Psychotherapy Networker

Here Are the 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People

Most of us claim we want to be happy—to have meaningful lives, enjoy ourselves, experience fulfillment, and share love and friendship with other people and maybe other species, like dogs, cats, birds, and whatnot. Strangely enough, however, some people act as if they just want to be miserable, and they succeed remarkably at inviting misery into their lives, even though they get little apparent benefit from it, since being miserable doesn’t help them find lovers and friends, get better jobs, make more money, or go on more interesting vacations. Why do they do this? After perusing the output of some of the finest brains in the therapy profession, I’ve come to the conclusion that misery is an art form, and the satisfaction people seem to find in it reflects the creative effort required to cultivate it. In other words, when your living conditions are stable, peaceful, and prosperous—no civil wars raging in your streets, no mass hunger, no epidemic disease, no vexation from poverty—making yourself miserable is a craft all its own, requiring imagination, vision, and ingenuity. It can even give life a distinctive meaning.

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The Addict in All of Us: Dr. Gabor Maté on the Problem We All Live With

Over the past several decades, popular attitudes toward addiction have undergone a radical destigmatization. Many attribute the beginning of this shift to former first lady Betty Ford and her decision to go public about her addiction to alcohol and opiates soon after leaving the White House. She hadn’t been a public nuisance or a barfly. She’d never driven drunk, she said, or stashed bottles so she could drink secretly when she was alone. But by openly addressing her problems and becoming an outspoken advocate for rehabilitation through the Betty Ford Clinic (now the Betty Ford Center), she helped change the face of addiction. Perceptions of addicts as out-of-control gutter drunks and junkies were replaced by images of glamorous celebrities like Liza Minelli, Mary Tyler Moore, and Elizabeth Taylor as they checked in and out of Betty Ford.

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Examining the Science of Torture: The Price of Coercive Interrogation

In 2014, Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times journalist James Risen made headlines by revealing that the American Psychological Association (APA) had supported and helped legitimize the Bush administration’s use of torture in its post 9/11 war on terror. After first dismissing the claims, the APA commissioned an independent committee to investigate the allegations. That committee’s 542-page report, which appeared in July 2015, documented the truth of everything Risen had reported.

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The Profound Challenge of OCD: One Woman's Story

Long before I’d ever heard the word archetype, I discovered a defining myth for my life in the story of the Athenian hero Theseus and his cunning plan to slay the Minotaur. This fearsome monster, half-man and half-bull, was caged in a structure of tangled, dead-end pathways called the Labyrinth. Young men and women were periodically forced inside as sacrifices to feed the beast, never to return. Until Theseus. With help from Princess Ariadne, who instructed him to unwind a ball of thread to trace his pathway in and guide his safe return, Theseus boldly entered the Labyrinth, killed the Minotaur, and lived to tell his triumphant tale.

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How to Break the Emotional Cycles That Make Weight Loss So Hard

Most therapists have been taught that if we can help clients understand the emotional triggers of their overeating, they’ll be able to control their behavior and lose weight. Some of us, when working with clients on the continuum from occasional overeating to binge-eating disorder, build strategies around nutrition, portion control, and exercise habits. But more often than not, weight loss—should it occur—is fleeting. In fact, the pursuit of weight loss typically triggers and sustains overeating.

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5 Harmful, Puritanical Myths That Keep Us Mired in Self-Loathing

Most people don’t have any problem with seeing compassion as a thoroughly commendable quality. It seems to refer to an amalgam of unquestionably good qualities: kindness, mercy, tenderness, benevolence, understanding, empathy, sympathy, and fellow-feeling, along with an impulse to help other living creatures, human or animal, in distress. But we seem less sure about self-compassion. For many, it carries the whiff of all those other bad “self” terms: self-pity, self-serving, self-indulgent, self-centered, just plain selfish. Even many generations removed from our culture’s Puritan origins, we still seem to believe that if we aren’t blaming and punishing ourselves for something, we risk moral complacency, runaway egotism, and the sin of false pride.

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How to Fight Stress and Burnout on the Cheap

It was a series of upending life events over a period of years — some bad, some good, all unexpected and disorienting — that gradually propelled me into a state of mind-numbing, body-exhausting burnout. First, there was my husband’s cancer, his surgery, and the seven months spent watching him suffer through the spirit-breaking ordeal of chemotherapy. During those months, I’d prayed and cried and white-knuckled my way through an endless, dark valley of alternating fear, anguish, and desperate hope.

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Why Can't Americans Stop Talking About Their Weight?

Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight—And What We Can Do About It
By Harriet Brown
Da Capo Press. 243 pages.
ISBN: 9780738217697

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The Science of a Happy Love Life: It's A Lot Simpler Than We're Led to Believe

We often imagine the English as reserved stonewallers, even more emotionally constricted than we Americans are. But Susan Johnson, the daughter of two London pubkeepers and the inventor of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFCT), has devoted her career to breaking that old stereotype and developing an approach that zeroes in on showing couples how to express their deepest feelings for each other. To get there, she had to break what was perhaps the biggest taboo of all.

