Understanding Our Collective Consciousness

A warm and heartfelt hello to all my current and past patients, and the general public. It sure has been a roller coaster of days and weeks where all of us have had to make quick changes to fit our lives into this new model of living.

Stories I have heard are bitter-sweet. Some report feeling relieved for not having to get out and commute to and from work, not having to stand in lines of stores and establishments, and basically able to enjoy a simpler life.

These groups of people report to have taken the time to see about activities they had always liked but didn’t get a chance to do, such as organizations, writing and reading their favorite books and poetry, watching their favorite shows and hanging out with friends on the phone or via a Zoom call. (I guess “Zoom” is now a basic household name, referring to meeting face to face online)!

Many people are reporting an increase in conflicts associated with being in such close contact with family members, home-schooling their children, and minding the elderly family members’ needs.

Some talk about an increased anxiety about getting sick, or about the future of their financial health or professional goals. Several have been speaking of feeling lonely and isolated, and experiencing some shade of existential crisis, wondering if their loneliness wasn’t only masked by their daily encounters with people.

If you find yourself in any of the above camps, just know you are so not alone. There is a collective unconscious that is guiding us all, in more similar ways than not, which makes me think perhaps there is a positive twist in all this madness.

 

What Is Collective Consciousness?

How do your beliefs align with the beliefs of others in society? What unites people within a society, at least to a degree? How do you come to see yourself not just as an individual, but as part of the larger society? One explanation for questions like these comes from the theory of collective consciousness.

In sociology and related social sciences, the idea of collective consciousness comes from the French theorist and sociologist Emile Durkheim. Collective consciousness is all about understanding what makes society work.

For Durkheim, individuals in society – while we all have our own individual consciousness – also share a solidarity with one another. We work together in many ways and our collective consciousness is what allows this to happen.

Basically, collective consciousness is a constellation of ideas, beliefs, and values that a great number of individuals in a given society share.¹

As a clinical psychologist I see the strong foot prints of our own personal beliefs when we assess and determine how bad or good we feel. It is often not the very circumstances that we are in, but the way we think of ourselves (i.e: victims or heroes, losers or winners, scared or courageous) that colors the way we feel about the circumstances.

 

How to tap into our collective consciousness

So, I’d like to share some potential good ways that you could take advantage of the fact that this collective consciousness is at the core of our community in order to help yourself and those around you feel better, more connected, less stressed, and ultimately better capable to weather these challenging times:

 

1. Search and see what is needed in your community and start volunteering your efforts toward that cause.

Examples: if you are a musician, perhaps you could make some recordings of your music and offer it to our local hospitals, places of worship, or just to your own group of friends. Maybe you like crafts and basically like to create things with your hands.

Find any materials around the house, order them online, or ask neighbors and friends to donate them and then begin creating pieces that give the message of endurance and strength and spread those items around to people. Examples: scarves, embroideries, wood carvings, collages, afghans, music recordings and playlists, etc.

 

2. Take courses and train yourself in new ways.

It is likely that the future of your trade might take on a different form over the coming months and maybe years. Teaching yourself new ways to offer your trade might require some re-engineering and rethinking. This is a good time to prep for that.

 

3. Do not forget to stay in close contact with your family and friends.

I know many of us reached out to one another when the shelter in place began. It was novel and unusual, so we thought of our friends and relatives, wondering how are they going through it. But now, we might tend to forget that we really need each other in order to keep our hearts and minds filled with each others’ energies.

As much as it might sound silly, but using online meeting platforms (yes Zoom comes to mind again!!) to meet for group activities is really a great way to feel connected. I know of communities who do group meditations, listen or play music together, read poetry together, do hand crafts simultaneously together, and even watch movies together.

 

4. Seek therapy.

Of all times, this is the time to see about exploring your own particular coping styles, or learning more about your personal strengths and of course reaching for help if you are experiencing domestic conflicts, insomnia/ hypersomnia, chronic health problems associated with poor lifestyle, and of course depression and anxiety.

All and all, it is very important to keep in mind that social isolation doesn’t literally mean socially isolating ourselves. We are social creatures, and we need each other at all times, particularly at this time of a global pandemic.

Coping with Life in the Corona Virus Era

Life is full of challenges. Sometimes there is an overwhelming feeling of helplessness or hopelessness that might set in, making it difficult for people to trust their own intuition, or feel confused about how they are supposed to feel. This is especially true at a time like this, during a pandemic: COVID-19, Corona Virus.

