Adventurous.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

Adventurous man

Adventurous.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Adventurous

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

― Eleanor Roosevelt

“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.”

― Oprah Winfrey

“Life is a blank canvas, and you need to throw all the paint on it you can.”

― Danny Kaye

“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”

― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

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Father.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

Fatherhood

Happy Father’s Day.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Father.

“We never get over our fathers, and we’re not required to. (Irish Proverb)”

― Martin Sheen, Along the Way: The Journey of a Father and Son

“My father taught me to work, but not to love it. I never did like to work, and I don’t deny it. I’d rather read, tell stories, crack jokes, talk, laugh — anything but work.”

― Abraham Lincoln

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

How to tame and train emotions and feelings.

By David Joel Miller

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. Once 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.

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Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – 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 the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books  

Move your feelings from out of control to friends.

How many feelings do you feel? The feelings problem

Do you let yourself feel too much or too little?

By David Joel Miller.

Two types of feelings problems cause people distress.

Some people feel too much. Excesses of fear and sadness keep them from having the happy life they want. Other people have an insatiable appetite for pleasure. They over indulge, damage their relationships and suffer the consequences. They act impulsively and then regret the result but they tell me they can’t stop themselves even when they try.

Other people tell me they can’t feel anything. They are numb, cut off from their emotions. They don’t know what they feel even when they are feeling it. The numbness robs them of the chance for happiness.

How many feelings are there?

The list of feeling words is immense. Psychologists have looked for ways to make this understandable and have constructed shorter lists of primary feelings. These lists typically include 7 to 11 basic feelings.

1. Joy

2. Interest

3. Surprise

4. Fear (anxiety)

5. Anger

6. Sadness

7. Disgust

All of these feelings have survival value at times. Joy and interest might stimulate us to find and eat food. Fear could help us avoid a man-eating animal. Not everyone experiences these feeling in the same way. We could lump the emotions of fear, anxiety, nervousness, scared or uncomfortable together. Experience has shown me that teenagers will deny feeling any fear but may have a sizable list of things that make them nervous or uncomfortable.

Individual variation

Not everyone experiences the same event by feeling the same emotion. On person may see a tornado and experience fear, another sadness and a third may experience interest and becomes a storm chaser. Past experience, beliefs about the event and genetics may all play a role in how we perceive an event.

Negative and Positive Emotions

It may be easier at times to think of feelings as either negative or positive. The seven feelings could be separated into positive and negative lists. Hundreds of other feeling words might be added to the lists as variations or shades of these feelings. We could also use certain words to describe combinations of feelings or the co-occurrence for two feelings at the same time.

Joy, Interest, and Surprise are frequently seen as positive, though too much interest in certain things gets diagnosed as a mental illness if it interferes with your life. Fear or anxiety, anger, sadness and disgust would form the core negative feelings. Research clearly indicates that while positive feelings are relatives and negative feelings come from the same family there are perceived differences between the feelings on each list.

The gender gap

Men in counseling often report having only three feelings, good, bad or pissed-off. Women often have a very differentiated feelings pallet. Men say Red, Yellow, or Blue, maybe purple. Women talk about things being Wisteria, Fuchsia, Lilac, Plum and so on. Women typically have more feeling words and they understand the labels differently than most men.

Sometimes this feelings situation is reversed and the woman may report mostly being “numb” or disconnected while the man wants her to be able to express more of her feelings.

We learn our feelings from others

There was a time when expressing feeling was not appropriate. People were expected to be gigantic mechanical creatures who never expressed anything. To have feelings was to give in to the flesh. So some generations grew up unable to express how they feel and experiencing regret if feelings ever leaked out.

Many men remain unable to express feelings appropriately. They “suck it up” and go forward even when it would have been appropriate to show some emotion. The result is that unable to express emotions men lose the ability to name what they are feeling and as a result of not being able to categorize feelings and learn appropriate responses they may do nothing until overwhelmed.

So the feelings that are kept bottled up and unrecognized come exploding out under anger or alcohol. These people, disconnected from their feelings, are forced to reconnect when in anger management class or marriage counseling.

When feelings can protect you

Some feelings are protective. That feeling in your gut that tells you this is dangerous, that feeling we sometimes call intuition is meant to protect you from harm. People who don’t feel anything lose the assistance of feelings that tell you this is something you should not do or that is something good you need to get in on. Courage is not the lack of fear, pretending this is not dangerous. It is the ability to fully feel and appraise the situation, but to take action even in the presence of a real danger.

Positive feelings can help create and expand friendships and working relationships. Negative feelings can warn you to avoid dysfunctional relationships and abusive situations. People who use feeling as sources of information lead happier and more productive lives.

More about this

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog, there is also a Facebook authors page, in its infancy, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. Thanks to all who read this blog.

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Do your feel your feelings? Are feelings your friends or do they cause you problems?

Why Blaming, Scolding and Criticizing don’t work

By David Joel Miller.

Ways to tame the blaming, scolding and criticizing.

