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    Tick Tock Biological Clock

    In my work at the Smart Therapy Centre I have often seen women who can hear their biological clock ticking but have not yet formed the relationship in which they would like to raise a child.

    This can frequently lead to the missed opportunity of having children.  Now I’m not for a moment saying that reproducing is everyone’s cup of tea, and in fact, many people would argue that there are lots more important things to do in the world.  However, if you are keen for a little one to come along then please don’t make a common mistake.

    From what I have seen in my work, this error is that women take too long to ‘cut to the chase’ in each relationship they enter.  Instead they beat around the bush vaguely hinting at things like commitment, marriage and children, as though they are scared they will frighten their partner away. 

    Yet, usually the complete opposite is true.  Wishy washy unassertive people struggle to command proper respect from their partners who tend to wipe the floor with them and never feel persuaded to commit in any meaningful way.

    This means years can be wasted only to find out that he is not even slightly interested. 

    Instead, if you want commitment, marriage or children then say so clearly and be prepared to argue the case openly and early in the relationship.  If the issue cannot be resolved satisfactorily through rational discussion (where either you change your mind about children or he changes his mind) then move on FAST!  If all things fail, be proactive and stop waiting for the handsome prince to kiss you awake and instead get yourself donor sperm and raise the child on your own.  

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    The Sky’s the Limit


    People often talk about not setting high expectations in case people fail to achieve their goals and then end up feeling badly about themselves.  This especially occurs with children.

    In particular, parents commonly over-praise their children and reward them for very little productivity, to ensure no harm occurs to their self-esteem.  Likewise, teachers are often careful, especially when working with kids from difficult or under-privileged backgrounds, to handle them with care as though they are ‘fragile’ and their self-esteem will otherwise be irreparably damaged.

    However, as a clinical psychologist who has worked with thousands of people, my experience is very different.  In my work, if I want people to do well, I tell them that I expect them to do well and show them a clear pathway to achieving their goals. The higher my standards, the better they perform.

    This is similar to the high expectations seen in elite schools, colleges and universities which simply ‘expect’ their students to become the next generation of leaders in our country.

    On the other hand, under-privileged students or children from difficult backgrounds may be told the rhetoric that they can ‘have it all’, but this is rarely demonstrated to them by expecting them to perform at a highly competitive standard.  What’s more these children are often handled as ‘fragile’ which makes them grasp early on in life that they are somehow defective and could easily break under the slightest pressure.

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    When you leave - you have to take yourself.

    I’ve noticed over the decades in my work at the Smart Therapy Centre that people are often very quick to decide to leave a relationship.

    While there are times where it is definitely right to leave (for example, when there is the slightest inkling of violence), there are also times where people leave normal but difficult relationships prematurely or without sufficient self-reflection.

    This is probably because when things get hard we are all inclined to want to flee the situation and it is easy to see our partner as the problem that must be escaped.

    But if we reflect more on any problem we encounter in a relationship, there are ways in which we are both contributing.  For example, one person might be passive and sulky and never talk about or raise conflictual issues that desperately need to be sorted out.  Equally, the other person may be getting angry and yelling about these issues, but because of their escalation they are cutting off opportunities to calmly sort through these valid issues.  Both people are contributing to the lack of good communication and both people need to change to rectify the situation.

    When people just leave (and take themselves), it often results in them simply repeating the same patterns in every new relationship embarked upon.  When we locate the problem as being primarily ‘outside’ of ourselves (the ‘fault’ of our now ex-partner) then we continue with our own dodgy behaviour.  Of course, when we behave the same way then we are likely to evoke the same response in other people, setting up a predictable pattern of repeated relationship breakdown.

    It is not until we realise that we must stop emphasising the failures of others and instead focus on changing our own contributing behaviours that we can truly liberate ourselves from the misery of the failed-relationship roundabout.



