Tag Archives: freedom

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.


“But I got an emptiness deep inside and I’ve tried but it won’t let me go…”

Dr. Ken Larsen

I believe that happiness is not something we can seek for itself.  Dr. Glasser and Mike Rice (a friend who is a Choice Theory Addiction Counselor)  have told us that we can seek pleasure for itself, because pleasure can be a solitary pursuit.  Happiness is more of a byproduct of a life lived in caring relationships with others.  Within those relationships we are getting a large portion of our needs met for love and belonging, for fun, for freedom and for a sense of self efficacy or power.  For most of us, even if our lives are reasonably happy, there is still a level of the imperfect in our happiness.  There is often a small emptiness somewhere inside that is hungry for something that we may not even be able to name or identify.

questionThis hole in us may be a hunger for more intimacy in a relationship, a spiritual hunger, or that unexplained existential loneliness that haunts us, even when we are with those we love.

I think the Serenity Prayer offers an appropriate response to this hole inside us.  “…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I have found that if I strive and strain to fill the hole, to find the answer to the question raised by that empty space, it becomes more elusive and slippery.  Struggling to meet an unmet need that is beyond our grasp simply drives it further away.  For example, if I am striving to earn the affection and approval from someone who has withheld it, this will just widen the gap, and increase the distance between us.

It is far better for mental health to “accept the things I cannot change” and move on to pursue the other good things in life.  Many have found that in the process of letting go, the frustration and anxiety that are associated with that unmet need subsides and may even go away.   The interesting and paradoxical experience of many is that sometimes letting it go is what allows what is wanted and needed to gently come in to fill the hole without any strident effort. 

I believe that a perfect state of mental health and happiness is beyond our grasp.  I also believe that we can all make progress in this pursuit, even though the price for perfection is prohibitive.



Are you happy?

Contributed by Denise Daub

5 Signs You’re Not Happy With Your Life (And What You Can Do About It)
by Kimanzi Constable

The idea of living your dream life or a “happy life” will seem ridiculous to some. I was one of those people for 12 years. I lived my life paycheck to paycheck and in constant survival mode. I didn’t think about hopes, dreams, or a happy life. It took some incredibly difficult circumstances to wake me up.

It doesn’t have to take a tragedy or an extreme circumstance for you to admit what you want for your life. Each of us has different goals and dreams that will make us happy, but what we all desire is freedom. We long to live life on our terms and spend our time on the things that are important to us. Here are five signs you’re not living a life that makes you happy and gives you freedom.

Read more..http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kimanzi-constable/5-signs-youre-not-happy-with-your-life-and-what-you-can-do-about-it_b_8166980.html?ir=Healthy%20Living?ncid=newsltushpmg00000003

Nourishing all the Parts of Ourselves

By Dr. Barnes Boffey

Within each of us are many sub selves which have identifiable personality characteristics. Each of these sub selves represent different energies and forces within each of us and are ways we express our personalities across a spectrum of traits. Each sub self needs an arena in which it can be expressed as well as emotional and behavioral nourishment to maintain its strength and resiliency.

There are many people who have written about archetypes and sub selves, and some say there are basic ones for all of us and other are less specific. What matters in terms of our own happiness and strength is that we are clear about the energies within us. Let me give some examples in my own life.

It seems to me that the major sub selves within me are my Artist, my Helper, my Teacher, my Cowboy and my Warrior. Each of these has a different energy and each needs different input to be nourished and different arenas in which it can express itself. Right now I am writing about myself as a man; women may have similar or different names or characteristics for their sub selves, but the most important thing is to recognize that in each of these are the psychological pillars of who we are.There may be a dark side to each of these sub selves also, but for now I want to focus on the positive aspects of each.

canstockphoto12706268Some of these sub selves are more appreciated in the world than others and some are harder to nourish than others. My Cowboy, for example, is the part of me that wants freedom, the open range, lack of domestication and lots of playfulness and guy stuff. My cowboy can live in the culture for extended periods of time, but after a while must hit the road, live with less rules, have tos and shun tedious routine.

