Tag Archives: behavior therapy

A champion nener the less

CHAMPIONS EVEN WITHOUT RINGS TO SHOW FOR IT

A champion nener the less

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When I listen to Sports Talk Show Radio hosts and their devoted listeners, I often hear them questioning a professional athlete’s championship metal  with the following criteria in mind:  Can he win the big game?  From a Sports Psychology Consultant’s perspective, I think of elite athletes like Charles Barkley, Tony Romo, Sergio Garcia, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Dan Marino, etc.  According to  sports pundits, these athletes  lacked the X factor that  athletes with championship rings, gold medals, and Championship trophies had.  They’re the forgettable ones.  They couldn’t win the big game, which means that they will forever be remembered for having failed to summitt the peak of their sport.For a long time, it was Payton Manning who didn’t have the heart and intestinal fortitude to win the Big Game.  After he won it, it was his brother, Eli Manning, who didn’t have the heart and soul to win the Super Bowl.  After he won the Super Bowl, it was Tony Romo Phillip Rivers who needed to prove that they had what it takes to win the Big One.  So far, they’ve failed to win the Big One, and so now football fans and pundits alike have concluded that they don’t have it in them to do it.  Lebron James’s championship metal was questioned for a long time too; that is, until he led the Miami Heat to a championship last year.  Only then was he considered a champion with the heart of a champion.  Before then, however, he was a hulking physical specimen made up of  unrealized talent,   poor leadership abilities, etc.

As a Sports Psychology Consultant, I think it’s time that we abandon this black and white assessment of who has the heart of a champion and who doesn’t based on the championship hardware that they acquire over the length of an athlete’s career.  As a sports psychology consultant, I believe that the truth is, many average professional athletes have earned championship hardware, and many real-deal champions haven’t earned any.  Regardless, they’re still champion caliber athletes deserving of praise and admiration for their athleticism, their perseverance, their focus, sportsmanship talent, etc.

Sports Psychology Consultants believe that there are two scorecards in sports by which to measure an athlete’s accomplishments.  One scorecard, of course, can be measured by wins, trophies, rings, etc.  The other scorecard, however, can be measured by the size of an athlete’s heart, by his courage, his dedication, his preparation, his resilience, his mental toughness, and his willingness to put it all on the line regardless of wins and losses.  If they score high on this scorecard, they’re champions in a Sports Psychologists’ book.  Period.  If they show up on the tennis court, golf course, football field, or octagon fully prepared, mentally focused, and willing to perform at their very best, they’ve already won.  They’re already Champions!!  They’ve won the Big One by virtue of showing up and summoning the courage to leave it all on the line, win, lose, or draw.

If you’re an athlete and focus too much on wins and losses, you’re setting yourself up to feel paralyzing fear.  In addition, you’re setting yourself up to feel like a failure if you happen to lose.  If you measure your success based on one scorecard alone, you’re doing yourself a grave disservice.  By all means, come on in and visit with me, a Sports Psychology Consultant,  so that we can co-create a second scorecard by which to measure your progress and success.  Soon enough you’ll feel like a champion regardless of your wins or losses.

John Boesky, MFT/MNLP/CHT

Sports Psychology Consultant

Please read more on topics related to this on the Sports Psychology page.

 

COMMUNICATION IS KEY

Image from nitezola.wordpress.com

Image from nitezola.wordpress.com

 

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, communication is key to building rapport with clients.  Communication is the key that unlocks the doors behind which people often hide.  Communication is the key that opens their hearts.  There are many facets and dimensions to effective communication.  In this blog post, I will share with you one facet to effective communication that will hopefully be enlightening and thought-provoking for you:  Communication has little to do with the words that we say.  That’s right.  According to tons of data and research, the words we use make up only 7% of our communication.  Another 38% of our communication consists of our tone.  Last but certainly not least, the remaining 55% of our communication stems from our body language, or physiology.

