How To Find Happiness Part II

Image result for happiness
In part one of this blog I identified where people look, but may not find happiness. There are a couple of thoughts from part one I want to expand on:
1- Not looking for the quick fix.
2- Making actions dominant over fear and intentions. (from a quote by Steven Forrest.)

Image result for quick fix

First, the quick fix: With each generation there seems to be an exponential increase in attention deficit disorder.  This isn’t a, “let’s pile on millennials” comment, rather a commentary on the mirrored evolution of our collective inability to slow down.  Paired with the advances in technology, distractions, and things to do, the pace and expectations for life have changed.

Further, we are living longer.  We have more conveniences to help complete responsibilities and chores in less time.  And we are healthier.  Yet despite having more time, we act like we have less.  Like we have no time to take care of ourselves and waste time on an esoteric search for happiness.  Nonsense.  No.  Not the esoteric search for happiness, rather, the idea that we don’t have the time to do so.

Another issue with “the quick fix” is that it is fools gold.  It doesn’t deliver what it promises.  Perhaps temporarily but not in the long run.  It requires quick fix after quick fix to pacify you.  These detours and distractions take many forms, I’ll leave it to you to fill in your blanks of where they may manifest in your life.

This reminds me of the of notion of the criminal, or lazy person, and if they would put as much energy into honest work as they put into getting out of it, they’d be okay.

Image result for fear courage

Second.  Making actions dominant over fears an intentions.  And I’ll add a third component to this one, a sense of obligation and responsibility.

 Socialization is a necessary reality of any society.  However, a drawback is the one size fits all conditioning for what makes a “good life”.  A “successful life”.  A “happy life”.

When this conditioning is at odds with what we truly want or for whatever reason do not have, it can torpedo a positive self-image, create stress, and unhappiness.  I’ve counselled many clients and friends who feel trapped by their situations, when in reality they are trapped by their own fear, and the limitations they are putting on themselves.  They either can’t see their options, are afraid to take them, or use their circumstance as an excuse.  Unhappy marriages, jobs, and vices, do not have to last forever.  Black and white thinking and inability to see options add to this dilemma.

Reasons, excuses, whatever you want to call them, if they are fueled by fear then they are an obstacle to your happiness.  However, obstacles can be overcome.

Another element to consider is the idea that we can have it all.  Like the increase in ADD, there has been an increase in the desire to have it all.  Many of us want more, and appreciate less.  This is not a recipe for happiness.  There is almost an addictive mechanism to the freedom and opportunities we have.  And like a drug, we build tolerance to it.  We take for granted that which we have and feel the need for more.

Freedom and opportunity are obviously basic human rights that all of us should have.  However, if, and when they foster an attitude of selfishness, entitlement, spoiled nature, and a lack of appreciation for what we do have, then they may needlessly sabotage happiness.

The path to happiness can be challenging to varying degrees for each individual based on too many factors for me to get into here, but if you’re not already there or if you feel like you can use a spike in happiness, that will be easier if:

  1. You can accept the things you can’t control.
  2. You can appreciate what you have.
  3. You augment goal oriented thinking with a focus on just making good choices and validating yourself for doing so.
  4. You name the fear inside of you and deal with it.
  5. You explore the current balance you have between choosing the practical over what is in your heart.
  6. You explore the current balance you have between planning for the future and living in the moment.  (And if you do not understand what living in the moment means, I urge you to do so.)
  7. You evaluate how you are taking care of yourself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and are open to improving.
  8. You read part III of this post… Coming soon!  (Okay this last one isn’t as important as the rest, but humor your humble blogger! 🙂
####

Material placed on this website by Jeff Schubert is for the purpose of providing information only. It is not intended as the practice of medicine or the provision of medical services. This site and it does not provide medical or mental health advice. Jeff Schubert makes no representation, express or implied, as to the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of the information. The content provided by Jeff Schubert is not meant to be a substitute for medical or mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your provider or other healthcare professional with any question regarding any medical or mental health condition.

 

How To Find Happiness

Image result for Finding happiness

There is an old expression, “money can’t buy happiness”.   Given, the rate of drug addiction, and suicide among not only the rich, but famous and powerful as well, it is fair to say that fame and power are not the yellow brick road to happiness either.  Further, at least 50% of marriages end in divorce and I suspect many marriages that stay together have their challenges to happiness too.

So what does this suggest about happiness?

  • It may not be bought.
  • It may not be a destination.
  • It may not be something we can necessarily find in others.
  • It is not necessarily something we can find in accomplishment.

Image result for search for happiness

In other words, many of us are looking in the wrong places for happiness.  So, the obvious question this leads us to is where is the right place?  Inside of you of course.  Like many questions about your life, the answer lies within you, if you are willing to explore and be honest with yourself.  If you are willing to look beyond the quick fix.

Happiness will manifest differently for different people.  In some it can be extroverted, and filled with laughter.  For others, it is more of an internal feeling of peace and contentment.

You may begin to find it by being honest about your needs and wants.  A quote by author Steven Forrest comes to mind, “making your actions dominant over your fears and intentions”.

It’s a battle.  We do a good a job of screwing each other, and ourselves up.  It is no surprise many of us run from self-exploration.  And whether it is actual drugs, material things, relationships, goals or accomplishments we seek, or distractions of any kind (binge watching TV, fantasy football, etc) they act like drugs.  They can only temporarily sooth, or cover up various issues.  Issues, that not dealt with, can torpedo happiness.  Whether it is an unresolved conflict or repressed regret for a path not taken, these distractions can mask but generally not cure the longing inside of us to find more.  To find true happiness.

What to do next?  I’ll write about that in part II of this post.

####

Material placed on this website by Jeff Schubert is for the purpose of providing information only. It is not intended as the practice of medicine or the provision of medical services. This site and it does not provide medical or mental health advice. Jeff Schubert makes no representation, express or implied, as to the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of the information. The content provided by Jeff Schubert is not meant to be a substitute for medical or mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult your provider or other healthcare professional with any question regarding any medical or mental health condition.

This website provides links to other websites. This website and its author, Jeff Schubert, have no control over these sites and makes no representations whatsoever about the accuracy of the information they contain. The fact that this website links to another site does not mean that this website or Jeff Schubert endorses or accepts any responsibility for the content of that site. If you choose to access any site for which this website provides a link, you do so at your own risk.