As the world is facing the threat of Corona Virus, and as the virus’s consequences become more real and affect our immediate communities, fear, anxiety, irritability, even anger, and of course sadness and despair are normal emotional reactions.

Without the comfort of knowing what to do, we might scramble to find answers on how to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

As medical officials tell us how to clean our environment and how to cover our faces or wash our hands, we might feel even more desperate or frightened. We might even begin to think of obsessive thoughts and question ourselves, wondering if we have done everything we can.

If we go by definition, the above describes the anatomy of trauma. This is how traumatic events affect our mental health.

In this blog, I am hoping to accomplish one goal, and that is to bring to awareness the lessons we have learned from past traumatic experiences and apply them to this situation. Here are at least three tips and ideas to keep in mind:

 

Hopelessness:

At times of crisis, the mind will want to jump ahead of things and think of the worse case scenario. This is the mind’s attempt to preemptively keep you as safe as possible, because having had thought of the worse case makes you prepared for the worse case, or does it?

As it turns out, staying in the present time, focusing on everything you do know, and not making assumptions about how much worse it is going to get allows you to use your resources in a far more adaptive way. Being in a state of pessimism ultimately makes you feel hopeless, and when there is no perception of hope, you wouldn’t reach out for help or use the positive resources around you. That will make your situation far worse.

 

Disruptive Routines:

In the wake of crises, people might fall into dysregulated patterns of living, where their eating, sleeping, exercising and daily routines might alter. During the initial stages of becoming aware of a crisis, such as fire or an accident, such dysregulations are inevitable.

However, during more prolonged crises such as the pandemic we are currently dealing with, returning to a more predictive routine will make a huge difference in how well your immune system will be ready to fight. Sleeping on a regular schedule, eating fresh and healthy foods, stretching exercises such as yoga and activities that are more aerobic (like brisk walks in the outdoors) are strongly recommended.

Taking breaks from the news and not obsessively following the updates on the spread of the virus is actually a good idea.

Staying away from excessive alcohol and all recreational drugs including smoking is also particularly important, as you are trying to actually boost your natural health rather than making yourself more vulnerable. Lastly, staying connected with people you trust and love and reaching out to those whom you have not been in contact with recently is actually a fantastic mood elevator, and gives you a sense of belonging and being cared for.

 

 

Mixed emotions associated with quarantines:

If you have been separated from your loved ones, you can experience feelings such as fear and isolation, and maybe even rejection and loneliness. You are also likely to experience some guilt, shame, or self-blame. Rest assured that while those emotions are valid and perhaps predictable, they are transient and likely due to the temporary shock of the traumatic event of being quarantined.

Similarly, if a loved one is separated from you and kept in quarantine, you might experience guilt or shame around feeling relieved, or anxiety of being separated and a wish to join them, or just stressed from all the close monitoring of the symptoms. Again, such emotions are expected and normal reactions to a crisis. And yet, it is important to keep in mind that such emotions are transient, and that you should not fall for emotional reasoning, which is making decisions or jumping to conclusions based on the emotions of that moment.

 

Fluctuations in Mood:

Everyone responds differently to stress and anxiety related to getting sick. In fact, everyone responds differently to the idea of death, being that of their own or of a loved one. So recognizing your own emotions and being able to name them, to speak about them to a mental health professional, to keep a personal journal, or to choose to share them with a trusted loved one, are all incredibly helpful steps you can take to protect yourself at a time that self care is the name of the game.

 

This service is provided by Dr. Katie Dashtban, Psy.D.

Katie defines her role as a psychologist as one who holds a guiding light, while her patients choose the turns in this maze we call life. In her practice, Katie refrains from offering advice, but instead helps her patients overcome obstacles that cause emotional suffering, and shows them tools to use when deciding on the desired changes in their lives.

How to Spring Out of Depression

Yes, You Can “Spring Out” Out of Depression (And Two Common Factors That Prevent It)

Despite popular belief, “springing out” of depression is possible and may not require a lengthy course of treatment including medications and years of psychoanalysis—you can actually start to change how you think (and feel) in this very moment. Depression may no even be a mental illness, but instead a state of mind.

