Life lessons you need to learn.

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

Learning lifes lessons

Life lessons you need to learn.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

What life lessons do you need to learn?

You probably went to school for a while or you wouldn’t be reading this. You learned your alphabet, reading and some math. Maybe a little history, very little history if you are typical. What most of us missed out on were the lessons about the required emotional skills. How you get through this life in one piece.

By life lessons, I am not necessarily talking about how to cook a meal or wash some clothes, though those are useful skills. What I am talking about is how to go about really “living” this thing we call a life. What do you do to create a happy life out of the raw material that will be thrown at you?

Below are some of the life lessons you may not have gotten enough training in. There are things counselors work on with their clients all the time. If you see any of these life lessons you feel you need to work on, consider some therapy or a good book on self-improvement that covers the part you still need to learn.

Stress reduction will keep you from stressing out.

Life is stressful. There is good stress and bad stress. Much of this thing we call stress is the result of our anticipating what will happen, not the actual happening. In another post about stress, I wrote about how people who are going through a really difficult time can be less stressed out than those who are afraid they will have to have that experience.  Accept that stress is a required part of living.  Learn to reduce the impact of that stress on your life.

Emotional Regulation is a skill that will keep you out of trouble.

It comes as a surprise to many people that they can regulate their emotions.  Most of us started out having feelings and then either getting in trouble for those feelings or being told we shouldn’t feel the way we were feeling.  Turns out that learning to regulate your emotions is an important life skill.

Many people end up having to take anger management classes where they learned that it is not other people who are “making them angry” but it is the way they view the situation that creates their anger.  Anger is not the only emotion you need to learn to regulate.  You will feel sadness and emotional pain. People who are good and regulating these emotions feel them but don’t get carried away.

Interpersonal communication is a make or break life skill.

Interpersonal communication is a skill that many people need to work on.  Some people get this skill wrong and develop the belief that interpersonal communication means learning how to tell other people things.  The biggest part of the interpersonal communications consists of learning how to accurately listen to others.  When you get a clear picture of what other people are saying you will discover that there are far fewer things you need to argue with.

Developing a support system isn’t always an easy skill to develop.

Having the support of people in your life makes life a whole lot easier.  For most people, friends were something that just happened.  In the early school grades, anyone that you spend time with could easily become your friend.  As we get older it becomes harder and harder to make real lasting friends.

When you are too close to things you miss the big picture.

One important life skill that an adult may still need to develop is the ability to look at things from different perspectives.  Often when people are caught up in the moment things look a very set way.  Learning to step back and analyze situations from other perspectives can help you solve life’s problems.

You can’t be objective about you.

People often work with coaches. counselors and therapists, because they can’t see their own behavior.  Even when it’s painful, it can be really helpful to have someone who will give you an honest version of what they see about you and your behavior.

Encouragement helps you change.

To really grow and progress people need positive reinforcement.  Many people grew up experiencing mostly negative feedback.  The belief in the past was that in order to get people to do better it was necessary to point out every single one of their flaws.  We’ve since learned that if you never hear anything positive it is easy to become discouraged and give up trying.

You need to learn being real can be scary.

Really young kids find it easy to be real.  Young people find it easy to spot people who are being fake.  As we get older, more and more we are likely to hide our real selves.  Often it’s easier to present a false image to others in the hope of being liked.  People who are able to be real have to take risks.  While being real involves taking some scary risks it also results in people being a lot happier.

Are any of these life lessons that you still need to learn?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

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

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

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

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

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Are you a Co-ruminator?

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

rumination

Rumination.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

What is Co-rumination and how does it affect you?

Having friends, positive ones, can be very helpful for your mental health, wellness and recovery. Talking about your problems can be beneficial. This talking through your life problems is a major part of what counselors and therapist do when they use the “talking cure.’ Unfortunately not all talking over your problems is helpful.

