It’s time for your success!

We all want to try to be our best! 

Sometimes achievement is hard though, especially if things have been difficult in your early life.  You may have been so busy surviving that it was near impossible to focus on your own hopes and aspirations.

But once you are an adult you are free to dream again and control your own life.  No one can tell you how to think or feel.  You are your own person with your own unique contribution to make to the world. 

At the Smart Therapy Centre, we help you to remember your dreams and coach you all the way to success!

Don’t Forget You Wanted to Go Places

Paying attention to our dreams of success is crucial.  Otherwise we forget them and lower our hopes during life. 

Have you ever wondered why people as they age often seem more cynical, disappointed and less amused with life?  Whoops!  They’ve lost touch with and given up their hopes and ambitions!

Still there are some synapses that have trace memories of those hopes and dreams and they nag, disappoint and ruin lives whenever they come to mind.

The answer is not to brush these memories away and continue with a pale and insignificant version of your life, but to re-discover, embrace and accomplish this call to success.

At the Smart Therapy Centre we turn lives around and help make people fit for their purpose of success.  

We Are Only As Good As Our Dreams

During life we frequently learn to aim lower.  Often, we are told that this is a good thing as it is more ‘realistic’ and not everyone can reach great heights. 

The trouble is that when we stop mentally practising our big ambitions, then we gradually forget we ever had such dreams of wonderful outcomes.  We abandon our own ambitions.

The Smart Therapy Centre can help you re-connect with your dreams and become the best you can be.

 

Get What You Want

Many of us don’t know what we want in life. 

We are often too busy to really consider our dreams and we easily get caught up in doing the same repetitive things day in day out.

We need to briefly step out of the fast pace of life and ask ourselves about one thing we would like to do differently that will help us achieve our dreams.

At the Smart Therapy Centre, we help people to identify their dreams and we impart the skills and wisdom that are necessary to achieve them.  

With our large brain comes huge responsibility and meaning

In my 25+ years as a clinical psychologist at the Smart Therapy Centre I have seen countless people struggling to find meaning in their lives. 

When we lack meaning it is easy to become unmotivated, flat, anxious, envious, angry and despairing.  These emotions really get in the way of having an enjoyable life.

In my experience, the problem is that people often look for meaning within themselves and their own ambitions rather than looking for meaning out in the wider world.  As Archimedes said ‘rise above yourself and grasp the world’.

There are huge contributions to be made out in the wider world that provide massive amounts of meaning if we get stuck into cooperating and helping.  For example, here is a cause that I believe is extremely meaningful and important.

Our closest living relatives, Bonobo chimps are barely surviving in the Congo and are almost extinct.  Bonobos are so very similar to us, smiling exactly as we do, often walking upright, having friendly face-to-face sex, and they can make stone tools and use them for cutting. 

There are many other tasks that Bonobos can easily do if they are simply raised within human culture.  For example, they can gather firewood, as well as light, maintain and put out fires.  They can draw symbols to communicate through written language, and they can easily respond to complex human language by taking instruction over the telephone.  Perhaps they are something similar to what used to be called the ‘missing link’ in evolution showing huge resemblance to early hominids like ‘Lucy’.

It would be a huge travesty if Bonobos became extinct on our watch.

But there are countless causes we can get involved in – from saving Bonobos to preserving the Amazon rainforest, from improving renewables to narrowing the economic divide, and so on.  With our large brain, I believe we have a huge ethical responsibility to protect other species and people who are unable to advocate for themselves. 

Meanwhile, when we look wider than ourselves as individuals and help create a better world we find real happiness and meaning derived from our cooperation and contribution.  And sure enough, when I work with people who have found ways to contribute to a better world, I am always impressed how this enhances their own lives and happiness.       

 

Kids Behaving Badly

Often in my clinical psychology work at the Smart Therapy Centre, parents come in and tell me that their out-of-control child is anxious and needs treatment to make them calm.

This seems to be a common misconception.  Usually, I find that there is not an inkling of anxiety in the child and it is just that they are behaving badly because of parental confusion.  This probably results from so many conflicting messages to mothers (in particular), as a result of which it is easy to get parenting wrong.

In terms of basics, there are three main styles of parenting:  Authoritarian (‘I’m the boss and it’s my way or the highway’); Libertarian (‘do whatever you want and walk over me while you’re at it’); and Authoritative (‘take proper responsibility because there will be positive or negative consequences for your choices’).

Parenting styles in the past were often authoritarian, strict and could be brutal.  It was found retrospectively that this parenting style could damage children, so our society flipped the coin and moved towards the very libertarian styles of parenting that we currently see all around us.  We see parents giving their children infinite chances, placating them, soothing them for minor disturbances, over-praising them, and trying to be friends but often ending up being servants to their increasingly tyrannical children.

Having seen thousands of people over the years, I’ve strangely found in my clinical work that libertarian styles probably do even more damage than authoritarian styles of parenting.  