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    Creating Yourself

    People often think they are ready-built.  No changes thank you!  Completed at birth.  Reflecting this thinking, we see that our society is full of clichés like ‘you should love me for who I am’ or ‘I just need to love myself more’ or ‘this is me, if you don’t like it then leave’.  These expressions assume an ‘intrinsic’ self (often claimed to reflect individual genetic difference) that we are born with and which is fixed or unalterable.

    The problem with this view is that it leaves us powerless to influence both ourselves and others.  You cannot change what is set in concrete.  It supports stubborn resistance.  It supports the idea that we lack control over our behaviour ‘this is just who I am so lump it’ as though our genes can somehow override us.  Most importantly though, it is highly unlikely to be true.

    In reality, our genes or any intrinsic ‘self’ has very little to do with how we behave, especially given that humans are 99.9% genetically identical to each other (yet we are not all behaving the same) and we share many of our genes with bananas (about 50%) and moreover we humans have fewer genes than your average banana!

    On the other hand, what humans do have is an incredible capacity to learn and build our brains in-the-moment, based on what we learn.  In fact, our entire personalities are likely created simply by what we have paid attention to, learnt, remembered and habitually practiced over and over in our day-to-day behaviour.

    This means that our personalities are largely voluntary!  Even when we are very old we can still change ourselves.  We can all create improved (or deleterious) versions of ourselves whenever we think it necessary.

    For example, if we like certain aspects of ourselves (like our friendliness or skills at dancing) then we can make sure we pay more focussed attention to those parts and practice them more in our behaviour.

    Alternatively, when we don’t like certain parts of ourselves (like being anxious, angry or food-obsessed) then we can decide to slip these unwanted mentations straight out of our attentional focus and not practice them mentally, instead shifting our attention onto an activity we want to strengthen in our brain (like remembering dance steps).  Very soon, our dance steps become a larger and larger part of our mental experience whereas our anxiety, anger or food obsessions become smaller and smaller until we lose awareness of them altogether.

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    Free me from this prison!

    All of us are born into an imperfect world.

    The brain each of us builds will reflect exactly that imperfect world in which we find ourselves.  Our brains can only build synapses for and learn the things to which we are exposed.  None of us are exposed to all the right knowledge and often what we are exposed to (and learn) is completely wrong.

    Therefore, we all build an imperfect or incomplete brain, and although we may be reasonably smart we all have our blind spots:  limits to our rationality.

    Think of it like being in a prison cell - our limitations keep us ‘stuck’ inside the bars and we have not yet learnt our means of escape.

    We try to help ourselves, but we only have one brain.  We are not sure what parts of our brain are helpful and which parts are the problem.  It’s hard to think outside of ourselves.

    In these circumstances, it seems to me that we need to find ourselves a partner in crime, someone who holds our true interests at heart.  Someone who loves us and desperately wants to help us escape.  A brain outside our own brain, just as we can be a brain outside of theirs.

    But this will not be an easy path.  Our partner will have to go to battle with our errors and self-lies even though we hold them all as self-evident truths (after all, that’s why we’ve been doing them for so long).

    Our partner will have to argue, critique, fight us to the death (a sign of true love!) to shift us from our old, entrenched habits to help free us from our prison.

    From this perspective, true love is more about fiercely but lovingly battling it out and less about blandly living happily ever after, without any hope of release.

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    Be careful what you wish for

    Often aggressive people partner with compliant people, and they think they have it made.  They get to choose their favourite restaurants or movies and they get to behave badly without a quibble of objection.  A toddler’s paradise.  What more could you want?

    But then the boredom sets in.  Nothing coming back, a bit like being in a relationship with yourself.  Lonely … ☹

    What’s more, over time, ‘no limits’ tends to bring out the worst in people.  It often leads to shabby, anti-social and even appalling behaviour. This is not because of being a bad person but because when there’s no sign saying ‘keep off the grass’ we’re simply inclined to walk on it.  Maybe even trample it.

    When all is said and done, I am sure that the best thing we can wish for in a partner is someone who is our true equal, and has the mental fortitude to help us navigate the darkest moments of our lives.

