Top 6 life regrets

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

Regrets.

Regret.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Will you regret your action or inaction?

Regrets are a common human problem. Some regrets, for some people, are relatively minor, others can cause you a great deal of pain and may require professional intervention. Both economists and psychologists study regret, and they come to very different conclusions about the nature and behavior of regrets. Economist study regrets you might have after making a major purchase, buyer’s remorse, or failing to make a purchase and then seeing that item increased dramatically in price. Most economic regrets fade with time. Emotional regrets, jumping into a relationship, or dropping out of school prematurely, are likely to become more painful as your life progresses.

Lifespan regrets happen when you look back at the past and wish something had happened or you wish that something that did happen had never occurred. Some regrets are a normal part of life others can be destructive of your mental and emotional health.

Troublesome regrets can lead to anxiety, depression, and lowered self-esteem. The most painful emotional regrets are about bad choices, things done and things undone. In the short-term, more people regret taking actions that turned out badly. Pessimists are more likely to accumulate regrets and to judge their action or inaction harshly.

Over the long-term, particularly as people grow older, for many people, their biggest regrets are the things they wish they had done, but their fears kept them from acting.

Unfortunately, sometimes regardless of what you decide, you will face regrets. If you choose to do something you may regret the outcome, and if you choose not to do it you may forever regret not taking action.

Regrets over life’s mistakes, the bad decisions, that involve action fade with time for most people. There are ways to correct or accept the results of many actions. People grow to love their children even when they regret the impulsive sex with an undesirable partner. It’s possible to end most bad relationships; you can break up or get a divorce. Remediating the effects of bad decisions can be painful, but they are possible. The regrets most likely to haunt you, as you grow older, are the regrets over your indecision and inaction.

Healthy regrets or Unhealthy regrets?

Regrets can affect you positively or negatively. Regrets when someone has died remind us of our relationship with that person and can be a normal part of grieving. Regrets can also spur you to change your behavior or move in a new direction. The primary difference between regrets and all other negative emotions is that we regret things about which we had choices. Without a possible choice, you may dislike the outcome, but you are unlikely to regret the choices you made.

Some regrets can be just the push you need to change your course of action. If you regret shopping at a store or eating in a restaurant, you can easily change that decision the next time. Self-blame and rumination fuel unhealthy regrets. Beating yourself up over past choices will lower your self-esteem. In regret, you feel that you have made a bad choice rather than that outside forces have caused something undesirable to happen.

What decisions cause the most long-term regrets?

You are most likely to regret the decisions you made when you had lots of choices (Roese, N., Summerville, A., 2015.) Some choices are irrevocable, like having a child because of impulsive sex. Another major source of regret is those things you always wanted to do, told yourself someday, but just never got around to. Are there things you’re doing now, or things you’ve left undone that will be major sources of regret in the future? Below is a list of the things people frequently report as major causes of regret compiled by adding together the results of multiple studies.

1. Not getting education causes regrets.

In study after study the top regret people report has to do with education. On average one-third of the people surveyed regretted not getting more education They regret not staying in school, not studying hard enough or not pursuing a degree in a subject that interested them. Conflicts between education and finances cause some of these regrets. People drop out of school and take a job because the current income is more attractive than the larger income staying in school might have resulted in.

Many other people regret being seduced by the prospect of making a lot of money in one field, and as a result, pursuing a degree in a field they did not enjoy. They commonly regret not pursuing a degree in an area for which they had a passion. It’s easy to let the cost of more education keep you from following your dream. Following an education in a field because your parents or others talk you into it can also be a huge source of regret. Getting your education in a highly paid field can be a great mistake if you have neither the aptitude nor the interest in that field.

In middle and late-life many people report their greatest life regret is not getting that degree in the subject they were most interested in. One reason, failure to get more education, is number 1 on the list of common regrets is the wide availability in the United States of additional or advanced education. Making the decision not to pursue education is not a one-time decision, but something people must continuously do.

