Book Review: You Can Feel Good Again (For Depression)

A fellow therapist recommended Richard Carlson’s book, You Can Feel Good Again: Commonsense Strategies For Releasing Unhappiness and Changing Your Life. I had asked her because she is a sex therapist and a couple I was seeing had a particular sexual issue. They did not want to change therapists, so I searched out the best possible advice that I was aware of. Instead of some complicated, family-of-origin work, which is what I expected, she recommended a book which falls into the Cognitive Behavioral approach. Now, here is the interesting part, before I get into the details of this book. The book is really targeted at combating depression and I told a client to read it whose depression didn’t seem to want to leave her. She read it and perkily texted me that she was doing fine and happy. So, whatever negatives I will say about this book — and there was really only one — I recommend it. I recommend it for –obsessive thoughts –depression –self-punishing thoughts –low self-esteem Highlights The author’s premise is that we control our thoughts. Thus, any negative thoughts we have are of our own invention and ought to have zero power over us. That makes complete sense to me and is in line with my work (which says that feelings are within our control because they begin with thoughts. On the other hand one of his points is that if you happen to be depressed, don’t think because that will make things worse. A wonderful point is that we are all capable of healthy thinking. In fact, before being messed up by adults, children...

How Anxiety Affects Marriage

Do you think anxiety gets in your way? Research finds that you are right. Anxiety — paradoxically — leads people to marry more readily than those without it, and (unfortunately) to divorce more readily, too, because of greater marital dissatisfaction. What’s more, anxiety is self-sustaining: It creates just enough havoc in a marriage to increase the dissatisfaction in that marriage — which, in turn, leads to greater anxiety. Murray Bowen (deceased) explained why all this happens and his explanation takes something that seems counter-intuitive and makes complete sense out of it. The story begins, of course, in childhood. When parents rob their children of trust in them — emotional trust — it makes children anxious. And they grow up to be anxious adults. How would this happen? Surely parents love their children and would never want to take away their trust. But they can do it just the same. Here are some ways: Blame, criticize, chastise frequently When a child complains, hit their vulnerabilities. An example of this is the following kind of conversation: Child: “I really wanted to go to X. (whining) Why didn’t [friend] invite me?” Parent: “Do you think he would invite you after you did A,B,C?” In other words, instead of soothing the child or having a constructive conversation, the parent pours salt into the child’s wounds, reminding him of his gaffs. This can be particularly painful even if the mistakes the child made were not so terrible. The point here is not to examine why the parent acts this way. It happens all the time; it’s so common that I am amazed and pleased...

What To Do With Your Child’s Anger

I was rereading a therapy magazine from 1999 — so the problems were full-blown even back then– and it related the following: In a difference of opinion between a child and her mother who wanted the TV shut off, as the mother’s demand became stronger, the child finally used a swear word on her mother, something like, “F-you, mommy.” That child was eight years old. And this is not an inner-city family. It is a socio-economically privileged family whose mother spends time toting her daughter to after-school activities and the like. This young girl also does well in school and is liked by her peers. What’s going on? Why the language? The article was filled with similar stories including those of kids who hit and kicked their parents when they didn’t get their way and another young child who didn’t like anticipating the arrival of a new baby and smashed a baseball bat into her mother’s belly. The author, Ron Taffel, was compelled to interview parents to try to find out what was missing in their approach. It turns out that parents — who may have suffered harsh discipline themselves growing up — are afraid to do the same to their children. So they do nothing. Maybe their child needs to “get out” their anger, they’re thinking. If so, then letting them vent should be a good thing. No, it isn’t good. First, because the venting never ends. But this is only the beginning of the problem. What Taffel found is that these same parents who are afraid to injure their children by punishing them also don’t like their...

How To Block People Who Argue — And Get What You Want

   Why is it that people insist on trying to win arguments by shooting themselves in the foot? Adam: “I did NOT say that I would go to your mother’s for dinner.” Sally: “Yes you did. And I don’t appreciate your letting me down.” “And you never let ME down?” Do you see where this is going? No where. And why? – Because when you try to win, it means someone else loses. Which means they will fight to the death (metaphorically speaking) to not lose. Which means they have to win. See? But…… If what you want for a result is to get whatever it was you wanted to get, there’s a much better way: Just say what you want. Plain English (or whatever language you speak in). Oh, and add in one really smart — and nice — thing. Let the person you are arguing with know that you heard them. Here’s why: I would venture to bet — and I am not alone on this (I’ll be doing a book review in a couple months on a book written by Harvard Business School people who say the same thing) — the reason people argue so much is because they don’t feel heard. Think about it. Think about all the arguments you’ve been in. And all the times you kept going round and round. You felt like you weren’t getting your point across. Think about the times you did not want to argue but the person you were arguing with would not let go. Now, remember back to those moments. Did you ever once let him or...

