Occasionally, I like writing down a few ideas, thoughts or interesting views from other peolpe. I'd especially like to thank Dr. Michael R. Edelstein, from whom I have drawn many of these ideas. I'm always willing to discuss any of these issues. Just pop me a note here


If only I could control my emotions? If only I could quell my temper? If only I didn't get upset so easily? etcetera, etcetera, etcetera ... my life would be so much better. Sorry ... the reality is that our emotions are an automatic response to how we view life's events. It's like saying ... if only I could stop blinking? ... my life would be so much better. In fact, significant emotions may be processed quite quickly, without conscious awareness, sometimes within 150 ms... hardly time for us to intervene. Many emotions result from physiological processes in the body, such as the so-called fight-or-flight response that occurs when a human detects a dangerous situation. These reactions are built into the human body, triggered by organs or glands such as the Amygdala, an area in the brain that sends out warning signals. Why do we feel fear when we see a gunman, but joy when we see a baby walk for the first time? Because ... the emotion is a response to our understanding of the event. Emotions are triggered by particular beliefs. Fear is based on a belief that one's life is in danger. Pleasure is experienced when one believes a value has been achieved. Each emotion is a particular automated response to a certain kind of value judgement or belief.

I liken the process to a sausage machine. All the events, situations and actions we encounter are fed into the machine. In the belly of the aparatus, our "Beliefs" consider what has been input and decides on the appropriate response or emotion. These emotions are then pushed out the other end.

However, as in most things human, situations aren't always black and white. This is when our "Priorities" are activated and are required to adjudicate between competing beliefs. Once that rumble is over, the all conquering emotion is realeased.

Sausage Machine

However, the short coming of this machine is the validity and rationality of the Beliefs and Priorities operating inside it. If our original judgements or beliefs were faulty when we installed them in the machine, or they become outdated over time, then Events might be incorrectly processed and ... inappropriate emotions may be extruded out the end.

So, no matter how hard we try to push the Emotions back into the grate, and no matter how much we grumble about not being able to control the ingredients (which are provided by Life), the machine will continue to spit out un-wanted Emotions.

How do we change this? Just like software, we need to continually review the performance of the software operating this machine...our Beliefs and Priorities. If they are found wanting and are providing us with un-wanted Emotions, then, just like software, we need to upgrade them

The getting of Wisdom

The most common demands that we make of ourselves, other people, and the world in general are:

  1. I must do well and my performance must win the approval of others ... or else, I am no good.
  2. Other people must treat me considerately, fairly and kindly, and in exactly the way I want them to treat me.
  3. I must get what I want, when I want it; and I must not get what I don't want. It's terrible if I don't get what I want, and I can't stand it.
When you dispute these particular demands and exaggerations and form more reasonable opinions about yourself, others, and life, you reach a state known as unconditional acceptance or wisdom.
Acceptance is not the same as resignation. When you are resigned to something, you believe that there is nothing you can do about it and you may dwell on it and become upset over the situation. Resignation is passive but acceptance is active. When you accept an unfortunate or inconvenient situation:

  • you recognise that the situation exists
  • you refuse to make yourself miserable about the situation. You dont regard it as awful and you dont demand that it be different
  • you decide whether or not you can change the situation, and
  • you either do what you can to change the situation, or find ways to make yourself happy despite the situation
When you unconditionally accept yourself, others, and life in general, you dont demand that there be an easy or perfect solution to your problems. You dont demand a quick fix. You accept that changing the situation may take some work ... perhaps hard work. You accept that while the situation is unfortunate or inconvenient, its not the end of the world.

There is a very apt phrase that describes Wisdom ... "Knowledge is the ability to pass exams, Widsom is being able to cope when you don't"

In the Pursuit of Happiness

When asked for a list of their life goals, 99% of my Clients include "Happiness" ... and it's always fairly near the top of the list.

On the face of it, that's not an unreasonable goal ... we all want to be happy and we all detest being unhappy. But, what is it, and how do we get it?

