Archive | February, 2013

Oh dear! I just can’t decide!

27 Feb

How many times have we all been faced with decisions that we find very difficult to make!

This blog is going to delve a little in to the mind processes that help or hinder us in decision making.

In order to make decisions we have to weigh up the costs and benefits of making a decision and then take action in accordance with our decision. This is much harder than it sounds to achieve!

Decision making is a cognitive (mental) process. This process can be conscious or sub-unconscious (below our conscious awareness).

So what stops us from making decisions about certain things in our life?

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The simple answer is us.

Here are some possible reasons as to why we may not make certain decisions or why we may find it hard to make a decision.

1) We require more information to help tip the balance ‘for’ or ‘against’ whatever we are mulling over. You have asked 3 suppliers to provide you with an estimate about something. You will then wait to receive all three quotes before choosing which to go for.

2) Because it doesn’t matter to us or we don’t care about it or we think it has no impact on us or on what we think is important and finally we think that nothing would change anyway.

3) Anxiety. This is really at the heart of whether we have problems with making decisions. So the question is why do we feel anxious?

Our feelings and emotions are provoked not by events but by the way we think about these events. At the heart of anxiety is irrational or unhealthy thinking or beliefs about risk (be it real or perceived) to ourselves or to our personal domain (the things and people that matter to us). Rational or healthy thinking about risk lead to what we call healthy concern or nervousness, different to anxiety or panic.

Obviously decision making is part and parcel of everyday life and we need to be able to do it!
So how do we free ourselves from the paralysis of anxiety about making decisions?

1) Change your beliefs about mistakes and about getting things wrong. Accept that you are human and therefore fallible. The possibility of making a mistake exists for all of us.

2) Keep the badness of getting something wrong in proportion. Of course making the wrong decision can be bad and may have negative consequences but nevertheless the world does not come to an end. So keep it bad but not the end of the world bad.

3) Develop resiliency to getting things wrong. Accept you will find it frustrating, difficult, uncomfortable, but the truth of the matter is that you do survive it. Telling yourself you can’t tolerate nor stand making the wrong decision is simply not true but it does impact greatly on your feelings of anxiety. So tell the truth ‘it’s hard but bearable’.

4) Accept yourself as fallible. No one is perfect so getting things wrong is human. Believing that you’re a total failure or a worthless person because of mistakes or wrong decisions in unhelpful and is at the heart of your anxiety.

5) Accept uncertainty. Accept that at times you are unsure.

6) Construct a cost and benefit analysis of the options. The costs and benefits of making a decision in short and long term and the costs and benefits of not making a decision in the short and long term. This may help you see that avoiding making a decision about something you deem important does not have any long term benefits for you.

7) Gather relevant information before making an important decision but be realistic about it. Allow for the fact that you may never have all the information. You are more likely to realise this if you accept risk and uncertainty.

So, could you become a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist?

22 Feb

Well here at the College we train people from all sorts of backgrounds. These have included marketing executives, medical practitioners, nurses, PR consultants, hypnotherapists, psychotherapists, IT managers as well as housewives. Quite a list!

They all have one thing in common though, a desire to make a difference.

cbh conversation

However, as in all walks of life, different careers suit different people, so let’s do some investigation!

The first point to note is, to begin the training, you do not have to be an academic! There are no specific requirements for the Foundation course, such as a degree, as we believe that your experiences in life and other skills are just as valid.

Of course, initially you will not know what to expect and whether it would be a good step for you, so we invite you to an interview in an informal setting.
This interview is nothing to worry about as it is designed to give all concerned the opportunity to assess each other’s suitability. After all, there would be nothing to gain, if at a later date you found you had made the wrong decision and it was not for you!

So, sounds interesting and worth pursuing so far? Well, let’s move on to some practicalities to consider.

Although our courses are very flexible and held at the weekends, so you can fit them in around your present employment; it has to be said embarking on any change of career is a big step and can impact on those around you.
For example, they will miss your presence for several weekends and the training will require your dedication and full attention.
However, when family members see how you are progressing, no doubt you will have their full support.

There are also financial considerations as well. We aim to make these as helpful as possible and it is a good idea to discuss them at the initial interview. Our fees can be paid in installments or, if you are able to, if you pay in full you will receive a discount.

So could you become a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist? We think you could and would welcome the opportunity to welcome you to our College to begin your training.

Teenagers can be moody…

21 Feb

Teenagers can be moody, difficult entities but it is hard to tell if that perceived state is the norm or due to depression
The influence of hormones and the natural process of growing in to an adult can cause a great deal of stress. Things such as not doing well at school, arguments with parents and romantic breakups, can lead to feelings of low self-worth and not being in control.

There may be a lot going on in the teenager’s life; there may be bullying at school or the of experience losing a parent to death or divorce.
The average teenager can normally tolerate and overcome these types of events with time and patience but for others they can contribute to a state of depression.

shutterstock_113617138 Moody Teenager

So, you may suspect a teenager is depressed but how to confirm your suspicions?
Depression can alter the way they act; they see everything in a negative way. Problems seem insurmountable. Try to be alert for changes in behaviour.

Some of the changes in behaviour may be very obvious such as:

• Appetite changes
• Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
• Starting to forget things
• Staying in bed and being very tired for no reason
• Becoming upset, restless, and irritable
• Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once fun
• Failing at school/college
• Talking about death/suicide

However, it is not always so easy to spot. There may be problems at home. Often the teenager may behave badly or out of character but not seem to be depressed. They may act irresponsibly or start shop lifting. They may want to be alone and not want to spend time with their family. All important signals to be aware of.
Although depression in teenagers can be difficult to diagnose, symptoms should not be ignored as suicide is a risk for all teenagers with depression.