 

Blaming Obesity On Food Cost?

So I saw this meme circulating on Facebook. It shows a picture of a salad and a picture of a hamburger. The price underneath the burger is $1, and the price underneath the salad is $7. The meme then states, “Please, don’t write another article on obesity in America until you explain why salads are $7 and hamburgers are $1”. Of course the poster of the meme gets lots of “likes” and “anger” clicks… Hoo Ah!!
 
Except the meme is wrong. For a moment let’s get on board with the righteous anger over the alleged cost disparity between a burger and a salad. I say this sincerely as of course I would like healthier food to be less costly. However:
 
  • Does that mean articles about exercise, sleep, and medical/genetic conditions and how they can affect obesity should not be written?
  • Does it mean that articles about how to budget and eat healthier, or articles about maybe holding the mayo and the cheese from the “dollar” burger shouldn’t be written?
  • Does it mean that articles on the psychology of eating and or eating disorders, such as binge eating, should not be written?
No. No. And No.
 
Further, should people who are currently obese, and those vulnerable to becoming so, be encouraged or emboldened to boycott information and abdicate responsibility for their choices, or trying to become more informed, in some sort of protest because of the alleged cost disparity between a burger and a salad? Yeah, that would help them. #Sarcasm.
 
The meme infers cost of food is thee reason/cause of obesity.  While there is some evidence to suggest there is some validity to a connection between poverty and obesity, according to Pew Research: Obesity and poverty don’t always go together.  It can’t explain it all away.  
 
In addition, education also impacts obesity. Meaning in some instances, poor an uneducated translates to higher obesity rates than poor and educated. (See here and here.) This highlights the need for more articles/education on obesity, not less.
 
To imply that ALL obesity is because of food cost is wrong.  And to imply that low-income earners can only eat burgers is also wrong.
 
As an aside, I work with a homeless and a low-income population that get food stamps from the department of social services, or SSI and or SSDI from the social security administration… I know it is anecdotal… but I see many of them spend a lot more that a $1 on the fast food burgers they buy, not to mention the soda, candy and other poor food choices that add up and cost more than a salad.

Generally, f
ast food burgers for a buck are usually pretty small. Calorie wise, a junior cheeseburger for a $1 from Wendy’s has 280 calories. Three or four of those a day, on their own, will not make you obese. In other words, what are $1 cheeseburger eating people eating in addition? Fries? Sodas? Milkshakes? Just eliminating soda can lead to reduced weight and risk of diabetes.  Also, what are their exercise habits?  Are there metabolic issues?  Etc..
 
Other FYI considerations:
  1. You can make your own salads for far less than $7 bucks. 
  2. Healthy eating now could mean better health and less disease and medical bills later.
  3. It could also mean improved mood, self-esteem, and productivity. All of which could possibly lead to… wait for it… more income! 
  4. The burger/ salad question has no bearing on whether or not you exercise or have a medical condition or are taking medications for another medical condition that could lead to weight gain.

A moment ago I spoke anecdotally.  What is not anecdotal is over 2 billion people suffer from obesity.  Over 4 million people died from obesity related illness in 2015.  According to Dr Christopher Murray, from the University of Washington: “People who shrug off weight gain do so at their own risk – risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other life-threatening conditions.” 

Obesity needs to be covered from every aspect.  From causes, or contributing factors already mentioned such as: Cost, the psychology of eating, genetics, and medical conditions. Too other issues not discussed here: Such as access to healthy food, the media’s and Hollywood’s role, and a big one, advertising. (Think billions spent on advertising unhealthy food vs. the last time you saw a vegetable commercial.)  

They all (as well as issues I may have missed) need to continue to be explored. Given the complexity and myriad of factors involved in obesity, solutions may vary from person to person and involve a combination of lifestyle and or medicinal changes. 

Please don’t write another blog about obesity in America? Given the number of people effected by obesity and the potential health consequences… We’re not writing, or doing, enough.

10 Things To Never Say To Someone With Depression?

tough-questions

When I scrolled down my yahoo news feed and saw a post with the headline, 10 Things To Never Say To Someone With Depression, as someone who works in mental health with clients who suffer from major depression, I was intrigued.

It’s an important subject because depression is far more prevalent than we would like to admit. Knowing how to see the signs and talk to people can make a difference.

I respect the author, Julie Revelant for writing the piece. However, while I agree with portions of it, I either disagreed or found much of her list to be an oversimplification.  You can read her entire article here.

Speaking of oversimplification, there is only so much to be gleaned from a blog on a topic like this. There are too many variables to account for every situation.

Therefor before I get to my critique of what Relevant says you should not say, maybe something you should say to someone with depression is have you thought about talking to someone professionally? While many experience mild to moderate depression, others experience major depression that can be life threatening.  This is not something to be diagnosed and treated by someone not qualified to do so.

Keeping the above qualifier in mind: Here are the 10 things Relevant states you should never say to someone with depression and my take on it.

1. “Don’t think about it.”

This is not an absolute.  Some may think about their depression too much, others not at all. Negative emotions can be signals your subconscious is trying to send you that something is off.  Another word for not thinking about depression or problems, is denial.

A common point where I will agree with many of the things on Relevant’s list is while some of the phrases don’t work as statements, they may work as questions.

If you think someone is depressed and is thinking about it too much, perhaps you can ask them how is thinking about the problem helping?  Is it possible to focus on something else for a little while?  Is the person ruminating and dwelling on problems?  If so, you can assist them in focusing on solutions.  In this way they are still “thinking” about it but you are redirecting them towards the positive by changing the focus.

Further, by questioning and suggesting rather than stating, you are acknowledging and empowering rather than belittling and dismissing.

Here, Revelant quotes Dr. Susan Noonan, a certified peer specialist and consultant in Boston, Massachusetts, “The thing about depression is that it’s not something you can will away. It’s a biologically based medical condition of the mind and the body”.

 

depressioninterventions

I agree with the first part of the statement, in that alleviating depression requires some intervention. To try and will it away, on its own, is not enough. If the depression is mild maybe the person can intervene on his own.  For moderate to major depression, maybe a trusted friend or therapist’s help will be needed.