We all know someone who relies on these techniques and we know that these methods of communicating don’t make us want to do what they are asking. In many families, this becomes the primary way in which people communicate even when the person doing the blaming knows they don’t like the feeling of being on the receiving end of this sort of communication.

You can recognize someone doing these behaviors easily, but recognizing when you are doing them and changing to more effective behaviors takes some effort and practice. Responding to a scolder with scolding does not solve the problem. It only further escalates the conflict.

Blaming as communication.

Blaming is one of the three “communication stances” described by Virginia Satir, one of the founders of family therapy, and others of her colleagues. She describes people as communicating in three basic ways – Blaming, Placating and congruent communications.

Blaming is the looking down on others stance, it includes all sorts of putting the person you are talking to down and making them “less than.”

Placating communication scrambles the message.

Placating might be described as the “victim stance.” We see puppies take this stance when they roll over and expose their bellies. Children will cower when yelled at. Placating says I give in. It says nothing about agreeing.

Congruent communication.

Congruent communication is the preferred mode in which people talk to each other as equals. Congruent communication does not look for whose fault it is that things are out of whack. the goal here is understanding.

Criticizing sabotages communication.

Criticizing has been described as attacking the person, not the action you want to change. Scolding includes a range of behaviors, verbal and physical that is designed to make the person being scolded “smaller” and the scolder feels more powerful and in control.

Some authors have suggested there is a difference between “complaining” in which you ask for a change and “criticizing” in which you just run the other person down in an effort to get revenge. One way to become more aware of these behaviors is to actually practice them until you recognize when you are doing them. Ben Furman has described some of these behaviors related to scolding. Done as a group activity the behaviors can be exaggerated until they become downright funny.

Here are the things a good blamer, scolder, and criticizer should be able to do automatically.

1. Tower over the person to be upbraided.

Parents have a natural advantage here. They are taller to start with. But if the person you are trying to demean is near your size, wait till they are seated and then pulling yourself up as much as possible and crowd in close so they can’t get up. In a pinch, a ladder or standing on a chair might help.

2. Stick your finger in their face.

This gesture, the universal sign of I am right and you are no good works, best if the finger motion includes several wags. Practice the up down pound them into the ground move and the left-right “bad dog” move.

3. Leave no doubt that they are totally worthless.

Use plenty of words that leave no room for them to ever make it up to you or redeem themselves. You never, you always and other categorical statements should prove their worthlessness.

4. Demean their intelligence.

Statements like “anyone with half a brain would know” are especially good. Remind them they are dumb, stupid and that they have none of that rare commodity “common sense.” It helps to remind them how much common sense you have.

5. Ask questions for which there are no answers.

Don’t you understand that—?

Why did you do that?

6. Call them names.

Calling the person you are talking to “stupid” or “idiot” is sure to get a dramatic response out of the person you are talking at. Not a positive response necessarily, but a huge response none the less.

7. Be as vague as possible.

Never ask specifically for what you want and if by some chance they should request a clarification fall back on the old standbys “you know what I mean” or “If I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand anyway.”

8. When all else fails try threatening.

Remind you children that if they don’t start doing as you tell them you will ground them for life. Threatening to take away the cell phone till they turn thirty can be especially ineffective. Make threats as large, outlandish and impossible as you can. No sense in threatening with something you might actually be able to do.

Now should you want to really communicate in a positive way, which may be harder and require more work, then reverse the process and do the opposite of the things described above.

There you have it, 8 suggestions for becoming really good at Blaming, Scolding and Criticizing and one antidote for poor communication.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – 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 the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Meditation for people who don’t meditate

By David Joel Miller.

Are you a meditator or a non-meditator?

Meditation tree

Meditation tree
from Wikimedia

For a very long time now I have been convinced that there are two kinds of people, meditators and non-meditators. I was sure I was a non-meditator. Turns out I just might be a closet meditator after all.

There are lots of meditators out there. I read about them and the benefits of meditation. I am sure it must be immensely helpful to those who practice it, but like weight loss and exercise it has always on my “to do” list not my “done” list till now.

Meditation fits nicely with all those pleasant eastern religions, but I am a hopelessly western person. How could meditation fit into my life? I have been to twelve step meeting where they talk about prayer and meditation but getting into meditation has been an awfully long stretch for me.

On problem with my meditation efforts may have been that tendency to think that somehow I needed to close my eyes and block out the world. That is the way we are supposed to pray in church so that was the way I tried to meditated. The same problem occurs with both prayer and meditation when I close my eyes. First, my mind floods with thoughts about everything in the world. These are important thoughts, creative thoughts and I don’t want to lose them so I keep trying to remember these important ideas while trying to empty my mind. Ever try to empty a large pool of water using a running hose?

This flood of ideas happens at other times, like when I am supposed to be writing my blog post. At those times I use a “capture tool” for those pesky other thoughts. Rather than trying to remember the idea I just got for tomorrow’s post while typing today’s installment, I write it down on a clipboard next to my computer. This “captures” the thought and lets me drop it out of my mind and concentrate on the idea at hand. I tried that with meditation but it seems disrespectful to the mediation leaders to always be writing things down while others are trying to meditate. Seems downright sacrilegious, in a non-religious meditation way.