As humans, we have the gift of executive functioning in our evolved brain, which is a function of the frontal cortex, the newest evolved portion of our brain. Executive functioning, among many other things, gives us the capacity to think in abstract terms: for example, thinking about the future without the need for the future events to even have happened yet; or being able to attach more importance to events, or lessen their importance, per our own judgment. These are among the super sophisticated abilities of our frontal cortex. Unfortunately, our sophisticated brains can also engage in negative thought patterns, which are the creations of our own imagination.

The trouble arises when those thought patterns are twisted, or mistaken. With negative thoughts, we can create such strong, painful, and debilitating emotional experiences, which we call clinical depression. However, we can indeed “spring out” of those painful moments by closely examining our thoughts and using our judgment in ways that work to our advantage, as opposed toward our demise.

Here are two common factors that prevent people from moving quickly out of depression:

 

2 Reasons why people can’t change out of depression:

 

Diagnoses: It’s commonly the case that patients say something like: “I was diagnosed with Depression by my doctor.” And their outlook from then on is that this diagnosis has a sense of permanency to it.

It is as if they are saying “I was diagnosed with depression, and so now I have depression.” Clinical evidence has shown, however, that clinical depression is not a permanent mental illness.

In fact, the more evidence-based practices such as TEAM-CBT (founded by Dr. David Burns, M.D. Professor Emeritus at Stanford) shows that patterns of negative thoughts such as “Discounting the Positive”, or “Taking Blame for Everything,” are the causes of depression—in fact, sometimes even deep depression.

The moment, though, in which the patient notices how distorted their view is, they begin to see the light and suddenly their depression vanishes, right there on the spot!

 

Medical Model: Despite overwhelming evidence that shows patients who use medications to treat their depression continue to experience depression years after being on their meds, there is still a common belief that their brain either lacks or over-produces certain neurotransmitters—a condition that should be treated by medications that theoretically corrects the imbalance.

However, clinical evidence shows that the only time symptoms of clinical depression can successfully be subsided is when the patient recognizes the negative thoughts and assumptions they had, which caused them to feel quite depressed and hopeless in the first place.

So, in light of starting a new day or a new beginning this spring, I encourage people to ask themselves what thoughts or assumptions they are holding onto during those moments they are feeling depressed.

I know some people might say they are not aware of any particular thoughts during those difficult moments, and that they only know how badly they feel. In response, I would say, just take out a pen and paper, and jot down the emotions you are experiencing during those upsetting moments. Then ask yourself:

Why Am I Feeling That Way?

And whatever answers you come up with are the exact thoughts and assumptions that are running through your mind.

Next, take this one step further and ask yourself, would I talk that critically or negatively to a beloved friend? And you might notice you are engaged in distorted, negative thoughts that you wouldn’t ever think about someone else who you were judging or criticizing. You can then come to understand that your mind had fallen for those negative assumptions about yourself, and had accepted them unquestionably.

As you begin to practice shining some light onto your thought patterns, you’ll start notice the errors in your assumption, correct the errored ways of thinking, and instantaneously notice your depression lifting.

 

This service is provided by Dr. Katie Dashtban, Psy.D.

Katie defines her role as a psychologist as one who holds a guiding light, while her patients choose the turns in this maze we call life. In her practice, Katie refrains from offering advice, but instead helps her patients overcome obstacles that cause emotional suffering, and shows them tools to use when deciding on the desired changes in their lives.

Shame Attacking Exercises Reduce Social Anxiety

It’s not uncommon to think of treating a problem by introducing a little dose of that same problem to the system. Antibodies are the best example of such interventions. When it comes to anxiety disorders, the same principal applies. Even though the anxious person’s automatic response might be to avoid the anxiety-provoking situation, in the end, exposure to the anxiety making situation is the best treatment. In this link below, you will see a video of someone standing on the corner of the street, singing “Mary had a little lamb” to reduce social anxiety. You will read a few clips about some of the best ways to reduce social inhibitions, such asking a librarian that you are looking for a book on the art of farting!!

Have fun reading.

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2016/11/how-to-get-over-social-anxiety.html?mid=fb-share-scienceofus

This service is provided by Dr. Katie Dashtban, Psy.D.

Katie defines her role as a psychologist as one who holds a guiding light, while her patients choose the turns in this maze we call life. In her practice, Katie refrains from offering advice, but instead helps her patients overcome obstacles that cause emotional suffering, and shows them tools to use when deciding on the desired changes in their lives.