In a survey of senior citizens, the number 1 regret of men was that they hadn’t gotten more education. The primary regret of women was similar; they wished they spent more time developing their mind or intellect (DeGenova MK, 1992.)

Researchers suggest the reason failing to get more education is the number 1 regret in America is because it is seen as the one thing an individual can do that greatly increases their opportunities in all the other life domains.

2. Career choice regrets.

Between 20 and 25 percent of all the people surveyed regretted their career choice. This regret is often linked to failure to get an advanced education or job-specific training. Starting out in life, you need to earn a living. For example, if your uncle owns a landscaping business, you might get a job working for him mowing lawns. After years of doing this kind of work, you may have severe regrets that you didn’t explore other possible career choices.

Other commonly reported regrets about career choices involved letting others talk you out of a career dream. If you always wanted to be an artist, dancer, or another performer, you may have let people talk you out of following your dream. Many people avoid aiming high. Later they regret not having made an effort to become a doctor, lawyer, or other respected professional.

3. Regrets about romantic decisions.

Surprisingly, given all the literature about love, and the number of divorces, only 15 percent of those surveyed reported ongoing regrets about their romantic decisions. One possible reason regrets in this area were less significant may be the frequency with which people can change romantic relationships. Young people were far more likely to express regrets about romantic decisions. Failure to ask someone out or to pursue a relationship with someone were reasons cited for regrets about romantic decisions.

4. Parenting choices can cause regrets.

Parenting choices were a source of regret for 10 percent of survey participants. In studies of the regrets of college students, they were more likely to regret choices involving friendships. As people age, regrets about social relationships become more focused on decisions having to do with children.

5. Self.

Just over 5 percent of people reported regrets in this area. People with regrets in this area are likely to show up in therapy or seek self-help materials to “find themselves.” Losing yourself in relationships and becoming alienated from your feelings can be sources of regrets in this area.

6. Regrets about leisure time activities.

Recreation and hobbies can contribute to good mental health. Surprisingly only about 2 ½ percent of people ever report regrets about their leisure time activities. When I have had clients mention regrets in this area, it usually involved working too much and giving up sports and hobbies that used to bring them joy.

Other areas of regret.

The literature on regret includes six other areas of life about which people sometimes express regret. While these areas can result in painful regrets, they all turned out to be less common than researchers had expected. The other areas of your life that might cause you regrets include finances, family, health, friends, spirituality, and community.

Decisions you are not likely to regret.

When the choice you make seems clearly superior to the alternative, you are less likely to regret that decision. If you fail several classes in your chosen major, you are less likely to regret giving up on that major. When there have been repeated problems in your relationship, breakups, cheating, or violent fights, you are more likely to regret staying in that relationship then leaving it.

Do you have life regrets? Which of those regrets are things from the past you need to accept that which are things in the present you need to change?

You find more about this topic under Regret.

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

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

Story Bureau.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

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

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

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

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

9 ways to tame the emotional storm in your house

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

Can't stop fighting?

Trapped in conflict?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

If you live in an emotional storm there are ways of creating safety.

Does your home life feel like a Middle East battlefield? You dread going home or your family members returning home because the next emotional storm is about to hit. Another emotional typhoon is on the way and you are standing directly in its path. How will you survive one more day in this situation?

There are ways to weather the storm, bring peace to the battlefield in your home, and begin to clean up all the wreckage of the past. This does not mean you need to lie down and play the victim. You need to take charge as much as possible of your life and learn the skills to make peace in your house.

The conflicts may be between you and your partner, the children, or the extended family and friends. Whatever the relationship try applying one or more of these techniques to settle things down and repair damaged relationships.

1. A soft answer turns away wrath – de-escalation.

Most of us have learned to match insult for insult, threat for threat. Being right may make the situation worse. Learn to let some things go to not answer every word-bomb lobbed in your direction.