Where I respectfully question Dr. Noonan is when she refers to depression as a biologically based medical condition.  From this I infer that she believes all depression must be treated with medication and or by a psychiatrist.  And while those suffering from depression should have an initial evaluation by an M.D. and a psychologist, medicine is not needed for all.  In some cases a person may benefit from being on meds for life, others for a brief time, and others are capable of doing fine with talk therapy, and improving things like diet and exercise.  Never needing medication.

2. “Just think positively.”

If said on its own, I agree with Revelant that it should not be said.  But there is whole segment in the field of psychology called cognitive behavior therapy that is based on helping people see through cognitive distortions and redirecting absolute negative thinking. If a friend is depressed “because nothing ever works outs”… true, you should not say “just think positively.” However you can ask him, can you think of a time when anything, anything at all worked out? Usually that answer will be yes. Start with a small positive and build from there.

Ask him to forget about the big picture for a moment, and think about one or two things, no matter how small, that can move him in the direction he wants to go.

In this case you are not telling him to think positive but you are leading him to thinking positively or at least piercing the distortion, and having positive thoughts.

3. “Be grateful.”

One issue I have with the statement, “be grateful”, in addition to what Relevant talks about, is you run the risk of pushing the depressed person away.

rogers_empathy

On its own, be grateful doesn’t convey empathy or understanding.  But let’s assume you spent some time expressing empathy and understanding; asking (as opposed to telling) your friend if they have anything in their life to be grateful for can be a positive redirect.  Or an indication of a deeper level of depression than you realized if he doesn’t respond.

And if after gentle probing and or suggestions of things to be grateful for, your friend cannot find something, you may consider contacting another friend or loved one to help, and or reiterate the importance of talking to a professional.

4. “No one ever said life was going to be easy.”

Certainly not an ice-breaker.  If a friend is struggling with or didn’t meet a life challenge, after expressing empathy, possible questions to ask are:  What were your expectations?  What can you learn from this? What can you do differently moving forward?

Revelant states, “This statement makes it sound as if the person who is suffering has control of what is going on his brain”.  IF the depression has a biochemical connection than all of the talking in the world may be insufficient, unless it’s the talk that gets the person to the doctor.

retraining-brain

However, our brains do get trained to think and react in a certain way and it is possible to retrain them. If the need for medication is ruled out or perhaps in conjunction with, a person can, if not in total, gain a measure of control.

If negative messages and thinking have seeped into our brains and predominated for years and years, then it will take more than one catchphrase, or one therapy session to turn it around.  But in many cases it can be turned around!  “Obstacles” can become challenges.  “Failures” can become opportunities to learn and improve… or… present an opportunity to make a different choice that works out even better!

Events that occur are immutable.  They are what they are.  Perspective, how we look at them and respond are very mutable… we can change them!

5. “Turn to God.”

I generally agree with the original post here.  I would add that faith is not limited to God or even a higher power.  There is room for faith to help in an atheist or an agnostic as well.

Motivational speaker, Anthony Robbins, uses a metaphor of avoiding a car accident.  He says, we are taught, if we are about to get into a car collision and we look at what we are about to hit, we will indeed get into an accident.  However if we look away, we will turn away.  You can encourage others to look in the direction they want to go as opposed to focusing on what they view as the accident.  It is a, “my room is a mess”, versus “today I am going to clean my room” mentality.

As Robbins would point out, One focus’ on the problem, the other the solution.  Is it a guarantee?  Of course not.  But faith can be a powerful precursor/motivator that can drive action and be the spark that helps initiate change, and positively affect mood while in its pursuit.

One can find faith in many places:

  • God.
  • Spirituality.
  • Religion.
  • In yourself.
  • In a process that has worked for many others.
  • In a healer.
  • In a friend or family member.
  • In having a purpose.

6. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”

images

Here, after expressing empathy, I would rephrase:  Are you feeling sorry for yourself?  If yes, ask why. Empathize, validate the feeling but then ask what would help you after feeling sorry for yourself?  This attempts to get your friend unstuck and moving forward.  If they don’t know, perhaps suggest keeping a journal, and free associative writing.

7. “I know how you feel—I’ve been sad, too.”

Relevant and the Dr. she quotes have a problem with this one.  I agree you shouldn’t say this just to say it. However, it can be okay if you truly can relate to how the person feels, and can offer an experience that is relatable to who you’re talking to.  In working with adults and abused adolescents, I have seen this work again and again.  As a facilitator of groups on various mental health topics, some of the most valuable moments come not from the educational materials handed out, or anything my co-facilitators or I said, rather the empathetic understanding of peers in the group who shared their similar experience.

And this is one of  those things where the situation or timing may affect the appropriateness of saying something like this to a friend, and his receptiveness to it.  Right after a person loses a loved one, they probably don’t want to hear, “I know how you feel”.  Five months later in a loss and grief group it may be beneficial to be surrounded by people who know how they feel.

8. “Get over it.” 

Yeah, not a fan of this one.  But in keeping with rephrasing, depending on the issue, you may be able to ask why do you think you’re having a difficult time getting over this?  Especially if the person has a history of being able to emotionally recover from depressing events such as breakups, not getting a job, etc..

9. “You don’t look depressed.”

Not as bad as number 8, but not a good lead in either.  My theory on this phrase, which is similarly used in response to when someone says they are terminally ill, is, it is a defensive response due to being caught off guard by sharing, and not immediately knowing what to say.

Relevant states that what the person hears is, “I don’t believe you or you’re a fake”.  What I hear is, the mask I have projected to keep you from knowing how depressed I am is working.

As with all of the above, the best thing you can do for your friend is get yourself to a place of empathy, make your friend feel heard and understood before attempting to go to positive redirection.  And if you gauge the moment to be right, at some point during the conversation you can offer positive reinforcement in an area(s) where your friend is doing/looking well.

10. “You need a hobby.”

At its worst this statement can come off as condescending, and at its best it can still come off as dismissive.

In question form, have you thought about a hobby?  Can take on a different meaning.  And follow the initial question with probing for areas of interest and you may come up with something. Pair this probing with the aforementioned empathy and understanding, while a hobby may not cure the depression, it may be able to assist.  Then it is not dismissive or condescending.

Revelant correctly points out that people who are depressed do lose interest in activities they use to enjoy.  Clinically, this is referred to as anhedonia . However not all people who suffer from depression suffer from anhedonia or the same degree of it. A little push and encouragement may be the thing that helps get your friend back on track.

