Announcing My Latest Project: Self-Acceptance Psychology

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Self-Acceptance Psychology-2Consider this…

Why are normal human reactions — such as fear, shame, self-criticism and the need for love and belonging — labeled as “mental disorders?”

Could compassionate self-acceptance be the solution to commonplace self-doubt — and even help people find permanent solutions to anxiety, depression and other supposed “mental disorders?”

I am excited to announce the start of my newest project, based on “Pack Leader Psychology,” but taking those ideas to an entirely new level. Self-Acceptance Psychology is starting as a 55-page booklet for clinicians and website, but I hope to grow it into much more.

That’s because I am so passionate about challenging the mental health profession’s inaccurate, unscientific myths. The current disease model falsely asserts that “anxiety,” “depression” and “ADHD” are caused by imbalances in brain chemistry or inherited traits. Harmful drugs are then pushed as the only solution to these allegedly “lifelong” conditions.

What if there was a system for understanding human emotions and behaviors that….

… was more accurate than the current psychiatric diagnostic model?

… could bring about a real understanding of the causes of human behavior?

… could improve the quality of your relationships with others?

… could improve the relationship you have with yourself?

… could lead to real, permanent change without the use of drugs — bringing contentment and an improved sense of connection?

At the risk of sounding boastful, I believe that system is Self-Acceptance Psychology.

To learn more right now, you can instantly download a 55-page PDF book for just $5. While Self-Acceptance Psychology is aimed at psychologists, social workers and counselors, the general public will be able to fully understand the concepts.

Please share this blog post with any mental health professionals that you know and join me on social media to stay up to date. I’ll be blogging soon on www.SelfAcceptancePsychology.com and major anti-psychiatry website — more to come soon!

“Be kind to yourself….”

How to Meditate Anywhere

IMG_1879When most people think of meditation, they imagine sitting crosslegged with their eyes closed for long periods of time. However, research shows that other types of meditation can also be effective, maybe even just as effective.

Sitting quietly for 20 or more minutes is often labeled “formal meditation”.

“Informal meditation”, however, can be practiced almost anywhere and anytime. During informal meditation, you just spend a few minutes bringing your focus to some aspect of your physical experience and away from your thoughts.

Some examples:

  • Sitting at your desk or in your car, become aware of your breath moving in and out rhythmically.
  • While walking, notice the soles of your feet, how they feel, the force of gravity, or other aspects of moving through space.
  • When eating, slowly savor a single bite of food, bringing your attention to all aspects of the experience, including taste, texture, temperature, salivation, etc.
  • While folding laundry or other repetitive task, focus on your breathing and the rhythm of the task.

When your mind wanders and a thought intrudes, gently bring your attention back to the physical experience.

The key to effectiveness is:

  • your intention to choose this mindful activity
  • refocusing of your attention when your attention wanders

These intentional choices train your brain to be aware of your experience in the present moment, also known as mindfulness. When practiced regularly, mindfulness can help you remain emotionally aware and present even during stressful experiences. It allows you to retain cognitive control of your emotions during distressing or frightening situations, which reduces stress hormones and neurochemicals in your body.

You can see how easy it is to integrate informal meditation or mindfulness into your daily life. Even a few minutes a day can help improve your emotional, physical and mental health.

Mindful Self-compassion as an Antidote to Shame

I recently attended a 6-day retreat and seminar on Mindful Self-Compassion led by Kristen Neff, PhD, and Christopher Germer, PhD, two of the leading authors and researchers on the topic. I am grateful to have had such a relaxing personal experience and opportunity for professional learning. I got to meditate for hours, enjoy the beauty and solitude of a Buddhist retreat center and learn how to bring MSC skills to my patients.

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I stumbled upon the concepts for mindful self-compassion years ago by reading about Buddhist ideas about compassion and by re-invigorating a meditation practice I had learned in the 70s. I then experienced the amazing power of being self-compassionate and how it transformed my personality, which I wrote about in “Pack Leader Psychology.”

I discovered back then how harmful self-criticism can be to one’s emotional health and relationships.  Recent research strongly shows that learning mindful self-compassion is a great skill for managing self-critical thoughts, which reduces anxiety and depression.

While MSC is a complex topic and cannot be simplified in a blog, here are some of the core concepts.

Mindfulness

You must first develop an awareness of your mind and how it works. Mindfulness is merely observing how you think, feel, judge and perceive yourself, others, and your experiences. Mindfulness involves merely attending to experiences rather than emotionally reacting.