Well, happiness is a "state of being" and, without going into all the chemical and physiological stuff going on inside us when it occurs, let's just say ... it makes us feel good.

How do we get it? Well, that's a bit more complicated and the first thing I would like to put to you is ... no manner of happiness goal setting will get us any closer to it. Harking back to my Project Management training, the first thing we had drummed into us was that, in order to even start planning a project, we had to identify a set of Goals or Objectives. And for any goal or objective to be worth the effort of setting, it needed to be SMART ... Stated, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely ...

What if we apply that test to a goal of "I want to achieve happiness for myself and my family":
  • Is it Stated? ... yes ... tick
  • Is it Measurable? ... how long is a piece of string? How many smiles is required to be happy?
  • Is it Achievable? ... well, yes and no ... how do you know when you have achieved that goal?
  • Is it Realistic? ... I can't see it, I can't touch it, I can't buy it, I can't earn it ... ??
  • Is it Timely? .. that is, what is the timeframe for achieving the goal? Myself and my family must be happy by 3rd March 2011 ? or 2012? or ...
From where I'm standing, it's not a reasonable or realistic goal to set, and having it, is usually only the source of pain when you ... "don't get it in time", or "don't get enough of it", or "don't get the right type of it", or "it looks like I'll never achieve it" etc

Well then, how do we achieve happiness? Because it does occurr a lot of the time, so it must come from somewhere. I put it to you that:

The state of Happiness is not something to be sought or pursued, it occurs as a result of how we live, and how we help others to live

It is while we work towards SMART goals, or while we help others move towards their SMART goals, that we achieve happiness. Happiness does not exist at the end of a journey, it exists as part of the journey. That begs the question then ... what type of journey incurrs the most happiness?
And that's a whole other story ...

We have to stop Mustobating

Inappropriate or unreasonable emotions come from demands rather than preferences. "Demands" consist of magical, absolutistic, moralistic notions, and take the form of "musts" and "shoulds." For example: "Richard MUST admire me and it would be awful if he doesn't!". "Musts" and "shoulds" lead to dysfunctional emotions ...emotions that eat away at us, such as anger, anxiety, depression, guilt, and self-pity. Mustobation also leads to self-defeating behaviours such as procrastination, violence, and addictions, including alcoholism, substance abuse, overeating, gambling, and compulsive shopping

It's perfectly rational, and generally helpful, to have preferences, even quite strong preferences, but it's irrational and harmful to turn these preferences into demands or "musts." The majority of emotional problems arise because individuals believe that something or other MUST be, or not be. For example: "I MUST do well at school" (instead of "I PREFER to do well at school"); "I MUST not feel anxious" (instead of "It's UNFORTUNATE that I sometimes feel anxious"); or "My partner MUST not behave coldly toward me" (instead of "I find it UNPLEASANT when my partner behaves coldly toward me"). Allied with the judgment that something must (or must not) happen is the judgment that when it doesn't (or does) happen, this is awful, terrible, horrible, shameful, or unbearable.

There are three kinds of "Mustobatory Demands" or "Musts":
  1. Demands on oneself
  2. Demands on other people
  3. Demands on the situation (or on the Universe)
In order to reduce or end our mustobatory habit, we need to identify the specific "must" or irrational demand, which causes our problem, and then we need to actively dispute that "must." Psychologists have devised an easy to remember technique for this process. It's called the "Three Minute Exercise", in an ABCDEF format. Let's review the "Richard MUST admire me and it would be awful if he doesn't!" statement, as an example

