posts by author

What is CBT Treatment for Anxiety

Posted on July 17, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

One of the most well-known psychological practices for overcoming irrational thoughts and anxieties is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This involves challenging irrational thoughts as they enter the mind and shutting them down as to change action and behaviour. Once the thoughts are being cognitively challenged, the next step as a part of CBT is to overcome the specific phobias is by facing them front on. For many people, confronting the fear in real life situations, as stressful as it may be, is the only way out.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is evidenced based form of therapy used by our team of Brisbane Psychologists. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based therapy which focuses mostly on the way people think about things (including their attitudes and beliefs) and the way they behave. CBT is based on the understanding that thinking negatively is a habit, and, like any other bad habit, it can be modified. It helps people identify where their thoughts and actions are negative, and then to replace these “bad habits” with more helpful thoughts and responses.

CBT utilises both cognitive therapy and behaviour therapy. Cognitive therapy aims to identify and evaluate the unhelpful thoughts (or cognitions) that lead to negative feelings (e.g. depression, anxiety) and behaviours (e.g. avoiding friends). The treatment focuses on questioning thoughts and restructuring these with positive ways to think about difficult situations. Behaviour therapy is goal-oriented and aims to help people change unhealthy or unhelpful behaviours that cause them to suffer or lower their quality and enjoyment of life. For example, people who are depressed often enjoy fewer pleasurable activities and so your psychologist would work with you to identify pleasurable activities and develop a plan to increase your participation in them.

Finally, CBT not only helps you to understand, manage and challenge thought and behaviour patterns, but can also provide you with a range of useful and practical strategies to enhance your productivity, well-being and your ability to cope with various situations in everyday life.

Exposing people or animals to things repeatedly so that they become so familiar and unstimulating, is what psychologists refer to as ‘Exposure Therapy’. This form of therapy is widely considered the most effective treatment for anxiety disorders and specific phobias. Essentially, the theory is based on facing your fears directly, not only by challenging the thoughts but by carrying out the feared action or immersing yourself in the feared situation to gradually decrease your sensitivity to the fear; in the end make it ‘boring’.

There are several variations of exposure therapy and your psychologist can help you determine which strategy is best suited to you. Exposure therapy can be a stress provoking experience and is best practiced under the guidance of a psychologist who will create a safe environment for you when undergoing this treatment. A gradual approach is often recommended with each confrontation or experience revealing new realities, building confidence and gaining power over those irrational thoughts and fears.

However difficult confronting those fears may be, the long-term benefits, far outweigh the short-term discomfort, setting you free to live life to its fullest. If you are a prisoner to your fears, take action today by seeing a psychologist. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Please follow and like us:
Read more

Caring for the Carer

Posted on July 9, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

Caring for a loved one with dementia is a massive responsibility and although it can be rewarding it can also take a major toll on the mental and physical health of the carer. Statistics show that 1 in 10 people over 65 years have dementia, ranking the disease as the third leading cause of national disability burden.

Carers are often strapped aboard a rollercoaster of emotions experiencing an array of feelings from love and tenderness to guilt, despair, anger and intense worry. The weight of responsibility gets heavier for the carer as the patients loses their independence and the journey often bring great sadness to those who bear witness. During this journey it is of utmost importance that carers ensure they are prioritising their own physical, mental and emotional health.

Dementia is terribly sad for friends and relatives to witness, as the degenerative state of the disease closes all windows of hope. As humans we naturally seek out positives as we grapple at snippets of the sufferer’s former self. When it comes to degenerative disease, seeing the positive rather than weighing in on the negatives, is crucial to emotional health. Children are often wondrous in these situations, taking a fresh and unique perspective. Rather than shy them away from the person it can be helpful to encourage their visits and allow them to understand what is transpiring.

Communication is the key when it comes to expressing feelings in all situations but particularly when it comes to caring for someone with dementia. Denying feelings, even if they are ones of anger, guilt or exasperation, will not be helpful in the long run. Confiding in a friend or a professional about how you are feeling, will not end in judgement. This is a great life challenge and practicing self-compassion is vital to your mental health. Cry, talk to a friend or a professional, write a journal; just let the feelings out, they cannot heal when they are trapped inside.

Taking time out from carer duties to enjoy something you love is one way you can be kind to yourself. Exercise and meditation are both effective outlets, helping you to relax and improve mood, sleep and cognitive function.

