Blog & Video Archives

Past Bridge Street Mental Health segment with accompanying text.

Instagram Selfie Filters

I know that it is tough to keep up with all of the changes in technology but, there is one in social media that all parents should know about. It is called INSTAGRAM SELFIE FILTERS. How to Add Instagram Filters to Existing Photos – Followchain

Photo filters have been around for some time . (You know a feature which will put a deer’s nose or elfin ears on on your face.)  What has put Instagram in the news, however, is their image enhancement filter . New research reveals that using selfie-filters  is emotionally harmful (toxic) for teenagers. Sadly, these reports were hidden from the public by Facebook for years.  Now that they have been revealed, here is what you need to know.

Specifically, the alert is being sounded for parents due to the negative psychological impact that some of Instagram’s body and facial altering filters have on teens,. i.e. use lowers self-steam and dramatically increases anxiety and depression.  As seen in the pictures below*,  the effect of the filters are restrained. They digitally add make-up, slim facial structure and subtly alter the overall image. Instagram Toxic for Teen Girls, Research Suggests – NBC Bay Area

The subtlety of the changes are the problem . The person who uses them is still recognizable but looks “better.”  The damaging message that these visual changes give to the young people who use the filters is that: Your image needs enhancement or, inversely, the way you look, naturally, is not okay.

This message plays upon the vulnerability of young folks who fear that they are not attractive enough to compete with the social competition and  will wind up being alone. Loneliness and the Human Need for Connection | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com)  

Another factor which makes dealing with this issue so difficult is our culture’s emphasis on looks. The way media creates unrealistic expectations especially for women and heightens self-doubt about their appearance.  In other words, features like enhancement filters undermines a teen’s acceptance of their natural appearance and encourages them to change {“improve”) it .  That said, here are seven tips for parents to help their teens cope with this difficult issue :

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SEXUAL TRAUMA and RECOVERY

Something significant is happening amidst the chaos of the current COVID situation. People are becoming interested in the psychology of trauma,  As I write this segment, a modern classic in trauma theory, The Body Keeps the Score, sits atop the New York Times best seller list.  Opinion | This Conversation Will Change How You Think About Trauma – The New York Times (nytimes.com)  This book and its findings are especially important for survivors of childhood sexual trauma because it both dispels myths and false beliefs commonly held about trauma and offers important insights for recovery.

One false notion is the idea that trauma is just a normal memory about an unpleasant event.  Likewise, many erroneously believe that some trauma survivor “hold on” to the abuse or that they could “let go” if they really wanted to do so. Indeed, the author, van der Kolk points out that the conscious mind is often unaware of the full extent of the damage caused by trauma and even worse it blames the self for causing it.  

Although explaining what trauma actually is and does, neurologically, is a bit complicated, here is practical summary of the most important findings of his contemporary research concerning what trauma is, how it harms the survivors and how they can heal from it:

Defining trauma: Rather than simply causing a return of a memory of a bad event , ” When someone experiences a traumatic event or experiences extreme fear, brain chemistry is altered and the brain begins to function differently–this is called the “Fear Circuity”  Neurobiology of Trauma (unco.edu) Here are some crucial ways trauma alters brain functioning:

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COVID, Science and Anger

As COVID-19 surges, the number of angry people and violent incidents increases daily and is growing at an alarming rate. 

Given this level of rancor, one never knows when one may be caught in a difficult situation . As such, in order to to know how to respond in when menaced by an angry person, it is helpful to understand some basic brain science about anger. 

Here is a summary of what is going on in the brain of folks who have “lost it” and some guidelines for dealing with them. 

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Some Important Facts about Tele-Therapy.

It’s time to clear up some misunderstandings and provide some important facts about tele-therapy. 

For those who are exhausted by the social restrictions imposed by COVID-19 and who are seeking counseling, it is understandable that they would want to see a counselor face-to-face. Others have questions about tele-therapy and are reluctant to give it a try. 

Unfortunately, because of safety issues concerning COVID-19, finding a therapist who does in-the-office visits may be difficult at this time.  As such, I would like to clear the air and address some of these worries and misconceptions as well as to provide some important facts about tele-therapy.   

Here are some common concerns, advantages and limitations of remote counseling.

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The Quiet Crisis : Adult children. aging parents

There is a quiet crisis spreading across our land which is not gaining much media attention: Adult children caring for aging parents. Currently, advances in medical science which have added decades to our lives, have also created unintended problems for those who care for our aging population.