We know that rumination, that constant reviewing, and hanging on to your problems, can make things worse. Focus on past difficulties over and over and you are likely to perpetuate your depression. Review repeatedly those things that might happen in the future and you can crank up the levels of anxiety you feel.

One especially problematic form of rumination is when one person enlists another to help them ruminate over their problems. So how can you tell if the time you spend with a friend or supporter is helping you work through and understand your problems or is this repeated discussion making things worse?

One definition of co-rumination is the excessive sharing of problems with peers. It has been seen and studied in those with poor relationships with caregivers and attachment disorders. Those who have been abused or traumatized are more likely to co-ruminate but anyone can become a co-ruminator.

Those who co-ruminate develop more not less mental health issues.

Sharing your problems with someone else should help you feel better, not worse. Co-rumination is not just a matter of talking about your problems with someone else. It also is about how frequently, intensely and how much time you spend on sharing those problems.

If the time you spend talking with someone about your life problems does not seem to make you feel better than you may be engaged in a process called co-ruminations.

Here are some ways you can tell if the time spent discussing problems is co-rumination.

You and a friend frequently talk about your problems.

If the bulk of the time you and this friend spend together is talking about the problems of one or both of you then you are drifting into a co-rumination mode. Ask yourself do you ever talk about happy things? Do you have anything in common other than your discussion of problems? Do you talk about the same problems over and over?

Good friends can help each other through things. But if all you have in common is the problems then this is not much of a relationship.

What happens if you run out of problems to talk about? Do you share your day or do you revisit some past problem saturated conversation?

Co-rumination is talking about the same problems over and over.

If you find you are stuck on one problem and every conversation returns to that problem then this is co-rumination. Some co-ruminators take turns discussing their problems. You know before the conversation starts that when your turn comes you will be expected to revisit the problem you two always talk about.

Should you ever try to move the conversation forward to some new topic you can count on your partner in co-rumination to remind you of the time your problem occurred.

You encourage each other to talk about problems.

Do you frequently ask your friend questions about their problems? If every conversation turns into revisiting problems you are engaged in co-rumination. Certainly, it is good to have a friend you know will listen when you have a problem but be cautious if all they ever want to hear about are your problems. Good friends also share happy times.

You focus on negative feelings and what is wrong with you.

If the only topics of conversation becomes what is wrong, you are not supporting each other in being well. You and your friend should be able to switch to a dissuasion of what is going well in your life. Too much focus on the negative will make you increasingly depressed or anxious and you will find it harder to have any positive thoughts.

Talk about what something meant not what happened.

Co-ruminating talk is heavy on why and how-come questions. It is not about revisiting the story and what happened but involves trying to figure out what is wrong with you that these things keep happening. Co-rumination is heavy on blame talk and whose fault things are and short on ways to cope and move forward.

Co-rumination can be a group activity.

While co-rumination most often happens when two best friends begin to spend all their time together going over and over their respective problems it can become a group activity. Especially among teen or preteen girls. In that life stage, we see groups whose primary activity together and on social media is endlessly rehashing each other’s problems.

If all the posts on your social media page are about your problems and your friend’s problems, you have a problem sustaining relationships.

More posts on this topic are under the category Rumination.  Anxiety and Depression.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

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

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

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

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

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Can’t make up your mind? Indecision, rumination and depression.

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

Hard to choose?

Indecision, rumination, and depression.

If you can’t make up your mind it may be because you are depressed. Indecision is a common result of depression and certain types of rumination ramp this symptom up.

When you are depressed it becomes incredibly difficult to decide. Even a little depression can make decisions difficult and a significant level of depression can make decision-making impossible. How you are thinking about things, especially rumination, makes this indecision worse.

Depression impairs decision-making.

Depressed people tend to rely on others to make their decisions for them. If you find you don’t trust yourself to make a decision and you expect someone else to decide for you, it is time to take a look at this.