  • A. (What is the Activating Event): Richard doesn't admire me.
  • B. (What is the irrational, MUST belief): Richard MUST admire me.
  • C. (What is the Emotional Consequences): Anger.
  • As we can see, it's the "must" that's making us angry, not the lack of Richard's admiration. If instead of a "must" we had a preference, we would feel sensibly sorry and displeased, not foolishly angry and infuriated. Thus the question becomes: "How do we eliminate the 'must' and thereby eradicate our anger?" Answer: Proceed to "D."
  • D.(What's the evidence for my MUST?): Why MUST Richard admire me? There's no evidence for this MUST, or for any MUST. No reason exists that Richard MUST do other than he does, however desirable I might find it if he did.
  • So now we whave moved to:
  • E. (Effective new thinking): I prefer that Richard admires me, but I will survive quite well if he doesn't.
  • It's true that you find it unpleasant that Richard doesn't admire you, that you would like it better if he did admire you, and perhaps even that it's wrong of him not to admire you. But the universe is not so constructed that people always do what's right or what other people would prefer them to do. Therefore it's unrealistic to expect that this be bound to occur, and unreasonable to demand that it MUST occur. Furthermore, when we demand that something MUST occur, we tend to think that something terrible happens when it doesn't occur, that this is intolerable or the end of the universe. We express this with words like "awful," "horrible," "appalling," or "dreadful." But the plain truth is that, although you don't like that Richard doesn't admire you, you can survive quite well without Richard admiring you. Having replaced your "B" (your irrational demand that Richard MUST admire you) with "E" (your reasonable preference that Richard admire you) you will then begin to experience:
  • F. (new Feeling): regret or disappointment, but no anger.

Say NO to Self Esteem

Self esteem, including the perceived lack of it, is one of the greatest causes of Stress and Depression in our community.

We see ourselves as LESS and we desire to be MORE

The pursuit of self esteem gets us caught up in the self-rating roller coaster. When we are successful in a particular activity (eg. swimming, business, mathematics, relationships) we rate our whole selves, or soul if you like ... as worthwhile. When we have less success at a given activity or pursuit, we rate our whole selves, or soul, as worth less... and we feel miserable.

To add fuel to the fire, our own strong feeling that we are worth less is somehow seen as evidence that we are unworthy. This kind of reasoning reinforces itself in an endless circle: the more worthless we feel, the more "evidence" we have to prove we are indeed worthless!

And do we stop there? No. We then compound our grief by comparing our insides ... to other people's outsides. Not even apples with apples. For example, what Australian school kid hasn't been envious of Ben Tune, a member of the Australian Rugby Union Football Team? He's a great player, he's good looking and he speaks well. Why can't I be like him, instead of boring old me?

Well, as it turns out, Ben has recently revealed that he had attempted suicide as a last ditch effort to rid himself of depression. Do we still want to be like him? How silly are we? But that's the way it's always been..we compare Ben's outsides, with our insides. But we can change.

The old school believes that the appropriate treatment is to encourage us to give ouselves a higher self-rating. But self-rating ...any self-rating, high or low often the root of the problem.

In a recent study, 13-year-olds in six countries (the U.S., Britain, Canada, Ireland, Korea, and Spain) were given a standardised mathematics test. In addition, they were asked to rate the statement: "I am good at mathematics". The Americans judged their abilities the most highly (68 percent agreed with the statement!). But on the actual mathematics test the Americans came last. Some educators think that these two results were related. These poor to average students, who felt buoyed by the fantasy that they were superbly competent, were victims of the "self-esteem curriculum", designed to make the kids feel good about themselves no matter what.

High self-esteem can involve self-delusion. It's a falacy that people who feel good about themselves always perform better. It's a cruel deception, to convey the impression that success comes easily, if you have a "positive" attitude.

Performing well is, in fact, closely related to having a High Frustration Tolerance (resilience) ...the ability to cope serenely with difficulties and setbacks. Outstanding accomplishments usually require immense dedication, continuous, painful investment of arduous effort over a long period of time. They also require some inborn talent, which, in reality, is not equally distributed.

