Karuna Counseling’s Newsletter Articles

August 12, 2010

Procrastination

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Anxiety,Melissa's Articles — karunacounseling @ 1:03 am
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by Melissa Kulick, Ph.D.

If the topic of this article has caught your attention, I’d go ahead and read it now if I were you.  For most people who identify themselves as procrastinators, deciding to come back to it later  is a likely set-up for never getting around to it.

Despite the fact that procrastination is so widely practiced, I find it can also be incredibly misunderstood. Procrastination is often written off as laziness, but it is not that simple. True procrastination involves avoidance and is the result of any of a number of underlying factors or causes, which will be discussed below. If you are looking only for a quick how not to guide for overcoming procrastination, a number of practical tips can be found at the end of the article. I do not advise, however, skipping to this section. Experience has shown that if you don’t identify and address the underlying causes of your procrastination, you will probably procrastinate in applying these strategies, as well.

What Procrastination is Not

Before jumping into a detailed discussion of what procrastination is, it will be helpful to distinguish it from what it is not. There are legitimate reasons for putting an action or activity off and it becomes our responsibility to be honest with ourselves as we assess our motivations. Among the reasons we might delay action for reasons other than procrastination are:

1) When you lack the skill or knowledge to complete a task. You could, however, then procrastinate seeking the required knowledge or informing an appropriate other person of your situation.

2) When you have a legitimate illness or physical problem.

3) Ignorance – When you genuinely lack the awareness of the task or awareness that you have permission to work on it.

4) Situations where there are problems matching personal priorities with those of others. Again, this is where communication is required, and you could procrastinate in delaying this action.

5) Taking of a legitimate break following an appropriate period of activity.

6) Delays based on self-knowledge of your most and least productive work times during your day.

What Procrastination Is

When we talk about procrastination, we are referring to unhealthy putting off or avoidance of tasks, especially those that would be positive or helpful for us to accomplish. To understand (and ultimately overcome) our procrastination, we need to begin to explore what may be the motivation(s) – both conscious and unconscious – behind our choice to procrastinate. (Yes, we are making a choice, whether we experience it as intentional and deliberate or not.)

Why We Procrastinate

The motivations involved are fears and/or negative self-statements related to our self-worth. These fears and self-statements mainly stem from a number of commonly held, though irrational, beliefs. Albert Ellis, a pioneer in the field of rational emotive psychotherapy, proposed a lengthy list of such irrational beliefs. Among those that may impact procrastination are:

1) That it is a dire necessity for us to be loved or approved by virtually everyone we know.

2) That we should be totally competent, adequate, and achieving in every respect if we are to be considered worthwhile.

3) That it is awful and catastrophic when things are not the way we’d like them to be.

4) That it is easier to avoid than to face certain difficulties and responsibilities.

5) That our past behavior determines our present behavior.

6) That there is one right and perfect answer to our problems or situations and that to not find this right answer is catastrophic.

These can be incredibly powerful, foundational, beliefs. If you found yourself nodding in agreement as you read any of these, keep them in mind as we go on to discuss the various fears that may underlie our procrastination

I referred earlier to procrastination as a choice. In many ways, when we choose to procrastinate, we are making a decision based on a cost-benefit analysis; we are determining that what we see as the potential cost of taking action outweighs the expected benefit.

Among the possible reasons for procrastination, fear is a strong motivator of action (or inaction), and can come in a number of forms. It is the combination of fear and issues related to self-worth that fuel most, if not all, of our procrastination.

1) Fear of Failure – Holding a belief that our performance determines our worth (especially if we doubt our ability) can create a resistance to risking taking action (and thereby risking our perceived worth.)

A variation of this fear is Perfectionism. In this case, the only perceived measure of success is perfection, and this can apply both to the finished product as well as to an expectation that the effort involved be smooth and even effortless. Anything less than flawless and/or easy is seen as failure – and you become a failure, particularly in your own eyes

2) Protecting an Image of Competence – There are two forms this can take:

Novice Phobia – The fear of putting yourself in a new or novel situation and in the position of being a learner, and therefore not perfect or immediately competent. If I can’t do it right or perfect the first time, I won’t even try it. The anticipated cost, again, is a loss of perceived (by self and/or others) worth.

Fantasy of Competence – Avoiding facing a challenge directly by failing to prepare adequately for it, putting out a full effort, or giving yourself an adequate amount of time to complete it. This strategy, called self-handicapping, allows us to continue believing that we would have done a fantastic job if only we’d tried harder or had more time.

3) Fear of Success – Fearing unwanted anticipated consequences of success: that significant others in your life will be envious or threatened and reject you; that you will continue to be expected, by yourself or others, to maintain or achieve success; or that you or others will want even more from you. The cost of action, of course, is the negative consequences for you.

Another way that the fear of success can lead to procrastination is as a direct expression of a lack of self-worth. We avoid taking action that would be helpful to us because we do not believe we deserve to have, be, or achieve whatever the action would allow us to. This is a form of self-sabotage.  We undermine ourselves. This is also expressed as not seeing ourselves as worth the effort that may be involved in certain activities, regardless of the size of the task (e.g., brushing our teeth.).