As suggested in the beginning, both this and Relevant’s post are simplifications.  There is a broad range to depression, that is not limited from mild to major.  There is also bi-polar.

Treating clinical depression can be challenging enough for the trained professional, if a friend or family member reaches out to you with depression, I would encourage you to encourage them to seek professional help.

Practically speaking, a lot of people do prefer to talk to their friends.  In this situation you can bring your authentic intention to help.  Actively listen.  Provide empathy.  Provide validation. And if appropriate, ask questions and make suggestions that try to steer your friend to some positive thoughts.

If you are not comfortable or if your friend continues to use you as a crutch, and it is not helpful to him and stressful for you, then to take care of yourself and to keep from potentially enabling your friend, you may need to draw a boundary that is in the best interest of yourself and your friend.  Which circles us back to therapy.

RE: Therapy, there are many therapists who offer a sliding scale and there are other options for those with low-income.  You can try contacting a local graduate school and see if they have interns available for a low fee.

If a friend is resistant to therapy because they don’t believe in it…Encourage them to keep an open mind. If they tried it in the past and did not like the therapist, suggest there are good and bad of everything and to give it another try, especially if they have never been evaluated for medication.  There are natural remedy’s and diet changes to try first if they are uncomfortable with meds or that is their preference.  Full disclosure, I use a natural remedy called Sam-e (with b-complex) with some positive results.

Initially, the best thing you can do is just be there for your friend.  They probably realize you are not a pro and may not be looking to you for solutions rather just to be understood and perhaps for attention.  If someone comes to you beyond a level you’re comfortable with, then take care of yourself and gently let your friend know this.

Here are some referrals:

  1. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)
  2. Befrienders Worldwide
  3. Families For Depression Awareness
  4. Teen Health and Wellness (this link offer hotline numbers for lots of teen issues)
  5. ULifeline (for college mental health)
  6. The Trevor Project (For LBGTQ)
  7. Postpartum Depression
  8. Vets Prevail 
  9. Crisis Help Line – Offers hotlines for many issues. 800-233-4357
  10. Crisis Text Line 

####

THE ABOVE REPRESENTS MY PERSONAL OPINION.  WHILE I DO WORK FOR A MENTAL HEALTH AGENCY WITH THE JOB TITLE OF, MENTAL HEALTH REHABILITATION SPECIALIST, I AM NOT A LICENSED THERAPIST.  ANY WORDS IN THIS BLOG ARE NOT MEANT TO, NOR SHOULD THEY REPLACE THAT OF A DOCTOR OR LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL.

The above article by Jeff Schubert provides links to other non schoobysports.wordpress.com sites. Neither Jeff Schubert nor schoobysports.wordpress.com has control over these sites and makes no representations whatsoever about the accuracy of the information they contain. The fact that schoobysports.wordpress.com links to another site does not mean that Jeff Schubert nor schoobysports.wordpress.com endorses or accepts any responsibility for the content of that site. If you choose to access any site for which schoobysports.wordpress.com provides a link, you do so at your own risk.

Neutral State Of Consciousness

A Climate Change Concept Image

(c)kwest19/bigstockphoto.com

Are your thoughts, drives, and actions inspired by something you want to have? Or something you want to avoid?

For example: Do you want to be in a relationship to love and share or do you not want to be alone? Is being in a dysfunctional relationship preferable to being alone? Most wouldn’t answer yes, yet many do enter and or stay in such relationships when it is clear that it is far from ideal.

How long can you stand to be alone with your thoughts? When so, what is your state of mind? Is it boredom? Contentment? Fear? Jubilation? Loneliness? Depression or anxiety? A combination of things?

It has been said that we humans have a survival instinct. I would agree that we do. However I have seen many people knowingly engage in behaviors such as smoking, drugs, bad diet, and so on, that would seem to work against their own survival. It doesn’t mean they lack a survival instinct, but it does suggest that something going on inside of them is powerful enough to override it in some cases.

It has also been said that we humans need a purpose. “A reason to get up everyday”. Indeed, retirement doesn’t sit well with many. Retirement and the loss of a spouse is a double whammy that many do not recover from. But why do we need a purpose? Why do we need a reason to get up everyday? Why can’t we peacefully, joyfully exist in silence? Why do some of us have to fill ourselves up with relationships and a gluttony of things to do? Anything to avoid being alone with ourselves?

My theory is, it is like we are lost and running in the desert.  Either we are running towards our hopes, away from our fears or combination of both. Running away from our anxieties and towards that which we subconsciously believe will alleviate them.

Confusion Concept.

(c)sam2172/bigstockphoto.com

One challenge is that we want our hopes so badly, and want to avoid our fears just as much, that we sometimes cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is a mirage.

In a relaxed, meditative, neutral state of consciousness, figure out who you are. Where you are. The only wrong answers are the dishonest ones. We come across these when we try to deceive ourselves in to thinking we are what we think we should be. What we have been raised or conditioned to be.

What are your honest hopes, fears, dreams, likes and dislikes? Ask yourself, how do your actions and behaviors move you towards or away from what it is you want, and what it is you want to avoid.

You can also apply this to belief systems and thought processes. How do they serve or sabotage the stillness of your mind?

If you are engaging in something to avoid anxiety, depression or loneliness, it may just be an escape. Even if it is not a “bad” escape like drugs, it is still an escape that may be doing nothing more than filling a void.

If it does so as a temporary band-aid to see you through something, it can be helpful.  If it is more permanent, than it may seem all well and good until one day you see it for what it is, and it leaves you feeling empty and questioning and reevaluating life.

A neutral state of consciousness may help you figure this all out. Shine a light on what makes you tick. It could leave you feeling more peaceful, and have you making choices based on what you want rather than what you want to avoid. The latter being a recipe for seeing things that aren’t there, settling, and an inner turmoil that you can never quite put your finger on, but that you know is always there.

####

I have three exercises for you.

1- Find yourself some alone time. No TV, no reading, no computer, conversation, etc. It is just you alone on an island.  Eyes open.  Exist here for as long as you can.  Right down how you feel.  What are your thoughts and feelings?  What are you wanting to do and why?

Now take  it one step deeper…

2- Meditate.  On a different day.  Find some more alone time to meditate.  If meditation is not normally your thing, not too worry.  Find a time when you have no distractions.  Yes, I know that can be challenging, but if this is important to you, you can do it.

