Blog & Video Archives

Past Bridge Street Mental Health segment with accompanying text.

First Aid for Anxiety : Part II – Anticipatory Anxiety

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how to employ first-aid for anxiety. In that discussion, the type of anxiety being addressed was the kind which was triggered by a perceived external stressor in the person’s environment, such as a having a difficult conversation with a person or receiving bad or threatening news .
— Today I want to talk about a different kind of anxiety which can also produce intense dysphoric symptoms but which originates in the neo-cortex of the brain and comes from an internal-anticipated threat, rather than an actual or immediate one.
— Rather than relying on physical isolation from the distressing stimulus, a technique which I call Sensational Distraction (SD) can be used to disrupt distract the stressful cascade of thoughts and anxious feelings. With SD a person can shift the focus and attention of their immediate experience from thinking thoughts to perceiving sensations in their body and thus stop the flow of disturbing thoughts and calm the distressed state of mind.
— Although many distractors can be used , an especially effective technique for lessening and stopping anxiety I call the Orange. The orange relies on SD and is the first step, after a person realizes that they are experiencing anticipatory anxiety, calming one’s mind. The technique involves four steps and goes like this:

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Political attempts to blame the mentally Ill for mass shootings is wrong.

I know it has been a couple of weeks since the tragedies in El Paso and Dayton.  I also know that mass shootings have become so frequent that our ability to really comprehend and feel the horror has been saturated beyond human limitations.

That said, it is important, in addition to not giving up or giving in to emotionally accepting gun violence as a fact of life, that we not fall victim to our fatigue or fall prey to bogus political attempts to offer facile explanations for  complex problems.  Likewise, we must be careful not to blame an innocent population for inexplicable horrors. You may have heard some politicians suggest that mental illness is the cause of these mass shootings. Frankly, those who do this simply don’t know what they are talking about and are wrong. Here is why:

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First Aid for Anxiety

Anxiety is a serious and complex problem for many people. In some cases, successful treatment requires a combination of psychotherapy and medication. For many, however, employing some basic first-aid can render significant and immediate relief.
Here are four steps which, if followed, can quickly and dramatically reduce the crippling effects of panic and anxiety attacks.

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Fear, Anger and the Difficulty of Being Vulnerable in Intimate Communication

Intimate communication is a major problem for many marriages. Partners often find it difficult to talk to each other or, that when they do, they feel that what they said is being misunderstood. Specifically, discussions which involve anger or fear are some of the most difficult.
Certainly, learning how to speak in ways which are respectful of one’s partner and are non-attacking is important. However, simply learning to use I-statements is often not enough to enable couples to be able to talk intimately and constructively about their true feelings and desires with one another.
Thus, a major obstacle to good communication, apart from the words we use when we talk, is our state of mind. More specifically, we have a natural fear and aversion to being vulnerable , i.e. emotionally undefended in front of another person.
Nonetheless, only by overcoming these fears can couples achieve truly emotionally intimate communication. Let me explain how this is possible.

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Recently, I have been writing about the impact of brain research on our understanding of psychology and its implications for psychotherapy.

In this segment, I wish to explain how the very old psychological concept of empathy has been validated by modern neuro-science studies and why it is so important for emotional healing and growth.
In brief, stress and a perception of imminent threat shift a person into survival mode which is controlled by the limbic system which disconnects him/her from his/her cortex.

Empathy, one the other hand, conveys a sense of safety, turns off the physiological alarm and allows neuro-pathways to the cortex to be re-connected. This science explains why empathy works to help folks who are experiencing great distress. So, let us look in more detail at how empathy functions …

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How Neuro-science Revolutionizes Biblical Notions of Sin

As a pastoral counselor , I am often asked about how my psychological training has influenced my Christian beliefs. While I believe that science does not conflict with my fundamental experience of faith or my belief in God, I believe that it can add to and make more comprehensible some of the more mysterious aspects of life and faith.
The notion of sin is an especially good example. You know the traditional Garden of Eden story and how humankind was seduced into sinning by the serpent. According to Genesis, human beings were a created perfection who were corrupted by the temptation of outside influences. Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden and paradise was lost.
There is, however, another way to understand the nature and origin of sin which does not rely on myth and is more congruent with modern science. If God is understood to be love, then any behavior which does not express love is not of God. Sin is the absence of God. Rather than simply blaming Adam and Eve and seeing the source of sin as stubborn disobedience, sin ( which involves disobedience) may be understood as a sense of fear and insecurity which stems from Adam and Eve’s inability to trust God. A basic understanding of brain physiology reveals the structural basis for human fear and insecurity which makes trusting so difficult.
n other words, unlike a traditional, volitional understanding of sin, a scientific view sees unloving behavior as the consequence of fear and panic blocking our capacity to love. We don’t chose sin. Sin ( selfish – irrational behavior) takes us over. Let me explain in more detail.