When Doctors Don’t Know What is Wrong

A small percentage of people experience an array of conditions and symptoms that cannot be grouped in one category to meet any known medical conditions. The illness of these people is often non-treatable with conventional or even un-conventional medicine. The following are often reported as symptoms that occur in conjunction, although not always in an organized manner.

Pain symptoms that persist such as joint pain, headaches, abdominal pain, rectum pain, pain during intercourse or urination or during menstruation. Gastrointestinal symptoms that show up unexpectedly and don’t respond to medicine or medical findings such as nausea, bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, and intolerance of several foods. Sexual or reproductive symptoms that are non-responsive to medications such as sexual indifference, erectile or ejaculatory dysfunction, irregular menses, painful intercourse and difficulty achieving orgasm.

Exceptionally unusual neurological symptoms like paralysis or localized weakness, difficulty swallowing, urinary retention, double vision, dizziness and or impaired coordination, and general fatigue and sleep disturbances.

There used to be a name for the above cluster of symptoms in the diagnostic book of mental illnesses, (DSM-IV), it was called Somatization Disorder. Suffering from the above conditions can sometimes be due to psychic pain. Psychic pain is REAL; but its treatment is specific.

In modern psychology there is less mention of psychic pain primarily because such concepts cannot be easily verified by evidence-based research and methods. Most recently however, a different phrase, Hidden Emotions, which was first cited in the research of David Burns, M.D, unveils a lot. Hidden emotions are clearly “hidden” from the conscious awareness, and yet they are the driving force for many behavioral, cognitive and in this case medical symptoms. Patients with history of trauma or childhood adversarial conditions, those with history of sexual abuse and sexual trauma, and those with significant history of drug and alcohol abuse are more likely to fall victim.

In my clinical practice patients who are diagnosed with Somatization Disorder often do report a significant history of struggles with chronic traumatic events or self-destructive coping mechanisms. When left untreated and unaddressed, such struggles can morph into Somatization Disorder over the years. The hidden emotions are often in the form of some type of disappointment over the way things have turned out, or some type of severe grief that has not been healed, but has instead been forced upon the person. It is also a form of maintaining one’s opposition or anger toward someone, something, or some turn of events in the past.

One way to examine if your incurable medical symptoms are potentially due to unresolved hidden emotions is to use a Cost Benefit Analysis (David Burns, Feelinggood.com) where you would examine the advantages and disadvantages of changing your negative feelings such as anger or sadness against your medical symptoms. You might be surprised to notice the number of disadvantages in getting rid of your anger or sadness against your medical conditions. In other words, your somatization disorder is acting as a protective layer against facing those hidden emotions that are particularly painful. Careful psychotherapy can help address those unresolved hidden emotions such as grief, anger, disappointment, despair, fear and sadness. At that point, the psychic pain is no longer un-addressed, therefore it will no longer be poking itself out through un-organized and vague and incurable medical symptoms.

My name is Dr. Katie Dashtban, licensed clinical health psychologist. I have offices in Santa Cruz, Mt View and Fremont, CA, where I am the co-founder of Feeling Good Therapy & Training Center. For more information visit: www.medicalpsychologyservice.com and www.feelinggoodtherapy.com or call: 510-400-6160

This service is provided by Dr. Katie Dashtban, Psy.D.

Katie defines her role as a psychologist as one who holds a guiding light, while her patients choose the turns in this maze we call life. In her practice, Katie refrains from offering advice, but instead helps her patients overcome obstacles that cause emotional suffering, and shows them tools to use when deciding on the desired changes in their lives.

An Overview of Aspergerian Versus A Neurotypical Mindsets

Persons with Asperger’s syndrome or high functioning autism could list a long list of challenges in their relationships. They often would tell you about their fear and anxieties of not fitting in, of feeling estranged and even unlovable. Likewise, Neurotypicals complain of their relationships with Aspies, often reporting feelings of rejection and being uncared for.

In this article the two mindset are examined. What is highlighted is the way things are Lost in Translation. Through two scenarios I describe what each mindset hears or interprets. I will refer to Asperger mindset as (Aspie) and the Neurotypical mindset as (NT).

Scenario 1: It’s the day after a heated argument between a NT and an Aspie.

Typical thoughts of the NT: “I’ll just be cold and dismissive so that s/he can see how much they’ve hurt my feelings, and will come and want to talk about it. S/he will apologize to me.”