The reality is that our successes aren't Us ... neither are our failures

It is more reasonable to never rate your self (your soul) ... but to merely rate your specific behaviour

Unfortunately, many of us go through the following self-defeating process of self-rating:
  1. I WANT TO FEEL GOOD. (Nothing wrong with this!)
  2. To feel good, I have to feel good about myself. (Now this is a blunder.)
  3. Feeling good about myself means thinking that I am a worthy person.
  4. I can prove to myself that I'm a worthy person by doing well at x (making money, passing my exams, keeping fit, attracting members of the opposite sex, being good in bed, keeping my family happy).
  5. Oops! I've done badly at x. So now I'm worthless. I FEEL BAD.
If you continue rating yourself, your thinking will become self-centered instead of problem-centered. If you don't rate yourself, but acknowledge there is a problem, it becomes easier to analyse that problem, and an agreeable solution may be found. Considering yourself a "hopeless loser" or a "disgusting worm" is not a problem that can be analysed and tackled. It is a conviction that points in only one direction: endless preoccupation with what a hopeless loser or disgusting worm you are! This is simply not helpful. It doesn't prompt any constructive action.

Instead of rating yourself, accept yourself for who you are ...a fallible human being ... who can enjoy life no matter how poorly you perform, and no matter how others perceive you.

If you are interested in exploring this subject in more detail, you can download this essay

Here's a funny film clip that deals with this issue ... in a different way. CAUTION: Adult Content

Small Penis from Espen Hobbesland on Vimeo.

Go, Go, USA !

So, to take this self esteem issue a little further.

"Okay, you've told me that self esteem is a crock, it can't be measured anyway and seeking more of it is both impossible and self-defeating. Well, how do I guage where I stand as a human being? How do I know if I'm a good person?"

The answer is quite simple really, and we like to keep things simple. After months of research and weeks of tweaking my program's computer code, I have devised a scientific methodology to ascertain a person's worth, or value, as a human being. And I am now ready to release it for general use. It is best illustrated by the following checklist. If you can put a tick next to each item .. then you are a fully paid up member of the human race and you are performing a valuable, and equal, role within the web of life.

Self Valuation Test

And to decode the complex mathematical formula:
  1. Are you alive?
  2. Do you interact with other people, thereby providing teaching and learning opportunities?
  3. Do you do some things in life fairly well?
  4. Do you do some sucky things in life?
If you can answer YES to all these questions, you've passed the test, congratulations, you are a valuable human being ... albeit, no more valuable and no less valuable that any one else who passes the test. Remember, it's only a PASS or FAIL test and the great thing is, it's a once only test. There are no renewal exams. You have your Unconditional Self Acceptance(USA) ticket for life.

Another way to look at it is by considering each of us as being a part in a huge Meccano Set. You younger readers may have to Google that!

We are each a different part, performing different functions, built to different tolerances, working at different efficiencies ... yet we are all essential for the machine (the Web of Life) to function correctly.

Although each part is different, no part is more important than another. Take out any part and the machine grinds to a clunking halt.

Now that your exam is out of the way and you have your USA ticket, you can concentrate on having some fun or enjoying happiness.... which, as we discussed earlier, is a by product of the process of working towards goals(not necessarily achieving them) .... either yours or someone else's. As your USA is not at risk, you can stop worrying about making mistakes, you can enjoy your journey and you can perhaps work on some of the sucky things you do ... if you want to.

Life is soooo unfair!

Who hasn't said that a few times in their life? I know I have. But, is life truly unfair, and, if so, what is the alternative?

On the face of it, life seems to deal out its bouqets and brickbats indescriminently and with an uneven hand ... except that I always seem to get more brickbats, of course. So, I guess we are all saying that we think life's goodies seem to be distributed ... nearly always, not near us. Why do I always get sick? Why don't I have a house by the beach? Why don't I win lotto? Why is my queue always the slowest ... especially when I'm in a hurry?

Let's look at how it might look in an alternate Universe:

  1. Everyone would be rich
  2. Everyone would be at the front of the queue
  3. Everyone would be the boss
  4. Everyone would be healthy
  5. We would all look attractive
  6. We would all be able to take 6 wickets in an over and we would all hit a century before lunch
Now, how would that work?
Obviously, it wouldn't... it couldn't. In fact, we are alll pleading for an irrational outcome.