4) Rebellion – One other motivation for procrastination stems from a desire to resist authority. Procrastinating in this case allows you a sense of power and control. The perceived cost is that working means submitting to someone else and giving up power.

Overcoming Procrastination

To overcome procrastination you need to address the motivation for your procrastination and honestly confront the question of whether you have a genuine desire to change your patterns. You need to ask yourself if you are motivated by the Pleasure Priority and, if so, if that is how you want to live. If your real priority in life is to have a good time, and you’re genuinely okay with that, then you need to stop kidding yourself and give up unrealistic fantasies of achievement; that’s not what fuels you. If you’re starting from this place but are wanting to work toward more of a balance between having a good time and being successful, a place to start is to recognize the need to learn how to delay gratification and work toward a later payoff.

To allow yourself to let go of the fear of failure and the paralyzing effect of perfectionism, it is very important to make the distinction between what we do and who we are. Our actions do not determine our worth. It is also important to remind ourselves that >we can not control others perceptions, opinions, thoughts, feelings, or actions.

A novice phobia can be addressed by remembering that we are all novices at everything at some point. When we allow our actions to be controlled by this fear, we are trying to protect an unnecessary false pride. If we do away with this pretense, we won’t have to spend all that energy maintaining a front that only limits us in the long run, by depriving us of the chance to learn and grow.

If you find yourself protecting a fantasy of competence, put your abilities on the line – repeatedly. You can then assess your true capabilities. You may have to give up unrealistic expectations or fantasies, but these weren’;t going to be fulfilled, anyway, if you continued to avoid and procrastinate. This will allow you a realistic sense of your strengths and weaknesses (we all have them), which will then enable you to set realistic, accomplishable goals for yourself.

If you find yourself procrastinating as a way to express resistance or as an act of rebellion, know that this is an indirect, passive-aggressive, way of expressing or achieving control. Set a goal for yourself of learning to deal with interpersonal difficulties in a direct manner and of seeing where your choice lies in situations. You likely have valid experiences and emotions that deserve to be acknowledged and expressed.

If you realize you are battling a fear of success, know that you are fully entitled to success and fulfillment. It may be helpful to explore the messages you hold inside you that tell you otherwise, as they can be indicators of tender spots within you that could benefit from some compassionate attention. Also remember that you can’t control others thoughts, feelings, etc. If, upon honest examination, this fear appears to be reasonable in a particular situation, ask yourself what steps you might be able to take to address the issue directly and/or whether this is a symptom of unhealthiness in a relationship.

In the case of self-sabotage, at the risk of sounding trite, awareness really is the first step. Acknowledge that this is forming the motivation for your choices and actions, and work on believing that you <u>are</u> worth the effort and do deserve to have, succeed, achieve, take care of yourself, etc. Practice. Don;t let a novice phobia get in your way here, either. It will be natural for resistance to come up as you begin to try on this new way of relating to yourself. That;s okay. There;s an approach used in the 12-Step recovery programs that you can borrow, which is to fake it til you make it. I prefer a slightly different wording, however. Ask yourself what you would do if you actually believed you deserved success or happiness, and then let yourself do it.

Behavior can be a powerful tool in identity formation. Not only do our beliefs about who we are or are not impact our choices regarding the actions we will and will not take, but our actions can create a picture of ourselves that can aid us in our future efforts. This is one way in which acting as if can be very helpful. If you start, for example, doing the dishes after each meal or beginning to read an assignment the day it is given (regardless of any internal pull to put it off), and you see yourself doing this repeatedly, your internal image of yourself begins to shift from someone who lets dishes pile up in the sink or someone who leaves assignments until the last minute to someone who does their dishes right away; or someone who gets a jump on their assignments. These internal ideas of who we are, while they do not define us, can definitely affect the choices we make.

Low self-worth and procrastination form what can be a debilitating vicious cycle where we start out feeling bad about ourselves and so are unmotivated to engage in positive action on our own behalf and we procrastinate and this only reinforces and increases our negative thoughts and feelings about ourselves, leaving us even less likely to act productively the next time. Break this cycle any way you can.

Self-compassion is going to be an important element as you work to change the habit of procrastination. Remember that procrastination as a style of approaching life tasks is an ingrained pattern that took a long time to develop, has been practiced repeatedly, and has been reinforced by (often lots of) internal messages. You should realistically expect that it could take some time to throw off such a well-rehearsed way of being. Many people find it helpful to address some of the obstacles they face in overcoming procrastination, especially their negative or restrictive internal messages and fears, over time and with a trained therapist.

Some Practical Suggestions

Sometimes we procrastinate starting a task because we feel overwhelmed by the seeming enormity of what we must accomplish. When this happens, the most effective approach is to break down the task into more manageable pieces, and this can be done by either dividing the task into individual steps and taking each step one at a time, or by breaking down the time spent working into small segments, contracting with yourself to work for even just minutes at a time. You can then consider renewing the contract once you’ve done that much.

Other things you can do include: creating structure by establishing a set time for a routine – by doing this you are building a new habit; modifying your environment to make it more conducive for working, or moving yourself to more favorable location; go ahead and do it when you think of it; make the most of momentum when you have it – keep going, even if it involves switching tasks; set up reminders for yourself if necessary; create a contract for yourself that includes both a work plan and a reward for yourself.