Learn to find some joy in a time that may not seem like your happiest and remember, the person may not remember who you are, but you can still honour and remember who they are.

Please follow and like us:
Read more

Mindful Self-Compassion Training Workshop

Posted on July 8, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

Presented by Dr Christopher Germer and Tina Gibson 4-5th September 2019

For someone to develop genuine compassion towards others, first he or she must have a basis upon which to cultivate compassion, and that basis is the ability to connect to one’s own feelings and to care for one’s own welfare…caring for others requires caring for oneself.

– Dalai Lama (2000) –

About the Workshop

This workshop is an introduction to Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC), an empirically-supported training program based on the clinical perspective of Chris Germer and the pioneering research of Kristin Neff.

MSC combines the skills of mindfulness and self-compassion to enhance our capacity for emotional wellbeing. Mindfulness is the first step—turning with loving awareness toward difficult experience (emotions, sensations, thoughts). Self-compassion comes next—bringing loving awareness to ourselves. Together, mindfulness and self-compassion comprise a state of warm, connected presence during difficult moments in our lives.

Burgeoning research shows that self-compassion is strongly associated with emotional wellbeing, coping with life challenges, lower levels of anxiety and depression, healthy habits such as diet and exercise, and more satisfying, compassionate relationships. Self-compassion includes the capacity to comfort, soothe and validate ourselves, but also to protect and provide for ourselves, and to motivate ourselves to achieve our goals.

Learning Objectives

Fortunately, self-compassion can be learned by anyone. After participating in this two-day workshop, you will be able to:

* Practice self-compassion in daily life

* Understand the science of self-compassion

* Motivate yourself with kindness rather than criticism

* Handle difficult emotions with greater ease

* Manage caregiver fatigue

* Practice the art of savoring and self-appreciation

* Teach simple self-compassion exercises to clients

Program activities include talks, meditation, experiential exercises, and group discussion. Participants will directly experience self-compassion and learn practices to evoke self-compassion in daily life. No previous experience with mindfulness or meditation is required to attend the program.

About the Presenters

Dr. Christopher Germer is a clinical psychologist and lecturer on psychiatry (part-time) at Harvard Medical School. He is a co-developer (with Kristin Neff) of the Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) program which has been taught to over 50,000 people around the world. Dr. Germer is also the author of The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, co-author of Teaching the Mindful Self-Compassion Program and The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook, and co-editor of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy and Wisdom and Compassion in Psychotherapy. He is a founding faculty member of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy as well as the Center for Mindfulness and Compassion, Cambridge Health Alliance, Harvard Medical School. Dr. Germer teaches and leads workshops internationally on mindfulness and compassion, and has a private practice specializing in mindfulness and compassion-based psychotherapy. https://chrisgermer.com/

 

Tina Gibson is an experienced and passionate Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) and Mindfulness Teacher, having facilitated programs within the Education System, Cancer Support, Women’s Health and the general community. She has a sound knowledge of health and education stemming from years of experience working with diverse populations in the roles of Kinesiologist, Health Care Worker, Rehabilitation Counsellor, Health Educator and Emergency Paramedic. Tina is currently the only Certified MSC Teacher Trainer and Mentor in Australia, having taught alongside both Kristin Neff and Chris Germer. She currently offers MSC programs and workshops. Tina also provides ongoing support to past MSC particpants and community practice sessions. Tina is a member of the International Advisory Council for MSC and the Mindfulness Teachers’ Network SA. http://www.adelaidemindfulness.com/

 

 

Workshop Dates and Times

Wednesday, 4 September – Thursday, 5 September 2019.

8.30am arrival and registration for a 9am start.

Workshop concludes each day at 4.30pm.

Workshop Costs

Early Bird Rate: $650.00 (before 5 August 2019; this rate will be applied automatically at checkout when making a booking)

Student Rate: $399.00 (contact the event organiser for a student code to enter at checkout when making a booking)

General Admission: $695.00

Fees include GST

Location

Victoria Park Golf Complex
309 Herston Road, Herston, QLD 4006

Contact Details

Dr Stan Steindl: stan@psychologyconsultants.com.au 

Cancellations

$50 cancellation fee up to 14 days before the workshop, $100 cancellation fee for within

Book Tickets Here

Please follow and like us:
Read more

The difference between a psychologist, psychiatrist & counsellor

Posted on June 30, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

What is the difference between a psychologist, clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, and counsellor?