Depressed people tend to brood about things, turn them over and over in their head. The thinking part bogs down. The tendency is to look for global abstract reasons. What is wrong with me? Why does this keep happening to me? What you need to be asking yourself is, how you are going to get this done.

Depressed people stop trusting themselves. They do not use their intuition; that gut level information based on experience. When depressed do you stop trusting your judgment and start over-thinking everything?

Many of the symptoms of depression involve reduced ability to make decisions. When depressed there is less rational reasoning coupled with low activity levels. Can’t do and can’t decide defines depression. There is also less information gathering going on. The result of all this avoiding making decisions and self-doubt is an increase in negative emotions. Increasing negative emotions creates more severe depression and so the cycle goes.

Indecision and low self-esteem.

Indecisiveness has been linked to low self-esteem. Can’t decide you feel bad about yourself. Feel bad about yourself you will find it hard to decide. The result if indecision is more procrastination. One culprit in this indecision, low self-esteem connection is that ancient enemy perfectionism.

Perfectionists have trouble deciding.

If you are one of those people who are trying to be perfect, a largely neurotic trait, you will never make it. The search for the perfect prevents what can be.

This human fallacy, the search for abstract universal answers, leads to the wrong conclusions. It is not “why do bad things happen to me” or anyone else. The questions you should be asking is what are you going to do now and how will you do it.

We should note here that researchers have concluded that not having a good vocabulary to describe what and how you are feeling can result in an increased risk of depression. You need to have words for the feelings to begin to work on the consequences.

Rumination does more than result in an increased risk of depression and more difficulty making decisions. Depressed people who do decide are less committed and more likely to have difficulty following through on the course of action they have decided on.

The solution to all this indecision, rumination, depression, resulting in more indecision trap?

Gather all the information you can. Make the best decision you can and then stick with it until contrary information comes in. Stop looking for global reasons and look for the facts in this specific instance.

If indecision is plaguing you or you feel like simple decisions are beyond your ability consider getting some professional help.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

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

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

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

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

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Emotional Avalanches and Feelings Landslides

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

Do your emotions sometimes just sweep you away?

Emotional avalanches. 
Photo courtesy of pixabay.

Everyone has ups and downs in life. There are times you are up and times you are down. Those ups and downs can come slowly or they can come quickly. For some people, those changes in their emotional landscape suddenly and unexpectedly sweep them away. There may be things you are doing that are triggering these emotional avalanches.

In your journey of life, there may be times when the trip is mostly uphill; things go as planned and in a positive direction. People who seem to be able to keep their emotional journeys on an even keel have that ability to regulate their emotions and keep them in bounds. Not everyone has that option.

If you travel in emotionally rough territory you may have a lot more ups and downs. The key in those times is to keep your eye on the distant goal, pace yourself and not let those trips downhill define your whole journey. The more the ups and downs in life, the steeper the emotional terrain, the faster those emotions may come at you. To surmount tough emotional terrain you need to have your climbing skills well perfected. Sometimes those emotional regulations skills just are not enough.

If your emotional life is mostly flat terrain, relatively few ups and downs, a professional might think of you as having or experiencing good emotional regulation. Some people seem to be able to find the flattest path through life even in hilly terrain.

If your emotional journey has more than the expected ups and downs we professionals might think of this as you having high emotional liability. Your emotions shift in repose to things that happen and the faster things happen in your life the faster your mood shifts.

Please do not jump to the conclusion that people who are emotionally very labile have Bipolar Disorder. While people with Bipolar disorder do experience times of mood shifts, I think of their mood shifts as less related to the life events, the emotionally hilly terrain, and more related to an internal journey.

Lots of people have emotional ups and downs; some of them out of control, and these people do not all have Bipolar disorder.

Some people are just walking along and out of nowhere, so it appears, the emotional ground falls out from under them.

