Tag Archives: How to

I’ve Hit a Wall. Help!

When I began this blog, I intended to focus on the psychological effects of the economic downturn, and to provide tools for the stress the roiling markets produced.  Who would have guessed just how often I’d get requests for advice on how to manage the therapeutic alliance!  How to get your therapist to like you.  How to get your therapist to love you.  How to leave your therapist.  How to make sure you don’t have to leave your therapist.  How to handle it when your therapist leaves you.

But one of the biggest surprises of all is just how often the search that brings someone to my blog is “How to mess with my therapist’s head.”  I admit I am stymied.  Why in the world would anyone want to do that?  Why spend your money and your time supposedly seeking treatment from a professional when what you really want to do is pull one over on him or her?  Assuming you’re in a bona fide psychotherapy, which you pay for with your hard-earned time, money and commitment to self-disclosure, isn’t it a waste to focus on subterfuge, misleading your therapist, playing games, even vengeance?

Help me out here:  what, exactly, is this all about?  And why are so many people interested in how to do the best job undermining the very therapist they pay to help them?  Any thoughts would be most appreciated.  There’s clearly something here for me to learn!

Copyright © 2012 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.


How to Get Him to Listen: A Primer

Ever get the sense the person you are talking to may hear you, but is not listening?

Want to be heard, really heard, before you lose your cool?

Before you begin

(by – and for – yourself):

  1. Determine clear, specific objective for the conversation.
  2. Have your facts available, preferably in bullet-point form.
  3. Note alternatives if your objectives are not met (end the conversation, rethink your assumptions, time-out to cool down, enlist others, etc.).
  4. Your goal: to reach similar conclusion, redefining the problem as a common problem to be solved together.  (Assume you are on the same team, simply with different information, points of view, which when shared lead to mutually satisfying conclusion.  Your job: to get you there).
  5. Take a breath, collect yourself.

During the conversation:

  1. State your (joint) objective.  Make sure you have buy-in from listener.
  2. Ask listener to explain his point of view while you listen without reacting.(Repeat what you hear:  ensures you understand his position – and that he knows you take him seriously, are listening).
  3. Ask if he’s done and will now listen to your point of view.
  4. Keep it short.
  5. Stick to the subject.Spell out (new) points of agreement, next steps.

Always Remember:

  1. Respect.
  2. Your tone of voice: patient explaining, interested listening, patient explaining. No attitude, yelling, condescension, bullying, insulting.
  3. Facts, not personalities.  Contingencies, not threats. Best outcome for all, not who’s right and who’s wrong.
  4. Breathe.  Remember your objective and goal.
  5. If he stops listening, you stop talking (and start listening until he’s ready to listen again).
Copyright © 2011 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

Multi-tasking taking its Toll? Psychological Survival Skills for the Recession – and Beyond

Juggle too much, you drop the ball. These are stressful times.

Oh, forget that! It’s always stressful times for some of us: not enough time, too much to do, not enough energy, too much pressure… Things have sped up so much, for so many of us. Michael Winerip quotes Nina Lentini in today’s New York Times , “Everybody works like this now. This is just the new reality.” http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/21/fashion/21genb.html

Which is why you laughed when your father told you to complain to your boss about your hours. 9 to 5? Ancient history. 8 to 8? Starting to look like pretty good hours, if you are really done at 8. Because this is closer to the truth: online, on the cell, on duty, 24/7.

The truth about multi-tasking: More does not equal more; more equals less. We do too many things at the same time, and do each less well than we think we do. We juggle too much, and sleep too little. And it’s affecting our health as well as our disposition (tired person = cranky person). http://videos.apnicommunity.com/Video,Item,1091439491.html. We need to sleep more, multi-task less.

How to get the incentive?
Try an experiment. Two weeks. Get to bed – and sleep – an hour earlier than usual. And try doing one thing at a time. You know, what Mr. Graessle told you in 10th grade Science class. Two weeks. See if it makes a difference; you know it will.

How to get the sleep you need?