Typical thoughts of the Aspie: “By looking at the way s/he is gazing away and pouting, it is obvious they need some alone time. I will just stay out of the way. Besides, I wouldn’t know how to engage them, so might as well wait till they talk.”

Scenario 1: Revisited:

Aspies mindset forgives easily, is free of prejudices, less likely to engage in social manipulations, takes things as they are.

NT mindset needs time to forgive and sometimes cannot forgive without the support of the other person. Is more likely persuaded by prejudices like gender roles, and ageism. More likely to think of social situations in a creative way, therefore more likely to make up scenarios that might not be true, but hurtful to them.

Scenario 2: On a long road trip together.

Typical thoughts of the NT: “We can talk about things, sing songs and choose music together, we can pull over whenever we want and spend time wherever we like.”

Typical thoughts of the Aspie: “I’ll plan the route ahead of time, make sure we make it through our destination with specific number of stops and I’ll be sure we won’t run out of gas or food or get fatigued by carefully arranging our stops and rests.”

Scenario 2 Revisited:

Aspie’s mindset is excellent in planning ahead and taking specific precautions against mishaps. Therefore safety and reliability are Aspie’s forte.

NT mindset calls for spontaneity and readiness to deal with the unexpected. What is considered safety and precision for the Aspie can be translated to overly stuffiness for the NT.

So the take home message here is that the two mindsets have advantages and disadvantages. Those who are struggling with depression and anxiety in their relationships with an Aspie or a neurotypical might benefit from learning about each other’s mindsets. This learning could alleviate many misunderstandings and therefore bring Aspie’s and NT’s closer to one another.

Dr. Dashtban, Psy.D. can be visited on www.medicalpsychologyservice.com with offices in SC, Mt View, Fremont.

This service is provided by Dr. Katie Dashtban, Psy.D.

Katie defines her role as a psychologist as one who holds a guiding light, while her patients choose the turns in this maze we call life. In her practice, Katie refrains from offering advice, but instead helps her patients overcome obstacles that cause emotional suffering, and shows them tools to use when deciding on the desired changes in their lives.

Mood disorders, like diabetes and obesity, found to be risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

Are Mood Disorders And Metabolic Syndrome related?
by: G. Katie Dashtban, Psy.D. Licensed Clinical Health Psychologist

Metabolic Syndrome is characterized as a cluster of several health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. According to Wikipedia, The word “syndrome” means a set of medical signs and symptoms that are correlated with each other and often with a specific disease. It derives from the Greek language, which translates to “concurrence “.

Patients often don’t know they are candidates for this syndrome, because they are likely to look at each of their conditions as a single problem. For example, most patients are told by their physicians that their blood sugar is at the cusp of being considered a diabetic, and that if they exercised more and ate less sugar promoting foods (starches, simple carbohydrates) they can reduce their blood sugar and be on the good side again. However, metabolic syndrome is not one disease, rather, it’s a combination of different kinds of diseases, including psychiatric mood disorders.

Over the last decade, several bodies of research are showing that there is a strong correlation between mood disorders and metabolic syndrome. Patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder are at increased risk of becoming overweight, and patients with bipolar disorder may have increased risk of abdominal and overall obesity. Conversely obese persons seeking weight-loss treatments may have increased rates of depression and bipolar disorder.

Furthermore, it has been proposed that the central nervous system, very similarly to the pancreas, is affected by chronic abnormalities in metabolic processes. The phrase “Metabolic Syndrome Type II” has been used in the literature as a neuropsychiatric syndrome in which alterations in metabolic networks define the course of the disease.

What all of this means to the general population is two folded. First, recognizing that symptoms of diabetes, heart failure, obesity, and high cholesterol are not independent from one another, but instead each are different manifestations of the same disease. Secondly, mood disorders can and sometimes are part of the same disease and they can increase the risk of fatal heart disease and stroke.

In conclusion, seeking professional help for the treatment of depression, anxiety, unexplained irritability and similar mood issues might prove to not only improve your quality of life, it might even help save your life.

I am Dr. Katie Dashtban, Licensed Clinical Health Psychologist. I am co-founder of Feeling Good Wellness Center and the founder of Medical Psychology Services, with offices in Santa Cruz, Mt View and Fremont. Visit medicalpsychologyservice.com or like my Fb page at facebook.com/MedicalPsychologyServices/

This service is provided by Dr. Katie Dashtban, Psy.D.

