Peter H Brown Clinical Psychologist

Psychology News & Resources

Just Do It: Asking For Help & Why People Are Twice as Likely to Assist as You Think!

In everyday life asking others for help can be embarrassing, perhaps even a painful experience. Requesting help potentially show31Y9VSQ2BRL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_s our own weakness and also opens us up to rejection. It’s a relief when people say yes.

Perhaps this explains the conclusion of new research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that finds we grossly underestimate just how willing others are to help us out.

In a series of studies Francis Flynn and Vanessa Lake of Columbia University tested people’s estimation of how likely others were to help them out. They got people to ask others to fill in questionnaires, to borrow cell phones and to escort them to the gym.

Across these studies they found that people underestimated how likely others were to help them by as much as 100%.

This is such a high figure that it demands an explanation – what’s going on here?

Part of the answer is our egocentric bias – we find it difficult to understand what others are thinking and feeling because we are stuck inside our own heads.

But it’s more than just that, argue Flynn and Lake, it’s also the fact that we underestimate just how much social pressure there is on other people to say yes. In effect, when you ask someone to help you, it’s much more awkward and embarrassing for them to say ‘no’ than you might think.

In two further studies Flynn and Lake supported this intuition by asking participants to put themselves in either the role of someone asking for help, or someone being asked for help.

They found that when people were help-seekers they reliably played down the social costs of saying no. But when they were the potential helper they realised how difficult it was to say no.

There’s two very practical messages coming out of this research:

  1. If you want help, just ask. People are much more likely to help than you think, especially if the request is relatively small. Most people take pleasure in helping others out from time-to-time.
  2. Make it easy for others to say no. The other side of the coin is that most of us don’t realise just how hard it is to say no to a request for help. Other people feel much more pressure to say yes to our requests than we realise. If the help you need is likely to be burdensome then think about ways of making it easier to say no.

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July 28, 2009 Posted by | Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Cognition, Health Psychology, Positive Psychology, research, Resilience, Social Psychology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“I Just Want to be Happy!” The Struggle for Happiness PART 1: The Complete First Chapter of “The Happiness Trap”

If you’ve read some previous posts, you’ll be aware that I’m a huge fan of Australian MD Dr Russell Harris’ book “The Happiness Trap”. “The Happiness Trap” is a book which outlines the key principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). I have said previously that I would come back to this topic so here goes!

51j3AEpsNpLACT is a relatively new (mid to late 1990’s)  approach to cognitive therapy, based around the principles of “mindfulness” and acceptance of the difference between the realities of what is going on around you as opposed to your evaluation or judgment of what is going on around you. These evaluations and judgments are often dependent on how your thoughts and assumptions are attached to or “fused” to your emotions and perceptions of yourself and others. It is a well researched model which is widely becoming more and more accepted as an effective intervention for anxiety,depression and other mental health and wellness issues.

Sound complicated and confusing? Well actually it’s not. And to prove it I am providing a link here to The full first Chapter of Dr Harris’ book in PDF format. You will need acrobat reader (free) or another free PDF reader to access this chapter which you can find by clicking on the link below.

I will be coming back to the principle of ACT and mindulness hopefully once or twice a week, and my aim is to walk you through the rationale of this approach and show you some tools,worksheets and strategies to help you to explore and implement some of basics of ACT, so subscribe to my RSS or come back regularly to keep up!

Here’s the link!

Chapter 1 of “The Happiness Trap” – Dr Russell Harris (No catches or tricks..it’s free!)

You will probably find a copy of The Happiness Trap and other ACT Books in your local library. You can also purchase a copy Here, and if you are in Australasia, Here. You can read more about it at Dr Harris’ website and there are customer reviews in My Highly Recommended Books.

Enjoy

Part Two coming soon!

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July 26, 2009 Posted by | Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, anxiety, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, depression, Resilience, therapy | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Do We Need A Simpler Definition For Major Depressive Disorder?

I’ve just come across this press release. Thought provoking..will have to chew it over.

Researchers from Rhode Island Hospital’s department of psychiatry propose that the definition for major depressive disorder (MDD) should be shortened to include only the mood and cognitive symptoms that have been part of the definition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) for the past 35 years. Their recommendation would exclude those symptoms that are currently part of the definition that may be associated with medical illness rather than depression. The proposal is based on a study that appears in the July 23 online first edition of the journal Psychological Medicine.

The current definition of major depressive disorder in the fourth edition of the DSM (DSM-IV) includes nine 51MeMte0MBLsymptoms — a definition that has remained essentially unchanged since the 1970s. With preparations for the fifth edition of the DSM underway, the researchers propose that there are two practical problems with the symptom criteria: the length of the definition and the difficulty in applying some of the criteria to patients with co-morbid medical illnesses. The researchers’ proposal recommends a shortened list of symptom criteria that includes only low mood, loss of interest or pleasure, guilt/worthlessness, impaired concentration/indecision and suicidal thoughts. It would exclude the somatic criteria of fatigue, appetite disturbance and sleep disturbance (increased sleep or insomnia) as these may be associated with medical illnesses other than depression. Their proposal is called the “simpler definition of MDD.”

