Sunday, July 15, 2012

Beginning to Make Changes

Perhaps the most difficult part of making changes is persistence. Human nature is to continue to do what we automatically do (habit). Change means establishing new habits. This requires intention and persistence. Gently (and sometimes NOT so gently) reminding ourselves of our goals helps maintain our motivation. One of the tricks to successfully make changes is to approach tasks as experiments. By this, I mean to try different strategies and see what the outcome is. Many will try something one or several times, not get the results that they hope for, and then conclude that the strategy "doesn't work." Sometimes people will give up exercise, trying to learn to play an instrument, or whatever after they have done it five times and not lost twenty pounds, mastered the instrument, etc., concluding that the strategy doesn't work or that it is too hard for them. When you make a plan, decide WHEN you will begin. There is a hilarious commercial by Blue Cross at sung to the song "Tomorrow." You'll get a chuckle and maybe motivation. Thirty years ago I was in great shape and ran a few marathons. Let's just say I've "outgrown" that level of fitness! I began doing more running instead of walking this past June. For months, I would rulk (run, walk, run, walk...). I felt like a slug! It has only been in the past month or so that I have felt less like a slug and am even having moments that I've begun feeling almost like a "real" runner, again. My point is that we often reach plateaus in our weight, fitness, spirituality, etc. Sometimes continuing to practice a good program, strategy, etc. long enough will eventually get us to a higher level. Other times, we need to turn up the intensity or even to develop a new strategy or program. Continue to collect information and periodically re-evaluate your strategies and/or need for new strategies to create the life that you desire.

New Postings

My intent is to resume posting in the remainder of 2012.

New West Side Address

As of July 1, 2012 I now spend two days a week in Westlake, OH - 30400 Detroit Rd. #301 and am no longer in Rocky River, OH. I now spend three days in Independence, OH - 6133 Rockside Rd. #207. The phone number remains (216) 520-5969.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Paradox of Exposure and Acceptance

Psychologist Reid Wilson states that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and other anxiety "Wins," i.e. maintains and gets stronger, by making the rules of the "game." By making the rules, it always wins. He sees the rules as:

1. Be careful or you might cause a horrible problem OR you have already harmed
2. If a fearful thought ("content") occurs, take it seiously.
3. You MUST feel ABSOLUTELY certain.
4. Use your anxiety as a gauge. If you feel uncomfortable, then there IS danger.
5. ALWAYS act defensively. Avoid, worry, escape, and do rituals.

In order to stop the anxiety from continuing to win, he suggests the following NEW RULES:

1. Don't pay attention to the "Content," i.e., the specific obsessions and
2. Accept the obsession when it pops up - "It's fine that I just had that
3. Tell yourself "I WANT to be anxious and STAY anxious. It's NOT about the
content." It's purposefully choosing to feel the generic sense of
uncertainty and anxiety.
4. If necessary, make rules and follow them, i.e., "Here is how I am going to
wash my hands, check doors, etc." This means what procedures and limits will
be used, as opposed to doing those things until they "feel right."

On first take, this is counter-intuitive - and sounds impossible to anyone struggling with significant anxiety. The natural response to this type of anxiety is to avoid and try to escape. Avoidance and escape is how anxiety maintains itself and gets stronger.

By this logic, if you have your fingers in a Chinese finger trap, you pull your fingers apart. The result is the finger trap becoming tighter on your fingers, making escape impossible. The only escape is pushing your fingers together, just as Dr. Wilson suggests accepting and inviting the anxiety.

What happens when you accept and stay with the anxiety is that over time, it diminishes. This is called habituation. I have often seen anxiety decrease (not totally go away) in a matter of mainutes. It is important to note that this may take longer. It is routinely suggested to spend an hour for exposure practice. Habituation generally occurs most quickly when you perform exposure frequently, you accept a higher level of anxiety, and you stay with it for longer periods of time.

Here are some ways he suggests responding to various "content:"

When obsessive doubts occur, responding to them with statements like "I'm glad that I'm having these doubts." "I'm not answering that question."
"If I imagine something inappropriate, then it means I'm a bad person - AND I CAN handle that."
"If I imagine something inappropriate, then it means Ill feel uncertain and anxious - AND I CAN handle that."
"If I don't check the stove, it will be my fault that the house will burn down - AND I CAN handle that."
"If I have a "bad thought," it means that I really feel that way - AND I CAN handle that."
"If X does/not happen, something bad will happen and it will be my fault - AND I CAN handle that."

The more you "play" by the new rules, the weaker the anxiety will become. Maintaining the anxiety rules, maintains the anxiety and makes it stronger. Several videos are available for viewing on Dr. Wilson's website ( or YouTube.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Comments on Haiti

If nothing else, the recent earthquake in Haiti should give us perspective with all that we have in our lives. We can focus on the stock markets correction or other negative things. But, we are alive. Our economy didn't collapse. We have clean water and food. We didn't lose our homes.

Most of us were born in the United States. Perhaps by accident? Why weren't WE born in Haiti? Or in Darfur? Or other places with vast disease and lacking adequate food, shelter, medicine, jobs, etc? What did we do to be born in the world's greatest country? Many of us come from modest means. But took advantage of opportunities available to many of us.

Some look away from this tragedy out of indifference. Others don't follow very closely, as they would otherwise be so overwhelmed by the sheer horror that many are continuing to experience.

I think that we minimally should acknowledge that we could have just as easily to have been born in Haiti or other undeveloped countries. For those of faith, we need to offer prayers for Haiti and other places of great need. We need to continue to give thanks for our many blessings. When you open your heart, how can you not do something? I for one, believe that we ARE our brothers' keepers.

Best wishes,

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