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An in-depth look at violence and its relation to schizophrenia. Is violence a symptom of schizophrenia? Do mass attackers always have schizophrenia? Are schizophrenics dangerous?

Studies say people with schizophrenia are more likely to be a victim of a crime than the perpetrator. However, James Holmes, the movie theater mass murderer, was said to have paranoid schizophrenia. And a person can plead not-guilty by reason of insanity in court. This seems to be contrary to the idea of non-violence in mental illness.

Host Rachel Star Withers, a diagnosed schizophrenic, and co-host Gabe Howard delve into these intense subjects in this episode of the Inside Schizophrenia podcast. Officer Rebecca Skillern, the senior trainer within the mental health division of the Houston Police Department, joins as a special guest to explain police protocol in answering crisis emergencies and what people with schizophrenia, and their loved ones, should do when an episode puts someone in danger.

Highlights From ‘Violence & Schizophrenia’ Episode 

[01:48] “Have you ever killed anyone?”

[03:21] Stigma is not knowing.

[07:10] Consequences of people finding out you have schizophrenia.

[14:22] Not guilty by reason of insanity.

[17:33] Paranoid schizophrenia and mass attackers.

[24:00] Has Rachel ever been violent due to my schizophrenia?

[25:30] Guest interview with Officer Rebecca Skillern.

[27:22] How is a mental crisis team response different than a typical police response?

[31:00] What to do if I need help for a mental health crisis.

[43:55] During a mental health crisis, what do I want to happen?

[46:00] Confusion and fear during an episode.

About Our Guest

Officer Rebecca Skillern, the senior trainer within the mental health division of the Houston Police Department, joins as a special guest to explain police protocol in answering crisis emergencies and what people with schizophrenia, and their loved ones, should do when an episode puts someone in danger.

She is an expert in CIT Training (Crisis Intervention Team) which is a program that provides the foundation necessary to promote community and statewide solutions to assist individuals with a mental illness and/or addictions. The CIT Model reduces both stigma and the need for further involvement with the criminal justice system. CIT provides a forum for effective problem solving regarding the interaction between the criminal justice and mental health care system and creates the context for sustainable change. Learn more by visiting www.citinternational.org.

Computer Generated Transcript for “Violence and Schizophrenia” Episode

Editor’s NotePlease be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: Welcome to Inside Schizophrenia, a look into better understanding and living well with schizophrenia. Hosted by renowned advocate and influencer Rachel Star Withers and featuring Gabe Howard.

Rachel Star Withers: Hello, listeners, could a change in your schizophrenia treatment plan make a difference for you? There are options out there you might not know about. Please visit oncemonthlydifference.com to find out more about the benefits of once monthly injections for adults with schizophrenia. Welcome to Inside Schizophrenia. I’m Rachel Star Withers here with Gabe Howard. Today we’re going to take an in-depth look into violence and schizophrenia. Is violence an actual symptom of schizophrenia? Do mass attackers always have schizophrenia? Basically, are schizophrenics dangerous?

Gabe Howard: This is fascinating because it comes up so incredibly often and I imagine that as somebody who lives with schizophrenia people that believe this particular misinformation campaign or myth or misunderstanding sort of visit their fears onto your life. Is that fair?

Rachel Star Withers: Yes, I’m very open about my schizophrenia and not just online and in podcasts but everyday life. OK. Most people who meet me as far as more than once, not just random strangers and I’m just screaming it out. But if you work with me you probably know at some point and I get a lot of different like crazy questions. Some people have asked me like, “What do you see colors?” Yes. I’m not colorblind. That has nothing to do with schizophrenia at all. Oh but the weirdest I’ve gotten that I’ve never quite understand why is, “Have you ever killed anyone?” 

Gabe Howard: Just do they just straight up? When they’re asking questions about schizophrenia. Do they come straight out and say, “Have you killed anyone?”

Rachel Star Withers: No this is like something they lead up to. It’s like OK I’ve been like I know her you know and we’re finally talking and maybe I feel like I can finally ask this question. That would be offensive if I asked right away. But I’ve definitely been thinking about it for the past three weeks I’ve been working with her

Gabe Howard: So it’s on their mind from the moment they find out that you have schizophrenia? I mean when they find out about your illness this is something that pops into their head almost instantly?

Rachel Star Withers: I personally think so.

Gabe Howard: And does it worry you? Is it a concern?

Rachel Star Withers: To me, it doesn’t worry me. I always like to turn it into a joke. People say, “Have you ever killed anyone?” Not yet. I should like to just kind of pause there for a long time, take a nice deep breath and slowly turn my gaze to them and score right. But.

Gabe Howard: But that’s something that you have of course the privilege to do.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes.

Gabe Howard: I mean it

Rachel Star Withers: Yes.

Gabe Howard: You know just both by way of being. I’m trying not to say a tiny little white woman but . . . But you know what I mean. You don’t look physically imposing. It does. Does that make sense?

Rachel Star Withers: No, it does. Yes.

Gabe Howard: I mean if you were, if you were a giant man. If you were you know a giant African-American male?  But if you weren’t as articulate or funny or as approachable or as friendly this kind of a stereotype would be? It could be really impactful to your ability to find a work or a job or housing if they think that you’re dangerous.

Rachel Star Withers: Oh absolutely. You know people hear the word stigma and you always associate it with something bad like. Okay well stigma must mean that everybody thinks schizophrenics are violent or have killed people. But I think a lot of it is also you just don’t know anything. Like the unknown. Like I don’t know what this person is capable of. I don’t know much about schizophrenia so yeah on such and such TV show that was the killer and that I think is more scary than anything.

Gabe Howard: So you think that people are taking their ignorance essentially because they don’t know if you are safe or unsafe.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes. And it’s one reason that I go out of my way to be so open about my schizophrenia. And that’s a luxury that I have. You know certain jobs I can’t go around saying that if I were to work. So I’m not saying everybody with a mental disorder should you know just tell the world hey guess what. I mean right now I’m working on this podcast with you, Gabe, Inside Schizophrenia. I don’t think I would get fired if anyone found out I actually had schizophrenia.

Gabe Howard: In this particular case it was an advantage. Obviously the show was looking for somebody who had a lot of knowledge about schizophrenia. Somebody who was open to talking about schizophrenia and somebody who was living publicly with schizophrenia. Do you believe, Rachel, that the people who think this are just mean malicious people who just dislike you? You sort of alluded to the fact that you think that it’s just all misunderstanding?

Rachel Star Withers: I’m not going to say all of it’s misunderstanding. There’s horrible people all over the world who are going to believe whatever they want. But I’d say the majority of the people who’ve actually asked me the question, “Have you ever killed anyone?” They weren’t mean people. It was just kind of like someone who was genuinely curious and honestly didn’t know anything about schizophrenia really except for the media.

Gabe Howard: Once you do your humor thing and I agree with you I think that humor has a lot of benefits. It diffuses situations it makes people comfortable in a way. After that sort of dissipates and people are like OK now I’ve realized that accusing you of killing somebody or even thinking that can be really hurtful. Do good conversations come out of that and how do you handle those?

Rachel Star Withers: I usually like to follow that with actually people with schizophrenia are more likely to be the victim of a crime than to be committing the crime and people be like. “Oh really?” Like it that’s just kind of like oh they’re like completely kind of change their thoughts like I just had no clue. I’m like Yeah. So it’s a nice little segue into some fun learning.

Gabe Howard: When you say that people with schizophrenia are more likely to be the victim of a crime, do people believe you? Did they give pushback? Do they ask why that is?

Rachel Star Withers: No one in real life has ever challenged me on that, but definitely over the Internet. People write, “Well, that’s just stupid. I don’t see how that’s possible.” Or they’ll say well schizophrenics hurt lots of people. And I just say again that goes back to kind of not all of it’s ignorance is just refusing to want to look at facts and believe what is true.