One cause of these emotional avalanches is a human habit called rumination. All humans think about the things that they have done and the things that have happened in the past. The way in which you think about these things is what determines the result of this rethinking. In other posts, I have and will talk more about the ways in which rumination can destroy your emotional health, create or increase depression or anxiety.

In an emotional avalanche, the person begins to think about something and that thought begins to grow the more they think about it. There may have been a trigger that brought the thought into their mind or a random memory may have been the trigger.

We suspect that those who do non-suicidal self-injury, cutting for short, are particularly prone to these emotional landslides. Once the thought occurs, any negative self-evaluative thought will do here, it becomes increasingly difficult to stop that emotional mountain from falling on you.

These emotional landslides are the cause of lots of sudden impulsive behaviors. Can’t get that thought out of your head? You might choose to drink over it. Someone else might cut on an arm or leg to distract themselves from that thought. This inability to stop the thought avalanche once it starts explains a lot of impulsive behavior better than either long-term anxiety or depression.

Being sad and then beginning to brood (ruminate) over that sadness is a strong predictor of emotional avalanches. Productive thought about past events is about how can I change that, what will I do next. Unproductive rumination is about why me and how could this happen to me.

Believing that a past stress or trauma means there is something wrong with you leads to global beliefs about yourself. That you will never be better and things can’t change. Asking how you will get past this results and create a desire to learn the skills you will need to be successful in life.

If you find that sometimes out of nowhere your emotions carry you away in a bad way, take another look at your thinking process and see if you have developed the habit of ruminating, thinking about something bad in your life over and over. Make sure you do not spend time with friends in group rumination. Having a support system can be helpful, hanging out with a group of co-ruminators can really bring you down.

You might want to check out the other posts on counselorssoapbox about rumination. There are more posts on this topic to come.

If you experience emotional avalanches that are causing you problems consider seeing a professional counselor or therapist for help. It is not “just you” and you can learn ways to have a happy productive life.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 Ways to stop unhelpful rumination.

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

Stop unhelpful Rumination.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Do you find your brain full of negative unhelpful thoughts?

Sometimes it feels like our own brain is out to get us. Sometimes it is. If you have unhelpful thoughts and then you sit and chew on those thoughts, thinking them over and over, those thoughts are likely to try to get you.

That pattern of not being able to get a thought out of your head is referred to as rumination and it can trigger all kinds of negative behavior. Rumination is a trigger for cutting (non-suicidal self-injury) drinking and drug use, depression and anxiety and I suspect a lot of other mental health issues. How do you stop unhelpful rumination before it creates some serious issues?

Here are some ways to stop those unwanted, unhelpful thoughts.

Tell unhelpful thoughts to stop.

If you have kids that are doing something they shouldn’t, many parents would tell those kids to “knock that off.” Learn to tell your unhelpful thoughts to stop also. It takes time and it takes practice but repeated enough you can train your brain to stop thinking about something that is not helpful.

This soft mental yelling at unhelpful thoughts is one form of thought stopping. There are other methods. Use the thought stopping technique that works best for you.

Recognize that thoughts, like many people’s “voices” sometimes lie.

Ruminations like to tell you that the problem is you. The will try to convince you that you are no good, the world is no good and things can never get better. This is not true.

No one is totally no good. You have some things about you that are good and you can learn to do better and practice positive skills. Do not give in to the negative thoughts.

Reduce unhelpful thoughts by using positive affirmations.

What you tell yourself comes to be. Tell yourself that you will keep trying and you will do better. Develop a list of things you will tell yourself when these ruminator-thoughts attack. Make sure you are telling yourself the truth.

Do not tell yourself that you are so smart you know all the answers. No one is that smart. Do tell yourself you know many things and are capable of learning many more.

Develop a gratitude list to increase helpful thoughts.

Are there any things in your life that you are grateful for? When you are really anxious or depressed it may be hard to think of any. Work on this gratitude list. Keep it handy like a fire extinguisher to put out the flames of these ruminations.