Take it. Decide to get up earlier rather than stay up later. You’ll accomplish more when you’re not exhausted.
Imagine it. As you close your eyes, repeat to yourself, “I am falling asleep now, and will sleep restfully through the night.”

How to get the rest you need?

Take it. Take a 24-hour break from technology: no cell, no computer, no ipod, no alarm clock. This is what used to be called the Sabbath…
Take it. Just say no. No more. Not now. Not until I’ve finished this. No, it’s enough.
Take it. Breathe. Meditate. Focus on one thing at a time. Like watching the sky…
Imagine it. As you start to tell yourself you can squeeze in just one more thing, imagine how you’d feel if you just didn’t. Just this once. Or maybe not…

Copyright © 2010 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

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.

You and Your Therapist: Part IV. How to Tell if Your Therapy’s Working.

You begin to question your psychological assumptions – about yourself, your relationships, your world view.

You are learning something – about yourself and about how others perceive you.

You start to think about things in a different way; it may be more than a bit unnerving.

You feel like, finally, the pieces of the puzzle are fitting together, and what seemed impossible is now clear, simple (even if you couldn’t explain it to anyone else!).

You are uncomfortable enough that you know you’re facing something about yourself, but comfortable enough to trust that you can handle it.

You find yourself trying out what you learned in therapy outside of the therapy session.

You start doing things, try new behaviors, you never did before, and notice what happens.

You stop doing things, resist old behaviors you always did before, and notice what happens.

You go home for a family reunion and the same things that have always driven you crazy – amazingly – don’t!

You hear your therapist’s voice in your head – before you do something the way you used to, the way it didn’t work, and you do something, anything different.

You can see the progress you have made on the problems/issues you came into therapy to address.

Your friends or family tell you you’ve changed. You’re not the pushover you used to be, you don’t get as angry as you used to, you seem more comfortable in your own skin.

You can really ask yourself “why in the world did I do that?” Not berate yourself, but ask yourself. And then listen quietly and gently as you try out some possible answers.

You feel hopeful about the future.

You finally understand why in the world you keep doing the same thing and expecting a new result.

Other thoughts? Please… Write in.

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

If Lightning Strikes…Publish?

lightningstrikesFeeling inspired at 3 am when you can’t sleep – and writing until dawn? Coming up with a solution for our times that the world needs to read about? Turning the detritus of recessionary times into a literary work of art?

Want to publish?

Our friends Gregory F.Tague, Ph.D. and Fredericka A. Jacks at Editions Bibliotekos, a new Brooklyn-based publisher, are soliciting original creative contemporary prose for publication in upcoming theme-based collections. In the works: Medical Humanities, War and Peace, Adoption, Faith and Doubt, Immigration, 9/11-2011.

If you inundate them with terrific writing, maybe even something on the psychology of the 2009 Recession.

Full CALL and guidelines: http://sites.google.com/site/ebibliotekos/
Periodic updates: http://ebibliotekos.blogspot.com

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

Primer on Emotional Intelligence

EQEmotional Intelligence. You’ve got to have it to be a fully functioning adult. Obama’s got it big time. He represents the height of emotional intelligence, which is what these times demand. Witness how he wowed the crowds, the press, even heads of state during the recent G-20 summit and NATO meetings. His ability to listen and hear, to recognize shared concerns hidden within violently differing opinions, to formulate thoughts that bridge strong feelings – his high EQ offers hope we can understand and pull together at a time we so need it.

Obama’s developed his emotional intelligence over the course of a lifetime. Are some people “born with it?” No, they just learned very early on how to sense their own and others’ emotions, and how to comfortably and ably manage them. Then they spent a lifetime honing that ability until it feels automatic. Sure, it’s easier to learn early on, but it’s never too late. There are skills you can develop at any point in life, with a good teacher, the will to learn and the guts to practice.

The 4 Basic EQ Components:
The ability to perceive emotion
The ability to understand emotions
The ability to regulate emotions
The ability to integrate emotion to facilitate thought

Personal growth, interpersonal competency, intimate relationships, each of these benefit from a high EQ. Want it, work it, wield it. Is it worth it? You decide. Better yet, let the important people in your life decide.

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