If my Cowboy does not get a chance to be appreciated and have the space and energy he needs, he starts feeling trapped and boxed in, and may push boundaries in less healthy ways. My Cowboy was not greatly appreciated in the classroom when I was an adolescent. He was, however, appreciated in the world of drama and sports and just screwing around with my friends. My Cowboy also had a few scrapes with the law; he doesn’t seem to have the same respect for rules that others demand, and very often says, “Oh what the hell, let’s give it a try.”

When my Cowboy is nourished and has space to be, he is positive, fun, creative and expansive; without that he can become less positive. When he gets boxed in, he pushes back.

In the next few blogs, I would like to share a description of each of my sub selves so that you can begin to identify your own and make sure each has arenas in which they get appropriate input and express themselves in the world. In so doing we have more opportunities to cultivate our mental health and happiness.


By Dr. Barnes Boffey

How many hours in our lives do we spend trying to fulfill expectations others have of us in which we had no part in creating or agreeing to? The answer is simply “too many.”


As children we learn that to be loved and accepted and praised, we need to figure out what is expected of us by parents and others and then act in a way that meets those expectations. We know when we do that because we hear, “Good boy!” or Good girl!” or “I’m really proud of you.” It seems logical. Our teachers and parents and other adults lay out expectations and we are obviously responsible for doing our best to meet those expectations. When we don’t the chorus changes to “I’m really disappointed in you right now.”

The transition to adulthood and both the freedom and responsibility that accompany it is marked by the realization that many of those expectations are unrealistic, self-serving, or simply have nothing to do with the actual people we are becoming. But if we have been waiting for others to create those expectations over all those years, it’s often hard to create our own without feeling we have done something wrong, or that our disappointing others is a sign or ingratitude or disrespect.

Nothing is father from the truth. Our job as children growing into adults is to sort through the expectations of childhood, holding onto those that we want to integrate into our adult lives, and moving beyond those which are no longer useful. As we create our own lives, we also create the expectations against which we want to be judged.

True adults are in short supply. And just because we are ready to participate in the above process does not mean that others will be ready; it does not mean they will let go of their expectations or cease judging us.  It takes a truly courageous decision to begin to create the criteria by which we are willing to be judged and also to gently refuse to be held to expectations which we have not created or agreed to.

“Sweetheart, I know you are mad at me for not going to the store on the way home, but I don’t remember either being asked to or telling you that I would. Your judgment does not feel appropriate in this situation.”

“I know everyone expects me to be the one to talk to grandma about her negativity, but I am no longer willing to accept that role or feel like I have done something wrong when I ask others to share that load.”

In short, I aspire to say that in my personal relationships, I will no longer willingly participate in the process of being judged by criteria and expectations I had no part in creating or agreeing to.”  Easy to say; hard to do!

Preconceptions and how they serve us and block us.

by Dr. Ken Larsen


Preconceptions are a sort of belief.  They can serve us by guiding our behavior along familiar and desired paths.  For instance, if I didn’t have a preconception of what was ahead of me when I took an off ramp off the freeway, I wouldn’t know what to do.  If I didn’t have a preconception of what would happen when I flicked the light switch, I would be confused and in the dark.  We need to have an idea of the results of the choices we make if only a belief in the probable outcome.

I’m going to tell you a true story of the power of preconceptions in the life of a good friend.

Fred was from Nigeria.  We worked together as orderlies in the Child Psych ward of the University of Minnesota hospitals.  We became good friends, having lively discussions about many things.   I learned a lot about Fred’s family and culture.  We often shared lunch in my apartment.   Our discussions occasionally became heated, not in a rancorous way, but in a way that reflected our different cultural orientations.  Yet, through it all, we remained friends.

The year was 1965.  Fred wanted to drive to New Orleans to see the sights in that city.  I expressed my concerns for his safety traveling in that part of our country at that time in our history.  He dismissed my worries and took off on his trip.  He made it down and back safely and had a wonderful story to tell of one experience he had in Mississippi.  He stopped for lunch and walked into a small café.  The manager quickly approached Fred and told him that he could not serve him.  Fred put on a friendly smile and asked the manager why he couldn’t be served.  The manager, unaccustomed to such a direct and simple question, pointed to the black cook back in the kitchen.  “I can’t serve you because you are like that guy back there.”  Fred, looking a bit puzzled, stated simply, “I am not a cook.”

