7 Essential Lessons I’ve Learned as a Psychotherapist

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

alive possibelOne of the wonderful surprises of being a therapist all these years is how big the gift of being of service can be. I have the privilege of knowing people intimately and supporting them in opening their hearts and uncovering happiness. When I sit with that, it gives me an immense sense of purpose. Herein lies life’s beautiful paradox: The more love you give away, the more love you have. The ripple effects give me immense joy.

Through this experience I’ve realized at times it’s important to relay back what I’ve learned.

1. Essential Books to Have at Your Bedside

Aside from Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion (debut: January, 2015) - wink! – I’m a big fan of books that keep it simple. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk who writes simply and elegantly and I am a fan of many of his works. Taming the Tiger Within and The Miracle of Mindfulness are some of my favorites.

2. What’s the biggest myth about therapy?

That there’s an end goal.

I don’t mean that people need to be in therapy for an indefinite time, but there’s a faulty notion of achieving some end state. This focus makes therapy more difficult as the mind is cluttered with an expectation instead of focusing on learning. Even if insurance only covers 10 sessions and wants a definitive end goal, we have to always keep in mind that therapy is a vehicle for learning and while we can begin to master certain ways of being, growing and learning about ourselves in life never ends.

3. What seems to be the biggest obstacle for clients in therapy?

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Jews and Arabs Refuse to Be Enemies: A Compassionate Response to War

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

At some point in our development we learn to see others through a lens of fear and hate. Because the brain is so malleable in our younger years these beliefs become that much more ingrained and as we grow older the skew of our lens becomes hardened. When it comes to the Middle East, it seems there is a collective lens that’s been hardened through history that Arabs and Jews have an irreconcilable relationship.  There seems to be a social construction of hopelessness that we’re all entranced in. But if hate and ignorance are learned, is it possible they can be unlearned?

The reality is nobody has “the answer” to this conflict and the historical trauma on both sides runs deep. When safety feels threatened, as is a continual reality there, it’s a natural survival reaction to close down the mind and heart in order to protect against vulnerability and default to a fight or flight response. If someone was shooting arrows at you, you’d put up your shield and either run or eventually shoot back. At the same time, I know there are many people on both sides, if not the majority, that see the common humanity between each other, want deeply to feel safe and protected, and long to live in peace.

From thoughts come actions and from actions comes consequences.

Read through the intentions and pictures below in the following “Compassionate Peace Practice.” Set your judgments aside for a moment and see if you can bring them into your heart and mind when considering all those who are suffering in this war.

A Compassionate Peace Practice (Share Generously):

“May all those who have suffered violence and all those who have committed violence feel safe and protected from inner and outer harm (because if they did feel safe they’d be less like to commit violent acts).”

arab israeli 1

“May all those in conflict be awakened to their common humanity.”

arab israeli 3

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STOP – This Blog May Save Your Life Today

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Take two minutes to read this blog post; it may truly be the thing today that can save your life.

First before we begin, watch this surprising video below (runtime 1:47).

The National Safety Council says there are currently 1.6 million accidents per year for texting while driving.

How could it not be true that the way many of us engage with Smartphones while in the car is not responsible for a rising amount of death tolls and injuries?

To some extent, it’s important to understand how the brain science may be working in the case of driving with the phone.

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Overcome These Five Obstacles to Your Mindfulness Meditation Practice

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

shutterstock_141990691Many media outlets have been talking for a number of years now about how ubiquitous mindfulness is, the impact it’s having in a variety of sectors and all the wonderful science that continues to be published. But I noticed that many people in the media don’t talk much about the actual formal practice of mindfulness meditation and that’s probably because it can be a hard habit to establish. One thing I’ve learned is if you want to establish a practice you have to look directly at what’s getting in the way and allow those obstacles to be your greatest teachers.

Here are five obstacles that have been in people’s way for thousands of years and the antidotes to get over them.

  1. Doubt – The uncertainty about whether something will “work” or not often plagues many people in the beginning of their practice. The thoughts is, “this can work for others, but it won’t work for me.”  Sometimes doubt is healthy, teaching us to look closely at things before we buy them. But the unhealthy doubt just takes us away from experience before it teaches us anything.

    Antidote: We have to remember that thoughts are just thoughts; they’re not facts (even the ones that say they are). When we notice this doubt slipping

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The Mindfulness Backlash: True or False?

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

snakeoilIt seems like every day interest in mindfulness is reaching new heights. All the major news networks have covered it and recently Sharon Salzberg was on the Katie Couric Show explaining how to achieve mindfulness. But the question on many people’s minds is; has mindfulness become another form of snake oil, claiming to cure everything under the sun from anxiety to sneezing? Last week a post broke out on the New York Times claiming there is a “Mindfulness Backlash” afoot where some people are questioning the science, seeing it packaged as a commodity and even warning against it.

