Getting the most out of exposure therapy

I sat quietly while the client in front of me closed her eyes and recounted in vivid detail the sexual assault she had experienced many years before. The pain of the memory was evident on her face and in her voice. The details were shocking and sad, yet I felt truly honored to bear witness…

Gently challenging your thinking traps

It turns out there is a stepwise method for addressing thinking traps that gives us a little freedom from their tyranny. It’s called reappraisal. Reappraisal means slowing down, looking at what’s going on in your mind, and evaluating your thoughts. It’s especially helpful when you’re having a strong emotional response. It’s a skill you can easily learn, and though it seems pretty basic, following the steps can help reduce the intensity of a painful emotion and lead to more effective actions.

Making your personal mission statement

Your company has a mission statement. Why not you? It’s not about goals, outcomes, or profits. It’s about who you want to be and how you want to act in every moment of your life. In essence, a personal mission statement is about your values. They are your inner compass. When things get hard, we tend to lose sight of what’s important. Our actions can be driven by our immediate reactions (e.g., irritability) or old habits (e.g., procrastinating). Values serve as a guide to help us know what to do and how to be.

Getting to know your thinking traps

Our minds are constantly appraising the world around us. Appraisals are adaptive: our ancestors needed the ability to identify, interpret, and problem-solve the events in their lives in order to survive. In contemporary life, this skill is no longer just about survival. It influences everything we do—planning for the future, negotiating relationships, finding love, and so on. But sometimes, this amazing skill can also get us into trouble.

Practicing acceptance

“There’s nothing you can do. You’re just going to have to accept it.” Has anyone ever said this to you? Or something similar? If you’re like me, it probably wasn’t very helpful, even if it was true. You probably felt shut down or dismissed, even if the person who said it was trying to help. There are two reasons a statement like this doesn’t help. First, most of us don’t have a clue about how to accept something. There’s no instruction book. Second, the word “acceptance” can imply giving in, giving up, or resigning yourself to lousy circumstances—and who wants that?

The power of saying yes

Acceptance is an evocative word. It can imply resignation, giving up, or giving in to terrible circumstances. The practice of saying yes is not that kind of acceptance. It’s being willing to have what’s already there, whether inside of you or in the outside world.

Mindfulness: it’s about practice, not perfection

It turns out being mindful is hard. The moment I find myself just noticing what’s happening in the present is exactly when I’m whisked away into mental reverie…If I were to make a pie chart of the time I spend focusing on the present versus swimming in my thoughts, the “present” slice would be comically slim, probably somewhere in the 5-10% range. That’s what I mean when I say I can’t do it either.