Happiness Revisited

In an article entitled “How I Stopped Chasing Happiness and Started Enjoying My Imperfect Life” by Mai Pham, featured on tinybuddha, Mai explores the assumption that achievement equals happiness. She talks about her own experience of having set goals, often driven to perfection, and upon achieving those goals felt ordinary when she expected to feel extraordinary. She noted “I blamed my achievements for my dissatisfaction—that they were not tremendous enough for me to feel happy. So I thought I had to do more. I found a new goal, and I fell into the trap again.”

She makes an interesting observation that in the process of trying to achieve success in order to find happiness, she lost sight of the most important goal of all which was to enjoy her life.

Very often, we are pulled into a frenetic pace, lulled into the dull belief that the more we have the happier we will be. If this becomes the driving force to our goals, we unfortunately miss out on the richer experiences and connections our life has to offer. I especially resonate with her statement that “Happiness is the direction we choose and the way we live our lives,” for it implies a slowing down of sorts; a choice to create goals that are less achievement oriented and more experience oriented; a balance between work and play, a shifted focus on self-care and the quality time we spend with the people we love. Happiness then, becomes less about achievement and more about contentment, enjoyment, peace.

To read the full article: https://tinybuddha.com/blog/stopped-chasing-happiness-started-enjoying-imperfect-life/

Photo credit: http://Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash


Anxiety Fact #3

Anxiety is not dangerous. Can it feel threatening? Sure it can; our fears often take over and it makes us feel as though we have no control. We call this thought process “catastrophic or worst-case scenario thinking” which at times, if left to its own devices, can lead to obsessive ruminating and/or a panic attack. But even panic attacks are not harmful or dangerous to us, even though they may feel that way.  Although there certainly is research that shows that chronic stress (which always carries with it anxiety) is, and can be harmful to our health, that is not the type I am referring to in this anxiety fact. Rather it is the act of anxiety itself that is not dangerous; it is a physiological response, one that can be calmed through the act of deep breathing.

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” – thich nhat hanh

Information for this post and a great website: https://www.anxietycanada.com/

Photo credit: http://Photo by Geran de Klerk on Unsplash


Change it, Accept it or Leave It

Often times when a client is faced with an issue that they are struggling with, we will explore the concept of “Can I change it, accept it or leave it?” Many people have trouble accepting what they are unhappy with (which is often what has led them to therapy in the first place) and so they are bound somewhere in the process of trying to change it.

I have come to learn that out of those three choices, it tends to be in our human nature to try to change something first.  Very often, we will attempt to change someone else’s behaviour as this appears to be the most logical solution (sometimes pointing out or telling someone how we feel may be enough to want them to change.)  Unfortunately as many of us learn

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Fall Colours

For some people the beginning of fall is a time of melancholy; a settling in of a quieter, sometimes low or even depressed mood. Known as the grey months, the changing of summer to fall can often trigger a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD usually begins and ends at the same time each year, leaving you feeling less energetic and increasingly moody. The days are shorter, we see less of the sun and everything feels a bit duller.

For other people, fall is full of colour. The leaves are changing and brilliant with tints of orange, red and yellow; the air is fresh and crisp, the sun on fall days brings with it a greater appreciation of it’s warmth. The image of fall conjures up thoughts of cozy sweaters, apple orchards, pumpkin pie and curling up by the fireplace.

Whether we are in one camp or the other, I wonder, is it possible to make room for both? Feeling the sense of loss to the warm days of summer and a reckoning that winter is coming, but also accepting the knowledge that the changing of seasons help to facilitate movement and renewed growth? Perhaps being able to hold both in our hands can help us to appreciate the ever flowing, all encompassing,  never-quite-so-black-and-white world that we live in. 🙂

For tips and treatment of SAD: https://www.webmd.com/depression/depression-sad-diagnosis-treatment#1

“It is Like a Bad Back”

In a podcast I was recently listening to entitled “The Hilarious World of Depression with John Moe,” he was interviewing comedian Andy Richter about his experience with lifelong depression. I appreciated Andy’s description in terms of the weight of depression and how it can exist despite what he would consider a good life, and how the hopelessness of this mental illness can be invasive, regardless of what is going on in your world at the time. At one point, John asked him “Is depression something that you managed or conquered?” to which Andy replied “managed, yes absolutely managed” and he went on to provide this analogy “It’s [like] a bad back. It’s a bad back that I have learned to cope with, deal with, with exercises, medications, therapy; that I have gotten to a workable level. And it isn’t to say that it doesn’t affect my quality of life because it probably does; it most definitely does, but it’s a bad back.”

The value of this analogy is that it takes the stigma out of depression. It helps us to gain a greater understanding that for some people, depression is organic; it is something they live with. His words are also a gentle reminder that we have to be active in managing depression whether it be situational or biological; in order to alleviate it’s weight.

