Category Archives: beliefs

The Blind Leading the Blind (and they all fall down)

by Mona Dunkin

You’ve heard the story of the blind men describing an elephant.  Each man was exposed to a different part of the elephant and each man described that part of the elephant in keeping with something he was familiar with.  The leg was ‘kinda like’ a tree. The tail was ‘kinda like’ a rope.  According to the poem by John Sykes, each of the blind men were “partly right, yet all of them were wrong.”

Blindness is equated with ignorance; not to be stupid, but something you don’t know. All we have in life is our experiences, beliefs, faith and encounters with things we don’t understand.  Everything we know comes through filters and when our filters are clogged that is just another form of darkness, or ignorance.

One only knows what one knows. Conversely, we don’t know what we don’t know.

In keeping with the Law of Attraction, the blind men married blind wives. The blind wives bought into the perception of the blind husbands. Whether it was genetic disposition or cultural hangover, the blind men and the blind wives produced blind children – and grandchildren who blindly bought into the ‘kinda-like-common-sense” concepts. They believed, bought into and passed on to future generations the distortion of what the elephant looked like and/or who he was.

All of us blindly carry cultural conditionings with us. Not that that is wrong, it’s just limiting.

Although we live in an expanding universe, our day-to-day exposure is mostly confined to the familiar.

perceptionOur comparing place is always working – whether to accurately interpret or to distort. It happens as we try to see what we want to see.  All of our senses bring experiences into our world. We believe what we believe until we believe something different. Or until we see differently.

All we can get from the real world (people, places, things) is information. Information itself is not the problem. How we handle it may be. Same information: one chooses anger, one chooses indifference and one chooses acceptance.  Whether it is a 6 or a 9 depends on one’s point of view. It’s nothing to go to war over.

The moral of this little tale is this. We may unknowingly damage our own health and limit our own happiness by blindly assuming what something (or someone) else is like.

The way we challenge our perceptions is through more information; outward as well as inward. Hearing another’s point of view as well as examining our own wisdom-heart for truth. Look into the mysteries of the universe. Adopt an air of curiosity with no judgment. Push self beyond limited boundaries. Find beauty in life and growth through difficult circumstances. Engage in an empty, hungry, patient outward gaze into the ordinary. And discover there is no such thing as an ordinary day.

Are you willing? Are you ready?

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

During one of my regular shifts in the psychiatric emergency room of a general hospital a patient arrived who was feeling exceedingly anxious and worried. He had experienced a number of recent life events contributing to his emotional state. And he added to his list of recent concerns by piling on more issues and challenges he had been juggling and trying to handle for awhile.

In my well meaningman2 attempts to be helpful I shared some very specific ideas and suggestions for some coping skills he could immediately start to implement. Simply taking some deep breaths and focusing on the rise and fall of his chest and belly should be a good and helpful start. These suggestions were met with an increase in his upset and anxiety leading to tears. Clearly I was contributing to his condition worsening.

Later it hit me. This fellow was invested in his upset and suffering. He was not yet read or willing to change.

I was reminded of my own personal experience years earlier. While washing dishes I was deep into an argument with my husband, even though my husband was not home at the time.

At some point I realized my ranting, raving and complaining was not helping me get what I wanted and needed. I even went so far as deciding a different course of action that would help me get what I wanted and needed.

I asked myself two important questions:

Am I willing to do something different?

          Am I ready to do something different? 

          NO!

This was the simple truth. Even though I had evaluated my present behavior as being ineffective, I was not ready or willing to give it up . . . YET!

The present argument was quite satisfying. I was able to express my feelings and desires without interruption. I could be right and righteous without interruption or contradiction. I would WIN this argument.

Later, I told myself, I would approach my husband and engage in a conversation where we could work toward compromise and mutually satisfactory solutions. Later I would be ready and willing.

Now I know better. Now I will still offer my patients some immediate skills and solutions to help them improve their sense of well being and settle their emotional upheaval. But first I will ask:

Is what you are doing now helping you get what you need and want?

Are you willing and ready to consider doing something different?

Respecting their present state of mind I will ask if they are ready, willing and wanting to move forward for greater Mental Health and Happiness.

Trapped In Your Past?

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

The past is a funny thing. If it werent for our past, none of us would be who we are today. At the same time, we have no ability to change the past. Dont believe me? Try and change what you had for lunch yesterday. You might decide to change what youre going to have for lunch today based on your lunch experience of yesterday but no matter how hard you try, you cannot change what you ate yesterday. 