The manager was so flustered by this response that he seated Fred so he could have his lunch.

To me this was a good example of preconceptions in motion.  Fred was not indoctrinated with the prejudice that was prevalent during that time.  He didn’t see himself as a second class citizen.  He was unencumbered by the intimidation generated by the racial discrimination he faced.    This freedom enabled him to evidently overcome the preconceptions of the café manager, who was able to treat Fred as just another customer.

I have noticed that many of us form our self image according to what we think others think of  us.  This starts in early childhood where the quality of our attachments shapes our personality.  This continues throughout life driven by the hunger to fit in.  In Fred’s case, he did not allow the preconceptions of the manager to shake his confident sense of himself.

I have thought of this often through the years.  I think Fred’s sense of self enabled him to function in a mentally healthy and happy manner in spite of what was going on in our Civil Rights struggles.  His dignity and self-confidence enabled him to live out the anthem of those days, “We shall overcome.”

Overcoming depression, anxiety, suicide ideation and more

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Want to develop, improve and maintain your Mental Health & Happiness? Then you need to effectively follow your psychological instructions every day.

Want to feel less stress, anxiety, sadness, depression, alienation and powerlessness? Then you need to more effectively follow your psychological instructions every day.

Want to stop continually  obsessing over one thought, loss, sadness or failure? Want to stop your never ending internal argument of whether or not to ingest that forbidden substance, whether it be food, drink, or drug? Then you need to more effectively and consistently follow your psychological instructions every day.

sadwomanAre you feeling a complete lack of hope, feeling so despondent that you have been considering ending your life? Maybe you are feeling this right now. Then you need to effectively and consistently follow your psychological instructions right now, especially your instruction to connect in a meaningful and authentic way with one other person.

These are your psychological instructions: the urge to feel safe & secure, to be loving with a sense of belonging and connectedness, to be powerful, to be playful, and to be able to make choices with freedom.

Ask yourself these questions:

Who do you feel closest to in the whole world? Who do you share your hopes, dreams, wishes and sorrows with? If you don’t have at least one person in your life that fits these requirements,  start cultivating that kind of a relationship NOW! Your answer could be a pet, or God, or some other similar answer. That’s okay. However, if you can add a real person that would be even better.

Where do you feel important? What are you doing that you know makes a difference in the world, including just your own immediate world? If you can’t give an answer to this question start doing meaningful work, whether volunteer, paid or family work. We all need to feel as though we are making a difference. Make a contribution and know that your presence adds value not just to your own life but the lives of others.

Where do you feel like you have choices and options? Can’t answer that question? Then start  paying better attention to your world and your life now. You have lots of options and choices, including the choice of reading this blog to the end or doing something different. You have more freedom and choices than you realize. You just need to start noticing and giving thanks for all this freedom and choices. (If Viktor Frankl had choices then so do you.)

When was the last time you laughed so hard your cheeks hurt, tears streamed down your face and your belly got tired? Can’t remember? You my friend are in dire need of more fun and learning in your life. Start doing something, anything to be more playful and joyful. This can include going to a funny movie and watching and hearing others laugh, Laughter is contagious. Find a laughing yoga class near you and attend. Search on YouTube for videos of others laughing and watch long enough until you get tickled too.

Where do you feel safest in your world? This is the place where you seek shelter and comfort when you’re frightened. Don’t have that place? Then create it! If you have to, close your eyes and visualize being in a place from your past or your imaginations where you felt held, comforted and safely in a nest. We all need our own personal refuge.

Now that you have completed this brief needs assessment evaluation, do you have any ideas of what you can do to help develop, improve and maintain your Mental Health & Happiness? Let today be the day you get started.

For better results and greater effectiveness, connect with an accountability buddy. You help your buddy succeed in an area of his choosing, and ask for the help and support you need to succeed in improving your Mental Health & Happiness.

I feel so good today!

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Many years ago when I was employed first at a psychiatric hospital and then at two different comprehensive community mental health centers, I would occasionally call in sick. Some days I just didn’t have the emotional and physical energy to face all of my work responsibilities and obligations. I was also careful not to abuse or over-use this strategy.

selfmassageOf course this idea originated when I was in high school. There were just some days I didn’t want to face what was before me. Sometimes that included a quiz or test I had not sufficiently studied for. Other times I just needed a break from one more day of the student school grind.

