Coping technique: Self esteem

Please note that you should always consult with your physician before making any changes in your diet, your level of exercise and activity, medication or behaviors related to substance use.

The best way to make use of these techniques is to read through them, select three that stand out to you and practice them. I would be glad to hear from you on your responses.

1.   First, there is no law that everyone needs to have high levels of self-esteem. Sometimes the highest self-esteem can actually interfere with a person’s progress. For instance, the United States scores first in a belief in our own math skills, but seventh in math skills. And yet a realistic sense of your own worth can be a good thing.

2.   One very simple way to increase self-esteem is to honor commitments. These can be commitments made to others, to yourself

3.   Gain familiarity with thought distortions, in order to assess the way you think of yourself and the situations you find yourself in. Here are a few of the more common distortions:

      a.  Mind reading: Believing that you know what other people are thinking about you. Often this is identifying your own thoughts (“I’m incompetent”) as being the other person’s thoughts (“They’re thinking that I’m incompetent”). One way to challenge this distortion is to remind yourself, “I don’t know what other people are thinking.”

     b.  Fortune telling: Believing that you know the future, which just so happens to conform to your mood (“This is never going to work”). It can be helpful to remind yourself, “I don’t know the future. This has a good chance of working. If it doesn’t, I’ll learn from the experience and will be able to be more effective.”

     c.   Overgeneralization: Drawing a global conclusion from one specific example. For instance, “I didn’t get called back from that job interview. No one’s ever going to hire me.” Here a compassionate alternative might be, “I don’t know why I didn’t get called back. I’ll keep lining up interviews, because that’s something I can do to make it more likely I’ll get hired.”

     d.  Emotional reasoning: You reason from the way you feel (“I feel stupid so I must look stupid to everyone around me”). Here mindfulness can be helpful: “I’m feeling dissatisfied with myself and frustrated. That’s coloring the way I think.”

     e.   Personalization: You take responsibility for things you have no control over (“It’s raining on my birthday because I’m such a loser”) or you ascribe personal animosity towards yourself to impersonal occurrences (“My neighbor is letting his dog bark because he disrespects me”). 

     f.     Black-or-white thinking: You believe something is either all bad or all good, rather than a mix of both (“If I’m late I might as well not go” or “I added too much salt, now the soup is absolutely ruined”).

     g.  Catastrophizing: You quickly reach the worst-case scenario and tell yourself that it’s true (“I didn’t get an A on this paper, I’m never going to graduate”).

4.   Begin to distinguish facts from opinion. A fact is a description of something which is objectively true, and which can be proven by other people. Here are some examples of facts: “I am 5 feet 11 inches tall. Sacramento is the capitol of California. The Yankees won the pennant in 2009.” An opinion is based on belief, experience and mood, and can’t be proven but only argued. Here are some examples of opinions: “People like me never succeed. I shouldn’t do things that I enjoy. Chocolate tastes good.” Sometimes to confuse an opinion for a fact can give it more weight than it merits.

5.   One very simple way to feel better about yourself is to treat yourself the way you would a good friend. Are you eating well? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you getting some exercise? Many of us grew up not receiving the care we needed, and others of us early in life learned to get our own needs met by taking care of other people. Now is a time when you can learn to take good care of yourself.

6.   Therefore encourage yourself. Something you’ve just done might not be perfect—we’re human beings, and don’t belong to a species known for perfection. But find something positive about what you’ve done and, just as you would with a friend who was feeling a little down, find something about it that you can honestly compliment yourself on.

7.   If you’ve made a mistake, or haven’t completed a task as well as you might have liked, acknowledge this and forgive yourself. Live from this moment forward.

8.   Negative thoughts don’t need to be acted on. They also don’t need to be suppressed. If you have negative thoughts about yourself or your situation, acknowledge what you’re thinking. There’s no need to try and bring the thoughts to a conclusion (“If only I hadn’t—“ or “I should have done—“).

9.   Do things that make you feel good (and that don’t create problems for you). Notice what those things are. By extension, notice who you are, what your interests and gifts incline you towards. Allow yourself to follow your inclinations towards feeling rewarded. Compliment yourself for facing challenges, for doing a fine job, for learning how to better adapt to life.

10.               To enhance this practice, make a realistic list of your strengths, skills, gifts and good points. Find ways in which you can act and live from these parts of you. In your work, in your play, in your relaxation, as much as possible honor the person you are.