To listen to the full podcast: https://www.apmpodcasts.org/thwod/2017/01/andy-richter-on-youthful-melancholy-and-twisted-entertainers/

Photo credit: http://Photo by JOHN TOWNER on Unsplash

Nature’s Soul

When my sister and I were kids we spent hours outside; we had snow forts in the winter, tree forts in the summer and had nicknames for all of the places we would choose to play in; “the big rock, the little pond, the big pond, the tracks.” There was no limit to time when we were fully immersed in the games we were playing and we came home with a freshness to our cheeks and grass stains on our jeans (or massive snow balls on our mitts and hats!)

There is something about being outside that just feels good and it is the best known remedy for clearing our head. How many times has “fresh air” been the perfect solution after having been cooped up inside with the flu (same advice goes for a hangover); or sending the kids outside to burn off some energy?

I often talk about the remnants of a “survival brain” from our days of living on the plains but what about our soul? Could it be possible that it is also distantly connected to those days when we lived off the land; respectful of it’s harsh conditions but also appreciative of it’s reverent beauty? I like to think that perhaps the reason we feel so at peace when in nature is about being inherently bonded to a part of ourselves perhaps long disappeared but not forgotten; a little bit of us, that when outside, feels at home 🙂

Photo credit: http://Photo by Michal Janek on Unsplash

“Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys”

Is a fun way to remind ourselves that we feel more at peace when we can live with as little drama as possible. In our final post of “The Drama Triangle” by Stephen Karpman, we look at how to move away from drama by way of first recognizing the roles we are playing in the conflict and then moving towards a more productive and healthy goal.

If we notice that we are in persecution mode, our goal becomes to move to clearer structure. It is about asking ourselves, “What is my role in this conflict?, am I being flexible?, am I willing to compromise?” This allows us to lessen our angry feelings, moving towards more open thought. Sometimes when dealing with a Persecutor, we can try and use

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Drama 101: Post 3

Moving right along in our discussion about “The Drama Triangle” by Stephen Karpman, M.D., today we look at the role of the Rescuer. There is a fine line between supporting someone and saving them; and when we go into rescue mode, we have moved into a need to save. This need is about us, and feels quite personal; often times it will eventually work itself into some built-up resentment when we realize that the person we are trying to help is either not taking our advice or continues to loop through the same self-defeating behaviours. If you have a parent who tends to be a rescuer, they are often seen as a “marshmallow parent” because of their inclination to be too soft (this is where enabling often plays a role.)  The message that gets sent when in rescue mode is “Let me help you,” which can seem quite fundamental, but in reality we need to be able to help ourselves in order to get our problems solved.

The Persecutor, Victim and Rescuer make up the Drama Triangle, and each play their own destructive role in the conflict; needing each other in order to fulfill a subversive feedback loop. When we find ourselves pulled into drama (and often times it creeps up on us!) it is at this point that we can make a conscious decision to get ourselves out of the triangle; tomorrow we will look at how to move towards a healthier place.


Drama 101: Post 2

In our exploration of “The Drama Triangle” by Stephen Karpman, M.D., today we are looking another role, that of the Victim. Sometimes we learn in our lifetime to live as a victim; we have difficulty taking care of ourselves and turn to others constantly for that care. Other times, we feel victimized to a certain situation or relationship; in either case, the feelings are the same. If we are feeling victimized, we begin to feel helpless, hopeless and sometimes oppressed. We have difficulty solving our own problems, trouble making decisions and finding joy seems impossible. Essentially, the message being sent out to others and reinforced to ourselves is either “Poor me,” or “Why me?”

Sound familiar? We have all had one or two situations in our life where we felt lost to it, where we felt stuck as to how to make the decisions we needed to move forward from it, or escape it all together. Sometimes these same feelings come in the form of a relationship; either way it is the feelings of helplessness that are invasive and seem like a hard task to get through.

Tomorrow we will touch on the third role of the Drama Triangle, that of the Rescuer.

Photo credit: http://Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Drama 101: Post 1

Although I feel most people would agree that they don’t want drama in their lives, sometimes the conflict that occurs in our relationships or at work, pulls us right into the theatrics of the situation and leaves us feeling lost and overwhelmed. A tool that I often use in therapy is called “The Drama Triangle” by Stephen Karpman, M.D.; we will take the next four posts to explain it, the roles that people play when trapped in the triangle, and lastly, how to get yourself out of drama and feeling more at peace. You may notice yourself or others on the triangle in a general sense, however it is important to note that people can also switch roles at times depending on what is happening in the conflict.

The first role is that of the Persecutor whose m.o. is to blame others as a way to avoid taking responsibility. Persecutors will often use anger as a further means to prove their point and they do so for two reasons: 1. anger keeps them in a defensive position (part of our survival brain) and 2. anger keeps them in denial (which is a perfect way to avoid taking responsibility for their role in the conflict). It is important to note

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