Close your eyes.  Take some deep breaths.  In through you nose and out through you mouth.  Give yourself permission to let go of all of your concerns.  Tell yourself those concerns will be there when you are done and it is okay to let go for a little while.  All that matters is the moment and the breath.  Visualize or imagine yourself in a peaceful happy place.  A place where you feel safe.  Ask yourself, what do I truly want? Out of life, out of a job, out of specific relationships? Ask yourself, what do I fear?  Write this down.

3- Sleep with a pad and pen, or a digital recorder next to your bed.  When you wake up try not to move to suddenly.  The stiller you lay in the bed the better recall you may have of your dreams.  Write them down as best you can and see if understanding their meaning can help you in any way.

####

THE ABOVE REPRESENTS MY PERSONAL OPINION.  I AM NOT A LICENSED THERAPIST.  ANY WORDS IN THIS BLOG ARE NOT MEANT TO, NOR SHOULD THEY REPLACE THAT OF A DOCTOR OR LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL.

What We Can Learn From Ellen Page Coming Out

bigstock-LOS-ANGELES--MAR---Ellen-P-19798496

(c)kathclick/Bigstockphoto.com

Ellen Page’s coming out speech at the HRC’s Time to Thrive conference about her sexuality was moving, heartwarming and refreshingly authentic.  (See the video below) Among other things, she said:

“I’m tired of hiding and I’m tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered. My mental health suffered. My relationships suffered. I’m standing here today with all of you on the other side of that pain.”

These words are a reminder of the pain society is capable of inflicting on others.  And the pain we are capable of inflicting on ourselves.

This isn’t just about Ellen Page’s sexuality, or sexuality period.  Page provides a good reminder of society’s need to protect and perpetuate itself by conditioning its young to believe and behave in a certain way.

In opposition is the individual’s desire to express and be accepted for his or her uniqueness.  It’s an age-old battle born out of the need for survival, and of fear.  It will not be settled today.

When the conditioning doesn’t take or feel right to the individual, he or she is left to question:  do I, or how much of myself do I suppress for the sake of fitting in?  For the sake of survival?  Do I risk scorn?  My ability to provide for myself and my family?  Or  hurting the ones I love by expressing my individuality or that which I have felt the need to hide?

In her speech, Page alluded to years of succumbing to social pressures to behave and “represent” as being a person she was not.  She took responsibility for her fear and her lie, and admitted what the cost was.  She then courageously stepped forward.

Tomorrow, it may or may not cost her certain acting roles, and it may adversely affect a relationship or two.  But in the moment I’m guessing it felt quite liberating and a relief.

Hiding and lying by omission is not exclusive to sexuality.  Society puts pressure on us in many ways and in many forms.  Exerting pressure directly and indirectly on us to make certain choices and to look and behave a certain way.  It can be malevolent or benevolent, depending on the person or circumstance.  The intention is irrelevant from the point of view that when we succumb to this pressure, consciously or unconsciously, we give away a part of ourselves.  As was the case with Page, our spirits suffer, and our mental health suffers. That is the high price we pay if and when we disregard our emotional needs and our authentic self.

This isn’t a call for extreme selfishness, renouncing compromise or to break laws.  It is an invitation, to search ourselves and to be honest about who we are.  To see and measure if there is difference in who we are and what we put out in the world.  Where do we possibly sacrifice ourselves?  Not out of give and take compromise, but out of fear?  Out of selling ourselves out.  Not for survival but a superficial need.  What do we think we need to survive but in truth do not?  How in or out of sync is our internal and external self?  If we are out of sync, the questions are: by how much? At what expense?  Are we deluding ourselves with negotiations that state something to the effect of, “I’ll be myself when…”  However, does that “when” date always seems to get pushed down the road?

“Coming out”, is a phrase typically reserved for a woman or a man announcing that she or he has a same-sex sexual preference.  However, any of us that hide a true part of ourselves is capable of having a coming out moment.

It doesn’t always have to be a speech, and it doesn’t always have to be public.  It starts with you.  With being honest with yourself.  With weighing the cost of coming out, and doing what is right for you, when it is right for you, and with whom, versus living a life as someone or something less that what you want to be.

Depending on one’s circumstances, coming out can come with emotional, social and financial risk.  These consequences should not be taken lightly.  Nor should the consequences of not coming out.

The result of assuming one’s true self does always have to be negative.

Perhaps Ellen Page will experience an inner peace she has never known.   Existing relationships with some maybe become healthier and stronger.  And or new ones may form as well.  Those acting roles she might miss out on?  I am guessing there will be new roles and opportunities that will come her way that would not have otherwise.    Whether they will pay as much or do as well at the box office I do not know, but I’ll bet they are  more fulfilling, and without the spiritual suffering.  How much is all of this worth?

**THE ABOVE REPRESENTS MY PERSONAL OPINION.  I AM NOT A LICENSED THERAPIST.  ANY WORDS IN THIS BLOG ARE NOT MEANT TO, NOR SHOULD THEY REPLACE THAT OF A DOCTOR OR LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL.**

The Basis Of Thought

brain

How do we arrive at our thoughts?  What generates our thinking and thought processes?  Is it the result of:

  • Personal experience?
  • Nature?
  • Nurture?
  • Genetics?

All are reasonable answers.  Taking it one step further, perhaps those things form some sort of collective, integrated framework.  A framework we then go out into the world with and seek out particular experiences that we then “consciously” reflect on.  And upon exercising our “free will” we reach conclusions about life, ourselves and thus achieve a measure of control over our thoughts, intellect and behaviors.

If only it were that complex!

One thing that many of us forget, or don’t realize is that we are animals.  This is a simple statement of fact without any connotation on my part attached to it.  Yes our brain size, and intellect separate us from other animals.  But just because we use a different fork for our salads than we do our main course doesn’t make us as different as we think.

Stages in human evolutionWe are still primal creatures driven by survival instincts, needs and fears.  Thoughts are its byproduct.  Intelligence is merely the mechanism or tool by which we express our primal needs, and emotions.

The blessing of intelligence is the awareness it gives us, and that it affords us the opportunity to grow, evolve and experience life in ways that would otherwise not be possible.

Its curse is that awareness can trick us into thinking we are smarter than we are.  We’re susceptible to confusing perceived truth with truth.  Our reason and logic is oftentimes nothing more than our primal needs and emotions constructing a reality or thought process that suits our needs.  This can correlate to pleasurable and un-pleasurable experiences.