The past is only what you choose to remember if you even choose to remember it. And even when you choose to remember it, can you be sure your memory is correct and accurate? Ever go back to the home where you were raised and take a look at that big hill you use to sled down as a child? Ever been surprised at how little that big hill actually is? 

For some people, the act of remembering and memories seems to be a mysterious, lost category in their brains. There are more than a few people who complain that they have no memories from their childhood. For some of these people, they are convinced this indicates sad, bad and harmful experiences they are trying to repress or suppress (leftover legacy of Freudian thinking). 

canstockphoto13026221How can you know what you dont know? Your brain may very well be acting to protect you from painful memories. Its also possible your brain is busy helping you with more important things in the here and now rather than sorting through memories from your past. 

Today can be the day to change how you cultivate your relationship with your past to benefit your Mental Health & Happiness. Rather than focusing your thoughts on the painful, unhappy, hurtful experiences of yesterday, why not reflect on memories or stories that delight, inspire or lift your spirits?

Were you told stories from your past that reveal your unique qualities? In what ways were you special? Who were the people who found you amazing and worth celebrating? How did they do it? In what ways did the person you were in your past positively contribute to the person you are today? 

Amazingly humans have the unique ability to choose their thoughts. Perhaps you take this for granted because you can easily stop thinking about todays weather and begin thinking about your dinner menu or your vacation plans, or the color blue, or your age, or you painful knee. But make no mistake. This is your own personal magic!

If you find yourself feeling trapped in your painful past memories, change your thoughts and change your Mental Health & Happiness. You possess this magical power.

Fear: Part 3

I Think I Can Get Away With It

by Barnes Boffey, Ed.D

Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org

I know a relatively large number of people who are having trouble with anxiety as they move into their elder years. They are anxious about the future, anxious about money, kids, weather and just about everything else, and they spend a great deal of time acting as if it were not their fault that they are feeling this way. Like a compulsive overeater who continues to eat bread and sugar but seems continually dumbfounded that they are gaining weight, denial and “hoping we can get away with it” go hand in hand.

As the anxiety becomes more pronounced in their lives, they generally  don’t want to hear that the state of anxiety they are dealing with now is a direct result of their not facing their fearing and anxiety in earlier years. Essentially they hoped they could avoid facing their destructive patterns; they hoped they could outrun it, evade it or deny it long enough so that the full force of the pattern wouldn’t catch them. They would then have gotten away with allowing themselves years of unchecked fear and anxiety without having to pay any price. Every emotion has a cost; some are very expensive (anger, resentment, jealousy) some have very little cost (generosity, gratitude and kindness), but there is “no free lunch.” Just as we can’t continue to spend well beyond our income, the cost of certain emotions can bankrupt us if we continue to create them over time.

We can get addicted to emotions just as we can to substances, and the root of much of this is the false belief that “I can get away with it.” We think we can stay angry at a spouse and not have it eventually cost us our relationship; we think we can stay resentful at our sister and not have it affect the family strength;  we think we can continue to be fearful and anxious without eventually weakening the entire framework of our mental health and happiness. With discipline, courage, thoughtful planning and good tools (see Fear #2) we can change directions. Without all three, our future may have more unpleasant surprises for us than we would hope for.

 

 

 

Wishes, Passions and Motivation

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

“Our deepest wishes are whispers of our authentic selves.”— Sarah Ban Breathnach

For greater happiness and well being we are advised to live our passion, be authentic and live life to the fullest. What great advice. But what does it mean?

I’ve spoken with more than a few of my friends and acquaintances who feel as if they are failing at life because they have no idea what their life purpose is! How can you be authentic if you don’t know who your authentic self is?

From a Choice Theory psychology perspective, the answer to those questions are the pictures in our quality world that describe who we are, who we want to be, and what we want to do. Unfortunately that information still doesn’t help much. You may still feel as if you’re in the dark.

There are some clues that you can follow to open the door revealing to yourself what you really want, what your passions are, and discover what motivates and inspires you. Give these ideas a try to see if you can discover or uncover clues to be followed:

(Hint: These ideas are best implemented if you go to a quiet, comfortable place where you can spend uninterrupted time alone.)

Wave Your Magic Wand

Imagine you have a magic wand that actually works. Wave your wand and imagine your life just as you want it to be. Breathing deeply, get into a meditative, relaxation state of mind, actually see yourself, hear the words, notice the smells and feel your surroundings.

Now that your life is perfect, what are you doing? What are you thinking? What are you feeling? How does your body feel?