Gabe Howard: I think that everybody in America understands why comforting lies are better than uncomfortable truths in the short term. I would rather have somebody tell me that I’m completely right and I don’t have to change. That’s really really easy. But of course you can’t grow and be open to new experiences and the danger of believing these things about people with schizophrenia is that you may be avoiding a diagnosis yourself because after all if you believe that all people with schizophrenia are violent and you think that you might have it, you’re thinking to yourself I’m not violent therefore I don’t have to go get help. You could think this about a loved one you could think Oh my God I’m really worried about my son, daughter, niece, nephew, brother, sister, or best friend but they would never hurt a fly. So I’m not going to get them a diagnosis. I’m not going to take them in . How does that strike you?

Rachel Star Withers: Back years ago the very first time I sat my parents down I tell them Look I have went to the doctor and this is what happened. I’ve been diagnosed with schizophrenia. My mother did not want me to tell anybody, like anybody. When I made the first video I did about schizophrenia she was mortified and she repeatedly was like, “You can’t talk about this, Rachel.” And she was so scared that I was gonna get kicked out of college, that no one would ever hire me, that people would be scared of me. Which is just, you’re never going to get married, you’re never gonna have a job, you’re never gonna finish school. All of those things weren’t real reasons for her to think that, it was just she was frightened of what that word labeled on me. You know what it would do when other people saw that label.

Gabe Howard: So she was more concerned about the reactions of the general public than she was about the illness that you were battling? That does add an extra layer though, right? If everybody thinks that you, and then by extension your family, are violent or dangerous or scary that makes it that much harder to get care. Because like you said, your family’s initial thought was OK how do we manage this information. It wasn’t, how do we manage the illness?

Rachel Star Withers: And I think whenever you have something like a mental illness versus a physical illness you know some sort of disorders and whatnot obviously run in families. But if you hear oh well that person their daughter has schizophrenia they kind of tend to think Oh I bet the whole family’s crazy. My parents never came out and said it. But I think they were worried that if people found out I had schizophrenia they were going to assume my brother did also. So I’m not only potentially ruining my life, but I could be ruining my little brother’s life because well she has it why doesn’t he?

Rachel Star Withers: And it is. It’s a very scary diagnosis to get. And if you aren’t used to anything with mental illness, you’re not used to hearing about bipolar, you’re not used to even hearing about depression, and then suddenly you got schizophrenia on the line. I feel like that can really scare a family.

Gabe Howard: Do you think that the number one reason that people are scared of schizophrenia is its link to violence in pop culture in the media and in the minds of the public?

Rachel Star Withers: Yes. I think it’s just, and I always say this, that schizophrenia it is just a scary sounding word. It has a Z in it. Like it just sounds like oh my gosh. It’s just so great. I have I’m writing in a movie like Oh man I’m gonna have the character say schizophrenic or schizophrenia and she’s automatically like whoa. And I’ll even have people try and combat me online and they’ll say well you’d understand because most crime and what not it’s caused by people with mental illness and you know you have to be crazy to go and do all these bad things. Yes I believe a lot of us just in the world, not a lot of schizophrenics, but a lot of people in the world we do suffer from different things. You know if you are in a relationship and you get your heart broken you’re probably going to have some depression. It might not be long term depression and it could be just related and it might have you know ease up after a few months but you’re going to go through some sort of mental situation that is not just optimal mental health. However when you have crime, I think an easy way to just explain it is say, “Oh, they were crazy. Oh, they had schizophrenia. Let’s ignore the fact that they were on drugs. Let’s ignore the fact that they’ve already shown issues with let’s say beating their wife and things like that now because they have schizophrenia.” There’s no other health issue that automatically is linked to violence the way mental illnesses are.

Gabe Howard: I have often postulated that one of the reasons that people are so quick to believe this is because extreme violence. I mean your mass shootings your you know even just murder in general. It is so far outside of the realm of what a typical person is comfortable doing. I understand why people are like well. Doesn’t that have to be mental illness? I mean taking somebodies life is extreme. I mean it’s just really really extreme. There has to be a component of mental illness in there, but that’s not actually what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about does schizophrenia make you kill people? Does it make you hurt people? Is there something innate about the illness that violence is a likely outcome? And that’s where it gets tricky right. Because nobody is saying that people with schizophrenia have never committed a violent crime. You’re just saying that the majority of people with schizophrenia have never committed a violent crime.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes. When you have people mental illness or you’re specifically talking about schizophrenia and you know the majority of us don’t hurt anyone. You’re like, “Well, Rachel, I mean but some of you do.” That still sounds scary. But not all husbands beat their wives. Some of them do but not all of them and that’s not going to keep me from getting married. That’s not going to keep me and or most people from finding a husband.

Gabe Howard: But when it comes to mental illness, we’ve decided that somehow that connects. That all violence is caused by people with schizophrenia and that connection just doesn’t exist in any study that’s been looked at and it’s kind of scary that people are so desperate to believe it. Why do you think that people want to believe this so much?

Rachel Star Withers: I think one of the main reasons is just being able to say somebody who did this horrible thing has mental illness. It makes you feel safer. OK. So I don’t know anyone personally like that so I can feel safe and if I ever met anyone like that I could obviously tell you know they’re like twitching and screaming and things. That’s the person I should be scared of. You know you hear these horrible stories of like a disgruntled employee who comes in and unfortunately does something you know very violent at the office. And a lot of times are like well so-and-so he was suffering from depression for so long. Well you know he was being treated by a psychiatrist. It’s never oh he broke his leg last year. You’d be like well what about him breaking his leg?

Gabe Howard: And even in the cases of schizophrenia the very very very tiny percentage of people with schizophrenia that do have a dangerous or violent outcome. They’re almost universally uncared for or untreated. They’re almost always left to their own devices with a very very very serious illness that isn’t being maintained or managed.

Rachel Star Withers: And many times that’s unfortunately being self managed by taking illegal drugs. So that plays a big part in it. Also we talk about mental health. Mental health is for everybody. Like that’s just a blanket term for all of us and too many people hear it and think oh well you only need mental health if something is wrong with your head. And it’s not. It’s working too much. You know that work life balance with your family. It’s being able to enjoy being out with people, like mental health is so many things. It’s not just dealing with disorders.

Gabe Howard: But to bring it back around to schizophrenia, another thing that comes up a lot is that people say that people with schizophrenia are trying to get away with the bad things that they do and there’s always sort of devolves into a not guilty by reason of insanity defense. That we can’t trust people with schizophrenia because after all, even if they severely hurt, attack, maim, whatever somebody they’ll just be set loose tomorrow because they’ll plead not guilty by reason of insanity and that’s why we have to crack down on this problem. How do you feel about that?

Rachel Star Withers: First I think I mean I watch tons of the judge shows. As you know I’m a huge Judge Judy fan although I rarely hear the insanity defense used on her show but still huge. Just love court dramas and whatnot and all the time we hear the insanity defense. OK. If you’re watching Law & Order as you like that’s a lot of the times what they end up going with. In reality though it’s not as common. It’s actually used in less than 1 percent of U.S. cases. So this isn’t something that’s constantly being thrown out is the insanity defense. Well, oh, I couldn’t have done this. Oh, I didn’t do this because of. It’s a very small percentage that actually used this defense. And of that it only has a 26 percent success rate and 90 percent of that 20 percent those people were already diagnosed. So it means that was somebody who already had a diagnosed mental disorder and something happened.

Gabe Howard: And to be clear those people don’t then just go home. They’re not back out in the community in the public. They go to state hospitals rather than prison.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes.

Gabe Howard: So the best outcome for a not guilty by reason of insanity defense is that you go to a state mental hospital versus state prison. So pop culture has sort of misled us on this one again where again I think that the average person believes that you plead not guilty by reason of insanity and then you go home and nothing happens.

Rachel Star Withers: Or I think though there I hear is oh they’ll go to like a hospital for a few months as if that’s it. Three months instead of a life in jail. Now it doesn’t work like that.

Gabe Howard: It is true that somebody may get out of a state hospital before they would get out of a state prison sentence for example. But it’s very very rare that it’s used. That’s number one. It’s not successful three out of four times. And when it is successful, it’s a very high threshold to be met. So that’s probably not the worst thing. As you said this happens all the time on Law & Order. It’s always the twist in that in the courtroom dramas et cetera. And maybe television isn’t the best place to get information about how life with schizophrenia works.