Specifically, our increase in longevity has also come about in the wake of the disappearance of the extended family. These two social shifts has created new challenges for caring for our seniors and have increased stress, especially for those adult children who are trying to take care of their parents. While this is a significant cultural problem it seems to fly beneath the radar of most Americans and is not widely recognized.

The consequences of these changes and deficits is that adult children who are trying to fill in the care gaps for their parent are becoming physically and emotionally overwhelmed. Today I want to shed some light on this this growing crisis and provide some basic information to help reduce the stress in your family.  

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Breaking out of the Sexual Doldrums

Because of the added stress  of COVID-19 , many couples report that they are having less sex than usual and feel like they are sailing in the sexual doldrums. (see photo) So, today I want to share some tips for couples who want to break out of their sexual doldrums and perk up their physical intimacy.   Easy Ways to Spice Up Your (Married) Sex Life | Everyday Health  

To be clear, the word Doldrum is a oceanographic term which refers to a part of the ocean near the equator which is marked by the absence of wind. Metaphorically, doldrums has come to mean listless or despondent.  If your sex life used to be great but has fallen off over the past year, ask yourself:

—  Do you or your partner seem to have less interest in sex than you used to ?

— Does the very thought of having sex seem like too much work ? 

— Are you currently having sex less than once a week ?

If you said yes to any of these questions, your marriage may be in the  sexual doldrums.

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Husbands not wanting sex

It’s almost Father’s Day but, in addition to dads, men are also husbands. And since there isn’t a “husbands” day … there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed that does not receive enough attention, viz., men’s lack of sexual desire for their wives .

Although many believe that men are more interested in sex than their women, it has been my clinical experience for some time that this is not true . In fact, the number of men who are not having sex with their wives seems to be increasing.    Hope and Understanding for Sexless Marriages. (revmichaelheath.com)

The truth is, unfortunately, that there is no simple answer as to why men don’t want to have sex with their wives.  There are, however, several different reasons why passion may left the relationship.  (Since each situation is different and because there are so many different causes, each couple could benefit from discussing their particulars  with an experienced professional .)  Nonetheless, in general, here are some of the most common causes men don’t want sex with their wives.

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Rebuilding Trust After an Affair: How to Maintain Empathy Under Fire.

This segment seeks to help couples who struggle with trust after an affair.  It especially offers guidance for the offending partner.  Specifically, the solution rests on the offending spouse’s ability to listen, accept and understand his/her partner’s anger.  Indeed, defensiveness by the betraying spouse toward his partner’s pain is often a major obstacle which blocks the offended spouse from regaining trust.  Here are some observations which can help explain why rebuilding trust is so difficult as well as some tips for how it can be done.

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THREE KEYS TO EFFECTIVE PERSONAL JOURNALING.

Personal journaling has been a big deal in counseling circles for a long time.  It is a mainstay for most stress management strategies. Even the military, after researching its clinical effectiveness, decided to use it to help soldiers who are stressed or suffering from PTSD.   Without getting too deep into the neurological weeds, personal journaling helps us to wring the painful  and irrational elements out of our experience so that we might be better able to rationally asses and address our emotional wounds.

Ironically, although journaling is talked about a lot,  for many there is much confusion and hesitancy about how to actually do it. Here are  three questions which are commonly asked  to help you have a helpful personal journaling experience:

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When Mother’s Day Is Not a Joyous Occasion.

For those who have recently lost their moms or for those who associate absence, neglect or other kinds of emotional trauma with their mothers, this holiday can be painful.

Apart from being aware of the fact that not everyone is excited about celebrating Mother’s Day, I wanted to share two thoughts.

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BREAKING THE ICE: 7 Tips to Improve Sexual Communication.

One of the most important emotional blessings of marriage is the experience of true intimacy and trust.  Good communication is essential for building the trust which is needed to deal with marital challenges and problems.  Knowing and understanding our partner’s feelings, opinions and preferences are necessary to resolve conflicts , negotiate compromises and to make joint decisions and future plans. Sexual communication is an important form of communication which is often overlooked and neglected.

While we do pretty well communicating when it’s about practical and mundane issues,  when it comes to sex, there can be a  problem.  Sex is a tricky thing and difficult for many folks to talk about. Many have misguided feelings of guilt which prevent them from speaking honestly about their feelings or desires.  Others think that  their wants or preferences are abnormal and are ashamed to reveal them. Still others avoid talking about their frustrations or conflicts with their partner because they are afraid of either hurting their partner’s feelings or being personally rejected.
Fortunately, with a little help and practice , overcoming one’s uneasiness with and aversion to talking about sex can be accomplished. Greater sharing can lead to a more fulfilling and satisfying relationship. Indeed, learning to speak openly and explicitly about sexual matters with one’s mate can be a deeply rewarding and intimacy-enriching experience.
If you or your partner feel stuck in this area or have trouble sharing feelings or concerns about sex, here are seven tips to help you to get started opening the lines of communication with one another :

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Easter as Psychological Metaphor: The Resurrection of Hope and Meaning.