In reality, for our particular world to work, we need a variety of experiences to exist.

So, whoever runs this world, is busy dishing out a variety of experiences to us all. Where those experiences fall, is beyond our control.

However, what we can control, is how we feel about and deal with these experiences. That's where the struggle, enjoyment and satisfaction comes in. I've read stories of people* who have been dealt the most horrid of experiences, yet, through dealing with them, have considered themselves to be the luckiest people in the world. Hardly the evidence of an unfair life. Every experience given to us is an opportunity. So, stop grumbling about the experience and have a look inside it for the opportunity.

* Have a read of "Life's Little Detours" by Regina Brett, as an example.

Regrets? ... I've had a few !

The old ones amongst us will remember this line from Frank Sinatra's song ... "My Way"

The fact is, he's only perpetuating one of the great human follies ... the ability to beat ourselves up over past decisions ... now that we know better.
It's incredibly amazing how we are able to use our perfect 20-20 hindsight to rate our past decisions. We convince ourselves that we are stupid for acting a certain way ... when we should have known that future events would prove that decison to be a poor one. Am I missing something? Where's the logic in that?
It's as stupid as getting annoyed with yourself for putting your money on 8 Black, when after the wheel is spun, you see the ball land on 7 Red. I should have known that would happen! Well, if I did, I would have bet on it, stupid!
The reality is that we make all our decisions based on what we believe AT THE TIME and what our priorities are AT THE TIME. We don't make decisions based on what happens in 2 weeks time. That is impossible and contrary to the laws of the Universe. Yet ... we still believe we should have. Doh!

Evey decision we make is the correct one for us, taking into account our beliefs at the time. It is impossible for us to make an incorrect decision ... under those conditions.

However, that doesn't mean that future events mightn't show that decision to have been a poor one, in light of those future events. The original decision was still the correct, and only decision, that could have been made, at the time.... but, with more information and a possible change of beliefs, we might make a different decision next time. This is called learning.
This concept can mess with your head a bit, so what about a real world example ...

A Client of mine discussed how he was having trouble dealing with his guilt and regrets. He was aksed to go on a fishing trip with his mates. They had planned and prepared the ultimate fishing trip to Northern Australia. He really liked his friends but he hated fishing and despised the great outdoors. He had also promised to take his kids to the Zoo over the weekend. So, his conundrum was this .... he liked spending time with his friends, he hated fishing, he had promised to take his kids out. In this case he had two competing beliefs .... he didn't want to let his mates down and he didn't want to let his kids down. This is when our priorities kick in ... to adjudicate between competing beliefs. In his case, not letting his mates down proved a higher priority than not letting his kids down. He went on the trip and hated every minute of it. He knew from the minute he arrived, that he had made a poor decision. He couldn't wait to get back. When he returned, the kids were still upset and wouldn't talk to him for ages. He was now racked by guilt and regret.

What we had to then discuss was the concept that, for good or for bad, his beliefs and priorities were the masters of his decision. At that time, with those beliefs and priorities, he could not have made a different decision. Now that he has more information (the outcome of his decision), he will probably work on changing his priorities and possibly make a different decision next time.
He has learnt a valuable lesson. But dump the regrets ... you can't change history, nor can you blame yourself for those decisions ... but you can work on changing your beliefs and/or priorities for next time.

You can do anything you set your mind to ... NOT!

It's a statement that we've all probably heard from our parents or teachers. It might take other forms, such as "You will achieve your ambition"... "You will be the best at xxxx" ...."You will get to the top ". Unfortunately, these statements are both incorrect and unhealthy. The reality is ... some of us will achieve what we aim for, or are "destined" for ... many of us won't. It's arrogant of us to think otherwise.
It's fine to offer such "encouragement" in most situations, but it can be dangerous in others. Most of us will take this undying belief in our abilities with a grain of salt and see it for what it is ... healthy reassurance. Others receiving this type of advice tend to take it as gospel and as a portent of the future.
That is all fine and well until they don't achieve their goal, don't make the team or don't get the degree. Many descend into depression when they realise that they will never achieve the goal that they were destined, expected or predicted to achieve... therefore, proving "how worthless they are". A further portion of this group believe that it would be less painful to leave this life, than to live with the shame of worthlessness and failure ... and they take their own lives.
We then voice our shock as ... we never meant that he or she HAD to be the best, the fastest, the cleverest or whatever. Unfortunately, it's too late. It's when they were young that we needed to encourage them to accept the reality that there will be many hurdles in front of them and that achieving all their goals will not be a lay down misere.