11.               Let the place where you live reflect the person you are—your values, goals, memories.

12.               Therefore, consider what your values are. Is there a philosophy that you follow, or a certain set of teachings? Does your religion provide you with values, or are they something very personal to you that have developed during the course of your life? Living closely to your values can be a source of self-esteem, so knowing what they are is important.

13.               Take opportunities to express your opinion.

14.               When talking with others whether in a social, school or work environment, speak slowly. Remember that what you have to say is worth the time it takes to say it.

15.               If you are someone who most often puts other people first and are always helping someone, consider taking a break from doing so.

16.               Identify what you don’t want to do. Practice saying no.

17.               Get enough exercise. As simple as it sounds, aerobic exercise (dancing, walking, gardening, jogging, swimming) are an effective way to increase feelings of self-esteem.

18.               If you compare yourself to others, which others do you compare yourself to and how does it make you feel? It can enhance self-esteem to compare yourself to someone who is accomplished and has something in common with you. It can decrease self-esteem to compare yourself to someone who appears successful with whom you do not have something in common. So for instance, if you are the child of a single-parent household your self-esteem might increase when comparing yourself to President Obama, who was such a child and who has achieved high levels of success. However if you are dissatisfied with your body image and compare yourself to ultra-thin or –muscular models in ads you might experience a drop in self-esteem. Therefore actively seek out images of others who are inspiring to you.

19.               The practice of gratitude—deliberately listing and focusing on aspects of your life that are good—is linked to higher levels of satisfaction with self and to increased resiliency. Consider keeping a gratitude journal.

Coping techniques: Cluttering behaviors

Please note that you should always consult with your physician before making any changes in your diet, your level of exercise and activity, medication or behaviors related to substance use.

The best way to make use of these techniques is to read through them, select three that stand out to you and practice them. I would be glad to hear from you on your responses.

  1. Learn to organize possessions. Because cluttering is linked to procrastination and difficulty making decisions, consider implementing a “24-hour rule.” This means that within 24 hours of bringing a new object into your home you’ve taken it out of its packaging, found a place for it and put it away, rather than leaving it on a table or counter. It also means that within 24 hours of using any object you put it back into its place.
  2. Sometimes every object that we own seems too precious to let go of. Another way to organize your possessions is by assessing their value to you. Consider: If your home was on fire and you had only limited time to select and carry things out, what would they be? Why those? Or, if there were a fire and everything was lost, what would you try to replace first? Second? Last? What would be truly irreplaceable?
  3. Sometimes the feeling “I may need this” can be very strong and can seem to apply to everything equally. Here a way to organize is to ask yourself, “When was the last time I used this? Have I needed this in past year? Two years? When is the next time I think I would need this? Within this coming year?
  4. Because cluttering behaviors, specifically the acquisition of new objects, are related to anxiety, become familiar with what events or thoughts act as triggers for anxiety for you. When are you most likely to act on impulse—in what moods, environments, with which people?
  5. Develop relaxation and self-soothing skills that you can practice when you become anxious, rather than self-soothing by shopping or otherwise acquiring more objects. You can also practice these skills before, during and immediately after discarding something, in order to reduce distress.
  6. It can be useful to distinguish between cluttering and collecting. Objects in a collection frequently form a set that the collector wants to complete, so that the objects are selected from a narrowed range (German stamps, old coins, first editions, etc.) and have a specific value in relation to that set. Cluttering is more wide-ranging and might include objects that the person doesn’t value, apart from the soothing experience he or she had when acquiring the object.
  7. Because cluttering is associated with indecisiveness, practice making immediate decisions about material that comes into your home. For instance, junk mail. Ask yourself if this mailing is something you will use? Not something you might use or could imagine yourself using, but a much smaller and more specific category: Will you use it? One way to distinguish between “will” and “might” is whether or not you’ve needed such a thing in the past year. This practice of decision-making can be applied to objects you already possess: Have you needed to use this in the past year? If you haven’t, consider letting go of the item. Please note, this step does not apply to legal or financial documents and records. For guidelines on how long to retain these consult with a community legal resource, accountant or bank officer.
  8. Find ways to pause before acting. For instance, rather than making a purchase when you first see an object, leave the shopping environment (even if it’s online) and give yourself time to consider whether you need it, what you need it for, how likely will you be to use it, is it within your budget.
  9. With daunting or potentially overwhelming tasks it’s a good idea to divide them into small enough steps that no step is itself overwhelming. So when you begin to downsize your possessions begin with something relatively easy. Throwing out spoiled food could be a relatively easy place to start. Or throwing out the rubbish. Gradually move on to small—perhaps the top of a single table—and brief—fifteen minutes. Congratulate yourself every step of the way.
  10. When sorting possessions with an eye towards downsizing it helps to have as few categories as possible. Use boxes that you mark with the names of the categories. These can be “Things to keep” (because you use them on a regular basis), “Things to say goodbye to” (because you haven’t used them in the past year) and “Undecided.” As you fill the “Keep” box empty it by putting those things away into their own permanent place (ideally not on the counter or in a corner of the floor). Find a place where you can put away the “Undecided” box. Check it in six months. Did you need any of these things? Perhaps it’s now time to segue them to the “Goodbye” box.
  11. At least once a week empty the goodbye box, whether than means giving gifts to friends and family, making contributions to Goodwill or Out of the Closet, or visiting your local trash bin. Once you’ve put something into your goodbye box don’t retrieve it. If you find yourself becoming anxious or stressed around this practice your self-soothing techniques.
  12. Once you have your household in the condition that you want, consider having a rule about bringing new objects in. Something like “For every new thing I bring in I will get rid of one thing of comparable size” will help you maintain the ground you’ve cleared.
  13. What would it be like to download images from the Internet in place of acquiring objects that take up space and cause problems in your home? Consider how little space even a very large jpg requires.
  14. Consider making contact with Clutterers Anonymous for a local meeting where you can support and be supported by people with similar issues around cluttering (group support can be a big help with the issues that may come up when discarding items), or visit and review their website.