As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I can teach you the kinds of words to use when speaking with your business partner, friend, lover, etc.  Although words only make up 7% of communication, do no let this statistic mislead you.  Words carry a lot of weight, and they can make or break a conversation.  In addition to words we use, Family Therapists also know that the tone a person uses in his communication with others is instrumental in bringing either harmony or discord between two people.  If a person’s tone is abrasive or indifferent, for example, the communication between two people can go South very fast.  Finally, a family therapist like myself knows that our body language communicates an incredible amount of valuable information to whomever we’re speaking to.  Heck, police interrogators watch a person’s body language far more closely than a suspect’s words.  This is precisely because they know that a person’s body language reveals so much about a person’s true feelings, intentions, motives, etc.

If you’re struggling to communicate effectively to the significant people in your lives, I want to invite you to visit with me or any highly capable Marriage and Family Therapist or NLP Practitioner.  Communication is, after all, an art form, and to become a talented artist takes mentoring, time, and practice.  In the meantime, remember that to be a better communicator, you must be mindful of your words, your tone, and your body language.

John Boesky

LMFT/MNLP/CHT

Please read more articles on the Self-help Articles page.

 

ANGER MANAGEMENT THERAPY

Anger

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image from butler.osu.edu

image from butler.osu.edu

Anger is one of the most baffling and cunning emotions that people try to get a handle on in our world today. It is the most enigmatic of all emotions, the most daunting, and the most awe-inspiring. Some people recoil from anger, and wish it would just disappear off the face of the earth. They fear their own anger, or fear being the recipient of someone else’s anger. Conversely, other people gravitate towards anger, and delight in it, whether it is their own anger or someone else’s. They feel momentarily invigorated and empowered by it, and enjoy seeing the fear that it instills in others.

Some people are happily addicted to their anger, and would never leave home without it. Others would like nothing more than to let their anger go, yet feel helpless in their own efforts to do so. Men tend to channel their anger outwards, while women tend to direct their anger inwards. Children often grow up full of anger, and choose to either bury it inside or vent it outside onto others. And so the transmission of anger goes on from generation to generation, along with its puzzling legacy, leaving people to question in their hearts year after year, just what is anger anyway?!!

In my work as a Marriage and Family therapist, I have come to the realization that anger is a normal adaptive emotion that is not in and of itself a problem. It s the behavioral response to anger that determines whether or not it will serve us well or become problematic. In many instances, anger can be a helpful signal telling us that something is wrong. In turn, it compels us to make necessary changes in our lives. Anger also empowers us to challenge injustice. Moreover, anger serves to protect us by mobilizing us to take action when we are truly in danger.

Anger becomes maladaptive, however, when we allow it to turn into aggression. Anger with aggression, or rage, sometimes hurts people irreparably. It can permanently scar a relationship, and sever the trust between people. Moreover, when it is too easily triggered, or too prolonged, it can impact one s concentration, mood, self-esteem, work and social life as well.

Chronic anger can have serious consequences on our health as well, resulting in hypertension, increased cholesterol levels, damaged or blocked arteries, aggravated heart disease, increased susceptibility to infection ( due to depressed immune system), and longer recovery time from major traumas to the body. When acted out, anger can result in physical violence inflicted on others, and when internalized inwards, anger can result in depression, and may lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as alcohol or substance misuse.

Anger originally evolved in the distant past to help us protect ourselves from physical threats in our environment, such as saber toothed tigers and other predatory animals. Even though few of us are exposed to such threats now- a- days, people today never the less feel threatened in countless other ways.

For example, we may feel a need to protect our exclusive rights to our mate, or we may feel a need to respond to a perceived unfairness or injustice. Or we may perceive disrespectful treatment of our thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and needs. Moreover, we may also perceive a threat to the continuation, or success of something to which we are strongly committed, e.g. one s lifestyle or status in the community. Our anger may also be stimulated when we perceive provocation, suspicion, or hostility. In this instance, we may engage in a preemptive strike and attack first before the other person does.