Katie defines her role as a psychologist as one who holds a guiding light, while her patients choose the turns in this maze we call life. In her practice, Katie refrains from offering advice, but instead helps her patients overcome obstacles that cause emotional suffering, and shows them tools to use when deciding on the desired changes in their lives.

Identify Your Self Defeating Beliefs

It is quite common for most of us to have a set of commonly held core beliefs about ourselves, about the future and about people in our lives. These core beliefs are often so deeply embedded in our, where else, “cores,” to the point that we are not consciously aware of them. In this article I am going to point out 7 common self defeating core beliefs and your job is to pause with each and wonder to yourself if you hold such core beliefs and if so, ask yourself “what is it worth to me to change that core belief?”

  1. Achievement/Perfectionism – Believing that you must never fail or make a mistake. That people will not love and accept you if you have flaws or show vulnerability. That your worth as a human being is based on your achievements, income, looks, talent, or some other type of status.
  2. Love – You believe that you must receive everyone’s approval in order to be worthwhile. That you will not taste happiness unless you have someone in your life who romantically loves you. And, that if you receive criticism or rejection it proves that there is something inherently wrong with you.
  3. Submissiveness – You believe that you should do your best to please others and you are willing to sacrifice anything for it. You are afraid of conflict and think people who care for one another should never be at odds with one another and should certainly not have arguments. And you believe all the problems in your relationships are somehow your fault.
  4. Demandingness – When in conflict, you put the blame on others. You feel entitled that others should always treat you in the way you expect. And you believe you are right and everyone else is wrong.
  5. Depression – You believe your problems could never be solved and that you will never feel truly happy or fulfilled. And you believe that you are basically worthless, defective or inferior compared to others.
  6. Anxiety – You believe that you should always feel happy and confident and in control. That anger is dangerous and should be avoided at all cost, and that feeling intense emotions such as depressed, angry or jealous should be avoided. You believe people are powerful, demanding and manipulative. And, you are under the spotlight; everyone is looking at how you carry yourself and is ready to criticize you. And lastly, you engage in magical thinking: “If I worry enough, everything will turn out okay.”

The above commonly held self-defeating beliefs are strongly associated with most of human suffering. Learning to recognize them can be tremendously helpful.

I am Dr. Dashtban, licensed clinical psychologist with practices in Santa Cruz, Mt View and Fremont California. Call me at 831-621-1150 or post on my facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/MedicalPsychologyServices

This service is provided by Dr. Katie Dashtban, Psy.D.

Katie defines her role as a psychologist as one who holds a guiding light, while her patients choose the turns in this maze we call life. In her practice, Katie refrains from offering advice, but instead helps her patients overcome obstacles that cause emotional suffering, and shows them tools to use when deciding on the desired changes in their lives.

Holiday Blues, Comfort Food, Rituals; I Want Out!!!

When it comes to this time of the year, we are bombarded with emotionally charged messages by song lyrics, colors, smells, and traditional rituals. Ask almost anyone what does celebrating the holidays mean to them and you’d hear a slew of things they do (gift buying, planning parties), things they prepare to eat or serve others (sweets, special recipes), and how they plan to spend time with families, friends, coworkers.

I personally happen to like several aspects of the holiday season and I am guessing many of you do too. But I know many of us feel a sense of sadness, tenderness, vulnerability, and even anxiety during these very times. Ever wondered why that is the case?

Socrates said “An unexamined life is not worth living” as he was on trial for encouraging his students to challenge the accepted beliefs of the time and think for themselves. So I encourage you to ask yourself, how come I don’t think I must spend time and money in offering gifts at other times of the year. Or why is it that I particularly crave things with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and ginger during December, and not much in July? And, how come I don’t have this expectation that I should be with my family on any particular evening of the year except on December 24th? And though you feel tender and sad when you think of the loss of a loved one, how come you particularly allow yourself to grief your worst during this month?

I am going to take a risk of sounding insensitive and say the answer to the above questions is: because you let yourself.