This is a commonly asked question of new clients and those considering therapy. This article sheds some light on the differences and similarities of professionals whose common goal, put simply, is to help better feel better.

Psychologists study human behaviour in their undergraduate and postgraduate degrees before undertaking supervised experience and gaining registration. They do not have a medical degree; however, many have postgraduate qualifications or doctoral level qualifications in clinical psychology. Clinical psychologists have specialist training in psychological assessment and therapy with diagnosed psychiatric and/or mental disorders.

Psychologists generally assist people with a range of everyday problems such as stress and relationship difficulties. They also provide counselling and therapy for people with diagnosed mental disorders, such as anxiety disorders or depression. They help people to develop the skills needed to cope and function better, and to prevent ongoing problems.

Clinical psychologists and psychologists cannot prescribe medication. Their treatments are based on changing behaviour and emotional responses without medication. There is a considerable amount of evidence showing psychological treatments are effective on their own, as well as in combination with certain types of medication.

Psychiatrists have a medical degree, which involved six years of studying general medicine, followed by further study to specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and emotional problems. Psychiatrists treat the effects of emotional disturbances on the body and the effects of physical conditions on the mind. Psychiatrists can prescribe medication. Some combine medication with other forms of therapy.

Source: Australian Psychological Society http://www.psychology.org.au 

A Counsellor assists people to “develop understanding about themselves and to make changes in their lives.” According to the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia (PACFA) http://www.pacfa.org.au it is expected that they “work within a clearly contracted principled relationship that enables individuals to explore and resolve issues of an interpersonal, intrapsychic or personal nature”.

There are different types of counsellors such as rehabilitation counsellors, marriage and/or family counsellors, school counsellors and others. Each may have very different qualifications and experience levels, which can be enquired about by potential clients. In Australia there is no mandated minimum training and qualification framework in place yet, though many counsellors are voluntary members of professional counselling associations, and are working towards this through PACFA, their peak body.

PACFA maintains a national voluntary register of counsellors and psychotherapists who have satisfied its minimum training standard. Also refer to http://www.theaca.net.au for more information on counselling.

Please follow and like us:
Read more

Sleep Anxiety & The Power of your Mind

Posted on June 27, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

A global study conducted in February 2019 by Philips surveying over 15,000 people across 13 countries has revealed that worrying has kept over 51% of Australian adults up at night over the past three months, with illness and technology as other dominant disturbances.

The irony of this finding is that worry, or sleep anxiety as we like to call it, does nothing but exacerbate sleep disturbance and so the vicious cycle continues. On a more positive note, the study found that people do recognise and value the importance of sleep, and as a nation over half (63%) of Australian’s experiencing sleep disturbance have taken active steps to resolve the issue. On the flipside, Australians are more likely to use sleeping tablets than any other country- a worrying notion in itself.

So how do we stop the vicious cycle of sleep anxiety and drug reliance to help aid sleep?

Never underestimate the power of your own mind! After all, if worry has the power to stop your mind from rest, the power lies within to counteract such thoughts with more positive, soothing and naturally tranquilising ones.

Enter, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), a form of therapy that has been scientifically proven to improve long term sleep health and reduce the reliance on sleep medication. Breaking the sleep anxiety cycle begins the minute you wake. After a restless night, you wake up tired and irritable which provokes anxiety about how you are going to cope with work, family commitments and other daily pressures. As the day continues you worry about how you might sleep that night and so the vicious cycle continues. Stopping the pattern of worry, requires acknowledging the thought as it enters your mind and replacing it with more helpful thoughts. This the has a flow on effect with positive thoughts leading to behavioural change. An action plan that involves a commitment to changing lifestyle choices that may be inhibiting sleep (read more about these below) and establishing a better bedtime routine may provide real comfort.

Often, we are our own worst enemy when it comes to sleep with a bunch of habits that are seriously unhelpful. Here are 5 common habits that are serious sleep killers.