Another common situation that can cause angry feelings to become problematic is when we fail to adapt to changes in our environment, or in someone s attitude towards us. For example, anger can be triggered when we experience an abrupt change in our living environment, or when a meaningful relationship ends. These changes make us insecure until we have found a way to integrate it comfortably within our frames of reference. In the meantime, our perceptual faculties are working overtime to help us make sense of our changed environment as fast as possible.

When we face experiences like the ones listed above, we often feel afraid and/or hurt, and/or very frustrated. We also tend to feel powerless, helpless, and out of control. These are all primary emotions that we all experience from time to time. These primary emotions tend to make us feel frail, and exceedingly vulnerable to others. When these unpleasant feelings go unacknowledged and are not worked through, we tend to call upon our anger to rescue us from experiencing them all together. Anger is a secondary emotion that has a way of making us feel more empowered. We feel stronger because anger literally triggers biological responses within us that lead to internal feelings of energy and warmth, and infuse us with an urge to shout and move quickly and forcefully.

These biological changes include an increase in the production of cortisol in the body, and an increase in the supply of testosterone in men. The bodies fight or flight response is activated, resulting in a releasing of endorphins, the body s opiods, and increased secretions of adrenaline, the body s natural stimulants. This heightened state of arousal that we experience in our bodies, and its accompanying infusion of cortisol, testosterone, endorphins, and adrenaline make us feel more alive, and more emboldened.

When we feel enraged, we also often experience noticeable changes in our bodies that happen to simultaneously scare away whomever is threatening us. For example, when we are enraged, our breathing becomes more rapid, and our eyes open widely with dilated pupils. Our facial color reddens, or may even turn pale, and our voice becomes louder and our speech quicker. Finally, our movements become quicker and our muscles tense. For example, our face may contort, our fists and jaws may clench, and our shoulders contract and appear hunched.

It is precisely because rage makes us feel more powerful, and look more threatening, that a lot of people prefer engaging this secondary emotion to feeling the more vulnerable primary emotions. I want to reiterate again, however, that while rage can be useful as a short-term emergency reaction, it does us a huge disservice when it becomes an enduring, long-term personality trait and lifestyle characteristic. Again, it then jeopardizes our health, destroys the relationships that matter most to us, worsens our mood, and withers our self-esteem.

Fortunately there are ways to manage and even let go of anger for those who wish to do so. These ways include reminding yourself of what you ultimately hoping to achieve when expressing your anger, countering inflammatory thoughts with more positive self-talk, working through and healing from the primary emotions that your anger may be masking, and owning the thoughts, feelings, and judgments that you may be unconsciously projecting onto others.

In addition, people working to manage and/or let go of their anger can learn to pay greater attention to the bodily sensations that signal to them that they are upset in the first place. These bodily sensations act a lot like alarm clocks, calling on us to wake up and take active measures to get our needs met before exploding outwards or imploding inwardly. Finally, people can learn behavioral strategies to manage their anger, like taking time-outs, deep breathing, meditating, and exercising.

John Boesky

LMFT/MNLP/CHT

WHAT’S YOUR SELF IMAGE?

Anxiety and Depression: Its Symptoms and Treatments

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john boesky marriage and family therapist anxiety and depressionAnxiety and Depression affect millions of Americans each year. These two illnesses manifest themselves differently in terms of the degree of severity and the type of symptoms. In this article, I will touch upon the most common anxiety disorders; Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Panic Disorder. In addition, I will address one of the most formidable mood disorders, Major Depressive Disorder.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), afflicts more than five million adult Americans each year. While the exact cause of GAD is not fully understood, a person’s biochemistry, family history, psychological and spiritual profile all seem to contribute to the development of anxiety.

Twice as many women than men suffer from this disorder, which often develops gradually in adolescence, but can begin in adulthood as well. It is characterized by excessive, exaggerated, and disproportionate anxiety and worry about everyday life events. To GAD sufferers, the proverbial glass is always half empty. They anticipate the worst even when there is reason to expect the best. They always expect disaster, and life becomes a perpetual state of worry, fear, and dread, which interferes with daily activities and relationships.

