How will you solve that problem?

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

Problem and problem solving

Problem-solving.

Is your life full of problems?

If you’re one of those people who seems to go from problem to problem, maybe it’s time to change the way you handle problems. Problems can cause you a lot of unhappiness, derail your life, and result in depression and anxiety, or they can simply be one more thing you must handle today. Unresolved problems can fester and damage relationships at home and work.

The problems you don’t tackle can undermine your self-esteem and hold you back from the life you want to have. Here are some simple steps you can take to move from a problem-filled life to a “problems handled” way of living.

This approach is often used by companies or businesses, but you can easily modify it for solving personal issues or family and relationship problems.

Define the problem accurately.

A couple comes in for relationship counseling, the problem they describe is that they are constantly fighting over money. Before this couple can solve this problem, we need to get more specific about what the problem is. For some couples, this is largely a financial problem. Scraping by from month-to-month, not being sure you’ll be able to pay the rent and the power bill can put a strain on any relationship. The solution will be learning some financial skills.

Another couple has plenty of income, and their expenses would be manageable if they could agree on how to spend their money. What we need to establish is whether this is a relationship issue or is it about power and control? Maybe one of them is a saver, and the other wants to spend. If one’s goal is a large savings account and the other’s goal is to do lots of traveling the problem to solve is not financial, but how they make decisions.

For couples whose problems are primarily fighting about money, the real issue may be that they barely have enough income to survive. When you live a life where what you earn each month is less than what you must spend, and you make up the deficit by using credit cards, eventually something must give, either before bankruptcy or after. The stress of unpaid bills can result in a lot of irritability and arguments.

Start any effort to solve your problems by creating an as specific as possible definition of the problem.

Who owns this problem?

What if your problem is someone else? Your partner makes you angry, or your kids won’t behave. It’s hard to develop a plan for anything you can do when the problem is someone else. There are three possible approaches, try to change the other person, change yourself, or stay miserable while insisting that things shouldn’t be the way they are.

While it’s difficult, it is sometimes possible to change the other person. Every relationship, especially couples and families, develop a pattern of how they relate to each other. Therapists call this the “family dance.” If you want to change the interaction, you must change the dance, and you begin this by doing different steps than you’ve done before. As you change others will be forced to change in response, though they may not always change in the way you want them to change.

Both changing yourself and the process of encouraging others to change are skills you can learn. You might want to look at the posts about problem ownership and behavioral modification.

Generate possible solutions for your identified problem.

Once you are clear on what the problem is and who needs to make the changes, you can begin to generate a list of possible solutions. Let’s take the “fighting about money” problem.

It may be hard work, but a first step would be to develop a budget. You need to know how much money is coming in each month and where it is going. The couple needs to agree on how important savings are to them. What percentage of each month’s income do they plan to save? Saving should include putting something away for retirement. A small amount saved each year can grow to a substantial amount over your working lifetime.

You also need to prioritize what you spend your money on. That mixed coffee drink can be a nice treat. But if you add up what you spend on those lattes and compare it to the cost of making a pot of coffee and taking a mug with you, having the money to pay the power bill the first of the month may be worth more than those daily splurges.

Solutions you might consider for solving your financial issues could be ways to earn more income, ways to reduce expenses, or sell something you have, to raise some extra cash. Many people find that their payments on expensive cars or credit card balances are the hole the drains money faster than they can earn it.

Solving financial problems is often painful, but if you don’t solve these problems, the stress can damage your mental health and destroying your relationship.

Explore the advantages and disadvantages.

Any effort to solve a problem comes with pros and cons. The last real estate downturn forced people to choose between making large payments for houses that were worth less than what they still owed on them, or giving up their dream home.

To solve a specific problem, you may have to give up something or do something you don’t wish to do. Evaluating your options can be difficult. You will never have all the information you would wish for. But eventually, you must choose to change something, or you will choose to continue to live with the pain of an unresolved issue.

Implement your selected solution.

This step trips up a lot of people. The couple decides they need to let things from the past go and focus on the future, but the next time there’s a disagreement about raising the kids or spending money all that past stuff gets thrown into the argument.

You may have decided to stop splurging on little expenses, and the next day, when you feel a little down, you start spending again. If you decided the way to solve your financial problems was to stop making impulsive purchases and pay down your credit card debt, be careful of making exceptions and buying something just this one time because you want it.