The most important thing is to start; start taking more responsibility for yourself (and seeing yourself as response-able) and start being more compassionate with yourself. Be both honest and gentle with you; you are a work in progress. And you are worth the effort.

November 5, 2008

Coping with Holiday Stress

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Not by Karuna — karunacounseling @ 8:30 am
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By the American Psychological Association

The holidays can be fun, but they also can be a source of great stress — and no wonder. The holidays are often depicted as a magical time when people reconcile and dreams come true.

How Can You Deal With Continuing Family Problems During The Holidays?

Being realistic is the first step. If you have bad feelings about someone, try and avoid him or her and not make an issue of it but don’t pretend that all is well. This will enable you to feel true to yourself and less stressed out.

Do Financial Pressures Stress People Out to the Point of Ruining the Holiday Spirit?

Knowing your spending limit is also a way to relieve holiday stress. People believe that they have to go out and buy gifts because it’s the holidays, even if they can’t afford to do so. Not only is it stressful to feel that you have to buy everyone an expensive gift, but you’ll be stressed for the rest of the year trying to pay off your bills. You can show love and caring by getting something that you know is meaningful and personal for that person that doesn’t have to cost a lot.

How Do Time Pressures Affect People Around the Holidays?

People shouldn’t have to put their lives on pause or totally rearrange their schedules either because of the holidays. Learn to prioritize the invitations you accept and don’t feel that you have to go to every holiday gathering.

How Does a Person Deal With the Holidays When He or She Has Just Experienced A Recent Tragedy, Death or Romantic Break-up?

If you’re feeling really out of sorts because of any chronic or current stressors, like a death or recent romantic break-up, you may want to avoid some of the festivities because they are so out of sync with how you’re feeling. Try to tell those around you what you really need, since they may not know how to help you, and ask for their understanding if you decline an activity.

How Do You Cope With Kids Who Want Everything For The Holidays and Have No Sense of What Things Cost?

Parents need to tell their children to be realistic. It is OK to say to your child that a certain toy is too expensive. And even Santa Claus has limited funds and has to choose what to give because he has a very long list. You can also tell your children that Mom and Dad and Santa Claus will try to choose the most suitable present for the child. Children have to learn that their wish is not someone’s command and to curb their desires for instant gratification.

What Are Some Good Coping Strategies?

Take stock of your expectations and make sure they’re realistic. Don’t expect more of this time of year than of any other. Take a break from holiday music and television specials if you find that they’re turning you into “Scrooge.”

Most people dread the holidays because their inner experience is so different from what is being hyped. You should trust your own instincts and don’t try to be what you’re not. Keep up your normal routine and know that this day will pass too.

If, however, you are unable to shake what you think are “holiday blues” your feelings may not be about the holidays, but about other things in your life. If you need help in sorting out or dealing with this issue, a psychologist is a person with the training to help you do so. Call one of Karuna’s therapists.

Thanks to Dorothy Cantor, Psy.D., a private practitioner in Westfield, N.J., and a former president of the American Psychological Association.

(c) Copyright 2004 American Psychological Association

Documents from apahelpcenter.org may be reprinted in their entirety with credit given to the American Psychological Association. Any exceptions to this, including requests to excerpt or paraphrase documents from apahelpcenter.org, must be presented in writing to helping@apa.org and will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Permission for exceptions will be given on a one-time-only basis and must be sought for each additional use of the document.

October 13, 2008

12 Tips for a Healthy Relationship

by Claire N. Scott, Ph.D.

There are literally hundreds of books on how to improve relationships. Relationship difficulties are the most often cited reason that people decide to come into therapy. While relationships are one of the most rewarding things in life, they can also be one of the most challenging and heartbreaking. Here are a few tips I’ve gleaned from some of those relationship books and from almost 20 years of doing couples therapy. (The primary source for the research cited is The Marriage Clinic by John Gottman, Ph.D.)

One:

Research has found that the most significant factor in determining satisfaction in a relationship is the quality of the friendship between the two people — and this is equally true for women and men. Obviously that makes it important to devote time and energyto strengthening the friendship between you and your partner. How? Spend time together, listen, be empathetic about sorrows and enthusiastic about joys, tolerate foibles, forgive faults, support dreams, be available when you’re needed – in short be a good friend.

Two:

Conflict is a natural part of any close relationship. People have different needs, wants, values, priorities, temperaments, histories, energies, moods, rhythms, styles. What is unusual is not that people have conflict, but that they ever manage to work through it sufficiently to actually want to be in each other’s company for any length of time.

Three:

That magical, wonderful, knock-your-socks-off feeling of being in love will fade. It’s inevitable. There’s no feeling like it, and it’s wonderful while it lasts, and it will fade. Ideally, the “pink cloud” feelings you have for each other can mature and grow into a beautiful, lifelong loving companionship – but that takes work – keep reading.

Four:

Be careful how you confront your partner. Remember the difference between a complaint and criticism. A complaint is an objection you have to how something is going – or not going. Criticism is an attack on your partner’s personhood. Example: a complaint might be, “I get so aggravated with you when you don’t call when you’re going to be late.” That line can be turned into a criticism by adding, “How can you be so selfish?” or “What’s the matter with you that you always do that?”