I recently watched an episode of "Australian Story" called ... "Girl Most Likely"... which told the story of a young girl put in that very situation. She was "destined", from the age of 5, to be the next great thing in women's tennis. From the start, I feared that the end result would not be pretty.
However, either through her own wisdom or as a result of wise counsel from others, she managed to cope with the reality that she probably wouldn't be reaching the top of her sport and she was able to re-channel her strengths into enjoying the ride and exploring other fields. An excellent result to what could have turned out very nasty.

So, my point? ... we need to provide encouragement to our children, laced with a liberal dose of reality icing. As the saying goes .... "Knowledge helps you pass exams, wisdom helps you cope when you don't" .

The Secret to making a perfect decision!

It certainly is a secret, because I haven't found a way and I haven't found anyone who has. However, this fact doesn't seem to put us off. We all seem to believe that there is a way to make perfect decisions ...everyone else does ...why haven't I found it yet. Why did I do that? Why didn't I change that? I should have known better.... and the list goes on. We beat ourselves up over suposedly dumb decisions. I had plenty of time, I thought it all through, I researched it ... but I still made a lousy decision. WRONG.

You probably made the correct decision, based on what you knew, but the Universe very rudely interveened, as is its want, and screwed up all your plans. The reality is ... we can make the most careful of decisions, but, in the end, the outcome will be dictated by forces outside our control... including other people's actions, serendipity, chance and random events. Even the worlds best Project Managers can't successfully plan for all those contingencies.

I really like the "imaginary hula hoop" analogy. If you can imagine yourself standing inside a hula hoop ... everything inside the hoop can be controlled by you ... everything outside the hoop is outside your control. And if you think about it, there's a lot more outside than there is inside. And if you think about it further, it's amazing that we do achieve our desired outcome in anything more than a very small percentage of cases.

So, the real Secret is to understand that, although we can meticulously plan our decisions and actions, there's a better than even chance that our desired outcomes might not be achieved ... and we need to be able to accept that, and work with it.

"I'm Shattered !"

How many times have we heard or read this? A car accident, a family illness, a lost job, a failed relationship.

Fair comment? Yes, I'm sure we all initially feel the emotions of loss or hurt or saddness on the occurrence of such events. After all, we're all human and our minds have been conditioned to trigger those emotions. But must it always be this way?

As I proposed in my first blog, it's not the event that causes us grief, but how we view that event. But, geez Steve, how inhuman and how unnatural of us not to grieve at a family loss or, perhaps a house burning down? I agree, to a certain extent, but I do add this very specific proviso ...

Don't automatically accept sadness or stress beacuse one of these events has occurred. After the initial shock has settled, review your feelings or beliefs about the event. To take one of the examples I used ... your house burning down. The end of the world? Unfair? Disasterous? Don't be conned into believing that you MUST feel sad about it.

I use this example because I recently saw an episode of the BBC Show, "Grand Designs". It followed the story of a couple whose beautiful thatched cottage burnt to the ground. Initially, they were "shattered", and they began the long process of re-building it.

In fact, the re-built property was much grander and more useful than the original, their personal relationship improved, the wife decided to leave her city job and run a new business from the house and the husband was sufficiently encouraged and motivated to leave his job and become a project manager ... specialising in fire re-builds. They both stated that the fire actually brought to them what their life really needed, although they never knew that they had needed it. It was the catalyst for their "re-birth". A classic example of how a common event can be viewed so differently by different people.