Rachel Star Withers: No. Going back to stigma being not knowing though most people don’t actively seek to learn. You know we’re given all this media and that’s just what they consume. So that’s what I believe to be true. It seemed like it was a really true movie I saw, they had like a judge. Seems right.

Gabe Howard: Let’s switch gears slightly. Everything that you just said was about fictional movies. You know you’re talking about you know your courtroom dramas and your reality TV. I mean stuff that I think the average person really should understand is fictional. But now let’s talk about media portrayals. This is the news. This is the evening news, the prime time news. This is expected to be factual. And one of the things that we hear about on the news all of the time, especially in the wake of some national tragedy, you know a mass shooting for example, is the term “paranoid schizophrenia.” This happened because of paranoid schizophrenia. It is almost a verbatim headline for many many examples of violence and schizophrenia.

Rachel Star Withers: Yes. It’s like if you have schizophrenia that’s bad, but paranoid schizophrenia? Well that’s just give up. That’s the worst. That’s also my official diagnosis. However they do not use those subtypes anymore. That was dropped in 2013. But as someone who has a piece of paper that says paranoid schizophrenic on it, it’s unnerving to me to hear it in the news because I feel like my heart drops every single time and you’ll hear them especially I always think of James Holmes. He was the guy with the the Batman movie went in and unfortunately shot up a theater and we all got to see him on TV and he had like orange hair. Not helping, OK. And he has this crazy look in his eyes and we find out he’d mailed out things to the school counselor and it was just like telling everyone he was crazy. He actually used the insanity defense and he was still found to be legally sane and he is someone who they’re flat I’ll say this guy was a paranoid schizophrenic. The court said, yes, but..

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Every day at 3:30 p.m., young men in a neighborhood near downtown Honolulu participate in a culture circle at the Kalihi Valley Instructional Bike Exchange (KVIBE), where they learn how to repair bikes. For the young men in Kalihi Valley, KVIBE is a second home that offers play, mentorship, and skill-building. They begin each culture circle by sharing their names, homes, and ancestors. This opening practice reinforces their sense of identity and why they matter.

Jeffrey Acido, an education and training specialist who works with KVIBE, says, “Anyone who can say these things with confidence has love for themselves — this is mental wellbeing.”

KVIBE is set within Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services (KKV), a comprehensive community health center that uses the community’s cultural traditions to help community members—many of whom are immigrants who feel dislocated from their homelands—heal and thrive. KKV recognizes that social connection and physical activity directly impact mental health, which is why 15 of their programs focus on improving the physical, mental, and spiritual health of more than 10,000 people each year.

The bike exchange is a creative example of how to improve community mental health and address larger community needs like social cohesion, a sense of belonging, and physical activity. This is especially important in Kalilhi Valley, where structural inequities that perpetuate poverty, loss of cultural identity, and low-educational attainment have put men and boys at risk of depression, stress, and chronic physical health conditions.

Recreation and Social Connections Boost Mental Health and General Wellness

Positive self-image, environmental stewardship, and physical activity are at the core of what it means to be a young man in the bike exchange, where members support one another as mechanics and athletes. In addition to their daily culture circles, each year KVIBE youth leaders host the Kalihi Ahupua`a Ride, an educational bike ride open to the public where cyclists ride from mauka (mountain) to makai (ocean).

The eight-mile ride includes “story stops” where riders can learn about the cultural and historical significance of each place. KVIBE uses physical activity strategically, linking it back to cultural identity and social connection, which addresses many of the issues that community members in Kalihi face.

Mental Health Is Impacted by Community Conditions

KVIBE is part of the Making Connections for Mental Health and Wellbeing Among Men and Boys initiative, funded by the Movember Foundation. Making Connections is made up of 13 community-based coalitions that are working to improve the community conditions that exacerbate mental health challenges and support wellbeing for men and boys of color and military servicemembers, veterans and their families. All the Making Connections sites—like the one in Honolulu—are taking innovative approaches to improving mental health and wellbeing by focusing on strategies like increasing social connection, creating opportunities for sports and recreation, and improving the availability of safe, affordable housing.

They also make sure the men and boys who are part of their programs—whose voices are often left out of the conversation about mental health, despite experiencing depression, anxiety, and social trauma first-hand—are part of the decision-making about what the programs will focus on. At KVIBE, the young men and boys are encouraged to lead the design of program activities, become mentors to younger boys, advocate for community improvements like increased and improved bike lanes with policymakers, and coordinate major efforts like the Kalihi Ahupua`a Ride.

The deliberate culture that KVIBE has created should not be the exception to the rule. The ability to build a community where young people can talk about their ancestors with pride while literally keeping their blood flowing, is a crucial support to their mental health. Our nation’s mental health stands a lot to gain from incorporating opportunities for recreation and physical activity into all neighborhoods and communities.

This post courtesy of Mental Health America.

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We survived Father’s Day. But are you still recovering?

I am a little too.

One of the things I learned this weekend is why we people please and give in when we know we shouldn’t. It’s the aftermath of doing the right thing. And when I speak of the right thing, I’m talking about putting up boundaries, bowing out of parties that put you at risk for getting hurt, and choosing to take care of yourself instead of everyone else.

The repercussions of doing something you’ve never done before is scary. When you switch things up and give an unexpected response, it’s possible it won’t be well-received. People tend to dislike change so when you change, it triggers a domino effect making others uncomfortable that they might have to change themselves.

Even if your friends and family react with grace and kindness, you still have to deal with your own feelings of guilt.

There’s baggage when we decide to do what’s right for ourselves. Sometimes there’s shame for being unable or unwilling to fulfill other’s needs. There’s the fear of disappointing others. There’s the risk that you will lose relationships because of it.

All that anguish can make saying, “Yes,” and doing the thing you usually do seem like the easier decision.

Something I heard this weekend on Embrace Change, a Buddhist Wisdom online summit, helped ease the discomfort.

Writer Rachel Neumann shared this short mantra that’s helped me whenever I’m struggling with an emotion, feeling or experience:

“All that we have is each other and all that we have is this moment, and this moment is full of wonder.”

Sometimes healing comes from healing other people’s stories. Sometimes it comes from reconnecting with yourself or realizing there’s no shame in how you feel. It can also come from building up your self-esteem as well as taking care of and loving yourself. These are all important topics we cover on the blog this week.

6 Signs Your Brain and Gut are Disconnected: How to Reconnect Them
(Childhood Emotional Neglect) – Did you know your indecision, self-doubt and overthinking could stem from childhood emotional neglect? The next time you’re stuck, this will help you reconnect with your deepest, wisest self.

Caregiver Guilt: The Untenable Position
(Full Heart, Empty Arms) – Sometimes we’re faced with roles we wouldn’t have chosen. Here one blogger shares the heartbreak of going from wife to caregiver.

14 Quotes to Inspire Self-Love
(Happily Imperfect) – We may try unsuccessfully to find love outside ourselves, but we won’t ever experience true love until we practice self-love. Here are other thought-provoking quotes on one of the most difficult tasks we undertake as human beings.

Why It’s Wrong to Withhold Gentleness to Show Our Kids How “The Real World Works”
(Childhood Behavioral Concerns) – Instead of teaching your kids how to fight in this world, teach them how to be loving, peaceful and healthy.

The Invalid Person: Low Self-Esteem on Steroids (Pt. 1 & 2)
(Narcissism Meets Normalcy) – If you’ve always struggled with self-esteem, this could be why.

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Cyberbullying is the repeated and willful use of digital technology to harass, threaten, embarrass or target another person. Cyberbullies use cell phones, computers and tablets. They use email, text messaging, social media, apps, forums and gaming in their efforts to humiliate their peers and others.

With today’s mandatory need for smartphones and 24-7 access to social media platforms, anyone can be a perpetual target. But because teens and young adults access these digital platforms so often, they are the most vulnerable. Staying “connected” online with friends is not always as innocent as it appears.

