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Book Review: All the Lights Above Us

By Ashley L. Peterson / 2022-05-19
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I don’t typically review fiction, but this review is of All the Lights Above Us, the first novel by my blogging friend M.B. Henry. It’s historical fiction and depicts how five women were affected by the Allies’ D-Day invasion of Normandy. While many of us are familiar with the fighting that happened on the beaches, this book shows the broader impact of the invasion.

The main characters included two German women (Mildred and Emilia), two French women (Flora and Adelaide) and one British woman (Theda). Mildred is a fictional representation of the real-life Axis Sally, who was an American convicted of treason for broadcasting Nazi propaganda on German radio. Emilia worked for the Nazi SS’s intelligence agency, and her boss was based on a real-life person. Flora is part of the French Resistance, and Adelaide is a mother who encounters an American general (based on a real-life person) while searching for her daughter near the Normandy coast. Theda is a volunteer at a British hospital that receives casualties on D-Day.

The women’s stories are interspersed through the book, with each chapter beginning with the name of the woman in whose point of view it was being told in and the place where the chapter was set. I found that the place names helped me to keep track of who was who. The book is organized chronologically and divided into eight parts. The first two parts are set in the days before D-Day, parts three through six are set at different times on D-Day (including “Saw Sunset’s Glow”, which comes from John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields), and the last two parts are set the morning after.

The timing of different events, like Allied bombings and paratroopers landing in Normandy, is based on the actual events of D-Day. The book is incredibly well-researched, and there’s an author’s note at the end of the book that explains how the story corresponded with real people and real events.

Emilia works for the SD (the intelligence agency of the Nazi SS), and it’s interesting to see a character who is involved in terrible things but at the same time is very human. The SD was a way for her to avoid being part of the Lebensborn, a program to pump out Aryan babies. Emilia observes that “women were always punished in the end. They were spoken over, trampled on, and batted around. They worked twice as hard for half the pay. When they tried to stand up and prove their worth, people punished them with silence, control, and Lebensborn. And the outspoken ones… who weren’t afraid to stare that injustice in the face, they were punished hardest of all.”

The book is full of evocative descriptions, and particularly powerful were the descriptions of the wounded from the beaches arriving back across the Channel at the British hospital where Theda volunteered. After they first arrived, “It wasn’t long before the entire place stank of damp sweat, rotting seaweed, and sour blood,” and Theda “got tangled in endless webs of ripped-apart patients.”

I was really impressed by this book. I find history, and particularly the history of war, to be fascinating, and it was very apparent while reading the book how much research had gone into it. I really appreciated the level of detail that helped to bring the characters and the setting to life. It was interesting to see the different perspectives of the characters who were experiencing the same event in different ways and from different sides. This was a great read!

All the Lights Above Us is available on Amazon (affiliate link). You can find the author on her blog, M.B. Henry.

You can find my other reviews on the MH@H book review index or on Goodreads.

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A Poet’s Origins – I Was Made For This (Part 1)

By Reanna - One Inky Queer / 2022-05-19
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<img aria-describedby="caption-attachment-72023" class="wp-image-72023 size-medium" src="https://disabilitynewswire.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/20220519_122246_2-399×500-1.jpg" alt="A slim red and pink notebook on a wooden surface, with 'Poetry Notebook 1, Feb 2021' written on the cover"

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Book Review: You, Happier

By Ashley L. Peterson / 2022-05-18
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Book cover: You, Happier by Daniel G. Amen

You, Happier: The 7 Neuroscience Secrets of Feeling Good Based on Your Brain Type by psychiatrist Daniel G. Amen was interesting (of the raised eyebrow variety). I was vaguely aware that his first book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life was popular, but that was all I knew as background information before I started this book.

Alarm bells started going off in my head very quickly—right at the beginning of chapter one, in fact. Dr. Amen writes that he encourages all his patients to watch a video by Dennis Prager with the message that happiness is a “moral obligation.” Excuse me? As someone with major depressive disorder, I would have zero desire to see a psychiatrist who comes out with that nonsense. Then I checked Wikipedia to find out who this Dennis Prager character is. Turns out he’s a conservative talk show host, and from some of the quotes included on the Wikipedia page, he sounds like quite the wing nut, like gay marriage being on par with incest kind of stuff.

The book begins by introducing readers to Dr. Amen’s seven secrets of happiness. These are then explored further in the book’s five parts: the neuroscience of brain types and happiness, the biology of happiness, the psychology of happiness, the social connections of happiness, and the spirituality of happiness.

Part one talks about brain types that Dr. Amen has identified based on activation patterns in brain SPECT scans. As a quick detour, SPECT stands for single-photon emission computed tomography. It involves administering radioactive isotopes that bind to specific tissues in the body, and it allows for 3D imaging. In terms of evidence-based neurological applications, it can be useful for distinguishing between Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

Returning to the book, Dr. Amen identifies five primary brain types: balanced, spontaneous, persistent, sensitive, and cautious. There are also eleven combination types. A “happiness prescription” was given for each type, including supplements and activities to affect different neurotransmitter systems. What I found weird about this is that it jumbled personality and illness in together, when they don’t necessarily have anything to do with one another.