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The Club Drug Emerging As a Popular Antidepressant

Since it was introduced as an anesthetic in the 1970s, ketamine has occupied an uncertain pharmacological status. It’s been used as both a Vietnam-era battlefield painkiller and an illicit party drug, better known as Special K. But recent findings in studies around the world have some researchers wondering whether it might be the silver bullet for depression that Prozac and its sidekicks never turned out to be.

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'You' Don't Exist: Why an Enduring Self Is a Delusion

What if our therapeutic goals of improving self-esteem, developing a stable and coherent sense of self, and identifying and expressing genuine, authentic feelings all turn out to be symptoms of delusion? And what if the current mindfulness craze—if we take it seriously enough—changes who we think we are and what we’re trying to do in therapy?

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The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought

The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought
By David Adam
Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 324 pages.
ISBN: 9781447238287

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How the Mindfulness Movement Went Mainstream -- And the Backlash That Came With It

In 1979, a 35-year-old avid student of Buddhist meditation and MIT-trained molecular biologist was on a two-week meditation retreat when he had a vision of what his life’s work—his “karmic assignment”—would be. While he sat alone one afternoon, it all came to him at once: he’d bring the ancient Eastern disciplines he’d followed for 13 years—mindfulness meditation and yoga—to people with chronic health conditions right here in modern America. What’s more, he’d bring these practices into the very belly of the Western scientific beast—a big teaching hospital where he happened to be working as a post-doc in cell biology and gross anatomy. Somehow, he’d convince scientifically trained medical professionals and patients—ordinary people, who’d never heard of the Dharma and wouldn’t be caught dead in a zendo or an ashram—that learning to follow the breath and do a few gentle yoga postures might help relieve intractable pain and suffering. In the process, he’d manage to reconcile what was then considered fringy, New Age folderol with empirical biological research, sparking a radical new approach to healing in mainstream medical practice.

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Why People Act in Self-Defeating, Irrational Ways - and How They Can Stop

At the tail end of a sweltering, humid Chicago day in 1993, I took my family to the community pool for a dip. As the children splashed gleefully, I sat nearby reading Robert Ornstein’s new book, The Evolution of Consciousness, unaware that my life was about to change.

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The Fascinating Differences Between the Conservative and Liberal Personality

"There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin," laments Linus van Pelt in a 1961 Peanuts comic strip. Yet in today's hyperpartisan political climate, religion and politics are obsessively debated, while the "American people" that politicians and reporters constantly refer to seem hopelessly divided. Meanwhile, psychologists are increasingly exploring the political arena, examining not just the ideological differences, but also the numerous factors - temperamental, developmental, biological, and situational - that contribute to the formation and maintenance of partisan political beliefs.

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Can You Rewire Your Brain to Change Bad Habits, Thoughts and Feelings?

Nearly 90 years since F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his classic The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrman's film version gave renewed currency to the novel’s famous final line: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” What’s afforded this passage such staying power is not only its haunting poetry, but the worldview it expresses—however hard we may try to reinvent ourselves, we’re doomed to remain captives of our pasts. Another celebrated author, William Faulkner, put it this way: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Eugene O’Neill penned these words: “There is no present or future, only the past, happening over and over again, now.”

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Are Therapists Seeing a New Kind of Attachment?

Over the past decade or two, seasoned therapists who treat young people have been seeing some increasingly worrisome trends. Although solid statistics are hard to come by, one indication of a surge in troubled young adults comes from the reports of college mental health services. A 2010 survey by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at the University of California, Los Angeles of almost 202,000 incoming college freshmen at 279 colleges and universities showed a shocking decline in self-reported mental and emotional well-being—at its lowest level since 1985, when HERI began conducting the surveys. In this recent survey, the percentage of students who rated their emotional health “above average” fell from 64 percent in 1985 to 52 percent. According to the June 2013 APA Monitor, 95 percent of surveyed college counseling-center directors said that the number of students with “significant psychological problems is a growing concern,” citing anxiety, depression, and relationship issues as the main problems. Another 2013 survey, the American College Health Association–National College Health Assessment, reported that 51 percent of 123,078 responders in 153 US colleges had experienced “overwhelming anxiety” during the previous year, 31.3 percent had experienced depression so severe it was difficult to function, and 7.4 percent had seriously considered suicide.

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Psychologist: Stop Bubble-Wrapping Your Kids! How Overprotection Leads to Psychological Damage

I’m sure Shyam wasn’t thinking about the harm she was causing her 8-year-old daughter, Marian, when she demanded her daughter’s school put an extra crossing guard closer to their home. Nor did she doubt herself when she insisted that children be barred from bringing oranges to school because Marian developed a minor rash every time she ate one. At home, Marian was closely monitored and never allowed to take risks: no sleepovers, no playing on the trampoline with friends, no walking to the corner store (less than a block away) by herself.

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Have Antidepressants Lived Up to Their Promise?

The research literature on the effectiveness of antidepressants is filled with contradictions and controversy. Few have the scientific know-how and patience to wade into the Great SSRI Debate and make sense of it. An exception is neuropsychologist John Preston, author of Clinical Psychopharmacology Made Ridiculously Easy. While he’s a critic of the role of Big Pharma in the mental health field, in the interview below, he tells us how SSRIs may have unfairly gotten a bad rep.