Five:

Old saying – still true: YOU GET MORE FLIES WITH HONEY THAN YOU DO WITH VINEGAR . Remember when you have a complaint that you’re asking your partner to change to please you. Chances are they’re going to be more likely to accommodate you if you act like you like them!

Six:

Be “influenceable”. Research also shows that happier relationships are those in which each person is open to being influenced by the other. Don’t hang on to being so right that the only place left for your partner to be is wrong.

Seven:

Examine your beliefs about what you think couples and families do for one another? If you believe, as I do, that loved ones supportone another in “becoming” what one wants to become, then the attitude you bring into partnership is likely to be one that will help both you and your partner grow and flourish.

Eight:

Power: Only in relationships where both partners have equal, open power can true intimacy exist (meaning the experience of being open, vulnerable, and able to share one’s innermost thoughts and feelings). The old topdog/underdog setup may have worked in a way, but the result was NOT intimacy.

Nine:

Even the best relationships have some irreconcilable differences . Not all problems can be solved. If you want to keep your partner (and your sanity), you might have to decide that that quirk that drives you mad is actually an endearing idiosyncrasy. If that’s impossible, keep working on the irreconcilable differences, but with gentleness, respect and good humor. (Though this is a tangentialremark and fodder for a different article, how can we possibly expect nations to live peaceably with their differences if we can’t even manage it in our closest relationships?)

Ten:

Repair attempts . This is a term coined by John Gottman that I particularly like. It refers to the times one or the other partner makes some conciliatory gesture. It could be a joke to lighten the mood in an argument, a gentle touch, a request to table the conversation till there’s time to cool down, a silly grin, an “I’m sorry” or “boy did I screw up”. Sometimes the timing can be off, and the receiver is just in no mood to hear it, but it’s helpful if the attempt is at least acknowledged. Take a second to smile at the joke or return the touch. Repair attempts can lower the volatility and improve the atmosphere in the room. It doesn’t mean the disagreement has been resolved; it’s just a little breather to remember you love one other.

Eleven:

Accept that reality is subjective. We can only see the world through our own eyes, and not all eyes see the same . Studies on eyewitness testimony attest to the unreliability of eyewitness accounts. When I was a campus counselor years ago, I once counseled two people individually for two months before it became evident that they were roommates in conflict with each other! Their respective descriptions of what was going on was so different that the accounts bore no resemblance to each other. I’m still having that experience with couples today.

Twelve:

How do you know when your relationship could benefit from couple’s counseling? Two clues: (a) if your disagreements keep having the same flavor and you feel like you keep going round and round and getting nowhere, and/or, (b) if you’ve tried everything you can think of and it feels like nothing works. Sooner is also probably better than later. Relationships with a long history of hurt, resentment and hateful words are difficult to heal. John Gottman’s research highlighted four indicators that a relationship is in serious trouble: the presence of high levels of criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. These things are deeply corrosive to a relationship and can leave it eroded beyond repair if not addressed.

This list is obviously not exhaustive – I haven’t even touched on sex and money. If you would like to read more about relationships, some books I recommend are: Soul Mates by Thomas Moore; Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman and Nan Silver; Getting the Love you Want by Harville Hendrix; Dance of Anger by Harriet Lerner; Conscious Loving by Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks.

March 10, 2008

How Do You Respond?

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Not by Karuna — karunacounseling @ 4:46 pm
Tags: , ,

by Dr. Gene Clerkin

Most people probably don’t know this, but there is a difference between illness and having a disease. There are many people that have no presentable disease symptoms yet they are very ill. Some people have a disease and are well at the same time. How can that be? How can someone have a disease and be well all at the same time?

I’ve heard that quite a few people have recently endured the cleansing that may occur in conjunction with some flu or virus. Apparently it can be pretty uncomfortable. The other day one of my clients who survived this bout commented on her experience. Even though she felt physically horrible, she experienced it from a different perspective than in the past. She had trust that her body knew exactly what it was doing to cleanse itself. Instead of having the feeling of being victimized she felt empowered by the process.

That is a perfect example of wellness behavior.

Illness is not about the symptom; rather it is about the state of mind a person has about that symptom, and for that matter, every other aspect of their life. In illness behavior we react to the processes of the body and of life with fear. Wait a second…we were talking about symptoms and sickness and now we’re talking about life?

I also have another client who had recently been confronted with some very major life challenges. A good many people would respond to her situation by shutting down and going into a defensive or protective physiology repeating the cycle of unending anxiety and depression about the present situation. We call that “stage one” in the healing process. So what did she say? Loosely quoted, “I know this will be a challenge but, I’m sure there is a reason for this and that ultimately it creates new opportunities for change and growth.”>

Wow, that is wellness behavior.

Protective or defensive physiology does not allow for that kind of response. When we’re in stress physiology the part of the brain that allows for a conscious observation and healthy response is unavailable. Since we’re only accessing the lower or reactive part of our brain, our responses are skewed by the filter of our past wounds.