Easter is almost here but, to be honest and especially under COVID restrictions, it is not what it used to be. Even so, it still important  even though this holiday means different things to different people.  For some, Easter is a celebration of the coming of Spring. For others, it is a playful time for children and their colored eggs and chocolate bunnies.  For Christians, it remains a time of spiritual renewal and remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Still for many,  Easter has lost much of its spiritual meaning. Indeed, there is no denying that America is becoming less and less religious.  A recent Gallup poll found that, for the first time since it has been keeping data, fewer than 50% of Americans attend Church.  For many , the narrative of Jesus literally rising from the dead is an insurmountable obstacle.
Does this cultural shift and institutional decline mean that we have lost our ability to experience important spiritual dimensions of life ?

I don’t think so . I believe that form many the conceptual framework for experiencing spiritual matters has changed from supernatural representations to psychological ones . To the point, is it not necessary to suspend your belief in science to experience the full joy of Easter ? Likewise when holy scripture is interpreted metaphorically rather than literally or as a historical account, the full spiritual significance still shines through.

Easter may be understood as a spiritual/psychological metaphor which conveys, symbolically, the fundamental affirmation of faith.   Apart from the improbable literalism, the Easter story expresses a profound psychological journey which passes through the devastating  experience of loss to the joyous discovery of new life and meaning .  That said, I want explain how it is possible to celebrate Easter apart from either supernatural or nature-based interpretations,  i.e.  how to appreciate Easter without myth.

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The Atlanta Shooter and Psychologically Harmful Religion.

Many times the role of a pastoral counselor is to point out and lift up spiritual concerns hidden by cultural or psychological trappings. At other times, it is to call to task errors and abuses of religion which have gone astray and become abusive of mental health or to help those who have suffered abuse from harmful religious practices or clergy misconduct to heal. The latter is the nature of our discussion today.

The recent murder of Asian women in Atlanta has brought attention to the growing number of attacks against Asian-Americans. There is another aspect of this slaughter, however, which must not be overlooked : the harmful influence of the alleged shooter’s religion. More specifically, I believe that the conservative church’s teachings about sex and women played a significant part in the murderer’s enraged emotional state . The church’s ignorant and outdated attitudes about…

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Hope and Understanding for Sexless Marriages.

I don’t understand why but, recently, the number of sexless marriages reported by the couples I see is on the rise. Indeed, this lack of physical intimacy has becoming a major source of concern and even results in divorce for those who do not seek help. Having checked national statistics , as of 2019 as many as 15 to 20% of marriages surveyed are sexless. (A sexless marriage is one in which the couple reports having sex less than once a month,)   This statistic is shocking because , as little as ten years ago,  only 2 to 5 % of marriages  were classified as sexless. In addition, one wonders if the stressful effects of COVID-19 has made the percentage even higher.

Typically, there are always some couples who don’t have sex from time to time.  The most common reasons married people abstain  are obvious.  Stress from work, marital conflicts, exhaustion from raising children and work as well as…

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Alone on Valentine’s Day : Looking at your Outlook on Love

Depending on your romantic  situation, Valentine’s Day can mean dramatically different things.  For lovers and happily married folks, it can be a  joyful time to reflect on and express love and affection for one another.

However, this media-hyped day can be an excruciating and heartbreaking time for folks who have lost, are without partners or who are in the midst of relational strife or divorce.  Indeed, the plight of those who are lonely can be overlooked and ignored in the wake of the red-hearted deluge of the holiday.

We need to remember  that, for these folks, Valentine’s Day is at best awkward and at worst a painful reminder of loneliness, frustration, disappointment and loss.  Beyond the pain of being without or losing a loving partner is the destructive impact on one’s self-esteem . Unfortunately, partner-less and divorcing folks often blame themselves for their lack of romantic success and see themselves as defective or so damaged that they will always be alone.

While some folks do suffer from emotional issues which make sustaining intimate relationships difficult or problematic, that is not the case for most.  If you are bummed out on Valentine’s Day, here are some questions and tips to help you better understand the mystery of romance and improve your odds for finding love.

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2016

2015

Rekindling Passion: Part Two – The Secret to Re-igniting the Fames of Desire

 

2012

Flirting with Your Spouse

 

2011

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