Have friends and supporters suggest things for this list. Write it down. The brain tends to believe the things you write down are important. When the unhelpful thoughts attack, whip out your gratitude list and beat them back by reading off all the things you really have to be thankful for.

Problem Solve so you don’t get stuck in the problem.

Think about how you will handle things better next time, not why you made the mistake this time. Not good at making friends? Avoid asking yourself why no one likes you and instead ask yourself how you can become better at making friends.

Ask others how they solved this problem. Do not think that because you are unskilled in an area that you will never be good at that skill. Talk with the experts, those who have been doing something well for a long time. Get a coach, seek out the “old timers” that everyone thinks are “naturals.” They will tell you that becoming a natural took years of effort.

Once you find out that others have had the very same problem you have and have learned to overcome anyway, you will discover that you can do this too.

Maintain a positive attitude to reduce unhelpful thoughts.

Look for the positive not the negative. What you look for you will find. Become an expert on positive thinking and you will discover that those who believe in themselves do better.

To start with most people find it hard to see the positive possibilities. Do not beat yourself up if in the early stages you slip back into negative thinking from time to time. Not able to be positive as much as you should? See the next hint.

Increase your positive thoughts.

Being a positive person takes lots and lots of practice. Early in life, it is common for you to see others who succeed and think there is something wrong with you because you can’t be perfect.

Learn to be just a little bit more positive each and every day and eventually the things you could only dream of doing become the normal for you.

Try these hints. Practice them daily and you will be pleasantly surprised with how much less you will be ruminating about the negative and how often you will see that glimmer of hope shining in your direction.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Three David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to tame and train emotions and feelings.

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

Man with feelings

Managing feelings.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

3 step process for making feelings a part of your recovery.

Emotional Regulation

Managing feelings
Photo courtesy of Flickr (istolethetv)

There was a time, back in the Victorian days when feelings were suspect and the goal was to stop feeling and to think logically. This approach has resulted in feelings and intuition getting a bad name.

If you have struggled with an emotional or mental illness, say depression or anxiety, it is hard to keep in mind that in smaller doses that anxiety or sadness could have been your friend. A little bit of anxiety can keep you safe in dangerous situations. But if that anxiety beast has gotten unruly, you need to get them back to being well-behaved.

People who have abused substances, taken drugs or drank to help them be less anxious will find their emotions have gotten out of control like a house full of unruly children when the parents are away. Using alcohol to sleep or to not feel leaves you exhausted the next day and beyond.

Feelings can tell you things, provide you with the information you need if only you are willing to listen to them. If you grew up around others that did not pay attention to feelings, yours or theirs, or pretended they did not have feelings, you may be at a disadvantage when it comes to managing your emotions.

Learning to manage your emotions, feel what you need to feel but not let your emotions take over complete control of you requires you to develop a better relationship with your feelings.

Here are the three basic steps to learning to make peace with your emotions

Step One – Recognize that you are feeling.

Many people are accustomed to ignoring their emotions. Whether you are recovering from depression, anxiety, substance abuse or any other life problem the first step to integrating feelings into your new recovered life is to become aware that you are feeling something.

Our bodies hold on to emotional feelings even when the mind is trying to ignore them. If you say that someone is a pain in the neck, check your neck. If your stomach is upset, look inside to see if there is someone or something “making you sick to your stomach.”

These body sensations are your nervous system’s way of telling you that something is wrong. Remember that you have lots of nerve cells outside your brain. One estimate places the number of nerve cells outside that brain at over fifty percent. You have nerve cells throughout your body for many reasons. One of those reasons is to convey information, especially emotional information, to the brain.

Learn to recognize that you are feeling something. Look for where in the body that feeling is staying. What physical sensations do you feel? Does this rev you up or shut you down.

Step Two – Name that feeling.

When you do not have a word for something it is more difficult to think about that item. To learn to make emotions your friends you need to learn their names. There is a lot of difference between being sad and being angry. Learn to recognize what you feel when you feel it and then name that feeling.