When we experience a situation that is deemed unsafe, uncomfortable or damaging to our sense of self, our brain goes into defensive physiology to protect itself from that information. We release chemicals that effect heart rate, blood pressure, and cause us to tighten down and become inflexible. If we continue in that state, which most people do, our system is not flexible enough to adapt to new and potentially stressful information.

Wellness and illness are about how we respond and adapt to our symptoms and to our life. How would you respond to a symptom, a disease or a life crisis? How have you responded in the past? The answer to those questions will help you get an idea of your own level of wellness.

It might also be noted that wellness is open ended, which means that you can always achieve a greater level of it. In fact, in a research study conducted at the University of California, it was found that people in Network Care, tracked over a period of nine years, appeared to have no ceiling to the level of wellness they experienced. Network Care operates in the wellness model helping people develop strategies to recover from stress physiology, adapt to future stresses and access the part of the brain which enables healthier choices and responses….regardless of symptoms.

For more information about Dr. Gene please visit

www.centerforholistichealth.com

December 16, 2007

Holidays and Grief

By Micky O’Leary, Ph.D

You may have noticed it’s the holiday season. (I saw Christmas lights fighting for Halloween shelf space in late September and my neighborhood convenience store is now selling “candy cane cappuccino.”) Whatever your personal beliefs, it’s more or less impossible to ignore the television commercials, shopping promotions, Hallmark specials, outdoor decorations, wrapping paper, and many other obvious reminders which bombard us daily from October through the end of the year.

This can be an exciting, although stressful, time of year. Most of us have been brought up to believe that the holiday season is “magical,” a time when families get closer, hearts get lighter, and good will abounds.

For many people, the holidays are an especially wonderful time. But for just as many, the holidays are exhausting, expensive, disappointing, and/or downright depressing. This is especially true for those who are experiencing a particular sadness or loss in their lives. In a time when connection and abundance are being depicted all around, it’s especially hard to be without the people or things that are important to us.

Few people go through life without experiencing major loss(es), and those losses can seem especially painful during the holidays. Whether it’s the death of a loved one, the absence of family, illness, losing a job, the ending of a relationship, financial setbacks, or any number of other difficult life events, grieving often intensifies when we’re faced with the huge discrepancy between our own experience and what appears to be the experience of the majority. Memories of happier times and friends and family who seem excited by the festivities may only increase our sense of being isolated and out of step.

If the holidays are hard for you, be assured that you are not alone. Many people do not feel like celebrating and wish they could somehow be transported from October to mid-January. If you are in that group, or just a little less than thrilled with the traditional holiday festivities, your feelings are understandable. This is an especially useful time to focus on ways to take care of yourself and reduce unnecessary stress.

One way to do this is by adjusting your expectations – of yourself, as well as others. Adopt a nurturing and self-accepting attitude toward yourself. Try not to feel guilty or self-critical because you feel sad or lonely. Seek support from family and friends. If they are a source of your stress, make sure you have some “down time” to rest and regroup. You may even consider volunteering some time to those who are in need – helping others is often the best way to help yourself feel better.

If this is your first holiday season since the death of a loved one, be especially gentle with yourself. Recognize the painful nature of “firsts” and treat yourself kindly. You may choose to keep traditional holiday activities or you may decide you want to break with tradition and do something entirely different. There is no right or wrong in choosing the best way to cope with a very painful time.

Whatever your loss has been, know that grieving takes time and that it is our nature to heal and grow. Just as we do what is necessary for our bodies to heal physically, we can make the choices that will allow us to heal emotionally. Regardless of where we are in our lives, this time of year offers opportunities for us to learn more about our emotional needs and how to meet them.

December 5, 2007

Holiday Bill of Rights – Part 2

The holidays can be fun, but they also can be a source of great stress — and no wonder. The holidays are often depicted as a magical time when people reconcile and dreams come true.

How Can You Deal With Continuing Family Problems During The Holidays?

Being realistic is the first step. If you have bad feelings about someone, try and avoid him or her and not make an issue of it but don’t pretend that all is well. This will enable you to feel true to yourself and less stressed out.

Do Financial Pressures Stress People Out to the Point of Ruining the Holiday Spirit?

Knowing your spending limit is also a way to relieve holiday stress. People believe that they have to go out and buy gifts because it’s the holidays, even if they can’t afford to do so. Not only is it stressful to feel that you have to buy everyone an expensive gift, but you’ll be stressed for the rest of the year trying to pay off your bills. You can show love and caring by getting something that you know is meaningful and personal for

that person that doesn’t have to cost a lot.

How Do Time Pressures Affect People Around the Holidays?

People shouldn’t have to put their lives on pause or totally rearrange their schedules either because of the holidays. Learn to prioritize the invitations you accept and don’t feel that you have to go to every holiday gathering.

How Does a Person Deal With the Holidays When He or She Has Just Experienced A Recent Tragedy, Death or Romantic Break-up?

If you’re feeling really out of sorts because of any chronic or current stressors, like a death or recent romantic break-up, you may want to avoid some of the festivities because they are so out of sync with how you’re feeling. Try to tell those around you what you really need, since they may not know how to help you, and ask for their understanding if you decline an activity.

How Do You Cope With Kids Who Want Everything For The Holidays and Have No Sense of What Things Cost?