Its weakness occurs if and when arrogance or defense mechanisms rear their head and prevent us from seeing its curse in action.   These defense mechanisms reveal themselves when we unconsciously seek out relationships and experiences that enable us to play out old issues.

Further when we react in the moment based on issues from the past, or distortions, as logical as the reaction may seem in the moment, its roots lay elsewhere.

In reality, our “rational” thought gives voice to our insecurities, demons, joys and wants…  Whether or not we are in a positive or negatively charged state, it makes them all sound reasonable and logical.  Sometimes they may be reasonable and logical…However,  other times maybe not.

Yellow-Brick-RoadThe path to authenticity and becoming, or remaining, a truly actualized individual, begins, or continues, with an awareness of these mechanisms when they are at work in our lives.  Beyond that is the inner work that is up to a person to decide if the destination is worth the journey.

I tackle these issues and whole lot more in my ebook, “The Authentic You”.  Until January 7th, 2014, you can get it for free by clicking here and then inputting the following code: DM36K, at checkout.

Peace And Adventure On The Journey!

Response To A Teacher’s “Wise Words”

todolist

I saw this list posted on Facebook.  Below each statement, in red, is my response to it.  The original list is actually pretty good, (unknown author), but I’m in a weird place these days so some of my responses are meant as a joke, some are serious, and some I would need Freud to figure out!

— one high school teacher’s list of 100 wisest word

1. There are plenty of ways to enter a pool. The stairs is not one of them.

Unless you don’t know how to swim, than the stairs is a good idea!

2. Never cancel dinner plans by text message.

Unless you’re stuck on the east coast during hurricane Sandy (I was) and texting is all that is working!

3. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.

Terrorism is evil.  I knocked it and I have not tried it.

4. If a street performer makes you stop walking, you owe him a buck.

What if the only reason I stop is because he is in my way?

5. Always use ‘we’ when referring to your home team or your government.

A good friend of mine that was in the Army wasn’t a fan of this, because “we” won’t lose a leg, but he could have.

6. When entrusted with a secret, keep it.

Unless that secret involves doing harm to the person or someone else.  Or the tabloids will pay you a whole bunch of money for it! (j/k)

7. Don’t underestimate free throws in a game of ‘horse’.

I promise for the rest of my life I will never do that again!  Happy now?

8. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

I’m sorry, but when I have to go, I’m going.

9. Don’t dumb it down.

Yes, why risk being understood?

10. You only get one chance to notice a new haircut.

Only if that is the last new haircut you ever see.

11. If you’re staying more than one night, unpack.

Okay, but no promises about doing laundry.

12. Never park in front of a bar.

The first spots are usually for the handicapped anyway.

13. Expect the seat in front of you to recline. Prepare accordingly.

True that.  People get way to emotional about reclining seats.

14. Keep a picture of your first fish, first car, and first boy/girlfriend.

I never took a picture of my first fish (maybe he has a facebook page!)  My first car stopped talking to me after I totaled it.  And my current girlfriend might get a little peeved if I carry a picture of my first around!

15. Hold your heroes to a high standard.

A high standard, but one they can live up to…otherwise prepare to feel disappointed and possibly betrayed.

16. A suntan is earned, not bought.

There is honor in honesty, not suffering…don’t confuse the two.

17. Never lie to your doctor.

But don’t fully trust him/her either.  Or better yet:  Trust but verify.

18. All guns are loaded.

And people can be guns.

19. Don’t mention sunburns. Believe me, they know.

Do mention in-burns… they probably do not know.

20. The best way to show thanks is to wear it. Even if it’s only once.

The best way to show thanks is to authentically be thankful.  The rest will take care of itself.

21. Take a vacation of your cell phone, internet, and TV once a year.

Good idea but I would need a support group to ditch the internet.

22. Don’t fill up on bread, no matter how good.

Don’t fill up on anything, no matter how good.  Too much will lead to you…

23. A handshake beats an autograph.

And a warm smile beats a handshake.

24. Don’t linger in the doorway. In or out.

Phrased another way by author Steven Forrest: Don’t stand with one foot on the dock and one on a boat that is setting out to sea.

25. If you choose to go in drag, don’t sell yourself short.

If you choose to go period, don’t sell yourself short!

26. If you want to know what makes you unique, sit for a caricature.

Better yet, have your astrology chart done.

27. Never get your hair cut the day of a special event.

If you’re bald like me I guess that means don’t shave your head?

28. Be mindful of what comes between you and the Earth. Always buy good shoes, tires, and sheets.

Yeah but don’t space out on socks, car breaks and blankets either!

29. Never eat lunch at your desk if you can avoid it.

Wherever you eat, be present with your food and savior every bite.

30. When you’re with new friends, don’t just talk about old friends.

Talk about subjects of meaning and or mutual pleasure.

31. Eat lunch with the new kids.

If you feel comfortable doing so, not because you read it in a blog….

32. When traveling, keep your wits about you.

For any life event that stresses you, anticipate and mentally prepare for the event ahead of time.

33. It’s never too late for an apology.

Sadly, mortality would suggest otherwise.

34. Don’t pose with booze.

Or at least don’t post it on instagram!

35. If you have the right of way, take it.

There are times that even when you have the right of way, you don’t have the right of way.  (Think old lady standing on a bus)

36. You don’t get to choose your own nickname.

But it may be subject to negotiation.

37. When you marry someone, remember you marry their entire family.

That’s all I need, another reason not to commit!

38. Never push someone off a dock.

But be sure and pull them in if they push you!

39. Under no circumstances should you ask a woman if she’s pregnant.

OMG, I almost did this in a business meeting to a woman who was NOT pregnant.  Heed this warning!

40. It’s not enough to be proud of your ancestry; live up to it.

But in a way that is true to who you are…

41. Don’t make a scene.

All activity is a scene… make the scenes you want, make them count, and try avoid the scenes you may regret later.

42. When giving a thank you speech, short and sweet is best.

Maybe… but I’d rather speak a few seconds too long and not forget to thank someone than worry about being short and sweet.

43. Know when to ignore the camera.

Always ignore the camera and be true to yourself.

44. Never gloat.

You can gloat once in a great while.  But don’t make a habit of it!