When you have these little slips and don’t follow your plan, don’t beat yourself up and don’t toss the plan away. Accept that you’re not going to be perfect the following the plan. Redouble your efforts again the next day.

Evaluate the results you are getting from your plan.

Whatever the problems you’re trying to solve, you need to do periodic reviews and evaluate whether what you’re doing is moving you in the right direction. Some problems may be easily solved. Others may require effort over a long period. Don’t get discouraged. Do give yourself credit for the effort you put in and for whatever results you achieve.

Modify the solution as needed.

Be careful about getting locked into one solution. Some ideas you may have had for solving your problem won’t work. Others may take more effort and time than you’re willing to put into them. Make whatever changes you need to make to reach your goal.

What should you do if your solutions don’t work?

At any point in the process, you might want to seek out professional help. For financial problems, you may need financial counseling. For work-related issues, you might need to see an educational or career counselor. For mental health and emotional problems consider therapy. If the problem is your relationship consider couples, marriage, or family counseling.

Behavioral problems such as excessive anger or a substance use disorder are likely to require professional help also. If your relationship is full of conflict, a relationship counselor can help you work through the conflict.

Don’t feel that it’s a sign of weakness to seek professional help. Athletes have coaches and businesses hire consultants. Sometimes the investment of a few dollars spent on professional help can pay off in huge improvements in solving your emotional and relationship problems.

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

We remember the unique not the ordinary – memory is about choices.

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

Brain

Memory.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

The tale of an alligator dinner.

Unique events make a deep impression and are stored more deeply, more thoroughly in our brains. Common everyday events pass us by with barely a second glance. Humans are “cognitive misers.” Our brains don’t waste storage space on things unless the brain considers it important to pay attention to this item or event.

Want to remember something for a long time, make sure that person or event makes a unique impression on you. This impression is not just about the person or event, it is also about the choices you make and the attention you pay to the things you do.

In my younger days, so the story goes, I did a good bit of traveling. In those travels, I have been to my fair share of festivals and then some. More than one city holds an annual Strawberry Festival.

There are countless “vegetation festivals” all complete with their respective vegetation Queens. Broccoli festivals, Asparagus festivals, Onion festivals, and Artichoke festivals, the list is almost endless. After a while, one vegetation festival looks a lot like the next.

Each and every festival has its share of festival food. The Garlic Festival featured garlic ice cream which I decided to pass on. I can’t recall how the vanilla ice cream I bought that day tasted. I may have missed a bet by passing on the Garlic ice cream.

Most of the time at these festivals I get hungry. So do those I was with. Guess what we ate? Most days it was hamburgers and the like. Do I have any idea which was better, the burger at the Broccoli festival or the burger at the Artichoke Festival? Not a chance!

What I do remember was the Alligator at the seafood festival. I assume it was real alligator, though it was in a heavy garlic sauce so who can be sure. That same food vendor may well have sold that same menu at the garlic festival also.

Frankly, my particular alligator was not only heavy in garlic but also a bit overcooked and rubbery. Now if you eat alligator on a regular basis you can comment and tell me if good alligator should taste rubbery like B.F. Goodrich or not.

My point is that while I could not tell you about a whole lot of festival food, I will never forget that Alligator meal. The reason it was unforgettable was that it was, to me, so very unusual.

Commonplace items do not make much of an impression on us no matter how good. But the unusual, that impression good or bad, will last and last.

Not everyone can chase down some alligator for dinner tonight, I give you that, and those who do find it on the menu where they eat may be quite tired of it at this point.

My point here is that given the choice, go for the unusual, the thing you have never tried before because you will remember the unique item long after the ordinary is forgotten.

Looking for the unique can really help you remember. That is not restricted to totally unique things or events. Find one unique quality and that will anchor the memory and help you hold onto it a whole lot longer.

Trouble for many of us is that if you do not know what you are looking at you may not be able to see the unique when it slides off your plate, so to speak.

In the next few posts, we are still talking about memory improvement and mental efficacy here, I want to tell you about how to find the unusual when you don’t know what you are looking at. We also want to find out how to find the unusual in what at first look appears to be an ordinary person or place. With those skills, things that you used to pass by and forget in an instant can stay in your memory for as long as you chose.