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Falling in Love Again: The Amazing History, Marketing, and Wide Legal Use of Today's "Dangerous" Drugs

In the fall of 1987, a story appeared in the business section of the New York Times about a new antidepressant drug, fluoxetine, which had passed certain key government tests for safety and was expected to hit the prescription drug market within months. Just this brief mention in the Times about the prospective appearance of the new, perkily named Prozac propelled Lilly shares from $10 to $104.25—the second-highest dollar gain of any stock that day. By 1989, Prozac was earning $350 million a year, more than had been spent on all other antidepressants together in 1987. And by 1990, Prozac was the country’s most prescribed antidepressant, with 650,000 prescriptions filled or renewed each month and annual sales topping $1 billion. By 1999, Prozac had earned Lilly $21 billion in sales, about 30 percent of its revenues.

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How to Escape the Awful Feeling of Being Trapped in Life

You’re sitting with a client, fighting your own feelings of frustration and boredom as she tells you the same sad story that you heard last week and the week before. She’s explaining to you, again, what’s wrong with her and why she can’t change. You long to be able to help her, but nothing that you say seems to get through. You start wondering if someone else could do a better job. You even wonder if you should refer her to a physician for medication, which shows you’re really starting to get desperate. In the end, all you want is to see her eyes light up, her shoulders lift, her breath deepen, as she finally “gets it” and makes important connections, sees her life in a new way, feels fresh hope. These are the moments we live for as clinicians.

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The 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People

Most of us claim we want to be happy—to have meaningful lives, enjoy ourselves, experience fulfillment, and share love and friendship with other people and maybe other species, like dogs, cats, birds, and whatnot. Strangely enough, however, some people act as if they just want to be miserable, and they succeed remarkably at inviting misery into their lives, even though they get little apparent benefit from it, since being miserable doesn’t help them find lovers and friends, get better jobs, make more money, or go on more interesting vacations. Why do they do this? After perusing the output of some of the finest brains in the therapy profession, I’ve come to the conclusion that misery is an art form, and the satisfaction people seem to find in it reflects the creative effort required to cultivate it. In other words, when your living conditions are stable, peaceful, and prosperous—no civil wars raging in your streets, no mass hunger, no epidemic disease, no vexation from poverty—making yourself miserable is a craft all its own, requiring imagination, vision, and ingenuity. It can even give life a distinctive meaning.

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How We Become Enslaved to Our Mindless Habits -- and How to Break Out

With my right foot planted firmly on the floor and my left heel just barely off the ground, my body leans slightly to the right when I pee.

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Is It a Habit or Addiction? What Happens in Your Brain When You Start to Get Hooked

I have something to tell you,” Jolie said as she sat down in my office. “It’s really bad.” She went on to describe how she’d ruined a dinner with friends because she’d drunk two glasses of wine, gotten irrationally upset at something, and left before dinner was over. With a tone of mixed embarrassment and surprise, she remarked that she must have been drunk. But as I probed further, she admitted that she’d drunk “a little” before the dinner to take the edge off her day. And further probing revealed that her two glasses of wine at dinner were more like a bottle. As we talked more about when and how much she drinks, she began to acknowledge that her use of alcohol was starting to cause problems she’d been unwilling to see.

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The Secret to Breaking Out of Our Most Destructive Habits

Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is one of my all-time favorite stories, as it’s been for millions of others since it was written in 1843. Who doesn’t start sniffling when reading this classic tearjerker about Ebenezer Scrooge, a cold, bitter old man dragged—by the ghosts of his past, present, and potential future—on a terrifying midnight journey of self-discovery, from which he emerges transformed and redeemed? Most people love movies about driven, selfish people who, struck by the life-altering experience of sudden love or near loss, eventually see the light and blossom into life-affirming menschen. Miraculous conversion stories appeal to the wishful thinker in all of us. We want to believe that hitting bottom—being forced into genuine awareness of one’s bad behavior and experiencing true remorse about it—is the key to transformational change, a comforting daydream shared by many therapists.

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Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us on Deadly Junk

Bet you can’t read just one page of Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, the unapologetically unsugarcoated exposé of the processed food industry’s tricks to spur addiction. Although you may not immediately recognize the name of author Michael Moss, you’re probably familiar with his investigative report on pink slime, the controversial ammonia-treated beef trimmings that meat producers are legally allowed to add as cheap filler to lean ground beef. Moss won the Pulitzer Prize for his New York Times series on beef contamination and safety, and his scoop on pink slime started a chain reaction of public concern and outrage that led to a reduction or discontinuation of its use by several companies.

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Can You Rewire Your Brain to Change Bad Habits, Thoughts, and Feelings?

Nearly 90 years since F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his classic The Great Gatsby, the new film version has given renewed currency to the novel’s famous final line: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” What’s afforded this passage such staying power is not only its haunting poetry, but the worldview it expresses—however hard we may try to reinvent ourselves, we’re doomed to remain captives of our pasts. Another celebrated author, William Faulkner, put it this way: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Eugene O’Neill penned these words: “There is no present or future, only the past, happening over and over again, now.”