And now that you are doing what you want, who are you being?

(It is useful to write down any thoughts, impressions, or ideas that come to you. These are some of your clues)

When you grow up?

When you were a child, imagining your life as a grown up, what did you imagine you would be doing? How did you answer the question adults asked you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Who were your heroes? Who did you admire? When you played games with friends or alone, what were these games?

Take this information and see how you actually are doing and being some of the jobs, activities and careers you imagined as a child. The translation may not be exact. For instance, perhaps you play in an adult soft ball league instead of being the major league baseball player you imagined. But now you can see the connection between the two.

These are more clues for you to make note of.  Add your childhood pretend ideas, dreams and wishes as areas you have yet to pursue.

Fleeting thoughts and wispers

What are those thourest1157188ghts, ideas and secret whispers that you notice and ignore. Start your list now that includes all those inklings that you remember. Be open to receiving more. Add these new ones to your list.

As you regularly and consistently engage in this practice, what you may discover are your own personal words of inspiration and beingn

ess rather than a specific action, project or job. AND you may discover a specific project, action or job. There is no right or wrong. This self safari process will help you explore and discover your authentic, passionate and purposeful self.

When you spend time exploring, discovering and uncovering your motivational quality world pictures you are cultivating more of your mental health and happiness. Why not start the treasure hunt of yourself today?

When being right may be wrong

by Dr. Ken Larsen

It’s a very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with.”   — Pete Seege

acceptance-belief-change

We were living in Salinas.  Not far from where Bobby McGee slipped away.  I was in 5th grade and struggling with a major metamorphosis in my thinking and beliefs.  I was beginning to realize that playing cowboys with toy guns was something that kids did.  I was beginning to believe that I was no longer a kid and needed to put aside childish games like cowboys.  I was also beginning to notice that girls were more interesting than I had thought not too long before.  In hindsight, this awareness of a new way of thinking and behaving was an essential step in my development as a person.  What was most interesting was the slow and gradual dawning of a new self-concept pointing to a need to change.  It was not sudden or abrupt, but sort of crept up on me.  I also came to see that I had to make a choice to achieve that change.

I believe many of us in our culture and in our world are facing a similar growing awareness of our need to put aside some of our childish beliefs and behaviors and move on and into a new awareness of who we are as adults in our humanity.

What I’m getting at is the truth in the phrase “the world is divided by those who think they are right.”

I have lost friends in discussions where both of us were convinced we were right.  This “being right” seemed so important that it came out as a criticism and condemnation of the other person’s point of view.

When both parties are enmeshed in the trap of “I’m right and you’re wrong” what kind of an outcome can be expected?

Far too often there is a cascade of anger, hurt feelings and ultimately alienation from one another.

Dr. Glasser helped us see the universal need in all of us for love and belonging.  The need to be connected to one another is built into our genetic makeup.  Dr. Glasser also challenged us to evaluate what we were doing and saying in our relationships by asking the question “is what I’m doing (or going to do) bringing us closer together or driving us further apart.”

I’ve seen that insistence on my point of view as being the right point of view is a flawed approach to connecting with others.  If I really want to draw closer to another, I’m working on creatively growing into learning new and more life giving ways to have a conversation.  If I believe that “live and let live” is a valid way to be with others who see things differently, then I believe I’m making progress.

I find it more interesting to get to know a person as a unique member of our human family before I get too busy trying to convince anyone of how my opinion is superior to theirs.

And my mental health and happiness are enhanced when I’m working to understand rather than insisting I be understood.

“Tomorrow is another day,” Scarlett O’Hara

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

I recently went through the grueling process of purchasing a home. This is actually the fourth time in my life I’ve been lucky enough to be able to purchase a home. But this time was very different from the last.

I don’t know if the challenges this time were due to the size of the loan, the new parameters since the mortgage housing scandals that led to tighter and more rigorous standards, or the fact that there were multiple people applying for the loan. But I think Rumpelstiltskin had it easier when he changed straw into gold.

At two different times during this process the deal was declared officially dead.  The first time we were told we needed to bring more money to the table. Amazingly each of us who were involved in the deal were able to “find” more money. The deal was revived!

Miraculous! Phew, we were alive again.

Weeks later when we were just yards from the finish line the whole thing fell apart again!

Devastation.

canstockphoto13026221Dreams were dashed again only this time it felt worse. We had come so far, had overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, pushed, persevered, and worked really hard. And in one moment it all vanished!

But this second time I waited before I fell into the depths of despair.