As I’ve treated persons feeling depressed, anxious and lonely during these months over the years, I’ve learned some typical negative beliefs that fuel the negative emotions experienced by most. Here is a list of commonly held beliefs:

  • Black and White Thinking: Christmas is a special time of the year. If you don’t have a special someone you are bound to have a bad time.
  • Falling For Tempting Thoughts: I get to have all these amazing treats because they only come along once a year, I deserve it because I’ve worked so hard.
  • Fortune Telling, Mind Reading, Discounting the Positive: If I don’t make it to all the holiday events at work and at home, people might think I don’t respect them; or that I am not a team player; or I might not get that promotion or close that sale.
  • Self Martyrdom:  I miss my loved ones at this time of the year and grieve their absence because I really care about them. So being depressed right now means I am loyal to them.

So, the take-home message here is that I’d like to suggest that you examine your own beliefs and see if you still agree with them. Perhaps once you recognize the thinking errors, you’d see the more liberating thought pattern come through, and you’d be able to find relief from those negative thoughts.

I am Dr. G. Katie Dashtban, a licensed clinical health psychologist. I have offices in Santa Cruz and Fremont, CA. I can be reached at 831-621-1150 and by visiting www.feelinggoodtherapy.com

When Doctors Don't Know What's Wrong

The Imperfect Aspects of Perfectionism

One of the most common causes of emotional suffering is perfectionistic tendencies.

We fall for, and get mesmerized by, the sound of voices in our head that point out our vulnerabilities, convincing us that we will sustain extreme humiliation or even death if we didn’t protect our egos in a defined way. This wisdom is not particularly apparent to most of us. The mesmerizing quality of these threatening voices fool our solid self. We often don’t realize that the thought is nothing but an over-generalization, or mind reading, or fortune-telling.

In the following scenario, I have developed a hypothetical situation where a person experiences anxiety, anger and depression over the observation that they have a medical problem that makes it hard for them to work. The following sentences are those that this person might say about their circumstance:

If I go to work with this migraine, I’ll make a bunch of mistakes and that’ll be super embarrassing.

People might think I’m loosing my grip.

Then I won’t be a candidate for that promotion.

And if I don’t get promoted, it’d mean I was just being mediocre all along.

And that would mean I’ve wasted all these years at school, the training and all the hard work would mean nothing.

And that would mean I’m a loser, someone that is unworthy of even being alive.

Now, imagine a friend of yours has just approached you with the problems mentioned in the above scenario. This friend is quite dear to you and has come to ask for some help, wishing to feel better. The conversation between you and your friend might go something like this:

Friend: If I go to work with this migraine, I’ll make a bunch of mistakes and that’ll be super embarrassing.

You: Oh dear, well you do sound like you are in a great deal of pain and yes people aren’t usually at their best when in pain. But is there anyone at work that might understand your situation and be a little helpful? Or perhaps you could just call-in sick today, or maybe just do some basics that would not be too tedious, making it less likely to make mistakes.

Friend: But then I won’t be a candidate for that promotion.

You: Well, I suspect they make those decisions based on your overall qualifications, not just your need to mind your health one day. I see that in general you have such a high work ethic and do the job in the most amazing way. In fact, you worry about making mistakes if you went in with this migraine, which suggests your high work ethic–isn’t that what they factor in when looking to promote someone?

Friend: But if I don’t get promoted it’d mean I was just being mediocre all along.

You: Well, to my way of thinking, someone being mediocre might not really care much for the quality of work they offer, whereas your job performance has seemingly been amazing so far.

Friend: And that would mean I’ve wasted all these years at school, the training and all the hard work would mean nothing.

You: Well, yes sometimes people wake to realize that they don’t really care for their work and feel they have wasted years of training and hard work. You on the other hand seem to love this work since you put such high value into doing it to the best of your capability.

Friend: And that would mean I’m a loser, someone that is unworthy of even being alive.

You: Oh dear, I can see that being sad and disappointed over having this migraine has taken a toll on you. But all I see in front of me is a carrying and responsible worker who puts lots of heart into the work they do. To me that is quite worthwhile.

And, the kicker is, this is a Double Standard that we play against ourselves. We are so likely to speak with compassion for a friend. My question for you is: Wouldn’t you choose to offer the same level of compassion for yourself?

This service is provided by Dr. Katie Dashtban, Psy.D.

Katie defines her role as a psychologist as one who holds a guiding light, while her patients choose the turns in this maze we call life. In her practice, Katie refrains from offering advice, but instead helps her patients overcome obstacles that cause emotional suffering, and shows them tools to use when deciding on the desired changes in their lives.