What I do.

I have been trained in Depth psychology, Gestalt, Narrative, Cognitive Behavior and in the evidence-based practice Seeking Safety. This provides me with a spectrum of positions from which to work with you, from developmental and attachment issues, to focusing on and increasing awareness of the less reflective areas of the psyche, to intimate relationship issues, to issues related to your position in our society and to decreasing the impact of symptoms on your behavior and functioning.

I don’t think any of us are perfect, and I’m a little suspicious of the term, though I’ll be glad to help you explore the meaning of this concept as it plays out in your life. But the idea of wholeness makes sense to me and informs the work I do. “Whole” and “healing” come from the same word. I believe that each of us contains what we’re looking for, and that much of the practice of psychotherapy is moving this material from an unconscious or a split-off state into awareness where it can be reflected on, claimed, integrated and celebrated. I also subscribe to the belief that meaning decreases suffering. Questions such as “Where did this idea come from?” “What purpose does it serve?” “What does it connect to and what does it deny?” bring meaning forward, to be discovered or to be made for the first time. Meaning guides the integration of material that may have been previously “left out” of the image you have of yourself. It also provides the position we sometimes call “outside of the box” from which we can detach from symptoms in order to more effectively assess and address them.

Another word we get from the same root as whole and heal is holy. Most broadly I locate my work in the belief that life is non-replicable, that you don’t live in order to do something but that everything you do is in service to your life, that you don’t occur in a textbook someplace but must be met and engaged as an individual. In the same way that meaning continues to be made through the duration of life so we each participate in the continuing creation of our world. As the poet says, “This universe is our home.”

 

Welcome.

Thank you for coming to this site, which describes my therapy practice. Psychotherapy is a way to address a number of issues in people’s lives. Perhaps you’re feeling stuck in a mood, such as sadness or grief, and want to get beyond it. You might experience the same unpleasant thoughts coming to you again and again, so that you’re fearful about the future. Or the thoughts are about something that happened to you in the past, and you have difficulty feeling safe or trusting people. There may have been a major change in your life, or one is currently in process or on the horizon—a change of health status, yours or that of someone you care for, or the loss of a relationship, or noticing yourself move from one age of your life to the next. You might be successful in your career, achieving the goals you’ve set for yourself, but notice that there’s a place where you feel chronically exhausted or inauthentic. Or you may observe that, even though your relationships are otherwise satisfactory, you must perform in some way in order to maintain them, or perhaps even to feel that you deserve them. It might be that you have behaviors that previously worked well for you—providing enjoyment and relaxation—but that are now becoming associated with problems, and are difficult to discontinue. Or it may be that you sometimes become aware of a terrible feeling of fear or shame, emptiness or abandonment, and it’s become important to you to address this.

 

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