What Would [Role Model] Do?

I’ve been getting annoyed more than usual the last few days. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been dealing with some difficult people (maybe) or I’ve just been in a place that I’m more easily annoyed (maybe), but the result is the same. I’m uncharitable in my assumptions. So when I get a discourteous email from a stranger, I don’t think, “Wow he must be having a rough day,” I think, “What an a$%hole!”

And why does it matter which assumption I make? It really doesn’t, to him. We will remain strangers either way. But for me, choosing compassionate energy is much is better for my overall mental state, long after the email is gone. I really like how I feel when I understand how someone reacts to something or when I’ve given someone the benefit of the doubt.

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the phrase, “What would So-and-So do?”

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coping skills

Pendulum of Change: A CBT Activity


So therapy is going well.  Maybe you used to be really passive and now you're standing up for yourself.  Maybe you used be afraid to try new things, and now you dive right in.

What I notice about clients who have spent their entire lives hiding and running, is that when they finally stop, there is a bit of a pendulum effect.  And I see a lot of these on a lot of levels: intimate relationships, office-sized systems, and societal.    The Pendulum Effect is worthy of its own blog post, but for now enjoy this mock case-study.

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Why Are You Obsessed with Narcissists?

People diagnosed with Narcissistic Personality Disorder make up, at most, 6% of the U.S. Population and generally less in other countries (from DSM 5).  Yet articles about recognizing and dealing with narcissists are so abundant that an alien reading mental health headlines would be forgiven for assuming that over half the population are people with grandiose visions of themselves, demand admiration and lack empathy.

Even though people get busy and it’s easy to rush by someone in need in most urban settings and sometimes people say really insensitive things, I do think that most people desire real connection with others and are willing to help when the need and the way to help is clear.  So then why do articles about narcissists resonate so loudly with readers?

One reason is that they cause so much pain.

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Tale of 2 Disasters

Three weeks ago, Houston was inundated with 10 inches of rain. Six people died, and another of others had to be rescued from flash flooded that swept away cars and filled homes. Last week, a lot of rain was dumped on Accra, Ghana though there is no report of how many inches were in the deluge. We don’t know how many people died, but estimates range from 150-200. About 100 of those were lost an explosion at a gas station where many people huddled, waiting for the rain to pass.

Ghana has about ½ as many people as Houston, yet 30 times as many people perished in a disaster that most people in America never even heard about. But the real pain and anger come from the fact that these deaths were preventable.

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Johnstown Flood: Anniversary of a Catastrophe

May 31, 1889, a small river near Pittsburgh grew to the size of the Mississippi when the South Fork Dam overflowed and then broke apart, releasing 20 million tons of water into the valley below and killing over 2,000 people.

The river valley had hills on each side and became a chute for all this water, funneling it the 14 miles to Johnstown. The 40 foot wall of water ripped up trees, houses, businesses and even railroad cars and pushed it down the valley. The velocity of the water and 14 miles worth of landscaping and development would easily have been enough to take out the Johnstown bridge but there was a turn in the valley just before and the hillside took the force of the blow. So instead of washing out the bridge and carrying on, the bridge’s supports quickly filled with the junk that was being pushed along, creating another dam. Thus, the lake created by the South Fork Dam reformed over Johnstown, which is why it is called the Johnstown flood.

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Disaster Recovery Myths and Facts

Because PTSD is a mental health diagnosis, we usually think of trauma as an individual condition. But traumatic events happen to communities all the time and recovery happens on a community wide level.  After a disaster, individual mental health recovery depends on the recovery of the community--if basic needs are met and several other aspects are handled well, someone is going to be able to process what's happened much better than if they are unsheltered, hungry...
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coping skills

Tarot: Should It Have a Place In Your Self-Care Routine?

I generally promote evidence-based practice, so most people familiar with my work may be wondering if I got hacked. I know that Tarot isn’t for everyone, and I know that there are a lot of different ways to use it. So I’m going to be very clear about what I am discussing.

Tarot is not an evidence-based treatment for trauma or any other mental health diagnosis. However, I do think that creative, non-sciencey activities can be really helpful for developing insight when we’re stuck on an issue or want to better understand how we feel about something. It’s not unlike flipping a coin not to let the coin make the decision, but because the outcome of the coin toss tells you which option you wanted all along.
What is Tarot, exactly?
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The Right to Say No

Because I work at a school, I get introduced to a lot of children. I usually start by holding out a hand in case they want to brush it, grasp it or go in for a hug. Sometimes a shy child draws back altogether. Unfortunately, when this happens, the child often is admonished: “Don’t be rude, give her your hand”

“No no!” I jump in quickly. “It’s okay for her not to touch me. I want her to learn that she has the right to refuse to touch someone, that it’s her body.”

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