Develop the skills to calm things down not escalate them. Professionals learn that if you go nose-to-nose toe-to-toe and get in someone’s face the situation is headed for an explosion. Soft words, calm slow tones, and a willingness to calm things down rather than try to force the other person to back down will get you to a much safer place.

Yelling matches usually result in actions or permanent emotional ruptures.

2. Take a timeout.

When people get worked up pushing through to try to “resolve this once and for all” can cause results you do not want.

People who are overwrought may do and say things they will regret later.

3. Look for the good in those around you.

If you look for bad actions and bad motives you will see them, even when they did not exist before. Look for what is good about that person and this will help you get through the times of conflict.

4. Take responsibility for how you feel.

Other people do not make us angry or sad. What they say may be things we did not want to hear. But we have the choice of letting them upset us or letting things go as just part of the heat of the moment.

Do not take the bait and turn a disagreement into World War Three. Children are good at “getting your goat.” And making the resulting explosion all your fault. If you lose your temper you also lose all around.

5. Communications means listening.

In couples counseling, one exercise we use is to get one person to explain their view of the problem and then the other person to try to explain what their partner is saying.

Most people get this wrong.

When the other person is talking most of us are thinking of what they want to say when they finish.  You may be thinking of explanations for what you did and said or arguments to prove you are right.

What happens frequently is that what you are arguing about is not what the other person said. You may have heard the words but in the process, if you missed the feelings behind the words. You are talking about way different things.

Listen to understand and the argument may melt away as you hear that your partner is scared or worried not that they are resisting you.

6. Pick your battles.

This is especially important with children. They will start to argue about everything. Some people think that if they give in on the small things that mean that they are losing ground. Not necessarily. Save your strength for the things that matter rather than trying to control every aspect of the other person’s life and actions.

When you fight with your kids over everything you lose their attention. It all seems like you are disagreeing with them just to be controlling. Eventually, they will wear you down.

Yes, you need some standards and some rules. Pick them wisely.

7. Avoid drugs and alcohol as ways to cope with feelings.

Many of the couples that come for counseling spend a lot of time on what they are arguing about and report that some weeks they get along fine and other weeks they fight a lot. What they fail to connect is the times they are fighting more, they are often drinking or drugging more.

Using alcohol because you are angry is not likely to reduce your anger. Alcohol just reduces your inhibitions and results in more and worse fights.

If you live with a substance abuser, when they are under the influence is not the time to have this out. Lots of Chemically dependent people will provoke fights so they can blame you when they go drink or get high.

You probably need professional help in dealing with this.

The worst thing you can do is join in the substance abuse.

8. They were that way when you meet them – acceptance is the key.

Couples get together and they accept just everything about their new partner. Then a year or so later, right after the first child is born they commence to fighting about every little thing. The things that were so cute when you were dating are now major annoyances.

Try to accept that the person in your life – that is just the way they are. You can ask for them to do or not do things, but do not try to change the person they are. Not in the short run anyway. Failure to accept the person for who they are will eventually ruin the relationship.

Is this issue really so severe that you would prefer to end the relationship rather than accept it?

9. Pick a partner and you pick a set of problems.

When things are going badly in relationships we often think that changing partners or throwing the child out will end the problem. It rarely does.

After that change, we get to feeling alone and we let someone else into our life. Guess what? They come with a new set of problems we hadn’t counted on.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

Story Bureau.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

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

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

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

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

What kind of person are you? Can people really change?

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

Change

Change.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Are people just that way or can they change?

There are certain things about you and about others around you that are just the way people are. There are other things that change with time, with the situation, and with who you decide to be. The trick is to know what about you is just you and what things are possible to change.

There is a world of difference between being an “angry person” and being angry right now.

Some people think that they are always angry, sad, and so on and this provides a rationale for not trying to change. It also can be an excuse for bad behavior.

Someone in your life gets angry, says or does hurtful things, and then later says “that is just the way I am, you know I get angry a lot, deal with it.” It is hard to take that over the long haul. Being always full of negative emotions drives others away.