Some of the advice was… different. Dr. Amen recounted some very particular advice to someone to get a persistent type female all hot and horny (my words, not his), including a rather interesting assertion about baby powder being an aphrodisiac. He wasn’t fully anti-medication, but he wasn’t especially keen on them, either. He wrote that these SPECT scans showed certain medications, like benzodiazepines and opiates, “had toxic effects on brain function, making brains look older and less healthy than they should be.” I don’t think toxic means what he wants it to, and this idea of brains looking older and less healthy is all very subjective and seems to be his own concoction, so just no. I also didn’t like that he was recommending St. John’s wort without talking about it interacting with antidepressants. I’m not at all anti-SJW, but if one is talking about it for mood, it’s only responsible to mention that interaction.

There was a chapter on “happy nutraceuticals.” Dr. Amen recommends “four basics everyone needs to be happy”: a broad-spectrum multi-vitamin/mineral, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and probiotics. That’s some pretty pricey happiness. He makes a lot of other supplement recommendations, with particular recommendations for different brain types. One could very easily spend a whole lot of money on all the recommendations for things that don’t necessarily have evidence to back them up.

The part of the book devoted to the psychology of happiness talked about automatic negative thoughts and being Pollyanna-positive (Pollyanna was actually used as an example). There were also recommendations to work on “disciplining your mind” and choose to “focus your thoughts on true and noble things.” I’m not sure what to say to that besides hmm….

In the “Happy Connections” chapter, Dr. Amen promises to “give you a brain-based blueprint to more blissful connections with the important people in your life.” Maybe I’m just cynical, but really? We also get another Dennis Prager quote that ends with the line, “Obviously, we can control our moods.” Thank you for that expert opinion…

Throughout the book, there are a lot of references to and testimonials for Dr. Amen’s 30 Day Happiness Challenge, which costs $49 US. Besides that, there were a lot of references to his Amen Clinics, and a great deal of encouragement for people to get SPECT brain scans, not once, but on a regular basis. The Amen Clinics website doesn’t provide a price. A 2016 Observer article noted a price of $3950 for an exam, which involves two scans, one while resting and the other while concentrating. A 2012 Washington Post article gave a figure of $3500 for “a full initial session, including two scans.”

According to the Washington Post article and the Daniel Amen Wikipedia page, SPECT scanning for psychiatric diagnostic purposes is not generally accepted as being useful. A Google Scholar search for “SPECT scan major depressive disorder” doesn’t turn up anything in terms of diagnostic validity. So that’s a lot of cashish for something of questionable value, especially when Dr. Amen encourages people to get them done regularly.

Besides that, he plugs the podcast he and his wife do, his many other books, and his branded supplements (a 30-day supply of the “Daily Essentials Bundle” from his BrainMD site costs $114.62). I can see why one Goodreads reviewer described this book as a “long format advertisement.” It does feel rather like the written version of an infomercial.

Near the beginning of the book, Dr. Amen writes, “My prayer for young people is often, ‘Please, God, do not let them be famous before their brains are developed,’” because the brain’s dopamine control centre isn’t fully developed until around age 25. That sounds like an awfully privileged group of young people he’s working with for that to even be a thing. There’s some famous name-dropping, too, like big-name influencers that I’ve never heard of because I don’t care about influencers. There was a fair bit of my friend-ing, too, like “my friend Tony Robbins.”

So yeah, that was the book. The infomercial-ness was tacky, and given how much money Dr. Amen is making off these probably unnecessary brain scans, he’s not so hard up for cash that he needs to push the promotion angle. But he’s sold a lot of books, and I’m sure people will buy this one. I’m also fairly sure that a lot of those people aren’t going to pick up on a lot of the book’s weaknesses, and that’s fine. But just like the saying that money can’t buy you happiness, I don’t think all the money that Dr. Amen is urging you to spend is going to make your life wonderful.

You, Happier is available on Amazon (affiliate link).

I received a reviewer copy from the publisher through Netgalley.

You can find my other reviews on the MH@H book review index or on Goodreads.

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How Affectionate Are You?

By Ashley L. Peterson / 2022-05-17
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crafted hearts and flowers

Google offers this definition for affectionate: “readily feeling or showing fondness or tenderness.” Some people are more affectionate than others, and not everyone shows they care in the same ways. I thought it might be fun to chat about our own affectionateness tendencies.

I’m an affectionate little bean, particularly in writing. In person, I’m a hugger, but I don’t have much in-person social contact anymore. I didn’t really have much online contact in my pre-blogging days, but since I started blogging in 2017, the affectionate side of me has really come out to play. By far my most frequently used emojis are ❤💕💖.

I’m more likely to be affectionate with females than males, mostly because I tend to assume that males are less comfortable with it than females. With close friends, though, gender doesn’t really make a difference. More generally, I’m not really sure how I gauge whether I think people are likely to receptive or averse.