Too often I would ultimately end up actually getting sick. Apparently my guilt feelings would help me stay on an honest path. I also started to notice a pattern related to when I became ill. There were days or weeks preceding the onset of my health problem where I needed a physical, emotional and spiritual break from work. But my sense of responsibility and duty kept me going. Ultimately I learned to listen to those signals telling me I needed a break.

I longed to take a mental health day. But these organizations and agencies did not recognize such terminology. I remember thinking there was something off about working in the mental health field that did not acknowledge and allow for paid leave to support their employees need for mental health.

Eventually my maturation and transformation evolved to the point where I could take my mental health days. This is not what I told my boss or the HR department, but it was what I told myself. I knew I needed to be as mentally healthy and strong as I could in order to effectively and competently deal with my clients who were struggling with their own mental health issues.

I began to fantasize about working for an agency where I could occasionally call in and say, “I feel so good, happy and healthy today that I want to take this day for myself. I’m calling in well.


Can you imagine such freedom and respect?

Eventually I worked for an agency that actually had such a policy for leave taking. Of course they didn’t call it self-proclaimed well days. But I was given three extra  leave days a year in addition to my paid holiday time to use as I saw fit. I used them as my well days.

I feel so good today I dont want to waste this day at work. Needless to say, my Mental Health & Happiness improved greatly.


U.S.A. Armed Forces Day

Today, May 17, 2014, is National Armed Forces Day in the USA. If you live in the US, you may want to take a moment today to thank someone who served, or is serving, in any of our five military branches – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

Regardless of what you think of war, these dedicated men and women give up their freedom on a daily basis to defend freedom for others everywhere.


As you know, freedom is one of the basic human needs of Choice Theory psychology. At least in the US, most people do not have to spend a lot of time thinking of how to get their need for freedom met. Most US citizens have an abundance of freedom granted under the Constitution and defended and protected by the US Armed Forces. We owe much to these men and women.

Going to war can be a lifestyle that threatens one’s mental health and happiness. There has been much attention given to suicide rates and PTSD in military members in recent years. Serving one’s country can often expose military members to experiences not easily forgotten. I work hard to call this PTS (Post Traumatic Stress). I leave off the D for disorder. Given the experiences I have heard military members speak of, it is no wonder post traumatic stress could be the result. When experiencing traumatic situations, stress is a normal response to an extraordinary event — not a disorder but an adaptive response under the circumstances. We need to recognize this and help normalize the experience while helping our military members regain any mental health and happiness that was compromised based on their selfless service.

And if you are a friend or family member of an active duty military member, especially those who serving in combat zones, we need to appreciate you as well. I often speak to military audiences and say, “The only thing harder than being a military member is loving one.” Sending someone you love into a combat zone is something else that can impact one’s mental health and happiness.

Signing up for and practicing Your Daily Challenge from this website can help you too, while your loved one is away and when they return. These challenges are no substitute for therapy but practicing them can help you regain your center from having your life uprooted, while you move toward increased mental health and happiness.

Hug an armed forces member or member of their family today or thank them for their service. Doing so, expressing your gratitude, can lift your mood too!

Alone At Last

By Maria Trujillo alias Manual DeVie

Home alone. Whaaaat?

dancingtigerYa know what that means….time to dance like no one is watching!

With wind chill temperatures averaging in the minus 20’s and a house filled with children suffering from the chicken pox, it was easy to understand my excitement at the first taste of freedom I had had in days. As I watched the school bus carrying my now well children come and go my mind quickly started calculating how much time I had and what I wanted to do with this glorious time to myself.

There was no burning desire to accomplish anything. My power need was satiated. My love and belonging cup was overflowing with all the mommy care that had been going on.

It was more about having the freedom to do what I wanted when I wanted. I smiled at the mere thought of it. I had a day of freedom and fun all to myself!

For me that meant music. I could listen to the music I like at the volume level I want. I had only to please myself.

Spinach is a hard sell in this house. I do have one rule that I apply only to myself though. No woulda, coulda, shoulda’s allowed. That would be like trying to fill your cup knowing you picked one with a slow leak. Ah, the joy, mental health and happiness of being home alone!