You may have said that yourself about certain characteristics you see in yourself or others see in you. But is this true or is change possible?

Spoiler alert – I believe people can and do change. They recover from what others have done to them and from what they have done. That change is often not easy and changing may have a price.

One way of understanding this is that who you are and who you can become is the difference between states and traits.

A trait is presumably a stable characteristic.

This can apply to outside characteristics like hair and eye color and to inside qualities like anger or kindness. True you can dye your hair or wear contacts to change your eye color. These efforts to change yourself do not change the underlying you. Some people might say that these efforts fall under the heading of deception or telling lies.

These underlying qualities may change as you get older. One way of explaining this is called gene expression. So the gene that gave someone Black hair in their twenties may give them gray hair in their eighties. Emotional expressions that worked for you at 9 months old will probably not work so well at 90.

Are some people born with particular emotional temperaments? Could you just be born blue-eyed and sad, or brown-eyed and angry? If you were just born that way could you learn to control or regulate those feelings? (CBT therapy and neuroplasticity research tells us this is way more doable than we used to think.)

People are not born with only one feeling. So even the irritable baby who cries a lot sometimes smiles. Angry people have episodes when they are not angry or at least less angry. (Watch for a future post on Reactive Attachment Disorder which talks about the challenges of learning new ways of feeling if you did not learn them at an early age.)

What is causing those feelings to change as situations change?

It is possible for something to “cause” or “trigger” an emotional state. One question that I ask in counseling is “What makes you happy?” And then – “What makes you sad.” Some people can quickly give me lists.

People who say nothing makes me happy, that is a red flag they may have depression.

Research has shown us that the brain continues to grow and create new connections throughout the lifespan. If you learned to be sad or anxious very early in life you can learn new ways of feeling.

Granted if you learn one language as a child and then at eighty try to learn another it is much more difficult but the good part is that no matter what age most people can still learn new information.

Learning to regulate your emotions and to move from an angry state to a calm one is possible if you chose to learn this skill. In fact, you can learn to not get angry in the first place. This does not mean you let people walk all over you and just bite your tongue. You can learn other skills to reduce the causes of your anger also.

If your life is full of anger, anxiety, or sadness you can learn skills to reduce the impact of those feelings on you and to create a new happy life. The cost of this? Some effort on your part and the need to stop making others responsible for how you feel.

To change your emotional life you need to take charge and get to work on new emotional skills. More in upcoming posts on this topic.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

Story Bureau.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

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

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

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

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Your emotional tape measure – scaling

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

Emotional measurement.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

What tool should we be using to measure emotions?

Most of us know that we can measure a board with a tape measure. There is a big difference between a shelf that is 6 inches long and one that is 72 inches long.

We can check a child’s fever with a thermometer. It matters if your child’s temperature is 98.6 or 106.

You can see if you’re overweight or underweight by standing on a scale. Please fill in the weights as needed.

Does it matter how much of an emotion you are feeling? It may be the difference between ignoring what was said to you and getting into a fight.

What tool do you use to measure the size and shape of your emotions?

Emotions like so many other things in life come in sizes and shapes. We get ourselves into a peck of trouble by equating all emotions as being the same size and importance.

Take anxiety for instance. Most of us are either anxious or we are not anxious. Anxiety is sneaky that way. There is that little kitten size anxiety and there is that big hungry lion size anxiety. It is important to know which is which.

If every time you feel the sound of hissing you run for your life you will be hiding from a lot of kittens. We talked a little about developing a scale of anxiety and learning to adjust the volume in a previous post on “selective desensitization.”

Anger is a similar creature. Lots of people have only two extremes when it comes to anger, not-angry, and violently angry. People caught in these two extreme modes of feeling anger jump from not-angry to furiously angry at the drop of a – well it could be a drop of almost anything.

One method used in anger management is to develop a scale. Say your anger is at zero when you are feeling happy and loved. When you “lose your temper” your anger is at a ten. How might you develop a scale of degrees of anger in-between?