So, don't be conned ... think through your inconvenient events, accept them as having happened, and carefully consider what life has provided you in return... no matter how disguised they may appear to be.

"A Lesson from Mick Jagger and Keith Richards" .... by Mary Russell, M.S.

I shamelessly love pop music. I'll take a Lady Gaga or Justin Timberlake song any day. That being said, some people in my life who claim they "want better for me" and have encouraged me to listen to what they consider to be, "good" music. Most recently, I've been encouraged to listen to the Rolling Stones (though I have certainly heard their music before). After doing so, I hold strongly to my love of pop music but must admit, my friends are on to something. On top of the catchy jingle, the Stones share a simple but invaluable message (occasionally missing from my pop songs) in one of their most famous songs, "You Can't Always Get What You Want"

The Rolling Stones remind us that all too often we irrationally insist that each and every one of our desires must be met. I have to get this job. My friend must do this favor for me. Everyone needs to respect me. In demanding that things must be a certain way, we inevitably upset ourselves. We constantly worry about whether or not our desires will be met and beat ourselves or others up if things don't turn out the way we wanted.

First and foremost, demanding that you must get everything you want is irrational. Why must you get what you want? Where is the evidence? How does it follow that just because you want something you must get it? Would it be so terrible if you didn't get what you want? Could you still be happy? Considering these questions, you've likely realized that although you might want things to be a certain way, "you can't always get what you want."

Furthermore, the unhealthy feelings triggered by your irrational demands will likely interfere with your efforts to actually get what you want. For example, if you're overcome with anxiety and feelings of depression when you think, "I really want this job and I have to get it or I wont be able to support my family which would be horrible," it's likely you may feel incredibly anxious and distracted during an interview which may lessen your chances of actually getting the job.

Instead, if you want something try to think more rationally. For example, "I'd prefer things to be how I want them to be, but just because I want them to be that way doesn't mean they have to be. Too bad if things don't work out how I want - I'll survive." More than likely, this thought will lead to healthy and productive feelings of concern rather than anxiety, and anxiety rather than depression. Given these more rational beliefs and healthy negative emotions, you may be more likely to make more successful attempts at achieving your goals and, if unsuccessful, you may nonetheless survive and accept yourself, others, and the world the way they are.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards remind us of this simple message is a slightly more memorable when they say ...
"You can't always get what you want, but if you try some times, you just might find you'll get what you need."

"Is Reality really real?".

I sometimes get taken to task for exclaiming ... "well, that's the reality" when things go off the rails. "That's just being defeatist!" is often the retort. Perhaps a brief explanation of reality is appropriate.

A few people I know are currently going through a bad patch. Life has come off the rails and things aren't going to plan. The first technique for coping with such unexpected llife events is to accept the reality of the situation. Instead of "this wasn't suposed to happen" or "how could this be happening to me", it's more useful to accept the situation ... and move on. Yes, of course it's much easier said than done ... but, in order to retain our mental health, that's the goal.

I like the way that Wayne Froggatt puts it all into perspective. His 3 principles of Acceptance are:

  • Acknowledge Reality
  • Do not demand that reality not exist
  • Keep unwanted realities in perspective

Besides the realities presented to us during an unexpected event, there are other realities of life that we have to "cope with". Wayne includes these:
  • Uncertainty ... In the real world there are no certainties
  • Utopia is unlikely ... We will almost certainly never get everything we want. We will probably always experience some pain, anxiety, or depression
  • There are limitations to personal change
  • We cannot change others
Contrary to what many people think ... to accept something does not mean we have to like it, agree with it, justify it, be indifferent to it, or resign ourselves to it. We can dislike something, see it as unjustified and continue to prefer that it not exist. We can be concerned about it. We can take action to change it, if change is possible. But we can still accept it by rejecting the idea that it should not exist and that it absolutely must be changed. You can read more on Wayne Froggatt's principles for achieving a productive life here: Go to Web Site

Fight or Flight?

