There are usually two broad reasons people come to my office. It doesn’t really seem to matter what the categorical diagnosis is. After all, mental health diagnoses are just a cluster of symptoms. Five out of nine usually, which say little about how the symptoms emerged in the first place. So, the diagnosis is usually less important to me than how the person got to the place they are, which is bringing them into my office. And that is usually one of two reasons:

Reason One: The old way is not working anymore

Sometimes, something we have done for a long time to feel better, stops working. These are the habitual behaviors, which started innocently enough. But, the old adage of “if a little is good, more must be better,” is what leads to problems every time. Ways of feeling better might be frank addictive behaviors to a substance (drinking, smoking, shooting, etc.). But it could also be other types of behaviors, many of which we are only now beginning to recognize as having the potential for abuse and addiction. Sugar, fatty foods, gambling, and sex are now understood to have addictive qualities as well, due to their ability to activate the reward chemicals in our brain.

But the list goes on to include other “psychological” habits, which can slowly, incipiently undermine the course of your life! These habits bring a short-term feeling of reward. But their compulsive over pursuit, takes us far afield from what it is we really want in our lives. Behaviors related to workaholism, love addiction, busyness, television, distraction, risk and novelty seeking, and on and on. These types of habits can be more difficult to identify, because, as the old adage goes, “what is one man (or woman)’s poison, is another man’s cure.”

PAUSE: What are your short-term, “feel better” ways of coping? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

How might this/these behavior(s) keep you from something you want long-term? _________________________________________________________________________________________________

Reason Two: Something important has changed (or needs to change)

Other times, people come to see me because their lives have hit an impasse of some kind. On the one hand, there may have been a major loss: a death of a loved one, a separation, loss of a job or missed promotion, or the last child has gone off to college. These kinds of life challenges, expected or not, tax our ability to cope, because the landscape of things, as we knew them to be, is now different. It is a bit like when your usual supermarket undergoes a remodel, and now, the first few times you go back, you are taxed to figure out where they have put everything. It is a lot like that in life.

Another kind of life impasse is when a decisive change is needed, but not being taken. The barriers to forward movement are the task of our work. Once identified, we circle back to reason one. It works like this. If we only have a limited set of short-term, “feel good” strategies, we will take the bumps of life much harder. Because we will not feel comfortable in our ability to tolerate the bumps of life, we will be less likely to pursue the new paths needed to make change in our lives.

Adapting to the inevitable changes in life is the key to mental wellness throughout the life span. In this way, reason two, is directly tied to reason one. Living life well, requires tools for each of the above; the application of flexible skills use, and a clear and accurate map for what you want and where we are going. At Mindful-Mastery, we guide people through this process every day. Much of the information, and strategies used are the same. This is because, there are universal truths about the science behind our minds and our behavior.

I write this blog (as part of my upcoming book) so that more people can benefit from this process.  This being said, your life will not change from simply reading this book. As much as I wish that were the case; real, empowered, lasting change, does not come from the words of someone else. If you want meaningful change in the way you cope and where you are going, you are the only one that can do it! So, while the principles you will learn in this here are universal, your story is unique. Only you can commit and actively practice what you learn.

For more information about skills training with myself or one of my assistants, please do not hesitate to contact me via the "contact us" button at the top of the home page!

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