GAD affects the way a person thinks, but may also manifest in physical symptoms, including restlessness, muscle tension, headaches, nausea, trembling, sweating, difficulty concentrating, and being easily startled.

Biological causes can be attributed to genetics and a person’s brain chemistry. Sufferers often have an imbalance of neurotransmitters, which are chemical “messengers” that help move information from nerve cell to nerve cell. When out of balance, these “messengers” cannot travel through the brain properly, which can lead to anxiety.

Psychological and social causes are generally the result of life experiences which may result in feeling out of control. Some individuals may suffer from an unresolved trauma or abuse. Financial constraints can also trigger GAD which results in a fear that one’s material needs won’t be met. Moreover, it may be the result of one’s own unrelenting perfectionism, or perpetual fear of rejection and abandonment. It can result from a living situation where one is being constantly put down, ridiculed, or made to feel ashamed. A person may experience perpetual fear for their own safety.

john boesky marriage and family therapist anxiety and depressionSpiritual causes that may lead to GAD are more existential in nature. Many people feel unsupported in their lives. They don’t feel grounded, and feel as though they are drifting aimlessly. These individuals often feel as though their life has no real purpose and their existence has no meaning.

Psychotherapy effectively treats the symptoms of GAD by addressing the psychological, social, and spiritual variables that trigger it. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, in particular, challenges people to confront the unconscious thoughts that often trigger anxiety, thoughts that are often distorted in nature. Therapy challenges these cognitive distortions, and counters them with more rational, reality based thoughts. Core beliefs that we hold about ourselves and the world are challenged and transformed, which in turn strengthens self-esteem and empowers people. One’s sense of helplessness and powerlessness, which often induces anxiety, largely diminishes. Finally, psychotherapy encourages individuals to stop engaging in self-defeating behavior that lead to troublesome feelings.

Medications used to treat GAD include Benzodiazepines, like Xanax and Valium and the newer antidepressants, SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) like Paxil and Effexor XR. These medications balance the neurotransmitters in the brain. When the brain is deficient in neurotransmitters, these newer antidepressants can help replenish the chemical messengers in the brain.

Panic Disorder is defined as recurring panic attacks or episodes of intense fear and afflicts three to six million Americans. Fear and anxiety are normal reactions to stressful events in our lives. Panic Disorder, however, strikes without reason or warning, and the fear response is out of proportion to an often non-threatening situation. Over time, an individual develops a constant fear of having another attack, which can lead to avoidance of places and situations, ultimately affecting the general quality of life.

Symptoms of a panic attack can include difficulty breathing, chest pain, choking or smothering sensations, dizziness or feeling faint, trembling and shaking, sweating, nausea, chills or hot flashes, and tingling or numbness. There is often a feeling that you are losing control or are about to die. Fortunately, panic attacks tend to be brief, generally lasting about ten minutes. Like GAD, the exact cause of Panic Disorder is unclear, however, studies have shown that the same set of biochemistry, family history, and psychological factors bring on this disorder. Social or environmental factors include stressful life events and major life transitions, such as the death of a loved one. In addition, substance abuse has been a correlative to panic disorder.

Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy works on the theory that panic attacks are basically a learned response to something the patient fears. Therapy focuses on helping patients “unlearn” the physical reactions. A therapist might suggest breathing exercises or medication that can help prevent the hyperventilation that often occurs during a panic attack. Anti-anxiety medications such as Xanaz and Klonapin and anti-depressants like Paxil or Zolft have been shown to be safe and effective in the treatment of Panic Disorder. With this combination of therapy and medication, at least 70 percent of people can reduce or completely prevent future panic attacks. Many people feel substantial relief in just weeks.