One way of developing this scale or tape measure for your emotions is to find other similar words for your anger and place them on a scale. First, let’s scale the anger creature, and then our old sometimes-friend anxiety.

What other words might describe feeling sort of like anger but more or less intense?

How about – annoyance, irritation, fury, rage, antagonism, ire, wrath, dander, exasperation, rile, aggravate, provoke, and so on. While these words may not say anger to all of you, you can see that there is a lot of difference between rage and irritation. If you go looking I bet you can find more words that describe feelings similar to anger.

Take your list and arrange them by intensity from the most awful total feeling to a very mind form of anger.

Now comes the challenge. When you find yourself going from not-angry to furiously rage-full how can you turn the volume down on that anger and move from an anger rating of 10 to say a 6 or 5?

Learning to turn the volume up and down on emotions is a skill called emotional regulation. Being able to feel the necessary level of feelings when you need them can make your life a whole lot better.

Now, what about reducing anxiety?

Words for your scale might include nervousness, worry, concern, unease, apprehension, disquiet, fretful, angst, fear, terror, dread, horror, distress, panic, alarm, trepidation, and so on.

Again there is a lot of distance between being uneasy and being panicked-in-terror. Work out your own list and then consider – is this anxiety you have right now a 10 or a 9. How might you learn to turn your anxiety volume down?

It is worth noting here that we have talked about two scales, words and numbers. What most people find is that by changing the word they used to describe a feeling it also changes the number they would give it.

So if you are feeling panic but tell yourself well this is not really the worse panic I have ever had so maybe it is really worrying, you may find that the anxiety meter 10 turns down to a 5 or even a 4.

Try constructing an emotional tape measure and learning to scale your feelings and see if this does not help you learn to turn the volume down on negative feelings and turn the volume up on those happy positive feelings.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

Story Bureau.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

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

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

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

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Can’t find your inner child

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

Inner child.
Picture courtesy of pixabay

Have you misplaced your inner child?

The idea of having an inner child, and inner child work, comes and goes. Somehow this idea strikes a responsive chord in people even though there is scientific proof that there really is no inner child in any of us.

By inner child, we do not mean that there is some little creature lurking in us waiting to be fed. That makes for great Sci-Fi movies but not much reality.

All your “parts” do not grow up at the same rate.

What we should be looking for are those developmental stages, those things you should have learned as you grew up that somehow you missed out on. Look also for those good qualities that you left behind in your efforts to be “all grown up.”

Memories can be feeling instead of facts.

Not all our memories are filed neatly away in our heads. Some of those memories are emotional ones and those are kept throughout our bodies.

We know if you act in certain ways you are more likely to have certain feelings. Get a group of people together and have them laugh for no good reason and before long you will all be feeling happy.

So where do these phantom memories, those emotional pains from long ago, come from if not from some theoretical inner child.

Your inner child did not get everything right.

One way of explaining this inner child legend is that many adult problems are the result of things that we learned between the ages of say 5 and 15 that may have worked then but do not work now.

What if the things that you learned emotionally in 3rd grade about the opposite sex or about yourself turn out to not be true?

The person who is repeatedly told they are fat, despite looking perfectly normal, even a little thin, is likely to grow up thinking they are fat and to repeatedly try to diet and lose weight. If you learned the untruth that you were fat as a child you may develop a truly terrible adult eating disorder.

Unfinished business.

Some counselors call this unfinished business, those experiences of pain, sadness acceptance, and rejection that we learned in childhood, but are not able to work out as we transition into adult beings.

One danger in doing too much of the so-called “Inner child work.” Is that the more you go over a lesson of something you got wrong, the more firmly entrenched that wrong answer becomes embedded in your brain.

If you keep telling yourself “I am stupid” because as a child people repeatedly called you stupid or fat head, you may develop a personal story in which you continue to tell yourself that you are stupid. And as we all know stupid is as stupid does.