Lead author Mark Zimmerman, MD, director of outpatient psychiatry at Rhode Island Hospital, says, “While the principles guiding criteria revision have not been clearly explained, we believe that existing diagnostic criteria should be revised when a conceptual problem is identified, or a more valid or simpler method of defining a disorder is developed. The reason for even considering a change to the symptom criteria for major depressive disorder after all these years is two-fold.”

Zimmerman, who is also an associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, continues, “First, studies have indicated that there are significant gaps in the knowledge or application of the MDD criteria among practitioners. Second, somatic criteria that are currently part of the DSM-IV definition such as fatigue or sleep or appetite disturbances are also symptoms of other medical illnesses and may not be indicative of a major depressive episode.”

Under Zimmerman’s direction, researchers from Rhode Island Hospital and The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University previously developed the simpler definition of MDD for a project known as the Rhode Island Methods to Improve Diagnostic Assessment and Services (RI MIDAS) project, an integration of research quality diagnostic methods into a community-based outpatient practice affiliated with an academic medical center.

Zimmerman says, “In our previous report from the RI MIDAS project, we developed a briefer list of the symptom criteria of MDD that was composed entirely of the DSM-IV mood and cognitive symptoms. That simplified definition did not include the somatic symptoms.” He continues, “Our initial research found high levels of agreement in diagnosing MDD between the simplified and DSM-IV definitions of MDD. Our goal in this study was to replicate these findings in a large sample of psychiatric outpatients, and to extend the findings to other patient populations, including those presenting for treatment of pathological gambling and candidates for bariatric surgery.”

Zimmerman says, “After eliminating the four somatic criteria from the DSM-IV definition of MDD, leaving the five mood and cognitive features, a high level of concordance was found between this simpler definition of MDD with the original classification in all three patient samples studied.” He adds, “This new definition offers two advantages over the DSM-IV definition – it is briefer and therefore more likely to be recalled and correctly applied in clinical practice, and it is free of somatic symptoms, thereby making it easier to apply with medically ill patients.”

Using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID), the researchers conducted a study of more than 2,500 patients. The patient population consisted of 1,100 psychiatric outpatients, 210 pathological gamblers who presented for treatment and 1,200 candidates for bariatric surgery. Across all patients, the level of agreement between the simplified definition and the DSM-IV definition was more than 95 percent.

The researchers note that there are implications to changing the criteria for MDD. Because their findings indicate that the simpler definition is highly concordant with the current version, there would be no meaningful impact on prevalence rates. Reducing the number of criteria, however, would reduce the time needed to fully assess criteria in patients and diagnostic interviews could be shortened.

Zimmerman and the researchers conclude, “In deciding how to proceed in the next version of the DSM, the conceptual and practical advantages of a briefer set of criteria that is easy to apply to all patients, particularly medically ill patients, needs to be weighted against the disadvantages of deviation from tradition.”

Along with Zimmerman, other researchers involved in the study include Janine Galione, PhD; Iwona Chelminski, PhD; Joseph McGlinchey, PhD; Diane Young, PhD; Kristy Dalrymple, PhD; Camile Ruggero, PhD; and Caren Francione Witt, PhD; all of Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University.

Source: Nancy Jean  Lifespan
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What do you think? Leave a comment and we’ll see if we can get some discussion happening!

July 25, 2009 Posted by | Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, depression, Dialectical Behavior Therapy | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This is Water: Are Persistence, Tolerance, Compassion and Mindfulness the Keys to Resilience and Happiness?

Today I have been re-reading the late David Foster Wallace’s 2005 Commencement Speech to KenyDavid Foster Wallaceon College Students. David Foster Wallace, the brilliant American author who sadly suicided in late 2008, had a brilliant way of cutting through the ‘crap’ and his writings have a way of taking your mind to deeper places that would be obvious and evident if we actually took the time to notice what was going on not just within us, but for those around us. Aside from his award winning novel ‘Infinite Jest’, Foster Wallace’s Commencement Address remains one of his greatest legacys to us. As the text is is the public domain, I have taken the liberty of posting it in its entirety below. Read it, and I hope it reaches you the same way it has me and many of my patients and clients.

Transcription of the 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address – May 21, 2005

(If anybody feels like perspiring [cough], I’d advise you to go ahead, because I’m sure going to. In fact I’m gonna [mumbles while pulling up his gown and taking out a handkerchief from his pocket].) Greetings [“parents”?] and congratulations to Kenyon’s graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story [“thing”] turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you’re worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish. The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning.