Both of these anxiety disorders are often accompanied by depression which is a serious medical illness, much like diabetes or heart disease. It is estimated that 19 million Americans suffer from depression each year. If left untreated, depression can worsen symptoms or other illnesses, lead to disability and increase the risk of suicide. Untreated or improperly treated depression is the number one cause of suicide in the United States. Conversely, proper treatment relieves symptoms in most depressed patients.

The shades of depression are many, ranging from mild depression (Dysthymia) to Major Depressive Disorder. Anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or socio-economic status can suffer from this very serious disorder.

The most common symptoms associated with Major Depressive Disorder are trouble sleeping, loss of interest in activities, weight loss or gain, difficulty concentrating, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, or preoccupation with death or suicide. The risk factors that lead to depression include a deficiency of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, in the brain. Family history of mood disorders, chronic health problems, divorce, and occupational stress can bring on depression. Experts estimate that women experience depression twice as often as men. Over the course of a lifetime, nearly one in four women will experience a major depressive episode. Women are more likely to act in, and experience guilt, weight gain, eating disorders, and increased sleep, while men tend to act out their unrecognized and denied feelings of depression. They are apt to experience deep seeded feelings of shame for having fallen prey to the disease. They experience anger and hostility toward others or numb their feelings with alcohol or drugs.

john boesky marriage and family therapist anxiety and depressionWhile depression is increasingly more common, only a small percentage of individuals will seek help. This is a tragedy, since with proper treatment, four out of five patients will improve. Even still, only one in five women suffering from depression will get the treatment they need. Men often worry that depression is a sign of personal weakness or a character flaw and choose to “tough it out.” Without treatment, depression can last for weeks, months or years.

Effective treatment for depression, much like anxiety, is a combination of psychotherapy and medication. There are three classes of anti-depressants: MAOI inhibitors, trycyclic anti-depressants, and SSRI. All three classes of medication work to correct the imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain. SSRI’s are prescribed most often because they have fewer side effects.

Psychotherapy can take place in individual or group sessions. As in the case with anxiety, psychotherapy targets the psychological, social, and spiritual variables that lead to depression. It is aimed at helping a person develop new ways to identify and cope with their depression.

Many of the psychological and social issues leading to depression center around grief and loss. This includes not only the loss of others, but can be the loss of oneself. People often choose to abandon parts of their true selves to ensure survival. Some may abandon their true nature by learning how to take care of others, while some become helpless, self-effacing, and apologetic. Others will become inflated, grandiose, and narcissistic. While these adaptations may ensure self-preservation, it can bring on feelings of loss, grief, and ultimately, depression.

Depressed individuals often have low self-esteem and may believe they are unlovable and inadequate. While these individuals already feel unlovable they are likely to seek out negative experiences that will only reinforce these beliefs. The unlovable woman, for example, will seek out a partner who is abusive and degrading. That way her experience in this relationship will reassure her that she is right to believe that she is indeed unlovable. After all, if she was lovable, her partner wouldn’t find reasons to degrade her.

As is the case with anxiety, a spiritual deficit can lead to depression. In our culture there seems to be a one-sided pursuit for enlightenment, to the point of exclusion of the darkness. Spirituality that is understood in its appreciation of psychological opposites is called “grounded” spirituality. It is my belief that “ungrounded” spirituality can lead to self-denial and depression, while “grounded” spirituality leads to self-acceptance, self-compassion, and a genuine sense of well-being.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps a person counteract negative core beliefs and find new adaptive coping techniques, which help them reclaim their authentic self. Ultimately their depression lifts as their self-esteem rises, and feelings of hope and optimism settle into their heart and mind.

In conclusion, I want to strongly emphasize that while anxiety and depression are illnesses that are almost as pervasive in our culture as the common cold, both can be treated successfully. The combination of medication and psychotherapy can effectively target the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual variables that often bring on troubling states of mind and body. Individuals who suffer from anxiety and/or depression stand an excellent chance of not only overcoming these illnesses, but moving on to experience inner peace and deep joy, while leading productive and fulfilling lives.