Here a few things to consider about cyberbullying:

  • Cyberbullying is easier to commit than traditional acts of bullying because the perpetrator doesn’t have to confront the victim in person. It can also be perpetrated anonymously, so victims often don’t know who is targeting them.
  • Perpetrators get to operate outside the view of adults making it harder for parents to recognize and address it, if and when their kids are being victimized.
  • For victims themselves, it can feel like there’s no escape. While the school day typically ends in mid-afternoon, the Internet never closes down. That means the online abuse is often unrelenting, continuous, and may go on for days, weeks or even months.
  • Cyberbullying has the potential to reach large audiences and cause more damage to its victims, especially if it goes viral.

The numerous psychological effects can be devastating to victims regardless of age, and it seems no one is immune to the kind of trauma it causes. However, because kids and teens are still learning to regulate their emotions and responses to social interactions, they are particularly vulnerable and highly susceptible.

Cyberbullying can cause debilitating fear, destruction of self-esteem, social isolation, poor academic performance. It can also lead to difficulty in forming healthy relationships and most importantly, victims can develop severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression.

Young victims are nearly twice as likely to consider suicide than their peers. Many young victims inflict self-harm such as cutting, head banging and even hitting themselves. They are also significantly more inclined to turn to substance abuse for relief of their psychological pain.

Incidence of cyberbullying among teens nearly doubled between 2007 and 2016. A 2018 study found that 59% of U.S. teens reported having been bullied or harassed online. That’s a staggering number.

Research shows that the most common reason for cyberbullying is the result of fractured personal relationships, due to breakups or unresolved conflicts. Certain groups are especially vulnerable and frequently targeted. They include LGBTQ students, shy and socially awkward students, overweight kids and kids that come from low income families.

The online abuse takes the form of name-calling, spreading false rumors, forwarding sexually explicit images and messages, cyberstalking, physical threats, and the unauthorized sharing of personal images and information without consent.

Instagram is the most widely used platform among teens so its where a lot of cyberbullying occurs these days. Facebook and Snapchat are a close second and third.

Here are some signs to look for that may indicate your teen is a victim.

For example, extreme mood swings, angry outbursts, irritability, spending more time alone than usual, avoiding friends they used to hang out with as well as repeated texts or calls from numbers you don’t recognize.

If you suspect your child is a victim of cyberbullying take action. Talk to your child even if it feels awkward. Approach the conversation gently, allowing your child to explain the situation in his or her own words. Assure your child that their value as a person has nothing to do with being teased or harassed. Let them know that retaliation or even responding to a bully online can only make the situation worse.

Encourage them to document every incident by saving and taking screen shots of unkind texts, emails, photos and other unwelcome images. Saving the URL’s of where the negative messages came from is also helpful. Or suggest that your child forward them directly to you.

Report cases of cyberbullying or even suspicion of cyberbullying to teachers and administrators at your child’s school. In extreme cases, inform law enforcement officials and keep records of any and all conversations. Most of all assure your child that bullying in any form is hurtful and wrong, and that they are never to blame for the immature and cruel behavior of their peers.

Remember, the sooner cyberbullying is identified and addressed the better your chances are of protecting your child from the potentially devastating negative effects.

Links to Cyberbullying hotlines and support centers.

The CyberBullyHotline
1-800-Victims
StopBullying.gov
Stomp Out Bullying
Teen Health & Wellness

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Kanye West’s interview about living with bipolar disorder has recently made the media rounds. Mr. West speaks about not liking medication, about mania being a creative outlet, and the career edge he believes he has because of living with mental illness.

Suffice to say, whenever someone gains an audience by speaking about living with bipolar disorder, our hosts are going to take notice. Do they agree with Mr. West? Listen now to find out.

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“Do you know many homeless schizophrenics who are eating well?”
– Gabe Howard

Highlights From ‘Kanye West Bipolar’ Episode

[1:00] Kanye West’s interview on ‘My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.’

[4:00] David Letterman tells his story about mental illness.

[12:00] What is Akathisia?

[19:00] Talking about bipolar mania.

[22:00] Should we take mental health advice from famous people?

Computer Generated Transcript for ‘Kanye West Bipolar Disorder’ Show

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.

Announcer: For reasons that utterly escape everyone involved, you’re listening to A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. Here are your hosts, Gabe Howard and Michelle Hammer.

Gabe: Welcome to this episode of A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. I’m Gabe, bipolar.

Michelle: And I’m schizophrenic. I’m Michelle and I am not as loud as Gabe apparently.

Gabe: That’s unusual.

Michelle: Unusual I’m usually the loudest person but I think you just won, okay, and whatever that was.

Gabe: Let’s talk about loud mentally ill people that maybe shouldn’t be as loud as they are.

Michelle: Why who could you be talking about, Gabe? I can’t possibly think of someone that’s a bit loud in the mental health field that makes it on all of the news just kind of ruins it a little bit for all of us I’d say.

Gabe: It’s really sad because it he’s got a platform. I mean whenever he talks about living with bipolar disorder the media immediately reports it. And as a guy who, one, lives with bipolar disorder and two wants to talk about living with bipolar disorder and three can’t get the media to report shit there’s this massive anger and jealousy that comes from what he chooses to say.

Michelle: Do you think people have figured out who we’re talking about?

Gabe: You know it depends on if they have Netflix or not and if they know who the fuck David Letterman is.

Michelle: We’re talking about Mr. Kanye West.

Gabe: And Kanye West, we’ve talked about on the show before when we’ve talked about celebrities but he has a new interview with David Letterman on what’s it called? This next guest needs no introduction?

Michelle: Yeah.

Gabe: And he talks about a lot of things. Let’s not throw away the entire interview. First off if you are a fan of Kanye West if you’re a fan of his music, his creative pursuits, his endeavors, they spend the majority of the time talking about that but of course there’s this the section where they talk about.

Michelle: When he discusses mental health and medication.

Gabe: And when he discusses living with bipolar and the creative process.

Michelle: And living with bipolar. But one specific part really got to me one key part was good is that he wasn’t putting down people taking meds but the reason that he doesn’t take any meds. One of the main reasons was because they made him fat. The second reason he doesn’t like taking meds, is because it “stifles his creativity.” And that was a huge reason about why I didn’t want to take meds when I was younger when I was around 18 or 19 starting meds in college. I would say that I’m taking these meds and I was an art major and it was ruining my artwork and I couldn’t do my artwork anymore because of the meds or I couldn’t play lacrosse good anymore because of the meds. I would come up with all these excuses and I would blame medication and I’d say I’m just going to not take my medication anymore it’s ruining everything.

Gabe: You know what really stifles creativity and ruins everything? Dying by suicide.

Michelle: True.

Gabe: That really just stifles just I mean pretty much life. This is why these conversations always sort of irritate me. Nobody is taking medication because they’re not really sick. The people who are being prescribed medications for mental illness their quality of life is in the toilet man it just kind of irritates me because everybody thinks that people who are taking psychiatric medications are just like they’re perfectly fine. They just have like maybe little issues here and there no people who are being prescribed psychiatric medications are really sick. They have suicide attempts. They’re cutting and they have homelessness. In serious cases of violence or attacks against others you were hallucinating and you were so paranoid that you thought your mother was trying to kill you. But what you were worried about was that your creativity was going to be stifled.

Michelle: Yes exactly. Exactly. Exactly.

Gabe: It’s almost like you weren’t thinking straight.

Michelle: What if Kanye West wasn’t a rich person right now? What if he was poor? What if he was homeless?

Gabe: It’s interesting because let’s not pick on Kanye West the whole time. You know David Letterman said something that I thought was really really interesting. He said that for a long time he, David Letterman, didn’t take any medication or help for his mental illness but that he was so angry and paranoid and frustrated that he used to rip phones off the wall and throw them against other walls and it would take two or three days to calm down from these angry outbursts. And then he did this at work for 10 years before realizing that he needed medication. Now, Michelle, as somebody who’s been fired from 11 jobs.

