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

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 life 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. Through 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

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 real 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

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope is contagious

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

Hope

Hope.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Where do you go to get some hope when yours runs out?

There is no doubt in my mind that hope is an essential ingredient for recovery. Without hope, nothing gets done and if you do not change things then nothing changes.

How do you move from being hopeless to having hope? What is up with those people who are consistently full of hope?

One ingredient of Hope is wishing for something. Sometimes we are in misery but if we do not believe that things can get better our only wish is that things not get worse.

The dictionary (Encarta) begins its definition of Hope, as a verb, with the statement:

to have a wish to get or do something or for something to happen or be true, especially something that seems possible or likely

Fundamental to this having of hope is the belief that there is some possibility of it happening. This is why we encourage recovering people to have a support system. Even when you are beset by doubts, having positive people in your support system can increase your levels of hope.

When you go to a meeting and the person next to you tells a story of their hope and their recovery it becomes easier for you to believe that this can happen to you.

To hope requires action. The continued practice of hoping that if you take the necessary action then things can and will get better.

If you continually tell yourself “that can’t happen” or “that will never happen” you are creating that possibility. Your continued telling this tale to your brain results in the brain believing that this thing you desire can never under any circumstance happen. Your brain responds by making sure to please you and prevents this outcome.

But if you can tell yourself that this “could” happen, it “might” happen if you continue to try, this allows the brain to do the actions needed to move towards successes.

Another definition of hope includes the words:

a chance that something desirable will happen or be possible

I have seen this repeatedly in my clients and students. Those who say “I could never go back to school at my age; I could never get a degree.” They don’t.  Those who are willing to move even the short distance to “I do not know if I could do this but I will try” they get going, do the required work and in a great many cases they succeed.

Our dictionary’s second definition of Hope as a noun moves closer to successes.

a feeling that something desirable is likely to happen

Once you move to the belief that this thing, this outcome you wished for is not only possible but likely the road gets easier. Not that there won’t be obstacles and bumps on this road.

There is a connection between hope, willpower, and determination. Willpower and determination are wasted without hope? With hope, you can develop the willpower and determination needed to keep moving forward.

Many people grew up in non-affirming homes. They were told they would never amount to anything and they were no good. If you hear this often enough you come to believe what you are told. You lose hope.

Working with a counselor, a supportive friend or a group of peers you can rebuild hope. Small successes will convince you that there are things that you can do if only you try.

Hope is most valuable when times are hard and things are not going your way. The belief that there is something you can do to alter your life course and the hope that if you keep trying you can reach that goal will keep you going.

Hope is more than just a positive attitude. It encompasses the belief in yourself, that if you do the required things then good outcomes are possible.

Where are you on this journey of moving from hopelessness to hope?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becoming wealthy is easier than you think

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

Cash

Money.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

In the wealthiest country on earth, most Americans are poor.

What does it take to become a wealthy person? Getting into that top one percent may be difficult but moving up wealth ladder takes a whole lot less than you might think.

Poor may be easier to define than wealthy. The poor can’t afford much of anything.  By most economic measures the majority of Americans are poor. I will emphasize Americans in this post because most of the rest of the world thinks of us as wealthy, we know better.

Two-thirds of all Americans live paycheck to paycheck.

Most of us are one paycheck away from homelessness. The only thing saving a lot of us is the slow speed of eviction and foreclosure.

Absolutely having an income is important. We will return again later to the theme of the connection between having a job, any job, and having hope and good mental health. But once you have that income coming in, what will it take to start moving up into the ranks of the “wealthy.” Probably way less than you think.

Over one-fourth of Americans have no savings account. Open a savings account of any amount and you move into the upper 75 % of all Americans in wealth. Better open that account with a credit union. In what I see as amazing cynicism most U. S. banks will charge you so much for “maintaining an account” those fees will drain the account dry in a matter of months.

Want to do better than that? Let’s say you want to join the upper 50% wealthiest Americans, you need to reach a balance in that savings account of just $500. That’s right folks; to enter the ranks of the wealthiest half of all Americans you need just $500 in savings.

You are saying that it must be more complicated than that. Well yes, there is a little catch. You can’t count yourself wealthy if you don’t pay your bills to collect up that saving account balance. But don’t worry about that one too much. Turns out most Americans have bills that exceed their savings account balance. So yes even with balances on your credit cards you can make the 50 % most wealthy Americans list with just $500 in savings.

Want to bypass all that middle of the road stuff and make the upper crust? The wealthiest one-third is your goal? The amount you need in Savings will need to reach the astronomical figure of $1,000.

This is mind-boggling. Most of us will spend thousands on a big screen or a new computer but can “spend” $1,000 by placing it in a savings account for later use. How much is peace of mind worth? If you lose just one night’s sleep worrying about paying bills having that $1,000 cushion will be worth the effort to save it up.

Unless, big warning here, if you are one of those people who the minute you get some money in the bank you increase your spending to use that money up. To get into the top one-third in wealth is a lot easier than to stay there.

What about credit cards?

We need to talk about the average American now, not the upper or lower anything. Calling anyone average is a stretch, especially when we are talking about money. The average family had 2.3 children at one point. No one has point anything kids. You either have two or three or you belong in an institution for the criminally insane.

Take one person walking down Wall Street; he has one hundred million dollars in the bank. Now average his bank balance with the nine homeless people in that Occupy encampment. What is the result? The AVERAGE bank balance will be ten million dollars. No one in this example has that amount.

This trying to average Billionaires and people making minimum wage is one reason Washington keeps getting us into trouble. If you take away everything the Billionaires have and leave them homeless you still won’t get enough to make the homeless into millionaires. On the other hand, if the Billionaires don’t kick in and kick in good there will be no one to buy from their companies and they will not feel safe walking the streets. Trickle-down economics only works when the flow rate increases way beyond a trickle. But I digress.

How do credit cards figure into this becoming a wealthy person?

Credit cards have their place. I am not urging you to return to the depression era economics and go completely without the existence of credit. I keep some in case my car breaks down in the middle of the desert and I need to get it repaired to get out of there. I do not move to the desert and try to live by using my card instead of working.

The way some card companies market their products is the equivalent of that chocolate cake on the healthy eating list. Sympathy for those card companies is like caring for sharks by keeping some in the community pool. I am all for conservation but it does not include a shark in my pool thank you very much.

So what is the relationship between being a wealthy American and credit cards?  Wealthy people do not carry balances on credit cards. If they have them and use them they pay them off as quickly as possible.

This keeps most Americans out of the “Wealthy” club. The “Average American” has $3,800 in their bank account but they have $2,200 on their credit card. If they were to pay that credit card off there would not be even one month’s living expenses left for that “average” American.

The net result is that they will end up using that card again. They get to pay and pay that balance over and over and still never get out of debt.

Want to be a wealthy American no matter how much you make? Save up some money in an emergency savings account, pay off those credit cards and then scale back your spending to match your income.

You can’t afford the bare necessities you say? We need to talk about the difference between necessities and luxuries, between wants and needs. But this post has run over so I will save that for another time.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding your Quest – what life challenge will define you?

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

Meaning.

Meaning.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Have you found your life’s purpose?

It is my view that each and every person has a reason for being – beyond that night their parents spent together. Some of us find our purpose easily and the rest of our life leads in that direction. For others of us, we can’t see that purpose till late in life after we have accumulated a vast collection of experiences.

We are all the heroes of our own lives.

Every great epic story involves a hero and a quest. In the heroic drama, there is a customary sequence of events that sets up the required quest. Good fiction writers know this and give you plenty of quest elements to make their stories interesting. When I write fiction I try to incorporate those elements. In my counseling practice I find that clients have been on personal quests, searches for life’s meaning, that rival any I think up for a work of fiction.

The epic begins with the hero being asked to undertake some great and meaningful task. They are thinking of doing something to save mankind or prevent a great global disaster.  Interview a group of first graders and ask them what they plan to be when they grow up and you will get a list of those professions that try to make a difference. Somewhere along the line, we decide not to embark on that quest.

In the hero story, the protagonist usually says no. I don’t want to devote my life to helping the homeless or some other noble undertaking. Here the hero goes off on his own and tries to have a lot of fun. Sound familiar. We may suspect we have some special purpose but no, we decide to live our lives for ourselves and let others worry about the homeless and world peace.

Now in the hero story, the main guy finds he can’t escape his destiny no matter how hard he tries. The war comes to his town, the shelling destroys his home and now he is one of those homeless refugees of war. He has to do something to end homelessness and war if only to save himself. Maybe in the process, he puts on a white helmet and tries to save a few children.

Notice that most people in the helping professions have had to overcome some issues, in themselves or their family, the quest to improve their world was thrust on them whether they wanted it or not.

Counselors in substance abuse facilities have historically been people in recovery from alcoholism or addiction. They have to save others to save themselves. I have also seen people who grew up without parents who were moved from caregiver to caregiver, who made it their life work to be super parents or to work with other parentless children.

So in this epic we call our lives we may get distracted, sometimes for years, but eventually, we need to face the task of finding a purpose for our lives. We embark on this quest or we waste away never knowing that our life could have had a purpose and a meaning.

We may stumble along in life, endure pain and suffer a little. Hopefully, learn that the pain may be a requirement but the suffering is optional. Eventually, we find our life purpose. Right?

Wish it were that easy.

The way this heroic quest plot plays out in the movie theater or the novel is a lot easier to see than in our own lives.

In the novel version, once the hero sets off there are all kinds of obstacle put in his way. He may encounter dragons and demons and all sorts of stuff. He will be arrested and thrown in a dungeon and then have to find the magic key that sets him free.

A writer’s expression that fits with this scene is “when the hero reaches for the key, cut off his hand.” This sounds cruel I know, but in the giant epic, there is never a point where the hero knows things are getting better. Not till he gets to the end and looks back.

So what does this have to do with our personal recovery? Sometimes recovery is not pretty. This is a real life and bad things can keep happening even when you are trying to do the right thing. The thing that will give your life real meaning, will make you quest worth undertaking, is to find that thing that says to you it needs doing no matter what it takes.

If you can find that quest, your life will have meaning no matter how hard the struggles.

Are you willing to undertake a great heroic quest to become the best person you can be?

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

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

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

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

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

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

The problem easy button.

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

ok

Pushing the button.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Where did I put that easy button that solves everyone’s problems?

Have you seen that commercial where there is an easy button and you push it and the problem is solved?

Do you ever wish there was one of those buttons?

Clients come for counseling and they talk about how bad their life is, how they wish that family member would change and so on.

What they don’t usually talk about is what they are willing to do to get this situation to change.

So if we had an easy button for your life problems – would you hit it?

Surprisingly many people would not be willing to hit the button.

Say you have a lot of anxiety and you could hit this button and all your anxiety would be gone, a very large number of you will pass on that opportunity. Why won’t people hit the easy button when it is sitting there on the table in front of them?

One reason is that our problems become like old friends. We are used to our particular brand of suffering and we are afraid that if this problem were to be solved then there would be other changes in our lives, changes that scare us. The terror we know is less scary than the one that might be around the bend in the path we have never trod.

For people who suffer from anger, depression or substance abuse, their problem can become a part of who they think they are. Depression like Anxiety keeps you from doing things. That fear protects you from trying and therefore you don’t have to worry about making mistakes. You can’t do it because of Mr. Anxiety, Mary Jane or Miss Crystal, so it is not your fault. If we take your anxiety from you and you were able to do things – guess what. Some of those things would not turn out well. You might even make some mistakes.

The cost of having an illness that prevents you from doing things needs to be balanced with the risks that if you did those things they will not all turn out perfectly.

With the freedom to make choices to decide how you want to live your life also come responsibilities. You need to own your choices, the good and the bad. Freedom has its risks.

Sometimes it is nice to have someone listen; understand what we are going through. Life can be hard and having a supportive person can be a great comfort. That person should not be someone who convinces you to hold on to your misery because a life free of suffering is just too scary.

I accept that many of us have had to live with pain. Pain may be a part of the human condition, but the suffering, that is optional.

One thing the counselor should not do is become a co-conspirator with the client and begin to tell them that they should give up. That with your problems there is no way you could be successful and so, of course, you should not try.

Despite the reality that giving up is bad advice no matter who tells you to do it, we all from time to time tell ourselves that we need to stop trying. The risks of solving our life problems are just too great.

So if the problem-solving button were in front of you – right now – hit it and your problem will be solved – will you do it? Are you ready to take that chance?

What will it take for you to be ready to leave those problems behind?

That button, that key to solving your problems, it has been there all this time, deep down inside you. You should know by now that your life can be happier if only you chose to let go of the suffering and make the most of your life with or without the pain.

The anger, the anxiety, the addiction, they may have been your long-term companions but they are not your friends. Kick them to the curb and get on with your life.

Every great epic story involves a hero and a quest.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

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

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

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

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