Are You Your Own Worst Critic?

So many of us are. Psychologist Barb Markway has a little undertaking you might find of interest. She calls it “The Self Compassion Project”, which she started on January 1st of this year. You can find her first post, here.

Somewhat in that vein, I’ll be taking a short break from blogging to re-charge. Hope to have some interesting things in store when I return on August 7th, including a new site design. The place could use some fresh paint. Hope you’re enjoying your summer.


APA Division 56: Trauma Psychology

The American Psychological Association’s Division 56 is devoted to Trauma Psychology. If you’re interested in trauma and related issues, you might find it interesting to check out their newsletter, which you can find here.

Here are a few sample article titles from issues past:

  • Trauma Psychology in Israel: An Interview With Danny Brom, PhD, Director, Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma – April Obermeyer
  • Trauma, Death, and Resurrection: A Conversation Between Robert D. Stolorow and Sergei Roganov
  • Childhood Trauma: The Impact of Childhood Adversity on Education, Learning, and Development- Michael Changaris
  • The More Who Die, the Less We Care: Confronting Psychic Numbing – Paul Slovic
  • Traumatic Stress Symptoms in Parents of Premature Infants – Kathleen Kendall-Tackett

Is There Really An Internet Addiction? Not Yet.

PsychCentral and Mind Hacks both did pieces recently about the laughably bad Newsweek cover story, “Is the Web Driving Us Mad?”. At PsychCentral, editor-in-chief, John Grohol called it simply a “hit piece on technology”. The subhead on the Newsweek cover reads “panic, depression, psychosis.” Mind Hacks bats this and other aspects of the article away in a delightfully dismissive blog entry:

The [Newseek] article also manages the usual neuroscience misunderstandings. The internet ‘rewires the brain’ – which I should hope it does, as every experience ‘rewires the brain’ and if your brain ever stops re-wiring you’ll be dead. Dopamine is described as a reward, which is like mistaking your bank statement for the money.

Then, getting to the core of the matter, links to an earlier piece, “Why there is no such thing as internet addiction” about the whole idea of internet addiction being absurd. His analysis is well worth a look, if you’ve ever pondered this topic.

‘Internet addiction’ doesn’t exist. It can’t, because it’s a logical impossibility, a category error, and there’s no good evidence that heavy internet use, in itself, is a risk to mental health….

People become addicted to substances or activities, but it’s impossible to become addicted to a medium. You can be no more addicted to the internet than you can to language or radio waves….

It’s also important to make the distinction between something being compulsive, something that you want to do again (commonly, but confusingly, called ‘addictive’ in everyday language), and a fully-fledged behavioural addiction – a mental disorder where you keep doing the activity even when it has serious damaging effects….

The writer, I’m assuming it’s Vaughan Bell, goes on to describe the way problematic internet use is viewed in Japan. It is viewed as a function of social withdrawal.

The core problem is not using repetitive, extended internet use, or even intrusive thoughts about keeping track of online events (otherwise 90% of the office workforce would be diagnosed), but low mood and social withdrawal.

In Japan, almost exactly the same problems have been named ‘hikkikomori‘. One of the key characteristics of hikkikomori individuals is that they isolate themselves and occupy their time with the internet and video games.

But the Japanese, rather sensibly, identify the core problem as social withdrawal, and the excessive solitary activities as symptoms – just ways in which isolated people try to fill the void.

Continuing with “What Actually Happens in EMDR?”

From the FAQ at the EMDR International Association website. (If those are just a bunch of letters to you, there’s a tab marked ‘EMDR’ on this website, near the header, with lots information.)

There are 8 phases of EMDR treatment. On to phase 2!

Phase 2: Preparation

For most clients this will take only 1-4 sessions. For others, with a very traumatized background, or with certain diagnoses, a longer time may be necessary. Basically, your clinician will teach you some specific techniques so you can rapidly deal with any emotional disturbance that may arise. If you can do that, you are generally able to proceed to the next phase. One of the primary goals of the preparation phase is to establish a relationship of trust between the client and the therapist. While the person does not have to go into great detail about his disturbing memories, if the EMDR client does not trust his clinician, he may not accurately report what he feels and what changes he is (or isn’t) experiencing during the eye movements. If he just wants to please the clinician and says he feels better when he doesn’t, no therapy in the world will resolve his trauma. In any form of therapy it is best to look at the clinician as a facilitator, or guide, who needs to hear of any hurt, need, or disappointments in order to help achieve the common goal. EMDR is a great deal more than just eye movements, and the clinician needs to know when to employ any of the needed procedures to keep the processing going. During the Preparation Phase, the clinician will explain the theory of EMDR, how it is done, and what the person can expect during and after treatment. Finally, the clinician will teach the client a variety of relaxation techniques for calming himself in the face of any emotional disturbance that may arise during or after a session. Learning these tools is an important aid for anyone. The happiest people on the planet have ways of relaxing themselves and decompressing from life’s inevitable, and often unsuspected, stress. One goal of EMDR therapy is to make sure that the client can take care of himself.


Unhappily Pervaded by the Non-Present

Here’s some coverage from the website Science Daily of a study published in the journal Science, research by Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard University. The topic is the impact of the wandering mind on happiness. An excerpt:

“A human man mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” Killingsworth and Gilbert write. “The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”

Unlike other animals, humans spend a lot of time thinking about what isn’t going on around them: contemplating events that happened in the past, might happen in the future, or may never happen at all. Indeed, mind-wandering appears to be the human brain’s default mode of operation.

The researchers created an interface for the iphone, which lets respondents rate their happiness throughout the day. (You can take a look at their project here at Track Your They found that people are frequently mind-wandering. “This study shows that our mental lives are pervaded, to a remarkable degree, by the non-present.”

When are people most and least happy?

The findings were for the three happiest activities: “making love, exercising, engaged in conversation.” The least happy: “Resting, working, or using a computer.”

“Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness,” Killingsworth says. “In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.”

First Person Experience of EMDR Treatment

I hope, sometime before the summer is over, perhaps sooner, to receive a first-person narrative of someone’s experience of being treated with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy). With a little luck it will be posted on this site, most likely in three parts. She’s a talented writer who published a book about the experience that led to treatment, so I’m quite excited to be able to share this.

Please stay tuned.

11 Misconceptions About Mindfulness Meditation

photo by mindfulness

If you’re interested in how we might apply mindfulness concepts in your own psychotherapy — and you live in the Los Angeles/Pasadena area — why not call for a free consult? I’d be glad to talk with you about mindfulness and psychotherapy. Mindfulness interventions are especially effective in dealing with depression, anxiety, problems with impulse control and distractedness, to name just a few.

Found a classic meditation text, Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henapola Gunaratana online for free. Shambhala publications re-released the book last year in a new, improved version, which you can find here, amongst other places. Again, these are common misconceptions:

1. meditation is just a relaxation method
2. meditation means going into a trance
3. meditation is a mysterious practice which cannot be understood
4. The purpose of meditation is to become a psychic superman
5. meditation is dangerous and a prudent person should avoid it
6. meditation is for saints and holy men, not for regular people
7. meditation is running away from reality
8. meditation is a great way to get high
9. meditation is selfish
10. when you meditate, you sit around thinking lofty thoughts
11. A couple of weeks of meditation and all my problems will go away

If you’re curious how they are misconceptions you should read the book. It covers the important points quite clearly. Chapter 2. “What Mindfulness Isn’t.” As I said you can find it for free, as a PDF file here. But if you are really curious about this mindfulness stuff, this is a book I can recommend. Even if you put down the ten dollars it will be worth your while.

From 2012. Same stuff applies.