Michelle: 8.

Gabe: 8 jobs. How many of those jobs did you rip something off the wall and throw it against the wall in front of your co-workers?

Michelle: Zero.

Gabe: Ok. And you still couldn’t keep a job because of your schizophrenia?

Michelle: Yes.

Gabe: Yeah but apparently this guy could keep his job in spite of being I don’t know what crazy, and I don’t say that lightly. It’s just he was so sick and so angry and so symptomatic he was putting other people in danger and his workplace covered for him.

Michelle: Right.

Gabe: Because he was David Letterman.

Michelle: Right. He was saying that he got this far, at this point in his life not being on meds, why does he need meds now? It’s going to change who he is and then he said that after doing all that his doctor finally said can you just try them now? please? And then when he took them it was a whole new way of life. It was like wearing new glasses.

Gabe: And this was frankly an elite figure talking somebody who’s famous, on television, wealthy, has a lot of resources, and he now sees the benefit of getting the proper treatment for mental illness and the rest of us we don’t we don’t have that kind of coin. I don’t think that I could throw a phone at you, Michelle, and keep our podcast.

Michelle: Oh, hell no.

Gabe: Let alone doing this so often for a decade that the doctor has found out about it. It’s like I don’t know, David, I don’t think you should throw phones at people anymore. Maybe you should just try it? Could you imagine having that? The rest of us would go to jail.

Michelle: You know what’s really funny? Everybody knows that Naomi Campbell threw a phone at her assistant and nobody knows that David Letterman used to rip phones out of the wall and thrown them at people or whatever like that. Come on? Men versus women. Come on. That’s it. I’m turning this in to. That’s a bit sexist, Gabe.

Gabe: I thought this podcast was about how we were angry at people for spreading misinformation about psychiatric medications. We now have to discuss misogyny too?

Michelle: It always is misogyny. You always hear about the difficult women you never hear about the difficult men.

Gabe: You’re right. For example when we heard about it from Naomi Campbell we just thought that she was a bitch. We just thought that she was mean and angry. But when we heard about it from David Letterman, we thought he was sick. So this is just another reason why this medication conversation really needs to be more nuanced and more understood because imagine if Naomi Campbell needed medication but her doctor wouldn’t sit her down and discuss it? Because a doctor is not going to tell you you’re a bitch. But a doctor did tell a man that he was mentally ill. So it could have been that much longer before Naomi Campbell got the help that she needed because she wasn’t looked at as symptomatic. She was looked at as evil and unhinged, and, well female.

Michelle: Well do we even know what the Naomi Campbell does have a mental illness?

Gabe: I honestly don’t know. But I guarantee that her doctors aren’t talking to her about it. We’ve all just rolled our eyes that she’s just some crazy person that throws phones at and by crazy I don’t mean like mentally ill crazy. I just mean like you know just mean.

Michelle: Just, yeah.

Gabe: Whatever. And that’s just so sad because maybe she is symptomatic? I don’t know if she has a mental illness or not. But you know David Letterman threw a phone. He’s mentally ill. She threw a phone. Maybe she’s mentally ill? Or maybe David Letterman is just an asshole that throws phones?

Michelle: Hold up. We have to hear from our sponsor.

Announcer: This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp.com. Secure, convenient, and affordable online counselling. All counselors are licensed, accredited professionals. Anything you share is confidential. Schedule secure video or phone sessions, plus chat and text with your therapist, whenever you feel it’s needed. A month of online therapy often costs less than a single traditional face to face session. Go to BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral and experience seven days of free therapy to see if online counselling is right for you. BetterHelp.com/PsychCentral.

Michelle: And we’re back talking about bipolar in the media.

Gabe: You are right. We give men a lot of cover and we’re giving Kanye a lot of cover because we think that he’s brave for talking about living with mental illness so publicly. But let’s dissect that message for a moment. His message is if you have bipolar disorder, you don’t want to ruin your mind by taking medication. So therefore don’t take them. Now for a multi-millionaire platinum selling rapper, maybe this is the best decision. But the majority of the people hearing his message are not famous multi platinum selling artists.

Michelle: And that’s why it’s dangerous for him to be saying these things.

Gabe: Exactly.

Michelle: And the other comment he said was that he didn’t say this word for word but he did make a mention that psych meds made him fat and now he’s letting people know that oh psych meds can make you fat. The thing is psych meds can have a varying anything kind of side effect and you’re not going to know what the side effects are until you take them and see how they react to your body and it can be annoying but then you can also take another medicine that will fix that side effect. You have to try different things. And just like I always say, there’s a gazillion different medications for a headache, just like there’s a gazillion different psych meds. You have to figure out which one works for you. All of them have different kinds of side effects. Some might be weight gain, some might be weight loss.

Gabe: I feel like you’ve said that like a couple of times a million times.

Michelle: I’ve said that. I’ve repeated it over and over again because there’s people out there like Kanye West making statements that psych meds make you fat and if you’re a young girl growing up like I was and if I ever heard psych meds make you fat and I’m growing up in high school thinking I have to be skinny skinny skinny skinny skinny oh wait I’m supposed to take a medication? Wait, they can make you fat? I’m not going to take that because it’s going to make me fat.

Gabe: And this is so scary because what is essentially being said is that you would rather be dead than fat. Because that’s what you’re risking. Mental illness is serious; bipolar disorder 15 percent death rate, schizophrenia 15 percent death rate, both by suicide. So by not getting the correct treatment you are raising your odds of dying by suicide. Unfortunately people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, we tend to get fat anyways even when we’re not on medication because we can’t afford expensive foods. I mean you know a lot of like for example homeless schizophrenics who are eating well? You think we’re eating lean meats? No, we’re eating junk food and fatty foods that we can find. I think we just really need to understand that there are worse things in the world than being fat and maybe a 16 year old doesn’t understand that. You always say 16 year old girl but they’re 16 year old boys that don’t understand that either. Look nobody wants to get fat. We all agree we all want to be thin healthy supermodels and look fantastic. But in order to look fantastic we have to be alive and there’s more to health than the number on the scale.

Michelle: Very true. And I don’t think being fat is really the worst side effect. There’s many worse side effects. Have you ever had akathisia before? It’s awful.

Gabe: Explain akathisia to our listeners.

Michelle: Akathisia. For me it came from taking a certain antidepressant but it basically feels like you are jumping out of your skin you can’t stop moving, you can’t stop talking, you can’t stop doing anything. It’s so awful. It’s just like there’s things crawling inside of you and you want to rip your skin off. It’s the most horrible feeling ever. I remember I was driving and I’d had akathisia and I wanted to vomit because I was sitting still for so long. I just thought I was going to puke from sitting still. It’s that awful.

Gabe: But isn’t it OK to have that feeling as long as you are pretty and thin?

Michelle: No.

Gabe: But why do people think that? And I’m being serious. I’m not setting up anybody for a joke it’s just we do have this tendency in our country, in America, to feel like how we look is the most important thing and we don’t care how we feel. You know people on psychiatric medications they’re being treated for a reason. They feel suicidal, they’re hearing voices, we’re hallucinating, we’re depressed, we can’t get off the couch, we can’t hold down jobs, we can’t sustain meaningful relationships, we don’t find enjoyment in life and medication and therapy and coping skills and support groups all of those things combined to fix that. Listen, I would rather be fat and happy than a very beautiful corpse or a very beautiful person who can’t leave his house because he’s just too terrified due to anxiety and panic.

Michelle: And that’s true. But you know what I did when I explained when my current doctor? How it was that I had taken an antidepressant like that before and I got this feeling and that’s when he told me what akathisia was and now I was like, “Oh, I had akathisia?” And he goes, “Oh, if you have akathisia, just take this medication with it. It will go straight away.” And I was like, “What? I just have to take another pill and akathisia won’t be there?” So I had to do is take another medication and your side effect goes away. Ta-da!