News: Adolescent Depression, Insomnia, Benefits of Anxiety, and more…

Here’s a roundup of news in the areas of mental health and marriage that struck me this month. 1. Adolescent Mental Health When Father Leaves Researchers following kids who were about 12 when their fathers left the family found that these children, five years later found that at first the children suffered from depression and anxiety. By nine months later, the depression lifted but not the stress. Interestingly, the teens also worried about their mothers even though they were still living with them. There were various theories floated as to why these particular feelings were taking hold of the children at these points in time. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/304176.php 2. How Loss of Sleep Disturbs Our Ability to Regulate Our Emotions.   If you have noticed yourself over-reacting when you haven’t had enough sleep, it’s not just “your emotions”; there’s a biochemical reason for that and researchers have pinned it down. The study had people take tests first after a good night’s sleep and second, after deprivation. The fascinating finding was that sleep deprivation caused people to perceive emotionally neutral images in a negative way. In another test, subjects were distracted by both neutral and negative images when they lost a night’s sleep but people with a good night’s sleep were only distracted by negative images. The lead researcher stated that poor sleep: “can lead to biased cognitive processing and poor judgment as well as anxiety.” http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/303921.php 3. How to Improve Mental Health in 2016 The author gathered information from a number of studies and found the following surprising suggestions: a. The Mediterranean Diet improves a sense of well-being and improves cognitive...

What’s Wrong With Anger Management?

      Let’s say you were an alcoholic. Would it be better to be what the people in AA programs often call a “dry drunk,” i.e., someone who isn’t drinking but is white-knuckling it the whole time, or, on the other hand, someone who actually doesn’t even think about taking a drink?   The second person, if offered, could take it or leave it. I enjoy coffee, and am sure to have a cup every morning, but if someone offered it to me in the middle of the day, I might say, “No, thanks” because it just didn’t appeal to me at that moment. You see where I’m going? – The dry drunk wants that drink sooooo badly. The other person is not attached to his or her drink. The drink is pleasant at the right time and not of interest at other times. That “not attachment” is the ideal place for anger. It is useful at times and not at all of interest at other times. Times Anger Is Useful Anger at oneself may be useful. If you did something wrong, it is better to be really upset with yourself over it than to gloss over it as if it wasn’t important. Of course, there is another aspect of anger which is that there is an endpoint to even useful anger. Sometimes, enough is enough. We are not supposed to wallow in self-flagellation. Anger at another could also be useful. You love your child so much, that in your eyes he could do no wrong. But he just did wrong. You may have to work yourself up just a...

The Surprising Role of Body Language in Assertiveness

How does it get this good?…. “My wife and I are together, and expect to be forever. We’ve learned to deal with one another and learned to identify and control our bad habits. I’ve learned why I was an abusive man and how to not be an abuser. “Sometimes I see my old habits in others and feel empathy and compassion – and wish they had the advantages of a hundred or so sessions with Dr. Deb. Thanks so much for your help. Our time together was an investment worth more than anything I’ve ever done in my life. I believe that I owe my life to your help – certainly, I didn’t realize that I could be this happy again.” –Florida Well, of course I was pleased as punch to receive an email with this nice news. After all, YOUR happiness is what I get up for in the morning! Every day! But I was also curious. I wanted to know, how all this came about. Why was I hearing from him now out of the blue? So I wrote him back. And here is what he said: “Your assertiveness worksheet became a habit. Instead of playing intellectual one-upsmanship games with clever dialogue with a goal of “winning” some non-existent, delusional contest, I trained myself to be honest and ask myself, ‘Why am I thinking this?'” And I have to tell you, I’ve heard so many good things about my Assertive Sheet that I decided to share some of it with you here on my blog. Here goes . . . Part I of my Assertive Sheet is...

Book Review: Why Does Married Sex Go Wrong?

You and I both know that when someone is yelling at, criticizing, belittling, or ignoring a spouse, sex gets lost in the shuffle. No matter how much Person 1 apologizes, Person 2 is still hurt. After all, a smack is a smack, whether it’s physical or verbal: You feel the sting long after it’s over. So the heartfelt apology just doesn’t do it. And then if you add in a cycle of years or decades of these “mistakes” and apologies, what you get is….nothing. Sex is dead and the marriage for all intents and purposes is also dead. With that in mind, I’d like to do a review of David Schnarch’s book, Intimacy & Desire: Awaken the Passion in Your Relationship, 2009. Obviously, it’s always nice to find another therapist who sees things as I do. The only way that sex can work is if there is trust and respect (words that are in the subtitle of my course which includes a book). Here are some pieces that I underlined because they interested me: On p. 37 he says, “The relationship in which you seek refuge pushes you to develop a more solid self, like pushing toothpaste out of a tube by progressively winding the other end. the love relationship you thought would make you feel safe and secure pouds your fragile reflected sense of self into something solid and lasting.” Schnarch is a follower of the concepts of Murray Bowen. Bowen’s premise is that if a person has a “solid” sense of who he is, he will not be thrown by criticism. He will not feel criticized when...
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