Parents need to tell their children to be realistic. It is OK to say to your child that a certain toy is too expensive. And even Santa Claus has limited funds and has to choose what to give because he has a very long list. You can also tell your children that Mom and Dad and Santa Claus will try to choose the most suitable present for the child. Children have to learn that their wish is not someone’s command and to curb their desires for instant gratification.

What Are Some Good Coping Strategies?

Take stock of your expectations and make sure they’re realistic. Don’t expect more of this time of year than of any other. Take a break from holiday music and television specials if you find that they’re turning you into "Scrooge."

Most people dread the holidays because their inner experience is so different from what is being hyped. You should trust your own instincts and don’t try to be what you’re not. Keep up your normal routine and know

that this day will pass too.

If, however, you are unable to shake what you think are "holiday blues" your feelings may not be about the holidays, but about other things in your life. If you need help in sorting out or dealing with this issue, a psychologist is a person with the training to help you do so. Call one of Karuna’s therapists.

Thanks to Dorothy Cantor, Psy.D., a private practitioner in Westfield, N.J., and a former president of the American Psychological Association.

(c) Copyright 2004 American Psychological Association

Documents from apahelpcenter.org may be reprinted in their entirety with credit given to the American Psychological Association. Any exceptions to this, including requests to excerpt or paraphrase documents from apahelpcenter.org, must be presented in writing to helping@apa.org and will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Permission for exceptions will be given on a one-time-only basis and must be sought for each additional use of the document.

November 16, 2007

Holiday Bill of Rights

Filed under: 2007 and earlier — karunacounseling @ 2:36 pm
Tags: , ,

By the American Psychological Association

1. You have the right to say TIME OUT, anytime you need to. Time out to let up, blow a little steam, step away from the holidays, have a “huddle” time and start over.

2. You have the right to TELL IT LIKE IT IS. When people ask, “How are you?” you have a right to tell them how you REALLY feel, not just want they want to hear. You need to take care of yourself, be attuned to your feelings (P.S. You also have the right to smile and say you’re fine, because telling them how you really feel isn’t worth your time – some people will never understand anyway.)

3. You have the right to some “BAH HUMBUG” days. You don’t have to be “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” all the time. You are not a bad person just because you don’t feel like singing Christmas carols all day.

4. You have the right to DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY. There is no law that says you must always do the holidays the same way. You can send 10 cards instead of 100 – or no cards at all. You can open presents at someone else’s house. You can do without a tree. You can have pizza instead of a turkey. Make up your own rules.

5. You have a right to BE WHERE YOU WANT TO BE. Be at home, or with relatives, or with friends. Be in any city or state you choose. There’s no law that says you have to stay home.

6. You have the right to have some FUN. Don’t be afraid of what someone will say if they see you laughing and having a good time. Laughter is every bit as therapeutic as tears. If you are doing something that your loved one would have enjoyed, think of their laughter and feel their laughter inside of you.

7. You have the right to change direction in MID-STREAM. Grief is unpredictable. You may be all ready to go somewhere or do something and be suddenly overwhelmed, immobilized. When that happens, it’s okay to change your mind.

8. You have the right to do things at DIFFERENT TIMES. Go to church or synagogue at a different time. Open presents at a different time. Serve your meal at a different time. Go to bed at a different time. You are not a slave to the holiday clock.

9. You have the right to REST, PEACE, and SOLITUDE. You don’t need to be busy all the time. Take a nap whenever you need one. Take time to pray or meditate or recharge your spirit – it can do much more for you than eating another big meal.

10. YouYou have the right to DO IT ALL DIFFERENT AGAIN NEXT YEAR. Just because you change things one year or try something different, does not mean you have written it in stone. Next year you can always change it back or do it in yet, another new way.

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November 10, 2007

Emotional Eating During The Holiday Season

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Addiction & Recovery,Molly's Articles,Physical Health & Wellness — karunacounseling @ 4:49 pm
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By Andrea Schrage, MA, LAPC,CMT and Molly Keeton, Ph.D.

The holidays are an emotional time and often a time of overeating. As family and friends come together, food is often the focus of celebrations. Below are some tips to think about during holiday dining. Allowing yourself to enjoy food during the holiday season is a great option when it is a conscious choice.

Ask yourself if you are hungry.

Take a breath before reaching for food.

Ask yourself how you feel in that moment.

Imagine tasting the food in front of you and decide

if it is really what you want.

When allowing yourself to indulge, plan some limits ahead of time.

Drink plenty of water.

Don’t skip meals to make up for too many sweets.

Be compassionate with yourself and your choices.

Eat regular meals and healthy snacks to avoid being over-hungry.

Prepare a list of alternatives to eating.

Make healthier versions of favorite recipes.

Make room for emotional support.

Read this list before going to events.

Remember that most often finding a balance in life is a healthy goal to obtain.

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September 4, 2007

Choosing A Career That’s Right For You

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Career Planning & Life Direction,Molly's Articles — karunacounseling @ 11:49 pm
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by
Molly Keeton, PhD

When making a career choice, you must have knowledge of both yourself and the world of work. When you allow for exploration of both of these areas, you will be more likely to make an informed choice, select a career that is a good fit for you, and have greater work and life satisfaction.