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    Loss of Connection in Passivity


    People often mistake passivity or being ‘laid back’ for being nice, relaxed and well adjusted.  In my line of work in clinical psychology though, being passive is one of the hardest profiles to ever change and improve.

    It usually results from being bullied in childhood and then forming some type of an alliance of passivity and compliance with the perpetrator (rather than going into open opposition or warfare against the perpetrator which would result in a more overtly aggressive profile which, BTW, is a much, much easier profile to change).

    The passive profile is particularly hard to change because passive people disengage and retreat into themselves when any pressure is applied for change.  They will often say ‘yes’ ‘yes – I’ll do that’, but then they dig-in and stubbornly resist making even the slightest change.  Week after week, month after month and year after year they fail to come forward to connect and be influenced by others, thereby continually failing to progress.

    When we retreat and disengage we fail to pay attention, we retract and enter our own little parallel world where we are not subject to the normal engagement and learning rules whereby we can be influenced by others.  By saying ‘yes’ we simply pretend to agree and therefore temporarily side-step any conflict and it is conflict that is terrifying to passive people.

    Yet by withdrawing into ourselves we break with any meaningful connection with others.  We drift off into infinity – lost in the silence of space; all alone and out-of-reach of any human assistance.  This retreat is a desperate and isolating strategy.  We cannot hear screams in the vacuum of space.

    Over time, we can practice this withdrawal strategy more and more, and at the slightest sign of conflict we retreat into our isolation.  We cannot learn and improve if we fail to pay attention.  We cannot pay attention if we withdraw our motivation to come forward and authentically engage with others in open discussion.  Passive people simply appear to engage to get others off their back and to avoid any possibility of conflict.

    Unless we decide to come forward and take the risk of conflict, rejection and hostility from others, we will go through life stuck, repeating the same senseless patterns of behaviour and creating the same predictable lose-lose outcomes.

    This withdrawal habit may have started a long time ago, but it doesn’t have to keep going.  We can always make the decision to stop any behaviour we choose. After all, who cares if someone hates or rejects us – we can all live with that – we don’t have to keep on retreating at the smallest sign of upset.  In order to learn just how tough we really are, we have to move forward into the firing line, learning to think on our feet and flexibly solve problems and even when we do get hit from time to time, it teaches us that it doesn’t hurt that much anyway.


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    Get bored with your anxiety


    Often when I see anxious people they are amazed to realise they can simply decide to stop paying attention to their anxiety and then it will slowly go away, as the synapses devoted to their anxiety themes break apart when they are no longer utilized via paying attention.

    But what is also a surprise to many anxious people is that they do not have to engage in any mighty struggle against their own brains, in order to stop paying attention to their anxiety mentations.

    In fact, the way to achieve zero attentional focus on anxiety is to show complete disinterest and boredom towards any type of anxiety mentation (like sensations of increased heart rate or shakes or sweats; or emotions of dread or fear or horror; or thoughts like ‘OMG!  What if I collapse’; or images like picturing themselves on the floor collapsed; or memories like recalling the last few times they panicked).

    As soon as any anxiety mentation pops-up into consciousness, all you need to do is softly and effortlessly brush it away out of your attentional focus as though it is a slightly irritating puff of smoke in your vicinity and as if it holds absolutely no interest for you whatsoever and is in fact quite boring and over-rated.

    Then simply move 100% of your attentional focus onto something far more interesting (like a crossword or sudoku puzzle or some mental maths, a book, a vigorous conversation or onto talkback radio) and then immerse deeply and completely in this fascinating activity.

    When the anxiety mentation tries to pop-up again, then repeat this process and the anxiety very soon (within a few days) pops up less and less frequently until it barely bothers to pop-up at all after a couple of weeks.

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    How to mend a broken heart


    I was at a meeting last week and someone asked me if I had any tips for mending a broken heart.

    I replied that one aspect that was important was realising that, as humans we all have the capacity to cut-out our emotions when needed.  This is because we have an enormous rational frontal brain and an older, smaller prehistoric ‘alarmist’ brain that we can choose to ignore and over-ride as required.