Memory improvement skills do not come instantly so you will need to practice the skill a bit. It is a whole lot more fun to practice memory skills than to keep forgetting who you are and where you live.

Practice your memory skills and remember to check back the rest of the month for more on memory improvement and self-help skills.

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

Why memories keep changing

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

Old pictures

Memories.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

You think your memories don’t change?

What if memories were like time travel in the science fiction stories? Every time you visit them there is a risk that you will do or say something that could change that memory and as a result, your personal history would change?

Researchers in memory quote Endel Tulving as saying that is exactly what is happening to many of us much of the time. Those memories we think were exactly so, they have changed for us every time we revisit them. Let me explain how this works.

We have some things stored in our memories as pictures. That place you worked at, the people who worked with you, what your office looked like. Years later you might remember that setting. Or do you?

Over time the office changes. You move furniture around, the company gets a new copier and then a newer computer system, your brain stores those new pictures. It updates the scene “what the office looks like.”

During this time your coworker may change her look. She gets a new hairstyle and wears different clothes and then gains or loses weight. Your brain tries to keep up but it can’t remember all those outfits your coworker wore so it stores a few “typical” outfits for her.

Your brain also stores some stories. The time someone important visited, the conversation you had about that new book you had read, and so on.

One day years afterward you go to tell another mutual friend about this incident you and your coworker had with that one, particularly difficult client. Your brain pulls up the story and you are ready to go.

One problem here, the brain may not have an accurate description of where things were that day and what she was wearing. So it pulls up one of the other pictures it has stored and fills in the missing details. Did the customer pull on that necklace she was wearing? What if she didn’t get that necklace until a few years later? What was it that customer grabbed? You can’t be sure.

Your brain will try to fill in enough details to make this story work using pictures from other times. So we can’t be sure what your coworker was wearing or even where the copier was situated when this incident happened. But we do now have the story of the incident freshly relieved in our mind.

Each time we revisit this story our mind may update the memory adding new pictures of your coworker and the office. What if she changes her hair color? Your memory may begin to include her as a blond in the old pictures because that is the way she looks now. After a few visits back to these old memories we can’t be sure when she changed her hair color. So now when asked to describe the incident and we are told that the person who was assaulted was the blond, was that our coworker or was this someone else who was there that day?

See how memories might change with the retelling of the story and the retrieval of the memories?

Now add drugs, alcohol, or high levels of certain stress hormones and the way in which the memories were stored and retrieved will be affected. Feelings we have now will affect the memories and now we begin to think that person must have looked really scary because remembering the incident scares us.

Each time we recall the memory some part is at risk of changing.

Eventually, if we revisit this memory enough times it gets stored completely like a movie and from then on it is less likely to change by repeated viewing.

Adding to this problem is the brain’s ability to confuse things we imagine vividly with things we actually saw. Writers and hopefully their readers can describe in vivid detail characters from the novels they have written or read. These images are so clear it is as if they have really met that person. Only, as many a writer will find, the way the reader experienced that character and the way the author saw them are very different.

While recalling that memory, if you tell it to someone else and they ask you questions, your brain will begin to look for answers to those questions and add that information to the memory clip. This is a problem for people in therapy when the brain begins to mix up memories of different times and places.

If the therapist asked you if you were ever abused you might say no and fully believe this. But if a psychologist were to test you and then tell you that your personality scores suggest that you were molested and that most people who had this experience forget that experience you may now question your memory.

Our brains will revise memories if we see alternative explanations for why we are the way we are or how something may have happened. These memories are at extra risk of revision if the person offering the explanation is an important respected person and if they offer you an explanation of why you might have forgotten the experience or that detail.

This whole idea that memories are changeable and that revisiting them may change them may scare some people. Realize that our minds are constantly trying to make sense of things whether they are happening today or happened years in the past.

Don’t start doubting all your old childhood memories just be aware that some of the details may not be the way you remember them and that there may have been other explanations for what you thought happened and how you felt.

Make your memory your employee not your boss.

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

Are you original or ordinary?

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

Creativity

Creativity.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Which is better, being ordinary or being original?