Once the teenager has been diagnosed with depression, action should be taken swiftly before other complications manifest themselves, such as:

• Drug, alcohol, and tobacco abuse
• Effects on relationships with family and friends
• Other mental health problems, such as anxiety disorders
• Teenage suicide
• Violence and reckless behaviour

Almost all teenagers with depression benefit from some type of talking therapy. A talking therapy such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a good place to talk about their feelings and concerns, and to learn ways to deal with them.
You may find our Master Class on Depression taking place in March 2013 of interest

Excess and Moderation

15 Feb

Are you interested in knowing why we find it difficult to be moderate?

When we eat, exercise, work, get praised, challenge ourselves, or do something that benefits someone else, we are achieving goals that trigger positive feelings. When we achieve what we want in life, we feel happy. Therefore a goal of creating balance in life needs to be something that we want to achieve in order for it to be happiness evoking.

Striving for your healthy desires, without needing them is key to achieving a balance.

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We all like to be in state of comfort as opposed to discomfort. This can be tricky because achieving the goal of a balanced and healthy life requires you to do the work in the here and now in order to succeed later. Naturally, this means that working and putting in effort is essential. You may feel uncomfortable at first.

If you focus only on achieving future goals, constantly working and putting in lots of effort, you will not feel happy in the here and now. This usually triggers stress. A philosophy of balance is necessary so that you can experience happiness and enjoyment in the short term while you are working towards long term goals.

It is easy to understand why you want to be in state of comfort, enjoyment, happiness as opposed to discomfort. Comfort feels good. Excitement feels good. Alcohol, for most people feels good, food tastes good, exercise releases endorphins and that feels good and so on.
You grow up knowing that there are certain things you can do or have others do for you that provoke feelings of comfort and happiness. If as a child you feel uncomfortable or fearful, your parents will look after you or remove the object of fear. You grow up learning that if you avoid something that triggers you to feel fear, your feelings of fear will disappear quickly.

This can also be a source of problems for adults. Emotional maturity will not be accomplished if the adult continues to engage in the same strategies of either avoiding things that trigger feelings of discomfort or having a desire to indulge in excess because you need to continue feeling happiness, positivity, joy etc.

Two main reasons why people indulge in excess

1) A strong need for immediate gratification and hedonism e.g. need for enjoyment now, oblivion, joy, happiness, relaxation
2) Low frustration tolerance to discomfort e.g. boredom, effort, negative feelings

Some might see moderation as being middle aged and dull. This assumption is called ‘rationalisation’. This means the person is justifying the behaviour so they can continue it. The real reason is the need for immediate gratification and hedonism.

“The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom” William Blake

Avoidance of discomfort is a major coping unhealthy strategy for many people. For example, someone may eat too much because it distracts them from a feeling of anxiety about being alone. Others may play on their Xbox or surf the net because to avoid the discomfort of filling an application form or organising bills.

Unhealthy beliefs stop you from moving forward and creating the balance in life you desire. They provoke feelings like anxiety, depression, guilt, hurt, rage, shame etc. They also provoke unhealthy behaviours like excess and difficulty in moderating gratification. They can also trigger unhealthy behaviours as a means of coping with other problems i.e. they trigger dysfunctional behaviours like excess as a way of avoiding emotions or focusing on problems.

Unhealthy beliefs are unrealistic, rigid or inflexible and sabotage goals.

Developing Compassion

4 Feb

One of the most intrusive and problematic features of experiencing depression and anxiety is that when we suffer these unhealthy emotions we tend to develop low self-esteem, and to put ourselves down in more generalized ways.
‘I’m a complete loser’, ‘I’m a failure’ or just simply, ‘I’m no good’.

These thinking patterns become repetitive and increasingly destructive as we use this kind of self-talk to ‘beat ourselves up’ and to literally bully ourselves. Often the things we say to ourselves are overly harsh and critical, and when spoken out loud sound vindictive and mean-spirited.

If you imagine saying these things to another person, you can hear how vicious is their intent and meaning. If you were to say these things to another person in the work place you would rightly be accused of bullying and victimization.

Yet, in the midst of depression or a severely anxious state, when we say these things to ourselves, silently or even out loud, we don’t seem to develop and awareness of, or recognize any kind of double-standard at work.

Over recent years much research has been carried out into the subject of compassion. When we think of compassion we usually think of an attitude, which we adopt in relation to another person. We associate caring, kindness, understanding and tolerance, with compassion. Science, as well as spiritual teaching, and even religious doctrine, has long understood the value of extending compassion to others.

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Down through the millennia ‘the golden rule’, “treat others as you would be treated yourself” has been a by-word for compassion. However, in recent years the research has focused more on ‘self-compassion’ and it has been observed that the brains of those who focus on developing self-compassion experience a measurable change in neural activity and connectivity within the brain.

In short, the brain functions better, in terms of general goal-pursuit, and individuals increase their experience of emotional wellbeing, and generalized mental health. In other words, if we can learn techniques, which accentuate and increase ability in extending self-compassion, kindness, and understanding to ourselves, a measurable improvement in mental and emotional functioning results. This has to be worthy of our interest.

Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), developed and refined by Paul Gilbert (The Compassionate Mind, 2009), has enjoyed a great focus of interest in recent years, and has been researched by neurological and psychotherapeutic scientific outcome studies, in an attempt to measure improvement in a variety of areas, and the results are very encouraging.

If you are interested in finding out more about this topic, look out for a forthcoming Master Class designed for both therapists who work in any therapeutic tradition and wish to extend their skill set in their work with clients, or for those who might be interested in the subject from a self-development perspective at http://www.cbttherapies.org.uk