This roller coaster ride had taught me some new lessons.  I was determined to put these new strategies into practice.

I had already used my time-tested and well used strategy of crossing and uncrossing my fingers. In fact I had used this so often I was beginning to develop callouses on my fingers.

This time I tried something I had only used a very few times in my life.

I gathered facts. I left out all emotional information surrounding the facts. I simply wanted the facts.

What I learned was that there was a chance that the deal could be completed. In six days we would have a definitive answer. In six days we would know if the deal was alive or dead.

This was the information I held onto. I did not wish or hope, worry, barter or demand. I simply repeated the factual information. Holding onto and repeatedly reviewing the facts kept me from soaring into wild hopes or falling into depths of despair. We would know the outcome, the results and the answers to what was presently unanswerable in six days or less.

Every time I found myself wondering, worrying, hoping or wishing, I went back and simply repeated the facts.

I also made a conscious choice to think about the whole deal less. I repeated the facts, and knew there were five more days, four more days, and so forth until I would have the final answer. And any time I found my mind wondering, worrying, or hoping I reminded myself to change my thinking to some other subject, topic or question.

I made a conscious decision to postpone my celebratory dance of joy, or my upset, anger and disappointment until I had facts to verify either reaction.

In the end we were able to celebrate, sing and dance with joy and offer prayers of thanks.

In addition, I learned a very important lesson for my Mental Health & Happiness. Gathering factual information rather than relying on my emotionally tainted information was a new, very helpful strategy. Using facts and data rather than impression, instincts and intuition alone keeps my well being intact as I experience my life’s speed bumps that upset my balance.

With this new strategy added to my other coping skills I believe I will handle the next of my life’s challenges with greater personal strength, wisdom and grace.

The need to understand cause and effect

Dr. Ken Larsen

When I entered Dental School in 1961 the dental profession was not able to meet the needs of our population.  Dental disease (tooth decay and gum disease) were progressing more rapidly than the ability of the profession to repair the damage.

The lightbulb came on as many of us started to think about, talk about and work toward understanding the causes of dental disease so we could get ahead of the problem by preventing the disease.  How many dentists does it take to treat a disease that has been prevented?

As a profession, we shifted our focus from chasing the effects of disease, to understanding and dealing with the causes.

People still suffered from dental disease, but more and more people began to understand that disease was optional, not inevitable. 

cause-effectThe key, of course, was to understand and control the causes of the disease.  This required new learning and changing behavior.

As you may have noticed, changing habitual behavior patterns is not easy.  Our efforts have largely paid off for those of our patients who accept their responsibility to learn to control the causes of their disease.

You may wonder why I’m talking about dental health in a blog about mental health.

Many of us are undergoing the shift from chasing mental illness to promoting mental health.  This involves working to understand what causes the loss of mental health and learning to change our behavior to follow more healthy patterns of living.

Some are telling us that changes in brain chemistry are what causes mental illness.  Some are looking more at the kinds of things we each can do to stay healthy, including learning and practicing more effective ways to live, love, and relate to one another. The research for the causes of mental diseases and illnesses continues.

However, the good news is that there is no need to wait in order to take immediate action and receive an immediate pay off for your personal Mental Health & Happiness.

Just like with your dental health, if you will accept personal responsibilities NOW by meeting your genetic needs for love, power, fun, freedom and safety, you will experience an immediate improvement in your Mental Health & Happiness.

Happily, there are now lots of ideas and suggestions to this end. Please read any and all of our blogs. Sign up and start receiving Mental Health & Happiness challenges for support and help. And there is even more readily available now on the world wide web.

 

Stigma? What stigma?

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Happiness is the highest form of health. — Dalai Llama

Once upon a time there was a belief that people with mental illness were looked down upon, seen as having character flaws and an willingness to work hard enough to fit in and get along. So the powers that be (who are those people?) decided that there was a big stigma for people suffering with mental illness and that the stigma prevented people from getting the help that they needed. These folks considered what could be done to eliminate this stigma. The hope was that making a change could mean that more people might be more willing to get needed help.

How could this be accomplished?

Change the name of mental illness to mental health!

Yes, that’s right. The depth of the solution was simply to change the words used to describe the “condition.” What happened is that the words mental health are now used to describe mental illness or mental disturbance. AND there is still a very large stigma attached with these words: mental health.

canstockphoto13026221Mental health is now understood to mean mental illness and mental disturbance. People are still seriously slow, reluctant or completely refuse to get the help they so sorely need. Associating the words “mental health problems” with the many mass shootings does not help either.