Careful – think about this before you answer. We sometimes tell our kids to be original without thinking about the cost. We adults sometimes forgo being original without thinking about the benefits.

Ordinary people do what is expected.

There is a lot of safety and security in being ordinary. You don’t have to risk criticism as much as original people. You don’t get singled out for punishment. You don’t get much attention. But attention can be a problem if it brings with it negativity and derision. Who wants to be different if that difference is going to be punished?

Ordinary people get left alone but they also don’t get many rewards.

Being ordinary has some survival benefits. People or animals that are too different from others in the herd get driven out. In some cultures, the mentally ill are sent into the jungle to live alone. Better they get eaten that the productive people the reasoning goes.

In those sorts of situations being too original has its punishment.

Some people would prefer to be ordinary. They are willing to forgo the attention and the rewards which accrue from originality in order to avoid the criticism that comes with being unique.

Ordinary people can be counted on to do what is expected, no more and no less. This also means that they attend the preferred religious and political gatherings, think the correct things, and largely do no one any harm. They also are slow to change when the circumstances shift.

Society needs conformity. Ordinary people conform. Even original people need to be original in the prescribed manner.

Original people do something different.

Originality, unfortunately, is also connected to making mistakes. The more original you are the greater the risk that you will do something, new, something unique, and it will be a total unequivocal failure.

Highly productive people do a lot of new original things; they also make some mistakes which can at times be highly visible. Even when original people do not fail, others will resist the changes the original person is causing. The establishment does not like change. Not unless it is change they created, change they can control, and change that benefits them.

Not everyone likes originality. We tend to like the familiar, the routine, and the expected. Even our excitement needs to fall within prescribed limits.

Edison is reported as saying he tried thousands of ways to make a light bulb before he found one that worked. The result could have been viewed as a man who made a record number of failures.

He reframed this as having found out thousands of things that would not work. By persistently trying things he eventually succeeded. He succeeded because he kept trying. Another person might have given up after a few dozen failures and worked on something else that had a better chance of success.

A less original person would have given up a long time before that success occurred.

On the job front, originality is not always valued.

Most companies want to keep their originality confined to a couple of departments. If you work in engineering or advertising departments then originality, up to a point, may be valued. Be careful about being too original if you work in a shipping department.

Highly original people tend to migrate to occupations and to places that encourage originality. Universities and colleges can afford to foster some level of originality because they incubate the original people for the next generation.

Countries that encourage originality find the highly innovative people migrate there. They also get stuck with a lot of dissidents who want to change the very things that brought them there.

In the arena of originality versus ordinary, you have to take the bad with the good. I for one would prefer to be more original but not everyone in my life sees it that way.

Which works best in your life, originality, or being ordinary?

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

Will the Counselor, therapist, psychologist keep your secret or tell?

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

Keeping your secrets?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Just how confidential is confidentiality.

Just what is confidential and what is not is a major concern to clients in mental health treatment. I have written several posts in the past on this subject but from the number of searches on this subject, we need to talk some more about this. Links to some of the past posts are at the end of this post.

Confidentiality and its cousin privilege, are legal as well as ethical concepts.  Laws can vary greatly from place to place. Check in the jurisdiction you live in and ask the person you are seeing if you have concerns about this.

We spend a lot of time on these issues in graduate school. We are supposed to explain this to clients when we first see them. Beginning counselors tend to spend a lot of time telling new clients more than most clients want to know. After a few years of doing therapy, the amount the client gets told declines and sometimes slips below the minimum the client needs. If your provider has said less than you need to know please ask.

Please remember I am talking about this from a counselor’s point of view, how we try to meet our legal and ethical responsibilities in practice. For the law in this, you should consult a lawyer.

Here are the general rules.

Everything you tell your therapist-counselor is confidential UNLESS it falls into a required or permitted exception.

1. Danger to self is reportable.

If you are eminently suicidal we can break confidentiality to keep the client alive. We are supposed to do this whether we want to or not. In practice, it is a judgment call whether the client has thoughts but does not intend to carry through or if they plan to kill themselves soon. Our response may vary depending on the circumstances.

2. Danger to others gets reported.

If you say you intend to kill someone in the future this gets reported. Past crimes are generally not reportable unless they fall under one of the other exceptions. Throwing a book at your sister is not a danger to others.