    This gives humans huge flexibility – when we are really distressed we can still function effectively, completely ignoring any emotional upset.  When necessary, with our huge frontal brain dominance we can also make decisions that might be highly empathic or brutally cruel depending on our circumstances.  This capacity allows us to survive horrific circumstances like concentration camps, wars and extreme brutality.  We simply cut out our distress, remove it from our attentional focus and push on as if it never occurred.  A wonderfully empowering survival skill in terrible times!

    However, my answer about mending a broken heart was incomplete.  When we have a broken heart, we are not usually in an extreme situation.  While we can obviously pull out this strategy when it is helpful, it is also important to remember that one of the very best ways to heal a broken heart is to calmly reflect upon our own contribution, take full responsibility for our part and decide next time to do it very differently.

    As strange as it sounds, owning our own contribution and taking responsibility is incredibly healing – it works like nothing else!

    Without taking responsibility, people can often fester for decades in cycles of anger, blame hostility, collapse and powerlessness without ever learning the role they played in the break-up.  As a result, they never learn to solve the problem or learn to do better in future relationships.  It is understanding our own role that ultimately heals us.

    Just to take a simple but very common example:  often when people have come from difficult backgrounds they are afraid to deal openly with conflict and resist arguing fully for what they believe in and instead just cave-in, comply, accommodate or stay silent (withhold).  This means these people never properly share what is going on in their heads with their partner, especially the less acceptable stuff.

    Sadly, this can so often be a long-term losing strategy.  It means their partner never really gets to know them at a deep, ‘warts and all’ level and when you only know someone superficially it is hard to stay in love with them because there is nothing real to hold onto.

    Also, when people fail to stand up for their beliefs it is hard to command respect from your partner and without respect relationships often mess-up badly or fail altogether.

    Reflecting on these sorts of mistakes and then learning from them and deciding to do things differently are ultimately our best tools for improving our current and future relationships and for genuinely healing our hearts.

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    ‘Mental Illness’ or simply paying attention to symptoms?

    In my Smart Therapy Centre, I notice that when people get anxious they often pay attention to their anxiety thoughts because they are worried that the dreaded anxiety event might happen if they are not vigilant.

    For example, if someone is anxious about having a panic attack they will continually pay attention to any sensations, emotions, thoughts, memories or images that might suggest a panic attack could be imminent.

    Unfortunately, paying attention is the exact opposite of what we should be doing in this situation.  This is because, paying attention tells the brain to do exactly what it has evolved to do.  That is, paying attention to our anxiety, signals to the brain that we want to build new synapses specifically devoted to our anxiety theme, so we can learn, consolidate long-term memory and retrieve that anxiety information more readily.

    Paying attention is great if we want to learn maths, geography, music or a language but it is not good if we want to get rid of anxiety.   The more we pay attention to anxiety, the more we inadvertently hook into our normal, but very powerful human learning cycle, thereby creating thousands of new synapses that over time make anxiety a larger and larger part of our mental experience.

    If you want to get rid of anxiety you must show complete disinterest in it and completely take it out of your attentional focus.

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    Recently we had an 8-year-old child at our Smart Therapy centre who pushed her mother over onto the floor and was kicking her in the head.  The mother curled up and cowered on the ground.

    The shocked therapist instructed the child to stop and sit down immediately.  The child then proceeded to tell the therapist that she would tell child protection that she was being abused if any action was taken to curtail her behaviour.  This is not the first time we have seen children like this one.  It is becoming increasingly common.

    In earlier times this behaviour would be unimaginable. The dominant parenting style then was authoritarian: children were expected to obey their parents without question. At best this parenting style was a benign dictatorship. At worst it was a reign of terror.

    We have now swung to the complete opposite. The dominant parenting style now is permissive. Parents are anxious, guilt-ridden and desperately seek the approval of their children. At best this style creates rude, sulky children who treat their parents like servants.  At worst it creates narcissistic and violent children who go on to become dangerous adults.