There are some serious aspects to the complex issues regarding mental illness needing to be addressed not the least of which is stigma. The  entire “science” of mental illness is seriously questionable. (Want to understand this more? Please refer to the extensive research and study  in the books by Terry Lynch and Robert Whitaker.*) The National Institute of Mental Health – please read this as The National Institute of Mental Illness since what is described on their website is a wide range of mental illnesses, and nothing about health – has finally acknowledge that there is no “chemical imbalances in the brain” for those suffering from mental illness. Brain chemical imbalance was a false claim started by drug companies as a marketing ploy — and sadly a very successful campaign.

The irony is that present times insist on evidence based practices. And yet the preponderance of research, done by the psychiatric community and drug companies themselves point to the evidence that medication has temporary, short term positive results ending with long term disasters for people’s lives. (Again please refer to the books cited at the end of this article. Rick Hansen made note of this during his recent interview on Mental Health & Happiness 2015 Summit).

Changing attitudes, beliefs, and stigma about anything is not an easy process. Making these kinds of changes for mental illness is no exception. Much more needs to be done rather than the simple solution of changing a name. (The recent upgrade for mental health is the change to call it behavioral health.) Changes that include honest representation of what is known and not known about mental illness would help. Sharing honest information about the short term and long term effects of medication would also help.

And there is one more action that each one of us can take. Stop using mental health or behavioral health when what you mean is mental illness and mental disturbance. Making the term mental health interchangeable with mental illness has done nothing to eliminate stigma. But if we all start using the term Mental Health & Happiness to mean just that perhaps people suffering with mental illness and mental disturbance will have a goal to aim for.

As the Dalai Llama tells us Happiness is the highest from of health.

*Depression Delusion, Volume one: The myth of the Brain Chemical Imbalance, Terry Lynch

Anatomy of an Epidemic, Robert Whitaker

Mad in America, Robert Whitaker

Cause and Effect: Which Happens First?

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Nothing we do is caused by what happens outside of us — William Glasser, MD

How do you feel today?

Good? Tired? Stressed? Satisfied? Angry? Upset? Excited? Bored?

How come you feel that way? If you were to explain to someone else the reasons you feel this way, would you say, “Because I choose to feel this way?” If you did that would be surprising.

Mostly when we explain our feelings and our present state of well being we point to something outside of ourselves as the cause for our pleasure or displeasure.

I’m so happy because I did well on my exam.

I’m furious that my boss doesn’t believe me.

This Thanksgiving is going to be perfect because my out of town family is coming here for the celebration. 

None of these circumstances or situations are inherently good or bad, pleasurable or displeasing. It is our belief, opinion and meaning making that makes them so.

For instance if you have ambivalent feelings toward your family, or feel criticized and uncomfortable around certain members of your family, you might be less than pleased to know they will be joining you for a holiday. 

What happens in the world are simply the facts as we presently understand them. Declaring them good and pleasurable or bad and displeasurable is something that happens inside each of us. And this declaration depends on how close or disparate we perceive the world compared to how we want it to be.

It’s like the baseball umpire says: It ain’t a ball or a strike until  I  call it a ball or a strike. 

The effect the world has on our Mental Health & Happiness is based on the meaning and value we place on the information and experiences  we receive in the world. We are the cause and we decide the effect.

If you don’t like what is happening in your life, one way you can change it  is to change how you are describing and making meaning of the experience.

canstockphoto22485059Too much unhappiness and misery? Change the value and meaning you place on the “facts.” You can change it to neutral, positive or negative.

This is not easily done and takes work and practice. But the results will definitely improve your present mood and your Mental Health & Happiness.

Try this:

Describe today’s weather? Are your descriptors factual or neutral, such as Today it is raining and the temperature is 58 degrees

Or is your description more opinionated:

Today is a miserable, raw and cold day

Or is your description positive:

I’m so glad it’s raining today so I get to stay inside and read all day long.

Now try this:

Change the description you made and see if you can describe today’s weather in a neutral or factual way, a positive way and a negative way.

Choose another situation in your life and see if you can do the same thing; describe it neutrally, positively and negatively.

The cause of your displeasure or unhappiness is only inside of you and how you define and describe your world. For improved effect that includes improved Mental Health & Happiness change your descriptors of your world from negative to neutral or positive. 

*Take Charge of Your Life: How to Get What You Need With Choice Theory Psychology, p. 5, Dr. William Glasser, M.D.