3. Child abuse, abuse of an elderly or disabled person needs reporting.

Generally, all abuse of a child gets reported if the provider has a reason to suspect the child is being abused. The counselor is not responsible for investigating, only to report to authorities. Someone who murdered a child would have committed child abuse and this past crime could be a mandated report in some places.

4. If the counselor needs to consult with another professional.

In this case, they tell the minimum they need to get the answers they need. They might talk to another professional about your treatment, to a lawyer about what is reportable, or to a billing person. They can “use” the information you give them to help in your treatment and their getting paid for providing it, but they are not supposed to “disclose” that information to people who do not need to know. Counselors sometimes call their lawyers to find out what they need to keep confidential and what they need to disclose.

5. If you are Gravely Disabled they need to report to get you help.

If the client can’t feed themselves or use clothing and shelter the counselor needs to call someone and get this person help.

6. You sue your counselor and they can talk about treating you.

If you sue your counselor for doing a bad job they get to introduce your records and prove what you said and why they did what they did.

7. If you introduce your mental status into a court proceeding they will be required to tell things.

Once you use your mental illness as a defense in court for something you are charged with all your mental health records may come out.

8. You are not the client and are not paying for the counseling.

If you are sent for a court-ordered examination, a child protective service interview or other assessment paid for by someone else you will probably be asked to sign a release of information so that the person paying for the services can see what happened.

No release and there will be no treatment. Once you sign that release the person who is paying or who ordered the assessment and or treatment gets reports. You can revoke this sometimes, but not all the time, and what has been disclosed cannot, of course, be taken back and remade confidential.

9. You are a collateral person in a session.

If you go with your partner or child and they are the person being treated you may not be getting any confidentiality on what you say. You should ask about this before you stay things and then want them kept secret.

10. A court subpoenas your records.

This gets problematic. The counselor or therapist will try to keep some things confidential by asserting privilege but that is up to the lawyers and the judge. If this is a worry to you talk to your lawyer before you see the counselor and see if there is a chance this will come up in court.

One last thought. There are some clients who come for therapy and talk extensively about how guilty they feel about past crimes and how they want to change. They don’t usually give all the details of the crimes. There are others who seem to want to brag about what great criminals they are and they don’t want to change. The ones who don’t want to change frequently say things that end up needing to be disclosed.

Facing the things you have done wrong and trying to change is a huge part of recovery.

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

How many senses do you use? Mindfulness and memory.

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

Mindfulness

Mindfulness.
Photo courtesy of pixabay.

A mindfulness exercise for all the senses to improve mental efficiency and memory.

Most people rely on one or two senses to do all the work. How many do you routinely use?

One reason memories fade over time is our excessive reliance on one or two senses to store and anchor information. You were probably taught to remember things by converting them to words and then creating a story about the person or thing you needed to remember.

Memory functions better when you use more than one sense to store that memory.

Writers struggle with this problem frequently. We envision a scene; paint it with colors and plenty of verbal descriptions. We describe the shape of things, the size, and arrangement. With all that description, the scene should come to life. It doesn’t. Our scene is flat.

What has gone wrong?

Life is more than shapes and colors. Visual is important, ask any photographer. There is more to a life event than what is customarily captured in a two-dimensional picture.

Here is a simple mindfulness exercise to help you improve your powers of observation, use of multiple senses, and improve your memory as a result.

Take a walk. Find a place where you can pause to explore your situation without the use of your eyes. A park bench, bus stop or seating areas at public buildings make great places for this exercise.

Sit with your eyes closed, or if safety is a concern look down and focus on something small and plain. (Check my post on Shrinking the World by Staring at a Rock.)

Don’t try to figure things out, simply experience them.

What smells do you smell? Are they constant or do they fluctuate? Can you identify them? Are they pleasant or disturbing? How would you name them?

What are the sounds you hear? Without looking can you identify what is creating those sounds? Can you imagine the bird making that song? As you concentrate on the sounds you may well find that you notice more sounds and that they vary in pitch and intensity.

If you hear traffic, is it a car, truck, or bus? Which direction is it traveling? If there are people nearby what are they talking about? With whom?

What sensations do you feel on your body? Can you feel the wind on your skin? Where is the sun? Find the sun by feeling not by looking.