    Ironically authoritarian and permissive parenting styles have much in common. Both are part of the aggression-compliance framework, which I wrote about in last week’s blog. And both lead to dysfunctional lose-lose outcomes once children hit the real world.

    The optimal parenting style is authoritative, which is consistent with the assertion framework. An authoritative parenting style neither bullies children, nor seeks their approval. It provides clear authoritative guidance with consistent consequences, directed towards the long-term welfare of both parents and children.

    In circumstances such as the one described above, the 8-year-old child is not strictly the problem. She just needs authoritative parenting. It is the parents who need to attend the centre to learn the nuts and bolts of how to parent their child in an authoritative manner.

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    In previous blogs I have written about how anxiety nearly always arises from stressful life events (SLEs). These SLEs often have their origins in childhood, when we have little control over our lives.

    In such circumstances, children learn that the way they can best survive is through a combination of compliance, secrecy, deceit and manipulation. As they move into adolescence and become stronger and more capable, these strategies often flip into aggression. This occurs, for example, when there is a severe altercation and the teenager is physically large enough to fight back against an abusive parent.  Under pressure, the adolescent suddenly ‘digs deep’ and comes up with another strategy.

    In this sense, compliance and aggression are two sides of the same coin. It is one framework, but that framework is based on fear and powerlessness – despite the outward show of aggression.

    In my work with anxious clients, I find that the aggression-compliance framework is not only widespread, but it contributes towards anxiety.  Since powerlessness underlies the compliance-aggression paradigm, where anxiety follows a SLE, people often feel powerless and truly believe that their anxiety thoughts take them over, as if they have no control at all.

    As I have explained in earlier blogs, nothing could be further from the truth.  We always have 100% control over what we pay attention to, simply because we have a human brain.

    In my work I teach people how to become assertive (which is a completely separate paradigm) and it takes some time to learn and practise.  Clients usually struggle with the assertion framework because they confuse it with aggression. So often I see people who think they have ‘discovered’ assertion whereas they are just actually rude, inflexible, oppositional, angry but terrified underneath. They have clearly not switched paradigms.

    Assertion is about never seeing others as the ‘opposition’. Rather, it is about seeing others as on the same side as you. In other words, you both have a problem that will not be resolved until it is fully discussed and until all parties are genuinely happy with the result.  This requires that you become persuasive, thoughtful, respectful and imaginative. Assertion means being able to persuade others of the merits of your case, but at the same time doing so in a way that is friendly, constructive, open and flexible to new (and possibly better) solutions than your own.


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    Anxiety should never lead to hospitalisation


    A study released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare this week shows the extent of anxiety in Australia. Anxiety disorders are now the leading cause of ill health among girls and women aged between 5 and 44. The report in The Age was illustrated by the story of an 18-year old woman who had been hospitalised for her chronic anxiety (The Age, Friday 22 June 2018, pp. 6-7).

    Stories like this break my heart. When anxiety is properly treated, it can be nipped in the bud. It should never lead to hospitalisation.

    During stressful life events our bodies produce large amounts of CRF (Corticotrophin Releasing Factor), which make our neurons more agitated. This results in frightening and threatening ‘mentations’ – that is, sensations, emotions, thoughts, images and memories. This is a normal response to stressful life events.

    Regrettably many therapeutic approaches encourage people to explore and engage with their frightening mentations, which escalates anxiety. The more we pay attention, the more we engage our normal learning cycle, resulting in more brain synapses devoted to the frightening mentations, and more long-term consolidation and retrieval. In these circumstances, it is no wonder that people in the mental health system end up becoming hospitalised for anxiety.

    The key therapeutic strategy for anxiety is not to be drawn into the very powerful human learning cycle, which is activated when we pay attention. In my Smart Therapy approach, I teach people how not to pay attention to their frightening mentations. This stops anxiety in its tracks and prevents hospitalisation and the revolving door.

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    I have been watching interviews with a Canadian kidney specialist called Dr Jason Fung about the diabetes epidemic in the western world. He argues that the mainstream cure of diabetes is part of the problem. He puts a pretty strong case.