Gabe: And that’s not the only way; sometimes they can you know switch drugs. Use the example of antidepressants. There’s lots of anti-depressants and classes go together. So for example let’s say that they prescribe antidepressant A and it causes akathisia, for example. They may say look antidepressant B is very close to A. So we’re going to move you off of A and put you on B and see if that symptom clears up and then when it does, you can stay on antidepressant B for a very long time. I’ve been on some of my medications pushing almost two decades now. It took a long time to find the right combination. But once you find the right combination, it’s just little tweaks here and there. You know it’s kind of like how it takes you a long time to find that perfect dress but it only takes you like five minutes to put it on. It takes a long time to find the perfect combination. But once you have the perfect combination then it’s just a matter of accessorize it.

Michelle: Exactly.

Gabe: Got to find the right shoes.

Michelle: Exactly. And then when you find that perfect combination you’re just that the best you can be. That’s how I feel. I’ve found the perfect combination. And I’m so happy.

Gabe: One of the things that of course we started off this conversation was “it stifles my creativity.” And of course I go for the big one, you can’t be creative if you die by suicide. But let’s dial that back a little. You know obviously suicide is the worst case scenario and it’s the thing that I’m most afraid of in the world. But it’s not necessarily the biggest, not the only thing that stifles creativity. For example, if you’re so depressed you can’t get out of bed, how creative are you? If you can’t leave your house, how creative can you be? Because you can’t be inspired by nature. If all of your friends aren’t talking to you and your life is chaos and everybody’s angry, what does that do to the creative process? And of course if you can’t support yourself, if you can’t you know work, or get food, and you don’t have a stable living situation, or know where your next meal is coming from, what does that do to creativity? I love working with you, Michelle, because you’re kind of a little bit of a stereotype in a way because you’re mentally ill let’s just own it. And you’re also an artist.

Michelle: Yes.

Gabe: Talk about how this journey was for you because I know in the beginning you were very worried about not being able to be an artist if you were on medication and clearly you don’t feel that way anymore.

Michelle: Well at the beginning really a lot of it was artwork. It was sports. It was talking to people. I could not find the right meds for a very very very long time and just everything a lot of it was with sports like if I had a bad day I would blame it on my meds. Like if I did bad at practice. It’s because of my medicine I’m never taking my medicine again. It makes me bad at sports or like if I was in art class and I felt like I couldn’t draw something right it was like my medicine gives me bad ideas now. It just blaming it is blaming blaming blaming everything. If I thought I was just having a bad conversation in some way or anything. Anything that I thought went wrong I would blame my meds. Anything. Not just art, anything I blamed the meds.

Gabe: I’m stuck in traffic, stupid meds.

Michelle: Everything so I was just on and off and on and off and on and off until I finally just said you know what, I’m happier on meds. I’m going to take them and then I saw my life get better. You know I actually really saw my life get better and other people started noticing that I was happier. I wasn’t as moody. My closest friends is kind of said like, “Have you been taking your medicine? Like what’s different with you?” It was awesome.

Gabe: The most success that you’ve ever had as an artist.

Michelle: Yes.

Gabe: Has come in the last three years.

Michelle: Mm hmm.

Gabe: And during the last three years you have been I hate to say med compliant but yeah you have been?

Michelle: Right.

Gabe: So before you were on medication you probably did have creative streaks like you said you’d get anxious and you draw these very detailed drawings but it’s once you got stable and on the right medication that you were able to go to the next phase which was to sell them and prepare them and market them and now people literally all over the world have seen your art. If you were still unmedicated do you think that you would have started your clothing line and published your prints and things like that? Or would you still be sitting alone in..

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Yoga has always been a source of strength and conditioning for me. Even as a child I was naturally flexible and athletic. The active, bendy part was easy, but the part of yoga that requires being still, breathing deeply, and quieting of my mind was nearly impossible for me and definitely not enjoyable. It’s a little bit ironic that part later became absolutely necessary to achieve the type of peace I was seeking.

With anxiety that manifested as almost paralyzing self-consciousness, my mind was constantly analyzing every situation and circumstance, spending overwhelming amounts of time ruminating on words I had chosen in any given social context. I spent so much time inside my own head and it was absolutely exhausting.

I worked through therapy and medication to get my anxiety into a manageable place. Once there, I still needed something to help me manage the day-to-day stresses that would sometimes trigger mild panic or send me into a stormy tailspin. It should be noted that for severe or chronic forms of anxiety and depression, more intensive tools may be needed, before the effects of breath work can be successfully utilized. 

Still using yoga for general exercise, I turned to the part of the practice that was most challenging for me, but what I knew held the type of benefit I needed. What resonated with me most about using yoga to control anxiety, was the power found in an action we do everyday, that we always have access to, and that we usually take for granted: breathing. 

Breathing is an automated process and as such, we generally go about our business with shallow breath or sometimes, when we are tense, even holding our breath entirely without realizing it. Bringing your conscious awareness to deliberate breathing — deep, slow, controlled, and purposeful — fills your body with life giving oxygen and slows down your processes, creating internal space to simply just “be.” 

In yoga, we call this conscious awareness of breath Pranayama: the life force that both energizes and relaxes the body. The term is derived from the Sanskrit, prana, meaning “life force,” and ayama, meaning “extension.”

Now that you are attuned to the breath within you, the effects are immediate! If you focus your awareness to inhale and exhale that deeply and purposefully just one time, you will immediately feel at least one small tick of increased relaxation within your body, and that is the first step. 

During the closure of yoga sessions, Savasana, you lie totally relaxed in a passive pose, commonly corpse pose, which requires as much energy and flexibility as its name denotes. My yoga teacher used to ask us during this time to imagine taking in each breath and sending it to specific parts of the body, parts of the body that need our attention. As she walked us through the visualization, she would remind us of spaces I had really given no actual thought to, such as the folds of my ears, the crevice of my elbow, the back of my knees. It may sound silly, but the minute inspection of these calls attention to the places where your tension hides, unnoticed, but still contributes to resistance in your true presence and authenticity.

I used to imagine my breath soaring around the inside of my body, seeking out tensions and anxieties that it could bind up, wrapping medicinally around the internal wound, melting away any resistance and then whisking the whole package of suffering out of the body with each long, wonderful exhale.

This work, breath work, I began to utilize at all times of stress and anxiety, whether I was on my yoga mat or not. When I could feel my body having that familiar reaction to some worry or fear, I would make myself stop and focus on my breath. Just before I had to make a big presentation at work or when I couldn’t sleep at night for fear of how I fared in parenting my newborn child, my self medication included pausing and taking an action I would have to take anyway to stay alive, but with a more full presence and purpose that stabilized me.

It was the breath, in the beginning, that helped me rebuild my life after being bound by my crushing anxiety for so long. This continued, regular awareness grounds me and gives me courage to pause and move forward thoughtfully, instead of from a place of reactiveness when life gets stormy. 

But it all begins with just one breath. 

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Studies by a Canadian researcher have identified two types of passion: harmonious and obsessive. According to Dr. Robert Vallerand, harmonious passion happens when we choose to do an activity we love and feel happy both during and after it. Harmonious passion with an activity leads to better engagement, higher levels of concentration, and greater well-being.

Obsessive passion is another matter. This type of passion occurs when an uncontrollable desire to engage in the activity causes pressure (like those who can’t stop playing video games). You are doing something you love, but the activity controls you rather than you controlling it. You have to do it and find it difficult to step away from it.

In general, being involved with something you are harmoniously passionate about predicts higher well-being and greater resilience. Engaging in obsessive passion activities predicts just the opposite.

In a recent study with his colleagues, Dr. Vallerand looked at another type of passion — the one between romantic partners. As it turns out, they found couples, too, can be harmoniously or obsessively passionate with one another. Couples who enjoy being harmoniously passionate revel in the process of being together and the aftereffects. The obsessively passionate couples neither appreciate the process nor the outcome. They see being together more of an obligation than a delight.

The researchers then asked an interesting question: what happens when partners who have harmonious passion engage in a mutually exciting activity. In other words — what happens when a harmoniously passionate couple loves the activity they are doing together? The short answer is that it strengthens the relationship.