My training as a counselor has been mostly centered around the western style cognitive behavioral therapy. Get a head change, change your thinking and the emotions will follow. Meditation might work for some of my really anxious clients but I was a little unsure how to teach them the benefit of something I had always been sure I didn’t do – till now.

Someone recently told me they meditate by watching the leaves in the trees. There was a brief flash of thought, not willing to call it enlightenment just yet, but I started to wonder – could watching the leaves in a tree be a form of meditation?

In counseling, we work on a skill called “attunement” with clients. We try to not only get the meaning of their words but also the feeling behind those words. We try to see the world from the client’s point of view. If we can attune to people why not trees?

It suddenly came to me that the times in my life which were the most peaceful were when I could attune with something in nature. Sitting on the ground staring away at the leaves, watching the wind make its way through the tree and feeling attuned to the tree, that occasion was one of the most peaceful times in my life.

Trees have a lot to tell us. From a distance, they look a lot alike. Close up it is amazing the variation. No tree is perfect but you don’t need to be perfect if you are a tree, you just grow and give shade.

Like most people I have moved all around looking for the place I belong, that tree outside my office has lived in that same spot since the day it was born. In all likelihood that tree will still be here after all the people who work in the building have come and gone.

The tree has its struggles. Last winter there was a wind storm and the tree lost a branch, broke off all of a sudden. The tree lost part of its self and still just kept on growing, reaching for the sun. We humans sometimes stop growing after a loss like that.

Trees aren’t the only non-humans we need to attune with. There are birds that act out their drama while living in that tree. The rain comes and it plays with that tree until drops fall to the ground and flow away.

Watching the river run downstream is also a peaceful centering experience. Water, by the way, does not care if you watch or close your eyes to meditate. If you close your eyes while attuned to a river, it will sing to you.

There you have it. While I will probably never be able to sit quietly staring off into space and meditating, I find great joy and contentment in watching the wind play games with the tree outside my window and the rain run down the stream to the river and eventually the sea.

Could you accept that attunement to nature is a very productive form of meditation?  It’s a version of meditation that works for me.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – 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 the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

DSM-5 Diagnoses begin to disappear

By David Joel Miller.

UPDATE – changes in the DSM.

You can erase most of this post from your memory. During the process of updating the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) from the DSM-IV to the DSM-5 a lot of things were proposed. Some of those suggested changes were instituted and others were left out. This post includes mostly ideas that did not make it to the final DSM-5. Because these ideas were included in a lot of research articles and other blog posts I have left the post up but need to tell you that some this information is now out of date.

Mental illnesses appear and disappear like magic – More DSM-5.

The effort to improve and refine the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders continues. This round of revisions has created a lot of concern about the way in which things we thought we knew about the nature and treatment of mental illness can change dramatically in a short time span.

There has been a lot of opposition to some of the proposed changes from both inside the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and those outside the association who have to work with the manual. The effects for consumers and clients may not be obvious for some time.

Recently the APA posted a notice on their website about changes they are making to the proposals for the new edition of the DSM. Not surprisingly, those revisions in proposals have coincided with the APA’s convention. The pressure to get this worked out is on now as the new edition is due out next year at the May 18-22, 2013 APA convention. That means the decisions need to be made and the book sent to the publishers by the end of 2012. The APA is accepting comments on their website from May 2nd to June 15th, 2012.

Most of these ideas are tested in carefully controlled trials with strict adherence to criteria. Unfortunately in daily practice clients don’t come in with only one problem and clinicians don’t have the time or resources to do extensive testing and diagnosing. The question remains, will this new understanding of mental disorders help or hinder the efforts to get clients the best possible care and still stay inside agencies budgets?

Here are some of the most recent changes

1. Mixed Anxiety and Depression

This is getting moved to the back of the book under diagnosis for further study. We know that clients often have both of these together but then they also may have diabetes and sore throats but so far we are not creating lots of combo diagnosis. Bottom line if you have two mental illnesses you get two diagnoses, not one “combo,” for now.

2. Attenuated Psychosis

This moves to the back of the book also. We have plenty of psychosis class diagnosis, not sure one more will make any difference.

3. Depression gets a footnote about being careful not to make normal things into mental illnesses.

But that always has needed some judgment. If it is causing you too many problems it gets diagnosed if it is within normal it does not. So we still try to keep categories of illnesses while we also allow for variations in degree.

4. The Non-Suicidal Self-Injury Diagnosis (often called cutting)

So far has not worked the way they thought it would. Some have proposed adding Suicidal Behavior Disorder also. Currently, neither of these is considered a mental illness. They are symptoms of something but we are not all agreed on what they are symptoms of. These two are likely to end up in the back of the book along with that complex grief thing.

So the announced changes in the draft move us back closer to where we were before – except that to this point the APA is staying with their proposed changes in Autism and Substance Use Disorders. Only time will tell.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – 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 the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books