What tastes are you sensing? Was this something you brought with you, part of your breakfast or lunch or does this place have a taste as well as a smell?

Notice, but do not dwell on what your mind is thinking. If thoughts come racing through your mind let them go in peace. If you must capture that thought and not let it go I find that having a pen and paper in my pocket allows me to write the thought down and get it free of my mind, and then I return to my mindfulness exercise.

Do not allow yourself to judge your senses. Unless a professional has told you that there is some reason for a deficit in one of your senses it is likely that you can improve your underutilized senses by practice and by being more observant of the things they try to tell you.

Pay special attention to the times your senses of smell, taste or hearing disagree with the story your eyes told you about this place when you sat down here. Sitting by a fountain can be especially helpful here.

I once sat on a bench by the fountain on the college campus where I teach. There are many fountains down the center of that walkway. I had walked by repeatedly and seen only fountains that constantly throw water in the air. This day seated and experiencing the fountains I discovered that they each had a cycle, the flow fluctuated and with that fluctuation, the sounds varied. At length, I realized I could predict when the fountain nearest me was about to subside by a faint feeling of spray on my cheek even before the fountain had dropped in volume.

The constant pattern of fountains masked constant changes in the same way our over-reliance on sight may mask the changes in smells and sounds that go unnoticed in our daily life.

Learn to rely on more senses and you will find that your mental efficiency grows and your memory improves.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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

Finding success when fear is in the way

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

Success or failure sign

Success or failure.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Success – You can’t get there from here; you need to go somewhere else first.

Do you have a picture of success in your mind? Have you thought about the things you will need to do to get there from where you are? But you can’t seem to make any progress?

Is there a fear blocking your path?

One major obstacle in the path to being successful for many of us is that boulder-sized fear that is right in front of us. What will you need to do to get past that fear and reach the success you were meant to find?

We have talked in the past about making sure that what you say your goals are is in fact what you really want out of life. Nothing so clearly undermines success as heading towards the one goal we say we want while looking over our shoulder at the goal we wish we were working on.  Secretly wishing we were going somewhere else impedes all forward progress.

Your goals also need to be consistent with your values. If what really matters to you is your family and friends, good relationships make you happy; trying to make a lot of money will take you away from your goals and reduce the time you have to spend on improving those relationships. Sure you need some money, but how much money is enough, and how much time with a loved one is too much?

Fears in our path to success can come in all sizes and shapes.

One fear that keeps people from trying is the fear of success. What would it mean to you to be truly successful? If you are unsure if you believe you don’t deserve success or you think others will look down on you and reject you if you stood out, then your brain will help you out here and sabotage your efforts to do something that it knows you don’t really want.

To reach success, however, you define it; you need to believe that you deserve to succeed.

Fear can take up a place in your way to success wearing the disguise of doubt or self-distrust. If you don’t believe that you will be successful, others around you will find it difficult to believe in you. If you give off that vibe that you don’t really want to accomplish anything, those around you will spend their time helping people who want to go somewhere.

Some fears shrink when you approach them.

That old bogeyman under the bed disappears when we shine a light under the bed. The same is true of many other fears. Avoiding unpleasant things makes them scarier. Some fears will shrink rapidly once you walk up to them and begin the task.

Some fears won’t budge and you have to find ways around them.

If the thing you fear is a real risk, you need to look for ways to reduce that risk. Insurance and savings are two ways people shrink risk. Getting the education and training you need to be successful in a field also reduces the risk of heading in that direction.

Think for a while about the role of your fears in keeping you from the success you want. Is it trying to protect you from failing? Is it warning you of a real risk that needs to be taken into account?

Concurring fear is an important step in your journey to that happy, successful life you deserve.

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

5 reasons learning and memory are not about intelligence

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

Puzzle

Memory pieces.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Average people remember things that supposedly smart people forget.

Our educational system and a lot of parent’s efforts to help their children learn are misguided.

Somewhere along the line, we got the impression that to be a good learner you needed to be really smart and that if you scored low on an I.Q. test then you would never be able to learn.

That is just not so. Being smart helps, but it is not the whole story. There are things anyone can do to improve their memory and learning.

Here are some reasons why.