  1. Worrying about sleep during the day. This is a number 1 ‘no-no’.
  2. Drinking too much caffeine, particularly after 2pm
  3. Overindulging in alcohol during the evening. Not only will this keep you up to the loo; alcohol is a major sleep inhibitor, affecting your natural circadian rhythm. Read more about this in “Mind the Booze if you want a good Snooze
  4. Exercising within 3 hours of bedtime. Although exercise is key to overall health and beneficial to quality sleep; be mindful of working out too close to bedtime as it produces too much physiological arousal which is not preparing our body for sleep.
  5. Gluing yourself to a screen. Technology is a sleep killer with the blue/green light omitted interrupting your natural circadian rhythm. If the technology is work related, you are also not allowing your mind to destress and decompartmentalise work life from home life.

Sleep Specialist Dr David Cunnington has been involved in ongoing research on using CBT for insomnia. Recent research published in June in Annals of Internal Medicine showed that on average people went to sleep 19 minutes faster and stayed asleep 16 minutes longer after CBT. This is similar to the effects of sleeping tablets but without the long-lasting negative effects.

Group programs like Towards Better Sleep, utilise CBT and focus on sleep education, behavioural techniques, correcting faulty thinking and relaxation strategies. Group therapy in treating insomnia has proven effective as it offers participants the opportunity to share stories and learn from the experiences and ideas of other insomnia sufferers, in a private and confidential setting. It also allows therapists to treat more people in a cost-effective way. To register for the next programme commencing Thursday 18th July visit Towards Better Sleep  or email tbs@psychologyconsultants.com.au

 

 

Please follow and like us:
Read more

Teaching Children about Anxiety

Posted on June 16, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

Anxiety problems in children are very common, probably more so than other better-known behavioural problems like conduct disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But how can we help children who suffer from anxiety?

Anxiety and fears in children are often obvious from an early age. Children from age five can present with phobias, obsessive-compulsive problems, social fears and shyness, or separation anxiety.

Anxious children usually fear particular things (for example, strangers or separation). They will talk about their fears and will avoid the situations or activities that they fear. It’s a common misconception that talking with your child about their anxiety will make it worse. Some parents may feel like talking about their fears or focusing on them will exacerbate them, but it can be really helpful in allowing your child to better understanding the symptoms and how to manage them.  So, what can parents do to help children who are experiencing anxiety?

  1. Ask your child about their  fears and talk openly and honestly about them.
  2. Listen to what they have to say and observe their behaviour.

Tip: Telling your child “not to worry” is generally ineffective. Think about how this makes you feel when you are worried or anxious.

  1. Teach them about anxiety. Tell them it is normal to experience anxiety. It may help to relate to your child’s anxiety with feelings you may have experienced when you were the same age.
  2. Discuss the feelings and physical symptoms that arise when your child is feeling anxious. Helping your child to recognise the symptoms will go a long way in helping manage them.

The main thing to consider is “Is my child’s anxiety interfering with his or her life?” If the answer is “yes” then it is worth doing something about it.

But what can be done for anxious kids? The answer is that teaching kids practical skills through cognitive behavioural therapy goes a long way to helping them manage their own anxiety.

At Psychology Consultants, children can learn how to identify their anxiety, how to manage the physical symptoms of anxiety, and how to think more realistically. We can also help them expose themselves to their feared situations and reduce their anxiety reaction to those situations.

Please follow and like us:
Read more

Work to Live- Not Live to Work

Posted on June 13, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

How to avoid Job Burnout

You’ve officially reached the half-way mark but that Summer break seems leap years away and getting up to go to work every day has become a major chore. You’ve become increasingly cynical at work and things that you ordinarily let fly now really irritate you. Headaches plague you and your work satisfaction has hit ground zero. If this all sounds very familiar, you might be experiencing ‘job burnout’. Note that these symptoms may also be caused by depression or other mental illness and should not be ignored. Either way, such symptoms can have serious consequences and seeking professional help a must.

Job burnout is a relatively new concept, first noted in 1974 by Hebert Freudenberger and likely a result of the modern workings of the world and increased demands and expectations of staff by workplaces. Caused by a number of factors, namely chronic stress, the World Health Organisation define it last month as; “…a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy”.

Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist speaks about how to avoid Job Burnout  

Not surprisingly, job burnout is more likely to occur when one lacks proper work life balance. When a job consumes you so much that you have little or no time for friends and family, you are more likely to build resentment towards the job, your employer or your workplace. It is important to set boundaries around your work and the time you are willing to commit to it. Being clear and upfront with your employer about fair workloads and resources may also help you feel more in control and less stressed.

Having a sense of identity away from work may also help you feel less consumed and regain a sense of purpose and enjoyment away from work. Taking time to keep active, social and do things you enjoy supersede impressing your boss. Having a mantra like “I work to live; not I live to work” may help you keep things in perspective.

What to do if you have Job Burnout

The first step is to recognise that you don’t have to live with this level of daily dissatisfaction. The next step is to start a conversation about how you are feeling with your manager to resolve the core issues that may be contributing to your stress.  If you work with people you trust, it may also help to share your feelings with a colleague; if not seek the support of loved ones and give yourself a pat on the back for having the strength to take control of your life. Your work may also offer employee assistant programs; take advantage of these services, they are there for a reason. Taking time to explore all of your work options to assess if the job or industry you are in, suits your personality or lifestyle, may inspire you to make a change, or offer the clarity you are seeking.

Don’t underestimate the importance of work-life balance; part of the healing process will be regaining what you may feel has been lost along the way. Making time for exercise is key, as is a healthy diet, adequate sleep and time spent with friends and family. All good for the mind and soul.

If you are in the thick of job burnout and don’t know what to do next, talking to a psychologist can help manage stress related symptoms and provide the perspective you need to make positive steps forward. Check out our team of Clinical Psychologists here. 

Please follow and like us:
Read more

Healthy Winter Habits to keep in Mind

Posted on June 8, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

After a very long Brisbane summer, Winter has finally arrived and the temptation to go into hibernation increases as the mornings get colder and the days get shorter. Many people experience a bit of a cold snap slump during Winter, but perhaps if we continued all of our gloriously healthy Summer habits, we could avoid the Winter blues…

Diet, sleep and exercise; the pyramid of mood affecters, are the three things we quite quickly modify when the Winter months kick in. Salads are subbed for heart-warming casseroles and the snooze button is a temptation too hard to resist as slippers replace sneakers.

Here are a few smart ways we can continue healthy habits throughout Winter to keep those happy hormone firing.

Diet: 

True to the old saying; ‘You are what you eat’, our diet has an incredible impact on our mind, body and soul. There are strong links between poor diet and mental health and part of this can be due to the vicious cycle of guilt, weight gain and self-shaming. But it’s not just about what you eat but also about how you eat it. Enjoy your food, think about the connection you have with it, where it came from and how it is going to nourish your body. Eat distraction free, turn off your phone, TV or other distractions that you can control and try to focus on the taste, smell and feel of the food as you eat it. It’s all too easy to snuggle up in front of the TV with a blanket and eat Winter comfort food but this is not helpful in the long run.

It’s important to be aware of your physical cues vs emotional cues when it comes to eating. In short, eat when you are hungry not when you are tired, emotional or have ‘3:30itis’. Fulfil your emotional needs with something other than food, this might be a walk, a chat to a friend or something you consider personally indulgent.

Sleep:
It’s normal to feel sleepier and need a little bit more shut eye in the Winter month and this is due to your circadian rhythm which regulates your body clock. It is however, important not to oversleep during the colder months. Try to focus on getting better sleep rather than getting more sleep. If you are struggling with sleep, seeking help is a must. Some basic sleep hygiene tips include, keeping your evenings technology free (really- yes really), avoid alcohol within a few hours of bed and reduce caffeine after 2pm.  Although it is important to exercise and in fact it can improve sleep quality, some research suggests avoiding it within 3 hours of bedtime.

Exercise:
Research and literature across the world concur that exercise is one of the key components to maintaining your health and wellbeing and this doesn’t change in Winter. Brisbane Winter is pretty mild so outdoor exercise is still very achievable without the risk of frost bite! In fact, the conditions are much better for outdoor exercise than the warmer months and so walks or runs can even be extended. Rather than battle with your morning alarm clock and the frosty temps, consider a lunch time stroll or a social exercise session on the weekend instead. Incorporating 30 minutes into your day is important for physical and mental health, whether it be incidental exercise or a lounge room work out, maintaining regular exercise should remain a Winter priority.

Whether its summer, autumn, winter or spring, how you feel inside is real and it’s important not to sweep it under the carpet and hope your mood improves. Enlisting the help of a psychologist or mental health professionals can help people who are feeling depressed to assess the thinking patterns that may cause negative thoughts and behaviours.