9780316068222-crop-325x325Of course the main requirement of speeches like this is that I’m supposed to talk about your liberal arts education’s meaning, to try to explain why the degree you are about to receive has actual human value instead of just a material payoff. So let’s talk about the single most pervasive cliché in the commencement speech genre, which is that a liberal arts education is not so much about filling you up with knowledge as it is about quote teaching you how to think. If you’re like me as a student, you’ve never liked hearing this, and you tend to feel a bit insulted by the claim that you needed anybody to teach you how to think, since the fact that you even got admitted to a college this good seems like proof that you already know how to think. But I’m going to posit to you that the liberal arts cliché turns out not to be insulting at all, because the really significant education in thinking that we’re supposed to get in a place like this isn’t really about the capacity to think, but rather about the choice of what to think about. If your total freedom of choice regarding what to think about seems too obvious to waste time discussing, I’d ask you to think about fish and water, and to bracket for just a few minutes your skepticism about the value of the totally obvious.

Here’s another didactic little story. There are these two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the guys is religious, the other is an atheist, and the two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer. And the atheist says: “Look, it’s not like I don’t have actual reasons for not believing in God. It’s not like I haven’t ever experimented with the whole God and prayer thing. Just last month I got caught away from the camp in that terrible blizzard, and I was totally lost and I couldn’t see a thing, and it was fifty below, and so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out ‘Oh, God, if there is a God, I’m lost in this blizzard, and I’m gonna die if you don’t help me.'” And now, in the bar, the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled. “Well then you must believe now,” he says, “After all, here you are, alive.” The atheist just rolls his eyes. “No, man, all that was was a couple Eskimos happened to come wandering by and showed me the way back to camp.”

It’s easy to run this story through kind of a standard liberal arts analysis: the exact same experience can mean two totally different things to two different people, given those people’s two different belief templates and two different ways of constructing meaning from experience. Because we prize tolerance and diversity of belief, nowhere in our 41CqUvHML1L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_liberal arts analysis do we want to claim that one guy’s interpretation is true and the other guy’s is false or bad. Which is fine, except we also never end up talking about just where these individual templates and beliefs come from. Meaning, where they come from INSIDE the two guys. As if a person’s most basic orientation toward the world, and the meaning of his experience were somehow just hard-wired, like height or shoe-size; or automatically absorbed from the culture, like language. As if how we construct meaning were not actually a matter of personal, intentional choice. Plus, there’s the whole matter of arrogance. The nonreligious guy is so totally certain in his dismissal of the possibility that the passing Eskimos had anything to do with his prayer for help. True, there are plenty of religious people who seem arrogant and certain of their own interpretations, too. They’re probably even more repulsive than atheists, at least to most of us. But religious dogmatists’ problem is exactly the same as the story’s unbeliever: blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up.

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

Please don’t worry that I’m getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It’s a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being “well-adjusted”, which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.

Given the triumphant academic setting here, an obvious question is how much of this work of adjusting our default setting involves actual knowledge or intellect. This question gets very tricky. Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education — least in my own case — is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract argument inside my head, instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me, paying attention to what is going on inside me.

As I’m sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.

And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let’s get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what “day in day out” really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine, and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I’m talking about.

By way of example, let’s say it’s an average adult day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging, white-collar, college-graduate job, and you work hard for eight or ten hours, and at the end of the day you’re tired and somewhat stressed and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for an hour, and then hit the sack early because, of course, you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there’s no food at home. You haven’t had time to shop this week because of your challenging job, and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It’s the end of the work day and the traffic is apt to be: very bad. So getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there, the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it’s the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping. And the store is hideously lit and infused with soul-killing muzak or corporate pop and it’s pretty much the last place you want to be but you can’t just get in and quickly out; you have to wander all over the huge, over-lit store’s confusing aisles to find the stuff you want and you have to maneuver your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts (et cetera, et cetera, cutting stuff out because this is a long ceremony) and eventually you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren’t enough check-out lanes open even though it’s the end-of-the-day rush. So the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating. But you can’t take your frustration out on the frantic lady working the register, who is overworked at a job whose daily tedium and meaninglessness surpasses the imagination of any of us here at a prestigious college.

But anyway, yojestu finally get to the checkout line’s front, and you pay for your food, and you get told to “Have a nice day” in a voice that is the absolute voice of death. Then you have to take your creepy, flimsy, plastic bags of groceries in your cart with the one crazy wheel that pulls maddeningly to the left, all the way out through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive, rush-hour traffic, et cetera et cetera.

Everyone here has done this, of course. But it hasn’t yet been part of you graduates’ actual life routine, day after week after month after year.