In learning about yourself and the world of work, consider each of the following areas. The ideal career will be a match for these important aspects of your life and identity. You would be fortunate to find a career that is compatible with who you are as a person and allows you to express yourself through the work you do everyday.

You World of Work

Interests Job characteristics

Skills Working conditions

Values Training/Educational Requirements

Personality Necessary skills and abilities

Goals Work environment

Ideal lifestyle Job outlook and opportunity

1. Interests

When considering your career interests, think back on all of the things you have experienced in your life. Which work experiences have been the most rewarding to you (include part-time jobs and volunteer work)? What hobbies do you enjoy the most? Which classes did you like or dislike in school? What do you like to do with your free time? What activities make you feel the best or bring out the most in you? What do you do where you don’t even notice that time is passing? Allow yourself to think freely when considering your interests. There are over 26,000 jobs in the world and there are probably several that could combine your favorite activities and/or hobbies.

According to a psychologist named John Holland, career interests can be classified into six basic types. You can learn about this classification system in a more formal way through a career inventory, but this will provide you with an overview of the basics. Try to determine your type by choosing three of the six categories and place them in order of importance to you. Once you determine this, you can do more research on careers for your type at http://www.careersmarts.com/holland.htm.

Realistic

Investigative

Artistic

Social

Enterprising

Conventional

2. Skills and Abilities

Skills are learned while abilities are natural to us (learning to play golf well would be a skill, while being good with numbers is typically an ability). Generally speaking, we enjoy the things we are good at and are good at the things we enjoy. So, reflecting on your favorite activities will provide important information about your skills and abilities. Again, think back on classes, activities, hobbies, and jobs from the past. Is there any overlap between the ones you liked and how natural those abilities came to you? You can certainly choose a career that does not utilize your natural abilities, but you may find that it is more of a challenge to do that type of work.

3. Values

A third area to consider when making a career choice is your value system. Values include: prestige, status, autonomy or independence, flexibility, variety, security, high salary, creativity, challenge, advancement, physical activity, or contribution to society. It is important to be honest with yourself about your values and recognize that no value is “right” or “wrong”. We all have a different combination of values that make us unique. How we express these values is also very individualized. One person may give back to society by working with the homeless while another may contribute through volunteer work or making a regular donation to a charitable organization. Take this list of 12 values and prioritize it. You will probably find that you want almost all of these things in your life. To get more information about your priorities, pick your top 3 values. These will be the ones that you feel you cannot compromise.

4. Personality

This is another very important area to consider when making a career choice. You will often find that personality traits will overlap with interests or values, but they can be separate too. The most well known personality inventory is called the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, and it has been researched over several decades. This inventory looks at four personality factors:

Extroversion vs. Introversion

(Where you get and prefer to direct your energy)

Sensing vs. Intuition

(How you take in information)

Thinking vs. Feeling

(How you make decisions)

Perceiving vs. Judging

(How you relate to time, structure, and organization)

These qualities exist on a continuum, meaning that you will fall somewhere in the middle of each set of traits. Very few people are complete extroverts or introverts. Most of us prefer one to the other but can do both when necessary. When you step outside of your natural preference, it may be more challenging and you may feel tired or strained. Finding a work environment that matches your personality type will lead to greater work satisfaction. Consider the following: Would you rather work alone or with a team? Do you prefer clear answers or to find new solutions? Do you want structure and predictability in your workday or do you enjoy the unexpected?

For a free Myers Briggs personality inventory, visit www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp. Once you have this information, you can do research online about how this relates career. Begin by visiting www.personalitypage.com and searching the personality and career link for your Myers Briggs Type.

* For additional information, check your library or the Web for more career resources:

http://online.onetcenter.org (Dictionary of Occupational Titles)

http://stats.bls.gov/oco/ (Occupational Outlook Handbook)

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August 18, 2007

Using the Soaps to Explore Your Unconscious

Filed under: 2007 and earlier,Claire's Articles,Dreams & The Unconscious — karunacounseling @ 6:40 pm
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by Claire N. Scott, Ph.D.

Using soap operas (or movies or books) to learn about the contents of your unconscious mind is not as bizarre an idea as it first may sound. We all probably can appreciate the fact that certain characters or themes are timeless and ageless, like the seemingly eternal appeal of Superman, Tarzan stories, Romeo and Juliet, Cleopatra, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

If we stop to ask why the appeal, I think we may quickly arrive at the psychological theory of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung and his work on “archetypes.” An archetype can be thought of as a pervasive and enduring idea, character, pattern or theme, which appears universally across many cultures. It is often revealed in art, literature, stories, and myths … and in the popular culture in movies and soaps. Admittedly characters in soaps and movies may be a diluted version of an archetype — perhaps more like a stereotype than an archetype, but the underlying archetype is usually discernible. Some easily recognized archetypes are:

The hero

The martyr

The seductress

The maiden

The mentor

The student

The warrior

The witch or wizard

The hermit

The clown

The healer

The rebel

The villain

The monk (or nun)

The judge

Perhaps you can think of popular characters that capture the energy of these archetypes. One reason movies and books are so compelling is that they portray these archetypes in their various incarnations. Another reason is that archetypal energies live in each of us.

Jung believed that archetypes reside in our unconscious, and that events in our lives pull up or ‘activate’ archetypal energy. Archetypes help us know what to do – how to fight when being a warrior is called for, how to be a free spirit and indulge our wanderlust when that’s what’s calling us, how to put our own needs aside and help others when that’s what’s needed, how to be soft and caring, how to strike out on our own, how to get up and try again when we suffer defeat. Archetypes are also part of why most everyone tends to go through some predictable patterns in their lives, e.g., separation from parents, developing an individual identity, making our own way in the world, learning to meet and deal with challenges, forming relationships, parenting, going through losses, etc. In her book The Hero Within, Carol Pearson suggested that we need to progress through the energy of six different archetypes during our lives in order to be able to come into the “magician” archetype, usually thought of as being the most evolved and well-integrated of the archetypes. The six she explores in her book are the innocent, the orphan, the wanderer, the warrior, the martyr and the magician.

Here are some questions I came up with to help you explore a bit about your archetypal energies.

1. Who is your favorite soap or movie or book character? Describe what you like about him or her.

(If your first answer contains references to a body part, try again and dig a little deeper.)

Your answer to this question might be representative of where you are on your life’s journey and what is important to you at this stage – either in yourself or in others. For example, if your favorite character was chosen from a “romantic interest” perspective (someone you’re attracted to), you might have chosen that person because you would like to form a relationship right now. You might also ask yourself what partnering with a person like that would mean to you. Would you then be complete, cool, important, cherished, safe? The answer to that question might speak to what’s missing in your life, or in you – what your unmet needs are or what you’d like to grow in yourself.

If, to give another example, the character is just entertaining or different, perhaps you need more fun in your life, or perhaps your life feels boring or lackluster to you. Could you need to develop the part of yourself that is able to play and enjoy life? Ask yourself what it is about that energy that appeals to you.

2. What character would you most like to be like? Why?

This question is particularly important because it speaks to what Jung called one’s ‘bright shadow.’ The person you chose is likely to be a manifestation of potential in yourself that you may not have recognized yet. If the characteristics were not in you in some form, you could not appreciate them in the character. The attributes you admire could represent some undeveloped aspect of yourself which you could develop over time.

3. Answering as honestly as you can, what character do you think you are the most like? How are you similar to, and different from, that character?

If your answers to 2 and 3 are the same, then you are ahead of the game. You are as you would like to be right now in your life. If your answers are different, then take a good look at this one. Is it okay with you to be like you are for now? Do you think you are in an understandable place for your age and stage of life? What do you like about being as you are? What would you like to change? Perhaps the #2 character is what you are hoping to grow into. Remember that life is a journey. You won’t always be as you are now. You can and will change.

4. Which character do you like least? Why?

There are two possible ways to interpret your answer to this question. One is from a values perspective, and the other is from a ‘dark shadow’ perspective.

The values perspective goes like this: This character may have offended some deeply held value of yours. For example, if you chose someone who is dishonest and deceitful, your dislike may be simply because those qualities are so abhorrent to you. If this is the case, you can use your reaction to gain insight into what your values are. It may also be worthwhile to examine the ‘dark shadow’ perspective. It could shed additional light on the matter.

The ‘dark shadow’ perspective goes like this: this character may strike a dissonant chord because it is similar to an unattractive part of you that you are not able to see in yourself. You may recall my mentioning the ‘bright shadow’ as our undeveloped potential. The ‘dark shadow’ is our unknown, unowned, and unacknowledged negative side. When we are not aware of our shadow side, bright or dark, we are likely to project it onto others and see the characteristics in them but not in ourselves. In dealing with our dark shadow projection, it takes courage and introspection to realize we actually may be somewhat like the character or person we dislike. You probably have noticed this ability to not see oneself clearly in other people. You may have heard someone complain about another person, and you think to yourself, you’re the one that’s like that, not them.

A clue that a dark shadow projection may be going on is the intensity with which you dislike the character. The more intense your reaction, the more likely you are dealing with your own unconscious material. A caution: this information is not meant to induce shame. It is meant as information to help you take a deeper look at yourself. Remember, that which is unconscious has more power over us. The more we can bring the unconscious to consciousness, the more power we can exert over it.

Interest in archetypes has been around for a long time, but it seems to have come into popular vogue again with Caroline Myss’s book Sacred Contracts, published in 2001. She devoted an entire book to discovering the archetypes active within you, and gives some excellent strategies for exploring how those archetypes work for, and sometimes against, you. If you are interested in this topic, I recommend that book. Be prepared to spend some serious and intense time journaling and talking to yourself.

Another useful book for therapists and clients alike is Rent Two Films and Let’s Talk in the Morning by Jan and John Hesley. It was published in 1998 so some films are a bit dated, but others, like It’s A Wonderful Life, have become classics. In addition to archetypal characters, films can be useful in depicting modern versions of archetypal themes or journeys. Castaway, for example, is a wonderful ‘rite of passage’ film. For an excellent exploration of that film, see Saying Yes to Change: Essential Wisdom for your Journey by Joan Borysenko and Gordon Dveirin.

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