    Fung compares the progress of diabetes treatment to computers. A mobile phone today has ten times the computing power of a computer the size of a room in the 1960s. By comparison, if we imagine that the diabetes problem in the 1960s took up the space of a room, then it takes up an entire office block today. In other words, we have gone backwards.

    It is the same with anxiety. Governments and the mental health system throw more and more money at anxiety, but the problem keeps getting bigger. Perhaps the cure is part of the problem.

    We no longer tolerate normal sadness or discomfort in our lives. Patients demand medication for their unhappiness, and doctors prescribe it. But medication frequently makes things worse by either excessive sedation or by the opposite: increasing mental agitation. In 25 years of practice, I have never seen a case where medication leads to long-term recovery.

    I dream of a world where we have the wisdom to come to terms with the things that make us sad without reaching for a prescription. That way we might have the mental clarity to learn from our experiences and make some true progress on anxiety recovery.

    For help, assistance or life coaching please contact the Smart Therapy Centre

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    Exercise your way out of anxiety


    One of the first things I do with every client is to put them on a regular exercise regime. It’s healthier than drugs, it’s cheaper than drugs, and in the long term it’s more effective than drugs.

    When we experience stressful life events, our brains release Corticotrophin Releasing Factor (CRF), a hormone which speeds up the neural firing in our brains.  Our brains do this to help us become more vigilant and motivated. In the distant past this was helpful because we needed to become more motivated to find solutions to stressful life events like food or water shortages.  However, nowadays our stressful life events are more likely to be psychological rather than physical, so brain agitation often makes things worse, suddenly giving rise to anxiety.

    Exercise produces endorphins, which make us feel euphoric and relaxed, directly countering the effects of the CRF.  This is like a temporary re-calibration of our mental state.  Exercise does this without producing addiction or dependency.  Exercise also has other benefits like making us feel strong, powerful and in-charge as well as enhancing our cardiovascular system and improving coordination, flexibility and balance.

    The exercise regime can be very relaxed.  First, I ask people to walk regularly and slowly build-up until they can easily manage 30 mins. Then I encourage them to replace some of the distances say, between electricity poles or trees with a very slow jog that is NEVER hard or gruelling.  Gradually the slow jogging distances increase, while always keeping a walk at the start (for a warm-up) and a walk at the end (for a cool-down).  Alternatively, I might ask people to swim a couple of slow laps of a 50m swimming pool (resting as often as necessary) and then very gradually add laps as they feel stronger and fitter.   It is remarkable how quickly mood and anxiety improves with a little exercise.

    Exercise is only one measure required to recover from anxiety, but it goes a surprisingly long way.

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    In my experience, many people first seek professional help for anxiety when they have experienced panic attacks, which often involve feelings of dread and terror. Symptoms include shortness of breath, fast heart rate, sweating, shakes and dizziness.

    In my Smart Therapy (ST) approach, people must learn to stop paying any attention whatsoever to their panic attack symptoms. All awareness of rapid heart rate, sweats or shakes is slipped immediately out of focussed attention and into peripheral attention. It is essential to show complete DISINTEREST in the panic attack symptoms. Instead people must immerse their full focussed attention into constructive activities like mental maths, crossword puzzles, vigorous conversations, going for a run, or (if you are in the car) listening to talk-back radio.

    The central tenet in ST is that when we direct our brains to pay attention then we are telling our brains to LEARN - which involves building brain synapses, consolidating memories and more readily retrieving the information to which we have been paying attention.

    If we want to eliminate unwanted brain habits like panic attacks, then we must stop paying them attention and allow the synapses to break apart (from lack of use) and the dendritic spines to retract and lose their input capacity. This leads to permanent recovery.

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    I am astonished in my practice at how many people come to me having been placed on anti-depressants because they are unhappy. Their unhappiness arises from understandable causes –stressful life events such as the break-up of a relationship, death or serious illness, physical or emotional insult, and even the experience of blocked opportunity and being unable to progress in a career.