This might not seem like such a significant finding — but it is. The standard recommendation for couples is to improve their relationship is to do more things together. But this new research shows that couples who are obsessively passionate (feeling obligated) engage in an activity they are not harmoniously passionate about the results can be detrimental. Just spending time together isn’t the answer. Choosing to do something that each of you love together is what’s needed. There is a bonus if the activity you both love is exciting. The positive energy that comes from the shared excitement is also part of what will strengthen your connection. Sharing your harmoniously passionate activities with your partner may be one of the most direct ways to improve your relationship.

“Honey, want to go bungee jumping again tonight?” Might not sound like the most romantic sentence you can whisper into your partner’s ear — but it just might be the most effective.

Source: Rapaport, M., Carbonneau, N., St-Louis, A. C., Rochette, S., & Vallerand, R. J. (2018). More than Shared Love: Does Sharing a Passionate Activity with a Romantic Partner Strengthen the Relationship?. International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology, 2(1-3), 61-78.

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“Until you heal your past, your life patterns and relationships will continue to be the same; it’s just the faces that change.” – Unknown

First of all: honey, you are not broken. We are all works in process. There is nothing inherently wrong with you. We all end up in a loop here and there. Sometimes it’s because we haven’t healed pain from the past. And sometimes it’s because we’ve healed our pain but still hold on to past habits. When we do this, past habits will promote the replaying of past events and, therefore, the pain will return.

This happens at a psychological and practical level. The type of beliefs we have about reality will shape the way we perceive it, react to it, and interpret it. This is a neurological reality that has been proven scientifically: the brain creates concepts and finds ways to validate them.

This is the way prejudice is built, but is also the way you expect sweetness and tartness out of an apple.

The moment you read the word “apple,” you already started generating the necessary enzymes to digest one and enjoy its flavor. You already started reacting to something that isn’t even here, based on the concepts (beliefs) the brain (mind) has constructed on it according to previous experiences.

This is one of the many ways science has validated that “life is an illusion.” This is great news. It means we can choose, in a way, what kind of illusion to believe in and, consequently, co-create in our lives.

Past experiences—especially our childhood experiences—inevitably shape this concept-system in the brain. They create what we refer to as a value system in the mind. These, in turn, determine our thinking habits. The thinking habits will define how we speak and act.

In other words, the way we perceive apples will determine how we react to them or even the idea of them.

If you believe that you should expect sweetness out of apples, you will seek apples that provide sweetness, and you will react by preparing to enjoy the sweetness, which will allow you to do so at a higher level than if your body didn’t salivate and prep your taste buds for it. By expecting sweetness, you get to experience it with heightened senses when you get it.

This idea also applies to unpleasant concepts. This is also a neurological reality and was designed as a survival mechanism.

Go get your ears pierced and you will see what I mean. When you get ears pierced the first one is barely perceivable. However, the next one hurts quite a bit. Why? Because the brain was expecting pain; therefore, it reacted to the second experience with a concept of pain.

You think, “This will hurt,” and, therefore, you experience more pain. The tool is still the same. The pressure did not change. Reality is the same as with the first one; however, your brain constructs a concept of pain, so that’s what you get.

Your earlobes will heal within six weeks. But when you expect unpleasantness out of other life experiences, that’s what you will repeatedly get. In order to produce change, we must let go of a value system that constructs realities of pain and difficulty. This truth is evident in relationship dynamics as well.

The Loop: What We Think about Relationships Defines How We Experience Them

I want to make a disclosure about what you are about to read: taking responsibility for your thinking habits and how those affect what you expect from relationships does not mean that anything is your “fault.” It also should not be used to justify abuse.

Abuse is not justifiable. However, as a survivor of abuse, I can say from experience that it’s actually empowering to realize how much is in my power. I can change how I think, how I talk, how I perceive situations, and how I react to them. I can co-create my relationships.

I happened to grow up in a culture of fear. I grew up thinking work had to be hard, people had to be in a bad mood when they got home, marriages are meant to be hard, and you should not expect the best, ever; you needed to expect the worst.

I was married for almost eight years and got divorced a year ago. Since then, I’ve found myself making similar mistakes in the way I seek partners, and all of my relationships have ended up leaving me drained and resentful. But why? I was doing what I thought was supposed to be done: I was being of service in a relationship where one person needed to be saved and I could be their savior.

There are so many memes out there with the phrase “You saved me” phrase on them. It’s supposed to be romantic! Well, that did not go so well for me. It bred unhealthy and unbalanced relationships, and an environment of codependence that led to pain for both people.

So I went on a quest for my own healing and discovered why I was constantly trying to save the people I date (more on this later). Finally, I was ready to get out there again. But this time, there was no saving involved. Because I was ready for a healthy relationship. I was at peace.

I went on a first date with a wonderful man I’d met on a dating app. Before leaving, I called a friend to share how excited I was. She suggested that I calm down, keep “low expectations,” and keep my guard up. I decided not to follow that advice. It comes from a place of good intentions, but it’s really a chain of fear.

On a vibrational level, to act that way would not allow me to attract my highest good. On a practical level, it would set me up to not look for the best in this person, which would produce a reality where I would be unable to see it even if it hit me in the face.

I went in there with the same attitude I approach everything currently: at peace. No negative or positive expectations. Just being in the present moment.

I ended up having the best date of my entire life and building a deep connection with my now-partner.

We cheat ourselves out of wonder if we tiptoe around in life afraid to get hurt. We must be strong and self-confident to allow ourselves to expect goodness. I did not get here right away. It does take practice to make progress. But it really doesn’t have to be considered an “impossible” in our brains.

How to Hijack Your Way Out of the Loop and Start Flowing Upward!

These are some of the things that helped me heal and rewire my brain before I finally downloaded the dating app, posted a cute picture of myself, and hoped only for the best.

1. Observe your thoughts. What are they based on? Which beliefs no longer serve you?

A tool that helped me greatly in this step was John Bradshaw’s book Home Coming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child, which includes exercises to heal past experiences. This releases the brain to freely create new constructs and prevents us from staying on a loop.

I was having trouble as an adult voicing my needs. I would be terrified and would be physically unable to communicate what I needed.

During my work with myself I discovered that when I was four years old, I was so terrified of being physically and emotionally abused by my caregivers that when I was hungry, I would not dare voice that need. I have memories of hiding in a cabinet eating raw rice from a bag in order to feed myself without being a “bad girl” and bothering my caregivers.

I recognized then that this was why I fell into a pattern of focusing on my partners’ needs and trying to save them: I was expecting that it would be painful if I voiced what I needed.

So, I recognized the source of the problem, now what?

2. Release the vibrational memory of emotional baggage.

Once you recognize the roots it will be time to release their emotional baggage. That way you won’t be triggered by old stuff in your new relationship. In other words, you won’t fall into the same old patterns because you’re driven by emotions from the past.

There are many ways to release emotional baggage, including meditation, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) tapping, Mental Emotional Release (MER) therapy, and journaling. Explore, experiment, and find what works for you.

I went to an Emotional Release Body Balance therapy specialist. It’s the best investment I’d ever made in my life.

I also engaged in regular cleansing rituals with sage at home.

Finally, I used release affirmations and prayers daily. One that especially worked for me was a Unity prayer that states: “I release from me all energies that are contrary to what I am creating for myself. I cut them off and release them to the Universe to transform into beneficial forms of energy. I now fill myself with love, peace, and perfect health.”

Okay, I am no longer controlled by emotions from my painful past, what’s next?

3. Learn new skills.

This is the ongoing step. It requires our willingness to learn new skills. New thoughts. New ways of communicating, new brain constructs about relationships, and new ways of having faith in ourselves and others. In my case, this meant learn to voice my needs instead of stifling myself in fear.

To accomplish this, I attended virtual classes. I enrolled in a communication workshop and practiced those skills. It was just like learning how to read: practice, review, assess, practice again. You will need support here. Someone to practice with. I do so with my best friend. We exchange notes and debrief with one another.