W What is the "Fight or Flight Response"?

We'll explore what it is, how is it triggered, how it works and how it affects us.
Since the dawn of time, every creature on Earth has relied on the Fight or Flight Response to protect it from harm. When the normal, relaxed and calm state of the body (homeostasis) is interrupted and the body assumes a heightened state of awareness (hyperarousal), it is considered to be in the Fight or Flight state. The body is now in a state where it is ready to either…fight off the threat...or take flight from the threat.

When the brain perceives a stimulus that includes an awareness of danger, a message is sent from the sensory cortex, through the hypothalamus to the brain stem. This message makes the body more aware, alert and attentive. It also triggers the release of various chemicals, such as adrenaline and norepinephrine into the body. Once these hormones are released, the body becomes immediately ready for extreme physical activiity...specifically fighting or taking flight (fleeing) from the perceived threat.
The actual physiological changes that take place in our bodies include:

  • Our heart rate increases
  • Our breathing rate increases and becomes shallower
  • Our stomach and upper-intestinal action (digestion) stops
  • There's a general effect on the sphincters of the body (either opens or slams shut)
  • In many parts of our body, our blood vessels constrict
  • Nutrients are liberated...for muscular action
  • Our blood vessels become dilated...for increased blood and glucose flow to muscles
  • Inhibition of Lacrimal gland (responsible for tear production and salivation)
  • Our pupils dilate
  • Our bladder relaxes (and sometimes evacuation of the colon occurs)
  • Sexual function ceases
  • Acceleration of instantaneous reflexes
  • Our blood pressure and pulse rates increase
  • Adrenal secretions flush into the blood stream

This takes place within seconds, and often before the brain has had time to fully analyse the degree of the perceived threat.
The Fight or Flight Response was extremely important to pre-historic Man...where attacks by predators and competing tribes were common. In modern times, the relevance of the Response is not as significant...however, its physiology has not diminished in proportion to the size of today's threats.

In fact, the Response these days has attracted a greater range and variety of triggers and behaviours. Our fight or flight response can now be triggered by an email, by a discourteous driver or by a cheating boyfriend. No longer is the Response only triggered by the appearance of a sabre toothed tiger in the garden!

Where once the immediate increase in physical energy, power and alertness was necessary to counter a physical attack or is rare that we require such physical reserves these days...yet our bodies still provide us with, often inappropriate, physical reserves, when any perceived threat emerges.

And, in most cases, when a modern day threat is perceived, and our responses are activated, we can neither fight nor flee. We are left to return emails, sit in the traffic, take couples counselling or agree with the boss. In so many situations, our full body protection has been activated, yet we can't take the necessary physical return us to our normal state.

In an appropriate stress response situation when the perceived threat is gone, (once the predator has been out-run or fought-off) our systems are designed to return to homeostasis (our normal state) via the relaxation response. However, in our times of chronic stress this often doesn't happen and we remain in the fight-or-flight state for prolonged periods, causing damage to the body.

Inappropriate and extended activation of the fight or flight response in humans can cause long term physiological and psychological damage. Some examples include:
  • Alchohol and drug dependencies
  • Anorexia
  • Anxiety and panic disorders
  • Asthma, allergies, skin diseases
  • Cancer
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Chronic pain
  • Constipation, colitis, irritable bowel syndrome
  • Depressed immune system, increased likelihood of colds and infections
  • Depression and suicide
  • Diabetes
  • Difficulty maintaining sexual arousal, loss of libido
  • Difficulty urinating, bladder infection, bladder disease

The good news is that Stress isn't always negative. Some stress is essential for us to live happy and healthy lives. Positive stress adds anticipation and excitement to life. Insufficient positive stress can leave us feeling bored, unchallenged and unmotivated.
Insufficient stress over the long term can be as damaging as prolonged negative stress. It is essential that, while each person strives to limit the triggers of negative stress in their lives and develop the skills necessary to manage the effects of negative stress, they also need to discover ways to maintain a healthy level of positive stress in their lives.

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