    Sadness is normal. It is part of the human condition. It is the other side of happiness. If we do not know sadness, we cannot know happiness either. Yet nowadays there is very low tolerance of sadness. People expect to be happy all the time. As a result, sadness is increasingly treated as a condition or pathology which requires medical intervention, such as anti-depressants.

    Regrettably, my experience is that anti-depressants do not help people recover from their sadness. They might dull the pain, but they also dull the ability to experience sadness and find a way back to happiness. My added challenge as a therapist is that very sad people often do not even realise that they are sad, and struggle to connect with their sadness – especially if they are on medication.

    Good therapy helps people to connect with their sadness and experience it in a controlled way. Crying is a good start. I recommend to clients that they act out crying in front of the mirror, even if they don’t feel the sadness. The feeling will follow. And sad movies or books are another effective way to tap into sadness. In my experience, sad movies are far more helpful in recovery from stressful life events than medication. So cry your eyes out!

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    I have been seeing people for anxiety now since 1994. That is, almost 25 years of clients. I’m not sure how many people that amounts to, but it is in the thousands.  In all of these years, I have never seen a single client who has not had some type of stressful life event that was associated with the onset of anxiety. Sometimes it is childhood bullying. Sometimes it is a death in the family. Sometimes it is a relationship breakup. Sometimes it is a blocked career.

    But there is always something that caused the client deep distress and led them into the cycle of behaviours that we understand as anxiety. The strange thing is that clients themselves are often unaware of this connection. More than this, they do not even realise that they experienced a stressful life event.

    Here is an example. One woman I saw insisted that there was nothing traumatic that occurred at the time of onset. But then 30 minutes later it transpired that her sister was kidnapped just before onset. Bingo!

    For me, the first step in treatment is helping people to understand that their anxiety is not some kind of pathological condition.  It is something that arises from their experience of the world. And just as it comes from their experience of the world, so it can be fixed by smart behavioural therapies. Anxiety is not a life sentence!

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    There are always solutions

    As hard as life can be, there is no need to take actions from which there is no return!



    Many years ago, I saw a young police officer in my work.  He told me that he was called to a bridge with no safety barriers, because a man was on the outside of the railings, completely out of control, screaming ‘I WANT TO DIE, DON’T TRY TO STOP ME, I’M GOING TO JUMP’.  The young police officer gradually moved closer and closer until he was right near the suicidal man.  At that point the man either slipped or stepped off and started to fall.  The young officer desperately grabbed him and he was dangling in mid-air.  The man was now hysterically screaming and begging the officer ‘NO!  PLEASE DON’T LET ME GO – I’VE CHANGED MY MIND – I WANT TO LIVE – PLEASE, PLEASE DON’T LET ME GO’.

    The young officer was fit and strong, but it was not like the movies where people seem to be effortlessly pulled to safety.  The officer tried and tried to hold him.  He used every ounce of energy in his body and held the man for as long as he possibly could - but in the end, he could hold him no longer.  Tragically, the man slipped from his grip and fell to his death.

    No matter how desperate you feel, it is important to remember there are ALWAYS solutions if you look for them.  But there are some actions from which there is no return, and your resolved ‘future’ self will thank you for not taking them.

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    Letting ourselves lose control is often why we’re miserable.



    After more than 20 years working as a clinical psychologist at the Smart Therapy Centre, I find the single main reason why people present for help when they are unhappy and often miserable is because they (over and over again) give themselves permission to lose control. It might be allowing themselves to scream, overeat, kick someone, collapse when things get hard, drink excessively, hide and refuse to go out, take drugs or allow their anxious and depressive mentations to escalate into panic.

    Whatever the behaviour – the cause is the same. If you want to cope better with life and feel much happier, then stop giving yourself permission to lose control. Otherwise, over time you teach your brain to lose control at the tinniest, most miniscule things. We need to do the opposite. That is, train our brains that we are more than capable of NOT losing control when things go off the rails. So, next time you ruin your party dress, smile and take it in your stride.

    Please contact the Smart Therapy Centre for coaching:

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