1. Learning is emotional, not intellectual.

If you truly enjoy something it is easy to learn a lot about that subject. If you don’t care about something it is next to impossible to remember. If you have ever had to take a class in school because it was required, but it was nothing you will ever care about after the class is over, you know what I mean.

Excitement fuels learning. Anything that gets you excited about a subject leads to better, learning, memory, and retention of that subject. Practicing memory games can make learning more fun and goes a long way towards improving your memory.

2. Learning is cumulative.

We find learning about something very difficult when we don’t have the foundation to understand the subject. Knowledge is cumulative. If you don’t have the basics down the advanced material becomes more difficult.

Begin with something simple, something that interests you, and as you learn more about that subject. Ask yourself what else you want to know about. Follow those trails wherever they go and you will find yourself become more knowledgeable about many things.

3. Learning and memory require willpower.

To learn some things requires willpower. I wrote a while back about how many people have difficulties with willpower. One reason willpower is so elusive is our tendency to confuse willpower and won’t power. Another cause of poor willpower is the natural human tendency to enjoy today and forget tomorrow.

The hardest form of willpower is the ability to do something unpleasant today because it will produce future gains.

4. Learning is about how many words you know.

Memories for most people are saved as stories. The more words you know the less effort it takes to convert this expertise, real or imagined, into a story that will be easy to remember.

Movies and books are hard to remember if you don’t have the vocabulary to store and retell the events that made this story important.

Reading anything can improve your vocabulary. The more you read the more you learn and the more able to learn and remember you become.

5. You can’t rely on only one sense to store information into memory.

Having multiple anchors in your memory from multiple senses helps you to store and retrieve that memory.

When there is someone or something that you want to remember to try associating that memory with all your senses. What did it smell like? What were the good smells and the bad orders? Did it touch you internally as well as externally?

Paying attention to the sound of the person’s voice, their facial expressions and the way you experienced their presence will help you in remembering that person.

Most of us have tried to improve memory by becoming better at memorizing words rather than by learning to engage all our senses and fully experience the event.

In future posts, we will talk about some ways to improve your acuity and mental efficiency using senses other than verbal memories as ways to improve your ability to remember.

Go out there and practice mental efficiency, memory improvement, and the other skills you will need to create the success you want.

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

Memory March – How to improve your memory and motivation

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

Puzzle

Memory pieces.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Your memory can be improved with a little effort, some motivation will help.

This month let’s take a look at memory, its role in our lives, and how you might improve it. Contrary to popular belief a good memory is not something you are either born with or you will never have.

There are ways to work on improving your memory regardless of how good a memory you started with. I want to keep this Memory March discussion on a practical basis. There has been a ton of research on memory over the years. This research has given us some insights into how the brain works but that information has not always translated into anything all that practical.

We can describe memory “systems” and parts of the brain involved, but the systems do not at this point correlate well with the brain parts and those parts of the brain serve many functions beyond memory.

From a practical point of view, there are ways to improve your memory, thinking, and mental acuity that has little to do with the way your brain is shaped and how much supposed intelligence you have or do not have. We have noted in past posts that some very smart people can do dumb things and some average people come up with some surprising ideas.

Having a good memory may begin with how much storage capacity your brain has but the efficiency of storage and how you use those abilities can make a tremendous difference.

A long time ago before we discovered ADHD and learning disabilities, there used to be some programs on memory improvement and mind development. New advances in medications and learning techniques have been helpful, but to date, we have found no magic pill that makes your memory better and the elusive part of learning remains learning how to learn.

Things you can do to improve your memory and mental efficiency.

A good memory is not something we are born with. In the early years, children’s memories are primarily stored as pictures. There are processes for consolidating those memories. As children move into the school years what they can remember is largely influenced by how many words they know. Memories begin to be stored in the brain as stories.

Much of our memory is about being a good storyteller. Very young children are often good “storytellers” meaning they can invent fantastic tales full of creativity. What they lack is the ability to consolidate those stories’ so they can be retold time after time. As we get older our storytelling abilities crystallize.

Fortunately for those of us with sometimes faulty memories, learning to remember stories is a skill that can be learned.

Don’t confuse a good memory with IQ or being smart. There are plenty of people who are smart in the IQ sense. They score very well on standardized tests. But can they remember anything? Not much! Those stories about the absent-minded professor have a lot of truth to them. Being smart does not mean you can remember anything outside your primary interest.

