusiastically you pursue it if when you reach your goal, it has no meaning it won’t take you to the place most of us call happiness. Positive psychology describes this state as a life that is “flourishing.” If you’d like a life that goes beyond temporary pleasure, then discovering your life’s meaning and purpose is an essential activity.

Many of the people who arrive at the counselor’s office, experiencing depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue, say they are there to “find themselves.” In the process of living life, the pain has often overwhelmed the positive. Frequently, people tried to drown their sorrows and alcohol. They may have experimented with drugs, sex, or gambling, only to find that the temporary spikes in dopamine provided by pleasure didn’t lead to authentic happiness or a life that was flourishing.

So how should you go about finding yourself? Where should you look for that meaning and purpose? Many people find the answers to those questions by doing their own personal work with the counselor. In upcoming blog posts, I want to give you some hints about ways to find yourself and discover your meaning and purpose.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

Story Bureau.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

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

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

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

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Happiness.

Happy faces
Happiness. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Happiness.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”

― Abraham Lincoln

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.”

― Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

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

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

Emotions and Feelings.

Inspiration

Happiness

Positive Psychology