But it will be. And many more dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines besides. But that is not the point. The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop. Because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me. About MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it’s going to seem for all the world like everybody else is just in my way. And who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are, and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line. And look at how deeply and personally unfair this is.

Or, of course, if I’m in a more socially conscious liberal arts form of my default setting, I can spend time in the end-of-the-day traffic being disgusted about all the huge, stupid, lane-blocking SUV’s and Hummers and V-12 pickup trucks, burning their wasteful, selfish, forty-gallon tanks of gas, and I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper-stickers always seem to be on the biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest [responding here to loud applause] (this is an example of how NOT to think, though) most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers. And I can think about how our children’s children will despise us for wasting all the future’s fuel, and probably screwing up the climate, and how spoiled and stupid and selfish and disgusting we all are, and how modern consumer society just sucks, and so forth and so on.

You get the idea.

If I choose to think this way in a store and on the freeway, fine. Lots of us do. Except thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic that it doesn’t have to be a choice. It is my natural default setting. It’s the automatic way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I’m operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world, and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities.

The thing is that, of course, there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stopped and idling in my way, it’s not impossible that some of these people in SUV’s have been in horrible auto accidents in the past, and now find driving so terrifying that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive. Or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he’s trying to get this kid to the hospital, and he’s in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am: it is actually I who am in HIS way.

Or I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket’s checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, and that some of these people probably have harder, more tedious and painful lives than I do.

Again, please don’t think that I’m giving you moral advice, or that I’m saying you are supposed to think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it. Because it’s hard. It takes will and effort, and if you are like me, some days you won’t be able to do it, or you just flat out won’t want to.

9780316013321-crop-325x325But most days, if you’re aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she’s not usually like this. Maybe she’s been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible. It just depends what you what to consider. If you’re automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won’t consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re gonna try to see it.

This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship.

Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it JC or Allah, bet it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and [unintelligible — sounds like “displayal”]. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed to sound. What it is, as far as I can see, is the capital-T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish. But please don’t just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

“This is water.”

“This is water.”

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime. And it commences: now.

I wish you way more than luck.

DAVID FOSTER WALLACE

Buy the full text in Hardcover Form Here or if you are an Australasian Resident you might like to Purchase Here: This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

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July 21, 2009 Posted by | Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness, Resilience | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“It’s the Climb..” The Struggle for Happiness

So go the lyrics from Miley Cyrus’ popular song from the “Hannah Montana Movie” which my kids have on high rotation at the moment. What Ms Cyrus is singing about, and what I believe to be a message which many of us older and wiser souls could heed, is that life is not always a bed of roses, and we get to the rewards by slogging through the muck of the day to day uphill grind of life.

The problem with this of course, is that though many of us are highly aware of the often mind-numbing ordinariness of this grind, we let it get to us and let it drag us down. As a culture, we have an increasingly low tolerance of discomfort. We struggle against discomfit rather than embracing and accepting it as a normal transient part of life. It is this very issue that Australian doctor,therapist and author Dr Russ Harris addresses in his excellent and highly readable book The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living. SEE THIS POST TO READ THE FIRST CHAPTER FREE. In the words of Dr Harris:

“The Happiness Trap is a unique and empowering self-help book – now published in 17 countries and 12 languages – that will enrich your life and fundamentally transform the way you handle painful thoughts and feelings. The title reflects a key theme in the book: that many popular ideas about happiness are misleading or innacurate, and will make you miserable in the long term.”

This is an excellent and potential life-changing read which challenges the reader to stop fighting discomfort and to accept it and make room for it in your day to day dealings with life, as something that will pass. It is based on the tenets of the relatively new but soundly researched “Acceptance and Commitment Therapy“, which has the concept of “mindfulness” as one of its primary concepts.

I will be discussing these concepts in greater detail in the coming weeks, but in the meantime if this grabs your fancy or if you would like to know more you would do well to grab a copy of this book, or find out more by clicking on the book cover image below. I have added this book to my “Highly Recommended Reads” accessible  via the link in the right column.

This link connects you to an Amazon.com powered page with a number of books which I have read and recommend regularly to my private clients and patients. Please note that I have chosen to feature books via Amazon for a couple of reasons. The first is that Amazon often allows you to peruse pages of books so you can see how you like them, rather than me just providing you with a book name. Secondly, if you choose to purchase the book, Amazon provides you with a price-competitive, and most importantly, proven ultra-safe and reliable way to purchase resources from any where in the world. Of course these books are available from other sources and I will direct you to a better source if  I find one (or if you do!).

Anyway, why not check this book and/or research mindfulness and let me know what you think!

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July 12, 2009 Posted by | Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness | , , , , , | 1 Comment