45. Invest in good luggage.

Unless you can invest in good stock!

46. Make time for your mom on your birthday. It’s her special day, too.

Make time for your mom everyday… unless she is some crazy psycho abusive nut job, than give yourself permission to let go.

47. When opening presents, no one likes a good guesser.

Really?  Good guesses I don’t mind.  Lack of enthusiasm or enjoyment is a bummer. 

48. Sympathy is a crutch, never fake a limp.

But don’t hide one for too long either.

49. Give credit. Take blame.

Agreed.

50. Suck it up every now and again.

If only it were every now and again!

51. Never be the last one in the pool.

Unless the pool is filled with Sharks.

52. Don’t stare.

Staring is okay in the right situation… It’s the stalking I worry about.

53. Address everyone that carries a firearm professionally.

Not necessarily out of respect but because they can kill you!

54. Stand up to bullies. You’ll only have to do it once.

When in doubt, consult someone in higher authority.

55. If you’ve made your point, stop talking.

Verify that you have been understood.  If yes listen.  If not, dumb it down!  Ha ha! (see number 9 on this list)

56. Admit it when you’re wrong.

Only if I can rub it in when I’m right J

57. If you offer to help don’t quit until the job is done.

Or don’t offer more than you are capable of helping.

58. Look people in the eye when you thank them.

But only thank them if you mean it.

59. Thank the bus driver.

Thank everyone who provides a service to you or does something kind.

60. Never answer the phone at the dinner table.

Or text, check the net… man this one needs to be updated.

61. Forgive yourself for your mistakes.

If you are truly sorry and have a plan to at least try to avoid them in the future.

62. Know at least one good joke.

But keep updating otherwise the joke can get stale real fast!

63. Don’t boo. Even the ref is somebody’s son.

Booing is all in fun… Getting personal, or worse discriminatory, is what I have a problem with.

64. Know how to cook one good meal.

Between that and your one good joke, you’ll have one good date… Maybe.

65. Learn to drive a stick shift.

I’m in my mid-forties…never learned, and doing okay.

66. Be cool to younger kids. Reputations are built over a lifetime.

Be cool period.

67. It’s okay to go to the movies by yourself.

Just don’t wear a baseball cap and a trench coat.

68. Dance with your mother/father.

Dance…Sing…Write… Be creative and share the joy.

69. Don’t lose your cool. Especially at work.

People who often lose their cool probably never really had it.

70. Always thank the host.

With wine and a babka cake… (Sorry Costanza, rings dings and soda won’t cut it)

71. If you don’t understand, ask before it’s too late.

What’s the point of this list?

72. Know the size of your boy/girlfriend’s clothes.

Especially if they’re not pregnant!

73. There is nothing wrong with a plain t-shirt.

Who said there was?

74. Be a good listener. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk.

If it helps… Think of being a good listener as being selfish.  Aside from being the right thing to do, it will help you get what you want.

75. Keep your word.

Or only give it away when you intend to honor it.

76. In college, always sit in the front. You’ll stand out immediately.

It’s not about standing out.  Always put yourself in the best position to succeed.

77. Carry your mother’s bags. She carried you for nine months.

Assuming you can, this should be a given (assuming your mom isn’t a psycho abusive nut.)

78. Be patient with airport security. They’re just doing their jobs.

Be patient with anyone doing their job, (legal ones anyway), unless they are not doing it right or fair.  Then still be nice… until it’s time not to be nice.

79. Don’t be the talker in a movie.

Yes, be the talker in therapy.

80. The opposite sex likes people who shower.

What about the same-sex?  Okay to have B.O. around them?

81. You are what you do, not what you say.

Okay, this one is stolen right from, “actions speak louder than words.”

82. Learn to change a tire.

This could save your life… or at least get you to an appointment on time.  (At the very least, join AAA)

83. Be kind. Everyone has a hard fight ahead of them.

And because it feels better inside than being mean.

84. An hour with grandparents is time well spent. Ask for advice when you need it.

Maybe, but if you’re mom is a psycho abusive nut job, she got it from somewhere.  Labels don’t endow people with wisdom.  Ask for advice only if you trust the advice giver.

85. Don’t litter.

Treat the earth like your home… after all, it is!

86. If you have a sister, get to know her boyfriend. Your opinion is important.

But should be offered when asked for or when needed.

87. You won’t always be the strongest or the fastest. But you can be the toughest.

And you can still finish sooner and get more done…

88. Never call someone before 9am or after 9pm.

Unless they’re old than it is more like 7am and 7pm.

89. Buy the orange properties in Monopoly.

Don’t buy property unless you understand the market!

90. Make the little things count.

Make everything count!

91. Always wear a bra at work.

Except on casual Fridays.

92. There is a fine line between looking sultry and slutty. Find it.

Find what is right for you.  Let all of your actions match your intentions.

93. You’re never too old to need your mom.

Please realize this before it’s too late.  (Unless your mom is a …I think I’ve made my point… And by the way, my mom was an angel.)

94. Ladies, if you make the decision to wear heels on the first date, commit to keeping them on and keeping your trap shut about how much your feet kill.

Guys, if you make the decision to wear a hairpiece on the first date, make sure that thing is cemented on and can’t possibly fall off!

95. Know the words to your national anthem.

And if you’re in America, know who the freakin Vice President is!

96. Your dance moves might not be the best, but I promise making a fool of yourself is more fun then sitting on the bench alone.

Maybe for some, but not for all… If you’re stuck in the middle, take a dance lesson.

97. Smile at strangers.

Some might think your weird but maybe worth a try.

98. Make goals.

Short term attainable ones and long-term ones… Be sure to give yourself credit for the goals you reach before moving on.

99. Being old is not dictated by your bedtime.

Old is an illusion of time and how we feel.  In truth we are all very very young!

100. If you have to fight, punch first and punch hard.

 I’m more of a counter puncher myself.

What’s Your Code?

jeffmom5-88_edited

As I was driving to the hospital to visit my terminally ill mother, (stage IV cholangiocarcinoma) it dawned on me that there are situations in life when “staying positive”, or “focusing on the positive” isn’t going to happen.  Where the weight and burden of life’s problems can overwhelm the best intentions of any feel good mantra.  In fact there are times where you, I should say I, just don’t want to feel good.  And are incapable of it.