This is because children desperately need limits to correctly understand and interpret society in order to function well within it.  They need to know that expectations out in the real world are generally much, much higher than libertarian parental ones and we rarely get anything for nothing. 

Children also need high motivation and crucial skills to accomplish important tasks and if they are told they are wonderful for barely lifting a finger, then they easily lose any motivation to try, persevere and accomplish those important tasks.

With libertarian parenting, it is easy to end up with entitled, poorly-adjusted, rude and unskilled young adults.

On the other hand, authoritative parenting is realistic.  It is friendly, explanatory and kind, but also very strict with high expectations.  The child quickly learns to take proper responsibility for their own behaviour since they receive immediate feedback via positive and negative consequences that are delivered consistently and without punitive motivation.

How to sleep like a sleepy little cat!

Sleep disturbance has been one of the most common problems I’ve encountered in my decades of work as a clinical psychologist at the Smart Therapy Centre.

By now, most people know most of the ‘sleep hygiene’ factors.  Things like having a dark, cool room with cool bedcovers since getting too warm keeps us awake.  Or, getting off the computer or TV screen at least an hour before bed as the blue light reduces melatonin production.  Also, ensuring we don’t engage in other activities in bed like emails, TV, eating or reading because doing these things teaches our brain to stay awake when in bed rather than to go to sleep when in bed.

In my experience though, the most important advice that nearly everyone overlooks is DON’T GET OVERTIRED.  Like babies, when we are overtired, we get restless, agitated and so ‘wired’ that we feel almost tortured – and then sleep becomes incredibly difficult to achieve. 

It is most important to remember that we usually DON’T REALISE when we are overtired (and in fact, almost as soon as we become overtired our bodies produce more cortisol to keep us awake) so we frequently feel wide awake.  This will especially be the case if you are used to staying up late and have habitual insomnia. 

Therefore, it is crucial to get to bed well before this happens.  Perhaps set an early bedtime (initially like 8 or 9pm) and stick to it – even if it feels ridiculously early!  

Nearly all Misery Arises from Losing Control

Contrary to popular belief, if I were to say what single issue not only causes, but keeps misery alive for decades longer than necessary, it is that of giving ourselves permission to mentally lose control. 

Over and over in my work as a clinical psychologist at the Smart Therapy Centre I see people who are giving themselves permission to lose control.  We give that permission when we mentally abdicate responsibility, take drugs, drink excessively, eat excessively, become full of rage, collapse, smoke, engage in self-harm, become helpless and passive,  ruminate endlessly on depressive mentations or give ourselves over to sheer, unrelenting anxiety and panic.

So why does this happen?  Well, I can tell you from my 30 years of work in the field that this occurs when people have come from difficult childhood backgrounds where they have experienced lots of stressful life events (SLEs), often without adequate parental guidance, love or assistance.

We know that all SLEs cause large releases of CRF, a brain hormone that activates our main threat detection parts of the brain called the amygdalae.  This causes our reactive limbic system to become highly agitated and often dominant over our larger, more objective and more sensible frontal brain.

When we have lots of SLEs in childhood and the limbic system is therefore being constantly recruited to dominate, we frequently move into adulthood with very hyped-up, agitated, hyper-sensitised or sometimes excessively passive brains.

Over time, we often become tremendously reactive and labile in our entire mental and physical physiology.  Our heart races so fast; we shake so much; we feel so stressed; we feel so angry; we feel so helpless and so passive; and we feel so despairing and so very miserable.  

Worst of all, these mental ‘excesses’ (reflecting an out-if-control childhood) become habits that we generalize, leading us to adopt other out-of-control behaviours (like losing our temper or drinking too much or being excessively anxious) and then we repeat them over and over.

With time and practice these out-of-control behaviours not only feel normal but deep down we come to believe that we cannot control or alter them since they feel so much a ‘natural’ part of us.

But nothing could be further from the truth.  We can virtually always maintain complete mental control over our brain and behaviour.  We know that our frontal brain has the capacity to send signals to control outcomes in other brain areas and alter their neural firing patterns, slowing them down or speeding them up or interrupting them entirely.  Our frontal brain is the ‘boss’ whenever we insist. 

Sadly, every time we give ourselves permission to lose control, we re-traumatise our brain and repeat the out-of-control experiences of all those previous SLEs.  Essentially, we keep teaching our brain that we will always be out-of-control, allowing the brain patterns to stay alive and maladaptive.

Instead, we must stop paying any attention at all to our old, useless reptilian limbic brain with its excessive emotional responses and physical reactions.  Instead we must recruit our much larger, far more powerful frontal brain into our daily lives 24/7.  We must override our excessively hyped-up limbic system and ensure that we flatline emotionally by refusing to allow ourselves to lose mental or behavioural control.

So for example, if you are trying to stop losing control with anger, then clearly decide (a frontal brain ‘function’) to stop ruminating over and over on angry themes, decide to stop using extreme words like ‘bitch’ or ‘hate’ or ‘loser’, decide to stop closing down your facial expressions in a mask, and decide to stop talking through clenched teeth, decide to soften your voice tone, decide to stop paying attention to feelings of hostility or anger, decide to reflect on your own contribution to situations, decide to stop putting in the mean ‘barb’ or nasty joke, decide to stop raising your voice and decide to stop getting agitated.  Especially, decide to never again get violent. 

Instead focus on being friendly, relaxed, calm and in-control (irrespective of whether you actually feel it).  Decide to flatline all of these nonsensical, out-of-control emotions and behaviours.   Make a clear decision: No ifs, no buts, no exceptions! 

Very quickly you come to realise that you do, in fact, have 100% control over your mental state.  Then, as a welcome bonus you suddenly notice a few months down the track that you feel so much happier and more confident than you have ever felt before about your future.  Well done!  Your brain has just learnt the wonderful power of control.

All drugged-up and nowhere to go

In my work at the Smart Therapy Centre over the past 25 years I have often seen the alarming results of medication on people’s capacity to recover from distress.  In my experience, this distress could almost always have been resolved in a matter of days or weeks with intelligent, targeted intervention.

Instead many people unwittingly get caught in the revolving door of the psychiatric system where they are usually medicated. 

Sadly, medication tends to take the frontal brain off-line and in so doing removes much of what makes us attentive, rational, imaginative, empathic and socially sensitive beings. 

Moreover, medication tends to make us passive, reducing our capacity for mental control and ‘free will’ thereby reducing our likelihood of making well-judged decisions and being able to act as agentic advocates on our own behalf.  We can quickly become bystanders of our own lives.

To make matters worse, often when people are too drugged-up, others just don’t want to hang out with them because the lack of social nuance is just too limiting.

Saddest of all, once people are medicated, they are usually seriously disempowered because they nearly always come to believe (totally incorrectly) that they cannot survive (let alone, recover) without their tablets.  This is how the most vulnerable people can so easily become supporters of the (often inhumane) role of big pharma in mental health.

  

Loneliness – How to Survive It

One of the most common problems I see in my clinical work at the Smart Therapy Centre is loneliness.  Every day, men and women struggle with lack of connection, alienation and desperate feelings of despair.

Yet, most people think that they (as individuals) are the problem – that there is something wrong with them for being lonely and that everyone else out in the wider world is happy and engaged.

But nothing could be further from the truth.  Loneliness is a problem associated with wealthy, first world countries where it is experienced in epidemic proportions. 

This is mainly because advanced industrialisation means we no longer live, work and play within our local communities like we used to – which in many ways is good.  For example, breaking out of these small local communities broadens our horizons, enables us to see larger goals, reduces conformity and allows individual difference to flourish unhindered by small-minded social pressures to fit in.

But we also lose something in the process.  Our friendships become less embedded in knowing the ‘whole’ person in depth. 

Also, once we are ‘extracted’ from local communities that still do exist (like schools and small towns) those friendships will frequently, over time, become eroded and empty because there is no longer any regular interaction with daily problems we need to cooperatively solve. 

We can however get around loneliness to some extent, but it often involves letting go of the notion that friendship is forever and has some personal, intrinsic, deep and individual meaning.  Instead we must accept the reality that once the shared activity is over, usually so too is the friendship – since we are no longer involved in the side-by-side shared social process of working on daily concerns. 

Quite reasonably, many people do not want to face this reality and they continue to hold onto outdated friendships from old local communities where everyone is increasingly irrelevant to each other as time passes.  This is fine, so long as you don’t expect anything too deep and satisfying from these occasional encounters since what creates the depth is the process of day-to-day interaction. 

On the other hand, if we want the advantages of extraction from local communities (bigger visions) but fewer of the disadvantages (loneliness), then we can join interest groups that are relevant to our current lives and where we are keen to solve the same problems as other group members. 

It is in these places where we will find people with whom we have more in common.  Also, with the focus on frequent contact and the side-by-side shared activity we can gradually delve deeper into other shared interests allowing us to know more of the ‘whole’ in other group members over time.

I generally find in my clinical work that it is helpful for people to join groups that meet often and are purposeful.  Such ‘groups’ could include paid work; dance groups; political groups; volunteer work; reading groups; running groups; science clubs; migrant groups; orienteering clubs; bushwalking clubs; business groups; community service groups; gardening clubs; choirs; chess clubs; travel groups; art groups; ukulele clubs; tennis clubs and so on. 

In these contexts, people engage in vigorous participation in order to achieve common goals and in order to improve and increase understanding, while having great fun and deriving ‘meaning’ doing the much-loved activity.

It is particularly beneficial if there are opportunities within these groups for smaller gatherings as well as a larger pool of people nearby coming in and out to bring in fresh ideas and help prevent stagnation and conformity.  An example of this might be learning to dance at several venues (to increase frequency and closer connection in smaller groups) while sometimes attending large dance gatherings where all venues come together to compete and/or just to dance the night away.