Pay attention to your self-talk.

For good or bad our brains believe what we repeatedly tell them. So if you tell yourself you can’t, you will not be able to. If you tell yourself you can, you very likely will be able to do so, as every little child learned from that little engine.

Be careful what you tell your brain you will be able to do. If you tell yourself you will fly make sure you head for the airport not jump off a roof and leave the gravity-defying to hard flapping of your arms.

If you sometimes find yourself crying like a little child for no apparent reason. If you have very immature feelings at times, don’t pay for a cat scan to find your inner child. Instead, go back and look at the things you should have learned at each developmental stage and then if there were emotional lessons you did not learn, work on them.

Did you outgrow fun?

One other thing that people mean when they say they have inner child work to do is that they had some characteristics when they were young and they have lost them along the way.

If life used to be fun and it isn’t anymore. If you used to be more creative and you have lost that skill, then get in touch, not with the behaviors of the little child, but the emotions and the ways of seeing.

Practice a child-like mindset.

Try looking at everything in life as if this was the first time you had seen it. Begin each day with that curiosity you once had and you will find that everything will look new and fresh again.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

Story Bureau.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

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

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

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

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Where have all the feelings gone? Emotions or rational logic?

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

Where have all the feelings gone?
Photo courtesy of pixabay.

Good feelings, bad feelings, too many or too few feelings, which is it?

You need feelings skills.

Feelings, sometimes called emotions, are one of the major things that send people to therapy. Learning appropriate feelings skills is a part of recovery regardless of what you are recovering from.

One way to define a goal of therapy is having a happy life. I have liked that definition from the first time I heard it. Some people are in so much pain that having a happy life is beyond their expectations; they might define their goal as having less pain. Reducing pain is, in my opinion, one way of describing “Happying up” your life.

Is it OK to be happy?

Recovering people are often uncomfortable with the whole idea of having a happy life. They have spent a good part of their life chasing happiness by using drugs, alcohol or sex in an effort to make them happy. Society tends to equate a good time or being happy with doing drugs or reaching for something outside yourself to make you happy.

The idea that there is something out there that can make you happy is a great deceiver. It comes as a shock to some of us that you can be happy and have fun without reaching for those outside objects.

True happiness comes from inside. Setting things right with yourself and then the rest of the world can fit in its proper place.

Are you too emotional?

Excesses of negative emotions, anger, sadness, anxiety, and so forth, are the major cause of people who come for treatment. They often define their problem as too many feelings. They say that they are “too emotional.” By two emotional they appear to mean they are flooded by negative, unpleasant emotions.

There are also those who come to the counseling room and report that they are just numb. They have lost the ability to feel anything. Sometimes they self-injure, cut, or mutilate themselves in an effort to feel again.

The great irony of using pain to feel again is that often the cause of numbness has been an intense unbearable pain. The emotional part of the body has shut down the feeling systems to protect these folks from an overload of negative emotions.

To move from an excess of negative emotions or numbness to a place where you can feel happy positive feelings require several things.

Recognize that you are feeling.

You need to get past the numbness by recognizing that you are having feelings. You need to allow yourself to experience emotions. For someone engulfed in pain and negative emotions, this can be overwhelming. We call learning to sit with negative emotions and not be swept away by them “distress tolerance.” Sometimes it is OK to feel bad, just for now. If you can hang on, those bad feelings will subside.

If you want a happier more positive life you also need to be able to recognize the positive emotions when you have them. Some people were taught that it was bad to have feelings. Turns out that avoiding emotions and trying to run you on rational logical principles only is not the solution.

Logic and rational thinking are not always correct. So just going by rules and regulations may not be the answer either.

Just because you believe it does not make it true.

In CBT therapy we spend a lot of time looking at irrational or faulty beliefs. In other forms of therapy, the emphasis is on talking through all your feelings and having someone who can really understand what you are going through. Turns out that depending on the situation both approaches can work and the same person may need to do work both on their feelings and their thinking.