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The Secret of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

We all know the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and how a loving and compassionate doctor who, in trying to research the secrets of mental illness, unleashed a monster that dwelled deep within his own psyche. Modern neuroscience has gone a long way in explaining how such opposite demeanors could belong to the same person. And, rather than being a “strange case”, this seeming contradiction, (that persons could hold within themselves such opposite traits), is built in to the very structure of the normal human brain .. The key to understanding this mystery and what determines which persona is in control is found in the relationship between the limbic system and the cerebral cortex.
Without having to become an expert or get lost in the details , some basic knowledge about brain physiology can help everyone understand confusing, but less extreme, differences in our own behavior and in that of others.
Here are some clues to let you know when your rational brain is being hi-jacked and some tips to get rational brain back.

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Marriage Counseling for couples who are confused about whether to divorce or not.

Although there is less stigma associated with mental health counseling than there used to be, there are still areas of ignorance and misunderstanding. it is understandable that some people think of marriage counseling as tilted toward keeping a couple together and as being a relational repair shop. While true in many instances, that is not the only function that marriage counseling serves.
Sometimes, when marriages are in crisis, individuals and couples aren’t clear about what to do. They wonder (often without a clear understanding of their issues) if their relational problems are so severe that it’s better to just end it all. Many don’t realize that marriage counseling can be a helpful resource to:
— Assess the nature and severity of their problem.
— Explore options and help each individual to clarify ; and,
— Come to a reasoned and well thought out decision about what to do going forward.
More specifically, here are some crucial things that couples who are confused about the future of their marriage can clarify through marriage counseling :

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Why Quitting Isn’t Always Bad .

America doesn’t like quitters. The legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, used to say, “Winners never quit and Quitters never win.” But , is that necessarily true?
An alternative to the must fight-on and never-say-die attitude is a liberating point of view which acknowledges that, sometimes, significant changes are necessary. Letting go of the struggle to overcome the impossible can provide peace and serenity and lead to great personal satisfaction.
Here are some questions to help you figure out if your struggle is in vain and it’s time to hang it up or if a little more persistence and faith is needed to see things through.

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How Healthy is your Marriage?

How healthy is your marriage ? If you’re not sure maybe it’s time for marital check-up. Here is a check-list of the vital elements which create satisfying and lasting marriages. They can help you to spot trouble before it gets out of hand. As you go through these factors don’t get discouraged. No marriage gets a perfect score. For couples who are experiencing difficulties, however, keeping these elements in mind can help locate the source of the trouble and suggest what aspect of the relationship needs work. The good news is that, with a little learning and effort, problems can be overcome and your marriage can become the greatest blessing in your life.

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The Experience of Awe and the Importance of Feeling Small

If you have ever witnessed an amazing sunset, looked up at the stars and imagined the vastness of the universe or simply stood at the base of an immense, magnificent building, you know the feeling of awe — that reverential feeling of amazement ,fear and wonder which comes from realizing that you are but a small part of the immense larger reality which is the universe. Recently, science is reporting just how important the feeling of awe is for our emotional, spiritual, physical and social health. If it has been too long since you have felt real awe, don’t despair. You can learn to discover something awesome in almost any situation.* To begin:

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A Reasonable Approach for Discussing Masturbation and Pornography: Part 1

Despite all of the research and medical science, discomfort about masturbation continues especially among older conservative Christians who view it as immoral and sinful. Indeed , the harsh and threatening lessons regarding masturbation learned in childhood have created deep feelings of shame are hard to shake. Further, the anti-forces and especially the evangelicals and Mormons (who also oppose women’s and LGBTQ rights) are still at work. In recent years there have been anti-masturbation campaigns and political candidates who have who have falsely equated and linked masturbation with serious offenses such sex abuse, human trafficking, and child pornography . Others have warned that masturbating will prevent you from being able to love or to function sexually with your spouse or even … going to Heaven. With a view of history it is easy to see why the guilt and shame surrounding masturbation is unnecessary. Many people live under the false impression that, if they masturbate to an erotic image, they are mentally ill or addicted to pornography. It is indeed liberating for these folks to discover that masturbation is normal and that it does not poes a medical risk.
It is also important for people of faith to understand masturbating does not conflict with being a Christian. Just like with other social issues, Christianity is split. The harsh and intolerant views regarding masturbation express only the views of fundamentalist thought and not the only or even main outlook of Christianity .

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Loneliness and the Need for Human Connection

In the wake of Valentine’s Day, it is important to remember the 49% of Americans who do not celebrate it and 46% who struggle with loneliness. The problem is so great that it has even been called a national epidemic.

To be clear, loneliness is different from living or simply being alone or desiring solitude. Loneliness is the experience of sadness and desperation which comes from not having intimate human connection. Loneliness can spring from isolation , being alone and not having friends but is also true that even married people or embers of large families or communities can be lonely and feel its pain.It is also important to understand the loneliness is not simply an unpleasant feeling. Loneliness can cause serious medical complications and is correlated with shortening life spans. Surprisingly, loneliness is a greater risk to longevity than smoking a half pack of cigarettes a day or being obese.

So, if you are in a lonely place, the first thing to remember is that it is not a terminal condition. Here are some tips to remember if you struggle with loneliness:

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



Flirting with Your Spouse



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