The skills you need to learn will depend on what you ascertained about your beliefs and expectations and what pattern you fell into as a result of them. It doesn’t matter if you attend classes, read books, practice with friends, or join a support group. What matters is that you do something to learn and strengthen the skills that will help you break your pattern.

But… why?!

Now, why go through all this? Baby, ‘cause you are worth it! Plus, there is no magical soul mate in the Universe who will heal your low self-worth concepts and create positive expectations of healthy relationships in your brain.

You either do the work you need to complete on yourself before you get out there, or you will be stuck in an ongoing loop of pain, with a list of exes that turn out the be the same dog with a different collar, calling them “toxic” instead of owning your own need for growth.

I’m rooting for you. I bless your journey. The best is already within you. What you want in a partner is out there looking for you as well. May you find each other at the right time and may you have the skills to enjoy your union. Ashe!*

*Ashe is a West African philosophical concept through which the Yoruba of Nigeria conceive the power to make things happen and produce change.

This post courtesy of Tiny Buddha.

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Within scientific circles, humor is often treated as a “non-serious” topic. According to the article “The Importance of Humor Research” by Peter McGraw in Psychology Today, many scientists fear that their work would be disrespected if they dared to research the what, why, and how of humor. Yet, humor deserves much more reverence than professionals — other than professional comics — are willing to bestow upon it.

Sure, we all appreciate a good joke. We all feel better after a big belly laugh. For the most part, we’d rather invite opportunities that make us chuckle instead of frown. Mirth is a wonderful emotion! All too often, though, we focus on decreasing our less-than-fun emotional states such as depression, anxiety, and stress. What if, instead, we focused on increasing our humor quota?

To understand the innate need for humor, it’s important to note that laughter is one of the first things a newborn does. And even more amazing, studies show that animals enjoy a sense of humor as well. To quote a section from an article in Slate Magazine by Peter McGraw and Joel Warner: “Nonhuman primates don’t just laugh—there’s evidence they can crack their own jokes.” A wonderful example of this is when the famous gorilla Koko tied her trainer’s shoelaces together and signed “chase.”

So why do we Earthlings enjoy the gift of humor?  A short piece in BBC Focus Magazine by Christian Jarrett answers the question: “Why did humans evolve a sense of humor?” Jarrett writes that a recent theory says a sense of humor evolved because it helps us fact check our assumptions about other people’s intentions and perspectives. Our funny bone gets tickled, then, when we debunk one of our presumptions and see things in a new light. Once humor evolved, it became a social signal, making us assume that funny people are intelligent and friendly. I know I appreciate when people around me can make me laugh—even at the darkest of times.

Humor can help people’s—and I believe animal’s as well—physical and psychological well-being. Laughter can benefit our circulation, lungs, and muscles (it’s way more fun, by the way, to exercise our stomach muscles via a hearty laugh rather than with a bout of monotonous crunches). Psychologically, humor can also help people deal with emotional pain and embarrassment. If I tripped walking down the red carpet (not that I’d ever have the opportunity, but you get the picture), I’d feel much better about it if I could crack a brilliant joke about it and turned everyone’s gasps into laughter. I know, too, that when my husband recently addressed our separate aging issues by joking: “Not to worry; we’ll just have to grow old together and take turns pushing each other around in our wheelchairs,” I not only let out a chuckle, but also drew in a breath of appreciation. His quiet, little joke lightened up our worried minds as well as emphasizing our ongoing support for each other—one quick quip that improved our psychological well-being in a big way.

Humor benefits us in many other ways, as well. If you watch the best of comedians, you’ll notice that their humor makes us feel as if someone understands our daily frustrations, and when fellow audience members laugh, this makes us feel less alone and more connected to others. In a way, then, comedians are spokespeople for the universality of the human condition, their humor providing a salve to our collective pain and a brand-new prospective to lighten up our moods.

That old cliché about the importance of learning to laugh at the face of danger proves to be even more poignant when we recognize the healing power of humor. So, make time to joke around with a friend about your woes when you’re feeling blue. Read the comics when the news becomes too depressing. Tune into your favorite stand-up comic the next time anxiety hits. Tap into the depth of dark humor when you have to face what you’d rather not. And… don’t forget to help others, too, with your own humor when they could use a fresh take on their problems or simply need to connect with someone about the absurdity of life in general.

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This week’s Psychology Around the Net covers ways you can be “good” at therapy (no joke), highlights an 11-year-old Montreal boy who created a video game to help kids understand mental health, how focusing on a few key habits can help keep you grounded when life gets hectic, recognizing postpartum depression in fathers, and more.

Get to learning!

Therapists Share 7 Ways You Can Be “Good” at Getting Therapy: No, this definitely is not about winning at therapy. You won’t find tips on how to make your therapist like you or trick your therapist into thinking you’re not as sad as you actually are or that you’re “getting better.” Instead, this is about how you can get the most out of therapy. Several therapists weigh in on how you can better understand your role and your therapist’s role, how you can best set yourself up for success, why it’s important to make therapy a priority, and more.

When Anxiety and Panic Come to Work: Ralph Kellogg of the Forbes Human Resources Council and adjunct professor at Bellevue University, discusses anxiety and panic attacks in the workplace, how they were accepted when he first entered the workforce versus how they’re accepted in today’s job setting, and what leaders in the workplace can do when when an employee discusses experience with panic and anxiety. (Further Reading: How Business Leaders Can Tackle Anxiety in the Workplace, Especially Among the Young)

Montreal Boy Develops Video Game to Teach Kids About Mental Health After Father’s Death: When he was just two-years-old, Luke Toledo’s father committed suicide after struggling with mental illness. Now 11 years old, the Montreal kid has developed a video game to educate his peers about mental health and reduce any stigma they might associate with mental health. The game allows players to navigate characters through a journey of depression, jumping over gray blocks that represent depression (and display messages like “depression is a disease; it is not a person’s fault”) and eventually finding more colorful blocks (which represent the fact that “it gets better”). Luke even has plans to enhance the game with more mental health information and online meditation spaces so he can further teach kids how to take care of their mental health in real life.

How Ketamine Opens a New Era for Depression Treatment: If you keep up even slightly with drugs researched for various mental health treatments, you’ve probably heard of ketamine at least once or twice. Ketamine was approved and used as a battlefield anesthetic during the Vietnam War in the 1970s, and later became more widely known as a popular recreational drug, especially among the dance culture of the 1980s and on. Most recently, researchers have been studying ketamine’s mental health benefits. Now esketamine, a close relative of ketamine, is available via a nasal spray called Spravato made by Johnson & Johnson. Because of abuse concerns, esketamine is available only under supervision at a few hundred Johnson & Johnson-certified medical centers but the drugmaker hopes to win approval to use esketamine as a suicidal depression treatment by 2020.

12 Hard Things to Start Doing for Your Happiness: Doing things for your happiness should be easy, right? Not always. Sometimes, doing things for your happiness means stepping outside your comfort zone, changing your current natural thought processes, and sticking to your guns when it’s likely not a popular choice. While avoiding these kinds of things might bring you happiness in the short run (hey, who isn’t happy not having to deal with a bit of discomfort?), it won’t last. Check out this quick — but important — list of actions you can take to foster long-term happiness in your life.

‘I Was a Total Wreck’: Dads Experience Postpartum Depression and It’s No Joke: We often associate postpartum depression with mothers only; fathers experience postpartum depression, too, and unfortunately their pain often gets overlooked or ridiculed. A few experts weigh in on how men experience postpartum depression and how to recognize postpartum mental illness in men.

When Life Gets Busy, Focus on a Few Key Habits: We all live different lives, but one similarity we can always count on is that no matter how great our lives are overall, we are going to experience periods when things get busy, disordered, and stressful. During those chaotic times, it’s better to focus on short-term habits rather than long-term goals to keep your focus as well as not only survive, but thrive. Of course, just because they’re “short term” doesn’t mean they’re disposable. Your short-term habits should focus on key areas of your life and health including personal reflection, professional reflection, building and maintaining your relationships, and your physical and mental health.

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