There is also a connection between intuition and using feelings to help you make good decisions. There is also a connection between the various senses and the way in which we all experience our emotions.

In keeping with the theme of this blog, recovery from substance abuse and mental illness and generally having a happy life, we will spend some extra time exploring feelings, the senses, and the role of logic and intuition and having a happy recovered life.

Related articles

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

Story Bureau.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

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

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

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

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Emotional Chameleon or naturally empathetic?

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

Emotional chameleon.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Do you soak up other’s emotions like a sponge?

If you find that the way you feel changes when you are around certain people you may be an emotional chameleon.

Emotional chameleons have difficulty identifying what they feel and as a result, they are at risk to assume the feelings of those they are around. They were feeling fine when they entered the classroom but within a few minutes, they have adopted the sad feelings as well as the behaviors of someone who came to class depressed.

We are all affected by the feelings of others around us but the emotional chameleon is unaware that they are changing emotional states throughout the day as they move around others and adopt the feelings of those around them.

Be careful who you hang with, you might catch their emotions as well as their behaviors.

Some people are naturally empathetic. That is not the same thing as an emotional chameleon. The empathetic person can see and sense what others around them are feeling. The can understand what that person is feeling and behave appropriately.

Some people just are not good at empathy. Someone comes up to you and there are in tears, you might ask what is wrong. They tell you that a family member just died.

Someone with low empathy might make a joke about the funeral home should be running a two for the price of one sale with all the deaths going around. A more empathetic person might respond with some conversation about how this person was handling the loss and how can we all be supportive. The emotional chameleon will start crying and tell this person all about the deaths in their family going back to the turn of the century.

Counselors are trained to be empathetic, that skill of being with the other person, and picking up on how they must be feeling. Humans have mirror neurons that help us understand what the other person must be feeling. This helps us to behave appropriately and promotes social connection if you pay attention to the other.

The empathetic person can understand what the other person is feeling without being swept away by the feelings.

Not so for the emotional chameleon. They quickly take on the feelings of others. It is as if they have no feelings of their own and they need to absorb other’s emotions to know how and what to feel.

If you find that you are particularly sensitive to other’s feelings there are several things that you can do to keep yourself grounded and avoid emotional contagion.

Learn to identify what you feel and distinguish this from what others around you are feeling. This process of work with feelings begins by noticing that you are feeling something, find the place in your body that you feel this thing. Next, identify that feeling. This means studying feelings and developing a vocabulary to identify them when you have them. Lastly, learn to vary your responses and behavior depending on what feeling you are having.

Having strengthened your own feelings system you will be at less risk of catching someone else’s emotion. The more you know about your feelings the better you will be at being empathetic and understanding what others are feeling without having to catch your feelings from others in order to feel.

This also allows you to be with someone who is having a negative feeling without having to take that feeling as your own and take it home with you.

Are you high in natural empathy or are you an emotional chameleon who is at risk to catch another feeling from someone else every time you change locations?

David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

Story Bureau.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

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

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

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

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel

Body remembers what the mind forgets

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

The body remembers what the mind forgets.
Photo courtesy of pixabay.

We don’t have just one memory system.

Seems that memory is a lot more complicated than we used to think. Like computers with different operating systems, our brain has a lot of different ways in which memory is saved, processed, and recalled. This may explain some of the problems we have with sudden unexplained reactions to things that we didn’t know would affect us that way.

People with a history of trauma may respond in extremely strong ways to seemingly minor things. This is not an “over-reaction” but this unusually strong reaction to a small cue in the environment may be connected to the way they have stored that memory.

Let me try to explain this one and see if I can get this memory stuff right.

One way we remember things is by creating a story about the events. This is called the “verbally accessible memory system (VAM.)” These memories can be saved accurately when we are paying full attention to what is going on. This is the kind of memory that is most useful for the student sitting in class listening to the teacher and taking notes.