But what is a son to do after he promised his dying mother, who he loves with all of his heart and soul, he would live his life, do good things, and make her proud, even though after watching her suffer every fiber of his being has had enough of life?

And then I thought about my code.  A set of principles, a guiding philosophy, or standards I have tried to hold myself to, and live by.  This code is not designed to make me happy or sad.  Promise me a good life, or the prevention of bad things from happening.  It is to remind me of who I am and who I strive to be.  To keep me in check when I feel myself slipping.  Or in this case, hanging from the pique of a mountaintop by my fingertips.

I think it is good to have a code.  One of my favorite TV characters, Dexter, has one.  His sister, Deb, once told him it sounded like something a child would have.  Childhood reflects a time of innocence.  So maybe that is not such a bad thing.

With information overload, and external influences coming from so many different directions from the time we are born, a simple code can be a safety valve.  It can:

  • Help you resist against being corrupted by temptations, and success.
  • Keep you from being anchored down by the traumas of life.
  • It can be a base by which to maintain your sense of self if you feel your sanity ebbing away.
  • It can help you on your path without being a rulebook to run your life.

No matter the reason, when tidal waves of pain or pleasure arrive, it can be there for you when you feel like nothing else is.  When you don’t want or feel like you can accept anyone’s help.  Not etched in stone, this code can be adaptable as you adapt and experience new people and situations.

As part of your daily life, or kept away for a rainy day, I would encourage you to develop a code.  Root it in meaning and principles that you strongly identify with.  That can stand the test of time, and the good and bad challenges ahead.  It, and you must be strong.

Surviving an emotional earthquake that would register a 2.0 on the richter scale is not so tough.  But if you live long enough you may experience something closer to a 10.0.  And at these times it may be nice to have something to fall back on to help you through.  To keep you from crumbling as the earth rips apart beneath your feet.

A code doesn’t replace the love and support of family and or friends.  It doesn’t offer the insight of therapy, philosophy, spirituality, or support groups.  But it may give you the strength to seek those things out, or help get you, or keep you on your feet.  The idea is to know yourself and prepare yourself, as best you can, for un-preparable situations in life.

When the time comes for my mother, I hope my code, a few hospital bed promises, and the fact  that I know my mom, with all of her heart and soul, would want me to be happy and go on, are enough for me.  Time will tell.

#####

Update: Though published today, I initially wrote this blog on July 6th.  I didn’t have the strength to publish it then, though I knew I might not have the strength or clarity to write about it later.  That turns out to be an understatement.  My mother passed on July 23rd.  The funeral was on the 25th.   She was my guiding light.

Stay Positive!!??

staypositive

Stay positive, when offered as advice to a friend in need, is generally a well-intended statement offered as encouragement to someone who may otherwise feel:

  • Down.
  • Depressed.
  • Defeated.
  • Negative about some life event or situation.

If only it were that simple.

In order to “stay positive”, one must first become positive.  The path to positive-ness is different for each of us.  And, as is the case with our emotions, we may define the merit, and ability to be and express positive-ness, differently.

In other words, we come at someone else and their issues with our background and how we define things.  This may or may not be compatible with how the person we are trying to help, sees, views, or copes with the same thoughts and feelings.

If staying positive is offered as an adjunct, after a person has been heard, and a plan of action is in place, than I can enthusiastically support it.  However, prematurely jumping ahead to the “fix” of staying positive, while ignoring or giving inadequate attention to the issues, can have the unintended effect of making a person feel misunderstood, not listened too, and more depressed than when the conversation started.  Regardless of the polite agreement he may offer.

Further, the impulse of a friend to fix and get right to the stay positive message, may have more to do with the friend’s own inability to deal with negative emotions.  Their intentions and heart may be in the right place, but their own issues may unconsciously be guiding their advice.  Especially, if they attempt to shut you off, and have virtually no tolerance to let you express your potentially dark innermost feelings.

Among the many human desires, is the desire to be understood.  Jumping right to, “stay positive”, when trying to comfort a friend who is down is the emotional equivalent of sex without foreplay or emotional connection.  It might work for some in the moment, but it will also leave many unfulfilled.  And still feeling like they are not understood.

Depending on the issue, it may be more appropriate to talk to a different friend or mental health professional if negative thoughts and feelings persist without a path to resolution.

As suggested, oftentimes the recipient of the stay positive advice will knowingly nod to either placate his friend, or in an honest attempt to convince himself that the advice is correct and he must follow it.

If only it were that simple.

Staying positive is not as easy as opening or closing a door.  Our emotional state isn’t arrived at by chance.  The simple words, stay positive, generally can’t undo previous cycles of events that lead a person to a particular moment in time that has them feeling less than positive.

For some to get to an authentic place of positive thinking the following may need to be considered:

  • Before healing can be complete, there might need to be acknowledgment.
  • Before there can be a total release, there might need to be an embrace.
  • Before there can be a moving on, there must be a reconciliation. (Mental and or physical)
  • Before there can be “fixing”, there may need to be understanding.

A cousin of “stay positive” is, “focus on the positive”.  I like this variation a little better as it provides slightly more semblance of direction.

However, I am neither a glass is half full, or half empty, kind of guy.  I view that as a false choice, because there is truth in both.  Accepting one and denying the other involves repression.  If repression came without consequence I’d be all for it.  But there are psychological ramifications to it; so conscious awareness is the basket I place my bread in.

Staying positive and focusing on the positive does have its merits.  But, a potential danger is repression without resolution of what put a person in a negative space in the first place.  And by resolution I mean emotional and psychological.  We do not always get the physical or real world results we want in life.  But we do get to consciously deal with and come to peace with them.

Staying positive on its own is a panacea that may be appropriate and work for a little while, especially in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event that is simply too difficult to deal with in the moment.  But I do not see it as a long-term solution.

If staying positive is the advice while in pursuit of inner peace, mental and emotional reconciliation and understanding, than it becomes a mantra supported by action and a plan.  This is something I can stay positive about!

Peace And Adventure On The Journey.

If you find these words interesting, please read this blog that talks about pain and explains my ebook, The Authentic You.

*AN IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE.  THE ABOVE REPRESENTS MY PERSONAL OPINION.  I AM NOT A LICENSED THERAPIST.  ANY WORDS IN THIS BLOG ARE NOT MEANT TO, NOR SHOULD THEY REPLACE THAT OF A DOCTOR OR LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL.