Monthly Archives: July 2009

On Glasses Half-Empty or Half-Full. Part III: Learned Optimism

glasshalfemptyLEARNED OPTIMISM. Master this and you can change, with or without therapy.

The Pessimist reacts to setbacks from a presumption of personal helplessness. His assumption: bad events will last a long time, will undermine what he does, and are his fault.

The Optimist reacts to setbacks from a presumption of personal power. His assumption: bad events are temporary setbacks, isolated to particular circumstances which he can overcome by his own abilities and effort.

Martin Seligman, Ph.D., Director, University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center, is the psychologist generally credited as the founder of the field of Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology focuses on the empirical study of positive emotions, strengths-based character, and healthy institutions.

Research has demonstrated that positive psychology interventions can decrease symptoms of depression and allow people to feel more satisfied, to be more engaged with life, find more meaning, and have higher hopes,

An Exercise in Learned Optimism. Do try this at home:

1. First, you must know what situations get to you. Identify adverse situations or events you routinely face. Which ones typically bother you, creating negative emotions?

2. Note (and record) beliefs about those events that come to mind (the “recordings” you play in your head). What do you tell yourself about why what is happening is indeed happening?

3. Note the consequences of those beliefs (and write them down). How do those beliefs affect such things as your energy, emotions, and will to act?

4. Dispute those beliefs. Disputation can involve challenging the usefulness of the belief, focusing on evidence that contradicts or undermines the negative belief and supports a more positive interpretation, challenging negative implications on which harmful beliefs rely, and generating alternative explanations.

5. Distract yourself. Use distraction to stop the repetition – and recitation – of negative beliefs. You might take a breath, or snap a rubber band on your wrist and say “stop” when a negative belief comes into your mind. Writing down worrisome beliefs and fears to consider at a future time can leave you free to act.

6. Notice what happens to your energy and will to act when you dispute negative beliefs. With practice, disputation becomes more rapid and effective, as the energization it creates serves as a reward for your effort. With practice, the positive explanatory style becomes your default response.

Practice, practice, practice. And let me know how it works for you, ok?

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.


Banking: The Savings Bank

auburnsavingsbankgeorge-wackerman1 Goldman.
B of A .
401K’s, Roth IRA’s, FDIC, TARP, interest rates, bonds, shorting stocks, passbook accounts. Anything in common?

Banking sure has changed, hasn’t it?

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

And in the end…

sunsetinserengetiFull to overflowing: FULL TO OVERFLOWINGWHAT MATTERS MOST:

To have lived well.

To have loved well.

To have learned to let go.

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

On Love, Chocolate, and Romance

chocolateAh yes, love. Love is action, caring for the other person as if that person’s pleasure and happiness, as if ensuring the best for that person, pleases you even more than pleasing yourself. Not theoretically, or ideally, but actually does.

Like how you feel when your kid asks if she can have the last of the favorite imported dark chocolate or do you want it, mom, and you find yourself saying, even believing, of course you can have it. And not because you don’t want it, weren’t planning on it, hadn’t been craving it. But because it pleases you more that she have it, that you watch her enjoy it…

THAT feeling, but with a sensual component, a shared laughter component, a you-and-me-babe secret-code component…

Unromantic situations? How’s this: She loved him, adored him, called him multiple times a day to tell him how handsome, how sweet, how beloved he was. He loved her, left her little notes and bought her trinkets for no good reason except they reminded him of her, couldn’t keep his hands off her neck, her hair. Who loved whom first? One of them. They each knew who began it, but it seemed eons ago. Because after some time, it wasn’t clear who did what to whom or who began it or … it was all just love.

And then she got cancer. and it spread and she began wasting away. And then he cried when he left for work and brought home funny jokes and funnier movies. And then he sat with her as she waited for treatments, and sneaked into the treatment room to hold her hand. And then he carried her into the bathroom. And then into the bathtub and washed her body, tears of joy and sorrow coming down his face, not wanting anyone else to take his pleasure, his joy in caring for her. Until she died…

True story. More than one true story (though not nearly enough of the true stories).

So love. How you feel or what you do? Both. And more…

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

On Fireworks beyond the 4th of July

fireworksI love fireworks. Love them. The light. The colors. The crackle of excitement, the explosives that signal fun, not guns. The way we all wait in anticipation, strangers united, staring in the same direction, hopeful. Last night, watching Macy’s fireworks on the Hudson, I was so struck by the sense of joyous New York community: people on private yachts and packed party boats, on rooftops, standing on the docks, even watching on tv – New Yorkers coming together to clap and laugh and blow horns and share in the oohs and ahs of the spectacular. Echoes of other, more tragic, explosions somehow bringing us all closer, more appreciative… Pushing Recession 2009 out of mind for an hour of shared optimism and delight…

In life, most of us also prefer the occasional dollop of excitement and surprise, enough explosiveness to surprise us and get the adrenaline going. But beyond adolescence, the drama and explosion generally work best in infrequent, controlled doses. Enough to light up the sky with the fabulous, to let us sigh together at the duds, and to leave us sated and happy to settle into the calm that follows.

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

All Therapy, All the Time…

girl lookingIf your 45 minutes in session is all you’re getting from your therapy experience, it’s one very expensive use of your precious time and money. Too expensive.

You uncover things about yourself during the session, learn new skills and perhaps try out new behaviors. All good. But therapy is meant to be more than just what happens in your therapist’s office. It’s meant to be an ongoing process, a way of thinking and learning about yourself and your connection to the world. That doesn’t necessarily mean the sort of “Woody Allen” therapy you stay in (seemingly) forever. It means you are meant to ponder, to practice, and to let it all penetrate – both within – and outside of – the therapy hour.

On the way to your session (sort of like how you sometimes feel you have begun your vacation the minute you buckle your seat belt?). When something about a habit you’ve had for years somehow feels different. When you notice yourself feeling something in an otherwise ordinary everyday encounter that reminds you of something you’ve been working on in your therapy.

Therapy happens between therapy sessions, just as much as it does during session, perhaps even more. Because it is between sessions that you make your therapist’s brilliant insights your own, drop the particulars you can’t really make your own, and take your own insights out for a test drive. With consequences.

Because therapy is meant to help you make your life work better. It is not meant to be a substitute for, or a place to hide out from, living your life. It’s a way of looking at the world, your way of looking at the world: clarified by information, enriched by insight, enhanced by openness, and uniquely your own. And that takes practice. That is an ongoing practice…

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.