The key is not just observing but accepting your thoughts, emotions and bodily experiences — even if these are negative or unpleasant!

Some people call this process “staying in the moment.”

With practice, a person can eventually replace unthinking reactivity with mindful consideration and measured responses.

Mindfulness can be practiced informally or formally. Informal practice can be as simple as taking a few moments throughout the day to merely bring your awareness to your physical experience. You can savor food, notice your breath, or do a body scan to observe tension. The idea is to pull yourself from your worries, thoughts and Inattention, to attentiveness to the present moment.

Formal practice generally involves seated meditation of 20-30 minutes with a focus on the breath or repetitive phrases or a combination of these two. There are many variations on formal practice that can be learned.

The goal of meditation or informal practice is not to clear the mind, but to practice noting your thoughts when they wander away and gently returning your focus to your breath or whatever is your focus.

Meditators, research shows, are less self-absorbed making them more stable and loving in relationships because they can monitor their thoughts and pause before reacting. They are able to notice, “What am I saying to myself and how am I treating myself?” They are curious about their emotions, not avoidant. As a result, emotions from others are less often met with fear and reactivity.

Self-Compassion

Learning a practice of self-compassion is key also to being less reactive. Those who are more self-compassionate can be less triggered into the “fight-or-flight” survival mode when threatened emotionally or relationally, so they can spend more time in the “tend-and-befriend’ caregiving system.

What I find most exciting about self-compassion skills is they directly address the core difficulty most people struggle with — excessive self-criticism and shame. Self-compassion is the antidote to shame.

Self-criticism directly triggers the internal “fight-or-flight” system. Worse yet, a person who is self-critical is both the attacked and the attacker, leaving them feeling both shamed and fearful.

I strongly encourage exploration of Mindful Self-compassion concepts in depth for anyone who struggles with feelings of unworthiness, shame or guilt — which is most of us!

For More:

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, by Kristin Neff, PhD

The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, by Christopher Germer, PhD

Take a self-compassion test:

http://centerformsc.org/self-compassion_test

Wise Words on Intuition from Linda Kohanov (and Horses!)

739035_2008-half-arabian-chestnut-mare_photo_1_1419540419_imgI highly recommend Linda Kohanov’s book “The Tao of Equus: A Woman’s Journey of Healing & Transformation through the Way of the Horse.”

Kohanov, a leader in equine-assisted therapy, combines her personal experiences with emotional trauma, horse training insights, spirituality, and “horse whisperer” philosophy to help humans learn to be better humans — from horses.

Here are some of Kohanov’s best quotes on the power of intuition, a key theme in the book:

“Staring into the vast reflecting pools of the equine mind, I realized that healing was less about helping someone analyze her childhood, or work toward some preconceived goal, than reconnecting with the world from a position of empowerment and compassion, expanding her awareness to see things as they were, moment to moment. Only from the vantage point of fully experiencing and participating in the present did the past make sense and the future show potential.”

“We have a culture in which the nourishing, life-giving waters of emotion, empathy, sensory awareness, gut feelings, and other forms of nonverbal awareness have dried up in the heat of our obsessive reliance on all that is light and logical and conscious enough to be mapped, explained, and controlled.”

Instinct is:  “a natural or inherent aptitude, impulse, or capacity; a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency by an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli without involving reason and for the purpose of removing somatic tension; behavior mediated by reactions below the conscious level.”

“Our culture tends to value thought over emotion, logic over intuition, territory over relationship, goal over process and force over collaboration, competition over cooperation.”

“Children are taught to narrow their attention, cling to the past, and focus on the future, thus losing their ability to fully function in the present. They become dependent on authority figures who themselves only excel in highly specialized environments and situations.”

“Most people deny and sublimate their feelings, keeping them well below the conscious level until the somatic tension becomes so overpowering that the emotion overrides reason and finally expresses itself, often in violent and self-destructive ways.”

 

Happy Birthday, Reilly

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Happy 11th Birthday, to my muse for “Pack Leader Psychology,” and my instructor on how to become a pack leader. I am so glad I spent nearly 10 years and 7,000 walks with this fabulous dog. She was the best model for a calm, assertive, balanced pack leader who came into my life at a propitious moment. I hope where you are now there are lots of  woodchucks, squirrels, deer, waterfall ponds, and meadows to race in all day long. Hope and I miss you!