So, for those of you who do experience a yearly cold snap slump, or if you have been struggling with prolonged depressed mood, seeking professional help is the best way forward.

Please follow and like us:
Read more

Conflict is a Part of Life

Posted on May 1, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

 Words & Sketch by Dr Stan Steindl: Clinical Psychologist & Adjunct Associate Professor

Just as one might say “suffering is a part of life”, so too, it seems, conflict is a part of life.

 

 

Conflict is in our very nature. Every day, large or small, human conflicts are all around us. But conflict is simply a result of problems being tangled up with the darkside of human nature emerging from innate protection and competition motivations that have evolved over millions of years to help us survive, and that come with difficult tradeoffs. How can we disentangle ourselves and our problems from these more primitive motives and manage conflict better? By activating some of the best bits of what it is to be human, especially the awareness, wisdom, strength, intention and commitment…of COMPASSION.

I was riding my bike at the weekend just past, a leisurely stroll through suburban Brisbane, Australia, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, minding my own business. Riding along the road, I turned right at an intersection where a car was waiting to go the other way. As I past by, I looked through the window, and there was the driver, apparently yelling profanities at me, face contorted with anger, showing me one particular finger pressed up against his window. I’m not sure what had enraged him, I couldn’t hear anything he was saying through the closed window, but something I did presumably made him absolutely irate!

We almost can’t help but have conflicts like this. Sometimes it’s with random strangers, but we also have conflict with our spouses, family and friends, and neighbours. Sometimes gangs, groups or whole communities get into conflict. And of course, nations continue to go to war with devastating and often unnecessary suffering. All of these instances can be traced back to this human propensity to be in conflict.

Where Does This Propensity for Conflict and Violence Come From?

Professor Paul Gilbert, who, amongst many other appointments, is Honorary Professor at the School of Psychology, University of Queensland, and developer of Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT), has been known to say, “Well, you see, we have very tricky brains!” Professor Gilbert has done seminal work bringing together psychological science, neuroscience and evolutionary science, as well as the wisdom traditions, to understand the human brain and how it has evolved over millions of years to aid in our survival, but with tradeoffs. And conflict is one example of such a tradeoff.

Human beings have a highly responsive threat system. In fact, our brains have evolved to err on the side of seeing threats that perhaps aren’t there, rather than ever missing a threat that is there. And what was a likely threat to prehistoric humans? Well, most notably, other humans. Especially if those other humans were strangers, or looked, sounded or acted differently to us, and their motivations were unknown. “Us and them” mentalities became powerfully wired in the early human brains, and erring on the side of seeing others as a threat became part of how human beings operated.

Fast forward to today, and we see it all around us. We are very good at categorising people, labelling them, putting them in boxes. And if they are different to “us” then they are considered one of “them” and therefore a potential threat. “All these immigrants are taking our jobs!” Given the response that emerges from the threat system is fight or flight, often we choose to fight and thus conflict emerges. Think of all the sayings: “offence is the best defence” or “shoot first, ask questions later”. These simply represent our human brains, passed down to us through the eons of evolution, programmed for us through no choice of our own to respond to potential social threats with anger, aggression and conflict.

But this is not the only source of conflict. We also have an active drive system. After all, if the threat system was always running the show, then we would be tempted just to stay in the cave and never venture out for fear of the dangers around us. But we needed to leave the cave, to find food, water, kindling, tools, other resources, or a mate. The drive system evolved to help us do just that, but again with certain tradeoffs.

Food and water were scarce. Resources were scarce. And perhaps a mate was hard to come by! So competition became woven into the fabric of the drive system. This meant we had to get places first, we had to knock others out of the race, and sometimes we had to defeat or dispatch them in order to get what we needed (or wanted). A classic modern day example is road rage, where, in the anonymity of our car we scream and yell at others, cut them off in traffic, and generally get caught in competition-fuelled conflict on the road when they get in our way, slow us down or obstruct us from our destinations.