Having a good memory is more a skill, than something you are born with. Skills can be learned and they can be improved with practice.

Over the course of Memory March, I will try to offer some everyday suggestions on how to improve your memory, your mental efficiency, and your productivity. There will be some suggested exercises. You may do them or not. I have borrowed some of these ideas from old memory improvement and mental efficiency texts but where possible have updated them for our current terminology and understandings. Can’t say the ideas are all that original and I will try to give credit where credit is due.

My hope is that these memory posts will be helpful. We will also need to say a few things about motivation. Being motivated to remember things helps the memory. I have written in the past about internal and external motivation. Throughout the month I plan to talk some more about motivation.

Links to a few of the older posts on both memory and motivation will appear at the end of these posts.

Let’s end this post with a simple memory prompt.

Please remember to leave a comment about memory, motivation, and how this may lead you towards your happy life.

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

Undoing a bad habit – lessons from the big box stores

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

Healthy habits background

Healthy habits.

Sometimes trying to break a habit only makes it worse.

If you have a habit that you wish you had never started, gambling, drinking, drug use, overeating, or whatever, and want to change it, take a strategy from the big boy’s playbook.

The major chain retailers all want you in their store. To get you in the door and then make a regular shopper out of you, they have to get you out of their competitor’s store. There are right ways to do this and wrong ways.

These strategies are not about will power or won’t power. They also have little to do with your motivation. In the future, we will talk more about how to motivate yourself and stay motivated. When we talk about that we will look at why it is so easy to motivate yourself to do fun things and so hard to motivate yourself to do disagreeable things. Here is how retailers motivate you.

The ways major retailers get you to switch is a blueprint for changing your behavior.  Here are some things the stores do and how you can use these techniques to end a habit.

1. Do not focus on the behavior you want to stop.

This is where most self-improvement programs go wrong. The more you try to not do something the stronger the urges to do exactly that thing. One retailer does not, if they are smart, run commercials telling you to “don’t shop at brand X.”

Commercials like that only remind you of brand x. Occasionally retailers forget and do this. The result is not more customers in their store, even if they get them out of the competitor’s store. (See the post on “Don’t think about elephants.”)

If you are trying to get rid of a habit like drinking, focusing on not drinking is likely to get you to find another habit to take the drinking’s place. That new habit, like gambling, may be just as undesirable as the old habit.

People in recovery find that just quitting the old habit leaves you miserable. There is a whole body of literature on “dry drunks” people who have quit the drinking but they are still miserable. So what do you do?

2. Create a competing behavior.

Stores try to give you a reason to try them, just once. They use coupons, specials this week only, offers, and the like to create a really strong reason for you to come to them this one time.

With undesirable habits, we need to create a new positive habit to replace the old one. This is one reason A.A. or church services are so helpful to recovering people. It creates a new habit to replace the old one.

3. Make sure the new habit is enjoyable.

If the store gets you in the door they should do all they can to make this new experience a positive one. Smart retailers bring in extra help for the sale even if they are selling things at cost.

They want you to get service and get it promptly if they are to have any chance of keeping you as a regular customer. Stores that forget this and make you wait in long lines or treat you rudely end up sending you back to the place you used to shop even if you didn’t really like it there.

If your change effort involves pain and doing without then you are likely to say why bother and head right back to what you used to do. Make this new change behavior enjoyable and the chances that this fun thing will replace the old undesired behavior.

4. Keep coming back.

Stores know that if you switch your shopping pattern and visit a new place three times in a row there is a strong chance you have a new regular place to shop. This is why they use coupons that have expiration dates, offers that allow you so much off or something for free each week or month.

Make a habit of the new behavior and it is likely to persist.

This is why recovery groups will suggest 30 meetings in 30 days or even 90 meetings in 90 days. Anything you do that many times in a row will become your new default behavior. Even if you start missing meetings down the road, the habit of going to meetings instead of drinking is now firmly entrenched.

So if you really want to stop a bad habit take these simple steps. Create a new habit to replace the old one. Make it fun to do. Minimize any negative parts of the new behavior and keep doing it over and over until it is your new default behavior.

Do these steps and you can be a habit shaper just like the big boys.

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