A Backlash: True or False?

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The Evolutionary Impulse of Depression: An Interview with Jonathan Rottenberg, PhD

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

facepalmIt doesn’t appear that there is a single person on this planet who is not affected by depression in some way. You’ve either experienced it directly or you have a family member or friend who has been caught in the throws of it. One in 10 adults report depression and that doesn’t count the millions more that  live in the shadows of shame and the millions more on top of that who simply live with some low grade life of apathy that doesn’t appear to lift. For this reason it has become one of the most important topics of our time.

That is why I am so happy to bring to you Jonathan Rottenberg, PhD, author of The Depths: The Evolutionary Origins of the Depression Epidemicto give us some insight into why depression is so tenacious and how we can begin making small shifts toward greater health and well-being.

Elisha: Jonathan, what I find so interesting about The Depths is how you explain depression in evolutionary terms. Tell us more about the evolutionary manifestation of depression as we know it today.

Jonathan: Mood is a very ancient adaptation. It’s easy for most people to see that high moods could be useful in energizing behavior to pursue rewards, but, low moods are useful as well. Low moods focus attention on threats and obstacles and restrain behavior. When conditions are unfavorable, or when goals are unreachable, low moods pause behavior to ensure that an animal does not engage in fruitless efforts. This efficiency is important given that resources of every sort — time, energy, or money — are finite.

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The Power of Mindfulness On-the-Go

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Poo Favorite DayDuring the day many of us are moving so fast, sometimes physically, but almost always mentally. Our neurons are firing in hyper speed with so much to do and so much to pay attention to. We’re all working so hard to get somewhere that we forget to be here. Sometimes when I’m rushing, I’ll notice that I’m “rushing home to relax.” In that moment I become present and realize that I don’t have to rush home to relax, I have arrived in the present moment and can choose to “be” different.

Here’s a trick I learned that helps me train my brain to be present while simply walking.

Mindfulness On-the-Go: 4 Steps

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Mindfulness: Sugar Free, Zero Calories, and Hours of Energy

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

sleepYou’ve heard it before, we’re a sleep deprived nation. If you took a poll, you’d likely find most of your friends feel more tiredness than they would like. That is why 5-Hour Energy Drink and other products like that are so popular. They perk us up, make us more engaged and interested in daily life. But there is another thing you can do, feed your mind specific mindful attitudes and practices that inspire a natural sense of engagement, curiosity and energy.

There is no doubt about it, mindfulness helps us wake up!

The practice of mindfulness opens our eyes, it’s meant to be an active practice where we’re intentionally focusing on some point of attention with an eye of curiosity. Just like

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The Gifts of Imperfection: A Mini-Memoir

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

make peace with imperfectionA family of four, with two young boys, walked into a Chinese restaurant. The family was sat at a table adjacent to a couple of older women who had already been eating their food. From time to time the father would catch the woman at the nearby table looking over at his family and shaking her head in what seemed like judgement. He was confused, what was she so disapproving of? This happened about two more times. Unnerved a bit, he noted this interaction to his wife. Before the food came he got up to bring his boys to the bathroom to wash their hands and as he did this she stared him down one more time and shook her head in what felt like disgust.

This father was me and this woman had broken through my mindful barrier and cued my fight or flight response.

I used all kinds of effort to stay present and mindful, but it was as if I was possessed and something inside of me was fighting to come out.

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Five Reasons Why Men Should Start Practicing Mindfulness

By Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

MENFrom my experience the gender that is overwhelmingly attracted to mindfulness is women, men aren’t quite as attracted to it. Why   is this? In the early days, the man’s greatest responsibility was to protect the tribe. Our brains have been crafted over thousands     and thousands of years to guard against vulnerability. The problem with mindfulness for men is that the practice of it asks us to look toward and open up to vulnerability because that is where the gold is. We are also asked to relate to it in very feminine language like with “warmth,” “tenderness,” and “gentleness.” However, the physical threats that men were guarding against in the past, in most cases, are no longer the threats of modern day. But the brain hasn’t figured this out yet and treats emotional vulnerability as a threat, keeping men from truly reaching our highest human potential.

But things are changing! There is an evolution afoot as more men are starting to see the benefits of integrating mindfulness into daily life.

If you’re a man or you know one, here are five reasons why I think men should give mindfulness a try.

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Books and CDs by Dr. Elisha Goldstein:
Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler: Quick Exercises to Calm Your Mind
The Now Effect: How This Moment Can Change The Rest of Your Life

A Mindfulness-Based
Stress Reduction Workbook Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety and Depression
 

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