It is striking just how often people fall into primitive motives involving threat-protection and drive-competition. And it is common that these motives then lead to anger and aggression, and ultimately conflict. These are very important motives, very natural and innate, and built into our species. The upside is that they have helped us to survive. They do have downsides, such as anger, aggression, interpersonal conflict and violence, and yet these are not our fault. We need not blame or shame ourselves for these human propensities. We just need to ask ourselves, what can we do to start to take responsibility for these downsides of human nature, our darkside, so we step out of autopilot, consider and respond differently, and move away, where possible, from conflict?

Perhaps the answer begins with another innate system of the human brain: the soothing system. We had to protect ourselves from threats, and we had to compete for resources, but the other essential component of human survival is the ability to soothe, nurture and care for each other, especially our vulnerable young, as well as our elderly, sick, or injured. This mammalian motivation to care is a vital aspect to the human brain and human survival. The problem here, of course, is that the soothing system tends to be directed towards our own kin, family or tribe, and does not, left to its own devices, cross the “us and them” boundary. So something more is needed, something that can help us organise these three systems in order to enable change. Luckily, the human brain already has what we need.

The threat, drive and soothing systems are part of very old, in evolutionary terms, brain functions. In fact, many animals, especially mammals, share these systems with humans. However, humans have also evolved certain new brain functions such as imagining the future, remembering the past, being aware of oneself, understanding the minds of others, and being able to set intentions for ourselves. Now, these new brain functions can be tricky too, such as causing us worry, rumination and self-criticism, however they can be brought to bear in order to shape and change our experience and participation in conflict.

As an extension of these new brain functions, our capacity for social intelligence provides an opportunity for effectively navigating conflict. Our new brains help us to bring awareness to a situation, and to think about that situation carefully and wisely, and to arrive at an understanding of the nature of the conflict, and the role of our tricky brains in further exacerbating it. Our new brains then also help us to listen, understand and empathise, both in terms of what we ourselves might be feeling, as well as what the other person or party might be feeling, and why, and how each party might be affecting the other. And our new brains help us, with wisdom, strength, empathy and understanding, to intentionally commit to finding the right path such that we seek to be helpful in the situation rather than causing more harm, thus activating a compassionate motivation.

From Conflict to Compassion

From Conflict to Compassion

Compassionate Helpfulness, Forgiveness and Assertiveness

The Dalai Lama (1995) has defined compassion as a sensitivity to the suffering of self or others, with a deep commitment to alleviate or prevent it. This uniquely human motivation can be brought to conflict situations in powerful ways, giving rise to helpfulness, forgiveness and assertiveness. Compassion can aid us in managing our protection and competition motives, and motivate us to try to be helpful to all concerned. For example, imagine conflict with a neighbour over a boundary issue. Rather than digging our heels in and not giving an inch, compassion can bring us to a point of being able to consider, “What can I do so that all parties suffer less? What can I do that is most likely to be helpful to all parties?”

And compassion can allow us to see things clearly, and from the other party’s perspective, to connect with their essential humanness, and all the good bits and not so good bits that go along with that. With compassion, we can begin to forgive the other party for the threat, obstruction or hurt they may have caused, wittingly or unwittingly, as well as forgive ourselves for our own transgressions. And forgiveness is a gift! It is a gift to the other person, with whom we have a much greater chance of reconciliation, and it is a gift for ourselves, allowing us to let go of resentful or vengeful thoughts and feelings. After all, those thoughts and feelings are usually much more painful for the person experiencing them than the person they are being experienced about.

For example, imagine conflict over an incident in the traffic. Of course we can stay offended and resentful, and we can start plotting our revenge! Or we can understand that there are many factors that might lead up to that person behaving in that way, we can forgive them for their mistakes, and we can slow down a little, make room for them and let them in. Just think of the suffering this could prevent. This is itself an act of compassion.

And finally, compassion is about alleviating and preventing the suffering of self and others. Therefore, the answer to conflict is not about going to the other extreme of aggression and simply being submissive, giving in or letting people off the hook. Compassion can help us in being assertive, and coming to a respectful agreement with mutually beneficial solutions and outcomes. Compassionate assertiveness guides us towards compromise and fairness, self-reflection and improvement, and effective communication and appreciation. It is about being open to giving and receiving understanding, giving and receiving feedback, giving and receiving appreciation, and agreeing upon reasonable boundaries.