The second form of memory is called Situational Accessible Memory and is largely a compilation of the sensory data that is stored in a second redundant memory system. So this memory system will be recording how the person felt during that lecture. Was it boring, did their back hurt? If the lecture was boring they may store the bodily sensations they experienced while in class. If the lecture used humor and stories the student may remember laughing and enjoining the class.

These memories are not stored in one system or the other but in both. Which system holds the most detailed and important memories depends on a whole lot of what was going on at the time things happened.

Many people will tell us that their first memory in life was a picture of something they saw often combined with other sensory data such as smells, tastes, or tactile experiences. As we get older we develop more of a vocabulary and are able to record more of the verbal story elements. We come to know that the brown thing was a cookie and those dots were chocolate chips and that smell was mother baking. The sensory data is transformed into the story of mom’s Christmas chocolate chip cookies.

Sometimes, times in later life, when emotional events happen or we experience a trauma, the body shuts off or restricts that verbal channel, and as a result that emotional event is stored as a highly emotional sensory memory.

Levels of various chemicals in the bloodstream and in the brain, which is largely filled with blood, determine the way in which these memory systems interact. Hang with me here because some of this may explain why we remember or don’t remember aspects of trauma.

Our human brains also include some primitive structures and processes. One system governs those basic survival skills we share with other animals. So the lizard’s reaction to stress and ours is a lot alike.

The lizard sees your hand coming, he tries to hide by freezing and not moving. Maybe if he does not move you won’t see him. This protective mechanism functions automatically just like your heart that keeps beating all night even though you are asleep. So regardless of what you plan, there is likely to be a hesitation when an emotionally charged event occurs. During that hesitation, we, just like the lizard, tend to freeze. Police officers and combat troops need to be overtrained to respond in order to reduce that hesitation.

Next, as the hand continues the reach for the lizard, he will suddenly spurt as fast as he can go to get away. This behavior we call flee. During that flee process all resources will be focused on escape. So during this process, verbal memory will stop or reduce recording. People who have experienced trauma might describe this as “blind fear.” So while they are running they may not remember where they went, what they leaped over, or what sound was coming over the radio, still, some other sensory data may be stored at a magnified volume.

Lastly, the poor lizard in our story, cornered with no way out, will turn and flare out to try to make themselves as large as possible. They prepare to fight, even knowing they may die, but they are going to get their licks in and hope when they bite you, you will drop them in pain. Humans sometimes report that when they got far into fear or anger they began to attack even though there was little hope of winning the fight. This is sometimes described as a “red out” meaning the anger got so strong that most other verbal memory processes and rational thought shut off.

In higher mammals, there is one other stress response here that has a bearing for humans. The puppy when under attack may roll over on its back, exposing its stomach or neck and in effect giving up. They are saying to the attacker go ahead do what you want I give up. We might call this behavior “placating.” In a human that rolling over and playing helpless or dead is often accompanied by some form of dissociation. This could be a momentary blank spot in the memory recording or a longer dissociation.

So during all these automatic behaviors, the verbal memory system will be turned down and the sensory memory system will be turned up.

This result of shifting memory systems may explain why a seemingly unrelated sensory trigger can set off an episode of fear and stress. The victim of a previous assault may see a yellow car and suddenly be overcome by fear. Last time an assailant chased them they ran full speed until they ran into a yellow car, seeing that same color car causes the sensory memory to spring back to work and recall the full trauma, stress hormones, and all.

Hope that explains some of the potential relapse triggers for emotional conditions that may be present in the sensory memory even if not available consciously in the verbal memory system. My apologies to any memory researchers out there if I have gotten any of this theory incorrectly.

So have any of you ever experienced a sudden emotional response that came out of nowhere?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Seven David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

Story Bureau.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planned Accidents  The second Arthur Mitchell and Plutus mystery.

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

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

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

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

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

For videos, see: Counselorssoapbox YouTube Video Channel