When you first enter a new field you do not have the vocabulary to talk about that field. New on a job you may find the old timers see and react to things you had not noticed. As you get more familiar with things you learn their names and you respond more readily.

For an example of this take a look at my difficulties in understanding what a friend was talking about when I knew nothing about her area of interest. In this example, I could not remember or talk about something because I did not know enough about it to recognize it when I saw it.

What purple glass? Memory and the expert effect

Step Three – Apply your feeling change tools.

Once you recognize that you are feeling something, are able to describe where in your body you are feeling it and then are able to name that feeling, you are well on your way to learning how to manage that feeling.

There are all sorts of feeling management tools. Many people are required to attend an anger management class because they never learned to follow these steps. If you just suddenly find yourself furiously angry then you are at a loss to know what to do about that anger once you have it. But if you learn to recognize that anger is coming on and how it is affecting you, there are all kinds of tools you can use to avoid excess anger and to manage that anger once it arrives.

Tools that are used for anger management work, most of the time, when they are applied to other feelings. One of the early stage feeling management tools is the process I have described above. Learn to recognize that you have feelings, identify what that feeling is and then decide how you will respond.

Other emotional regulation tools include cognitive tools, changing your thinking and behavioral tools, physical things you can do to manage emotions. For more on tools to manage feelings look at other blog posts here on counselorssoapbox.com and keep an eye out for my book, in progress, which is nearing completion.

Move your feelings from out of control to friends.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

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

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

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

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

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Are creative people anti-social?

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

Original

Creative.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Are highly creative people, writers, and artists, also anti-social?

Some occupations require lots of time working alone. Artists and writers, in particular, need to spend a lot of time by themselves. Do these occupations attract people who want to avoid people?

Is there a mental health problem or personality type that is over-represented in the creative fields?

From a counselor’s perspective, people who work alone or prefer to spend time by themselves are not anti-social. We reserve the label of anti-social as in Anti-social Personality Disorder for people who have no empathy for others. An anti-social person takes advantage of others because they don’t care. They are the ones who get the label of psychopath or sociopath.

People who prefer to avoid others may have some form of anxiety as in social phobia or they may have an attachment style that results in avoiding others but neither of those personality features involves harming others on purpose.

An avoidantly attached person does not expect others to meet their needs and seeks to get their needs met by solitary activities. A creative person might be avoidant and prefer to avoid all contact with people but that is likely to be rare. To be successful at a creative activity as an occupation they will need to go out and spend time marketing and promoting their efforts. Avoidant people are not likely to be willing to do that and are likely to believe that others will not like them anyway.

Someone with social phobia would like to be around others but because of fear, they are unable to be in situations that trigger their anxiety.

Anti-social personality, avoidant attachments and high levels of anxiety are not conducive to the risk taking the artistic person needs to genuinely create something novel.

But an artist and those of an artistic temperament are more likely to have one particular emotional issue. Many artists are moody.

One mental health issue does appear to be correlated with creative temperaments. Kay Redfield Jamison in her book “Touched with Fire” describes the connection between Bipolar disorder and creative endeavors. Those episodes of above average energy and times when the person is “in the zone” fuel creativity. Uncontrolled these episodes can turn into manic or hypomanic episodes and result in the creative person losing control and engaging in risky dangerous behaviors.

There are plenty of stories of famous artistic and creative people who had periods of high energy sometimes coupled with risky behavior followed by periods of deep depression. The energetic periods may fuel creativity but in the full-on manic episodes, the person is no longer able to stay focused long enough to complete projects.

The artistic fields have had a disproportionate share of individuals with mood swings who became alcoholic, addicted or suicidal. The really productive artists, in the long run, learn to manage their moods with or without help and they keep their emotions in bounds.

See also posts on Hyperthymic Temperament, Bipolar Disorder, and Mania.

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