Imagine being criticised by a partner, family member or friend. We can so easily feel threatened or hurt, and the temptation is to become defensive and start attacking. We might lash back with, “How dare you! You are awful and horrible, and you have no right to speak to me that way. I hate you!! In fact, you’re the one who is the problem here!” Of course, this is likely to cause the other person to fire up right back at you. An assertive response that comes from a compassionate motivation might instead be, “When you say things like that it really hurts me. I know that it comes from a place of worry or frustration in you, and yet I get upset because it makes me feel like you really don’t care. Could we talk together about this in calm and kind ways, and see if we can understand where each of us is coming from?”

Steps Towards Compassionate Helpfulness, Forgiveness and Assertiveness

Steps Towards Compassionate Helpfulness, Forgiveness and Assertiveness

So, conflict is a part of life. Human beings have tricky brains, and often it is the threat-protection or drive-competition parts of our brains from which conflict emerges. And it can be very destructive. But it doesn’t have to be! Our brains bestow us with a range of comparatively newer functions, such as social intelligence, which, when brought to bear on experiences of conflict, can serve to guide us in ways that are much more effective. Our awareness, empathic understanding and ability to set intentions can activate a more compassionate motivation. Handled well, this allows us to find ways to be helpful rather than harmful, to be forgiving rather than resentful, and to be assertive rather than aggressive or submissive. And together, this allows ourselves and those we interact with to suffer less.

Please follow and like us:
Read more

Habits of a Healthy Mind

Posted on April 29, 2019 in Uncategorized - 0

Mens sana in corpore sano– Latin for ‘sound mind, sound body’- okay so not exactly a news flash here but our modern lifestyles can make it harder than the simplistic motto would suggest. Sometimes, we need a little nudge, or gentle reminder to slow down, sub the chocolate for the cacao and reconnect with ourselves and others. 

So here’s what we consider habits of a healthy mind:

Eat Well- Eat Mindfully

True to the old saying; ‘You are what you eat’, our diet has an incredible impact on our mind, body and soul. There are strong links between poor diet and mental health and part of this can be due to the vicious cycle of guilt, weight gain and self-shaming. But it’s not just about what you eat but also about how you eat it. Enjoy your food, think about the connection you have with it, where it came from and how it is going to nourish your body. Eat distraction free, turn off your phone, TV or other distractions that you can control and try to focus on the taste, smell and feel of the food as you eat it.

It’s important to be aware of your physical cues vs emotional cues when it comes to eating. In short, eat when you are hungry not when you are tired, emotional or have ‘3:30itis’. Fulfil your emotional needs with something other than food, this might be a walk, a chat to a friend or something you consider personally indulgent.

Get Better Sleep

Note that did not say ‘Get More Sleep’ but ‘Get Better Sleep’. Sleep is the pillar of health and when it’s not good quality, your physical, emotional and mental health can head south pretty quickly. If you are struggling with sleep, seeking help is a must. Some basic sleep hygiene tips include, keeping your evenings technology free (really- yes really), avoid alcohol within a few hours of bed and reduce caffeine after 2pm.  Although it is important to exercise and in fact it can improve sleep quality, some research suggests avoiding it within 3 hours of bedtime.

Keep Active

Research and literature across the world concur that exercise is one of the key components to maintaining your health and wellbeing. This is even more apparent for those that suffer from acute or ongoing mental illness with findings showing exercise as highly effective strategy for alleviating depressive symptoms.

Be Kind to Yourself

There is much to be gained by being kind to yourself, just like there is emotional gain from being kind to others. As the Dalai Lama said; “If you have no compassion for yourself, then you are not able of developing compassion for others.” Cutting yourself some slack and not judging yourself will do wonders for your mind and soul.

Stay connected

There are strong correlations between loneliness and depression and anxiety with research showing prolonged loneliness negatively impacts the brain and can lead to stress and a range of mental health concerns. Staying physically connected with people is important, but the way we now communicate can make it a challenge.  We need to push past this and challenge ourselves to make meaningful connections with other humans. Shifting your perspective to values those meaningful human connections rather than counting the amount of relationships or friends you have, is a positive step towards a more confident and fulfilled you. Fostering these true connections by continuing to work on what makes that connection special, will help you both to thrive.

If you need help with emotional or psychological concerns, or just want to feel more fulfilled, visit our Brisbane Psychologists page to view our team of Clinical Psychologists.

 

Please follow and like us:
Read more
1 / 2 / 3 / / 24
Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)