What you’ve been exposed to and what’s been modelled for you can make a big difference. Recently Alana was writing about affection being hard because it wasn’t something she experienced in childhood. My mom isn’t an affectionate person in general, but she always was with me and my brother. So was my grandma, who was a major figure in my childhood. I don’t generally think about how I was treated as a child in terms of why I’m affectionate now, but I think I just automatically picked up what was modelled for me and chose to spread it more widely.

So, I guess I don’t have all that much to say, but I’m curious to hear from you. How affectionate are you, and does it come easily for you? How and with whom do you show affection?

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Illusions of Normal: How Well Do We Know What Others Think?

By Ashley L. Peterson / 2022-05-16
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Illusions of normal: How well do we know what others think? - group of people with puzzle piece dialogue boxes

This post explores some of the issues that came up in Todd Rose’s book Collective Illusions, which I reviewed a few months ago. Collective illusions are the social norms and expectations that we think everyone else agrees with, when in reality, most people don’t privately agree with those norms and expectations. Yet we’re hardwired to conform with our social groups, and collective illusions can mean that everyone ends up doing what nobody wants to do. This also fits in well with what Sheva Rajaee wrote in Relationship OCD about the cult of what’s normal that we’re all indoctrinated in by the time we reach adulthood.

Todd Rose went so far as to say that when it comes to the things that matter to you, you’re likely completely wrong about what the majority of people think on at least half of those things. He also pointed out that we’re not good at detecting actual expertise, so when people seem confident, we’re likely to think that they know something we don’t and we should follow along. And there are a lot of confident people out there presenting themselves as gurus and telling us how we should be and what we should think, feel, and want.

Think of all the shoulds you’ve learned, expectations that come from society at large that you don’t actually want to do. What if no one else wants to do those things either?

Success

In Todd Rose’s book, he wrote about a study that found that most people (97%) privately believe that success is about being the best they can be at what matters most to them. At the same time, 92% of people thought that most other people agree with the societal notion of success in terms of career, money, and fame. Because of that perception of what other people think and the innate desire to conform to social expectations, a whole lot of people are focusing on the career/money/fame element, since that seems like what they should do, rather than being what’s actually important to them.

What if more people decided to say screw it to what society seems to expect, and actually pursued success on their own terms? If a big chunk of that 97% of people who define success differently were to do that, the social norm could change pretty darn quickly.

Productivity

We’re constantly hit with messaging that productivity matters, our worth depends on our productivity, and we should always be striving to do more, more, more. Even during the pandemic, there were some people getting loud saying you needed to find a new hobby, learn new things, start a new business, bake lots of sourdough bread, etc., etc.

But let’s take a step back from the insanity. Aside from the people who are loud and probably trying to get you to pay them money, who actually wants to be productive all the time? If you could put the rest of your world on pause for a day and do anything your little heart desired, would you choose a restful day doing things you enjoy, or would you choose an über-productive day?

My guess is that it’s a big fat collective illusion. I would also guess that most people would honestly prefer the former, but feel they should choose the latter. But if we recognize that the confident people are just trying to make money off of us and instead decide to ignore what they’re saying, why shouldn’t we be able to do what we want?

Ideal day

If you Google “ideal day”, you’ll get articles telling you about a routine that I have a hard time believing is anyone’s actual ideal day. If time checking email, attending to a to-do list, or waking up at 5am when you’re a night owl make it into that ideal day description, I call bullshit.

What do you absolutely love to do? What are those annoying things that you would love to be able to cut out if you could? Setting all expectations and obligations aside, who wouldn’t want an ideal day focused on things you love and free of annoying things? So why is the ideal day talk dominated by these productivity-focused people trying to sell you courses or books or whatever?

Self-care

I suspect there are also collective illusions regarding self-care. We’re taught that self-care is selfish and we should prioritize other people’s needs, but who actually wants that? Setting all expectations and obligations aside, how is self-care not a secretly desirable thing?

Feeling rules

We’re taught that in certain situations, there are things that we should or shouldn’t feel. That can lead to feeling guilty about feeling a certain way that goes against that. But maybe those feeling rules are built on one big collective illusion.

After all, open discussion of feelings doesn’t happen all that often, particularly when it comes to emotions that run contrary to feeling rules. Maybe a lot of people’s emotions don’t adhere to feeling rules, but they don’t feel comfortable enough to talk about it, which perpetuates the illusion that most people don’t feel those “wrong” emotions.

Your social circle

Social expectations would say that we’re supposed to have a large circle of friends. Sure, some people probably do want that, particularly people who are highly extraverted. But on the introversion-extraversion spectrum, most people aren’t at the highly extraverted end, and for a lot of people, a small circle of close friends may be a lot more appealing.

Life milestones

Todd Rose pointed out the power of asking “why?” or “why not?” to challenge social expectations that aren’t actually built on anything solid. The idea that we should achieve certain life milestones by certain ages is pervasive, yet it’s not built on a solid foundation.

This is a tough one, because people who haven’t achieved these milestones probably are getting hit with questions like “why haven’t you _______ yet?”

But maybe “why should I have?” could be a powerful alternative to going into self-defence mode, because the people asking those questions probably haven’t thought about a why.

Relationships

In Sheva Rajaee’s book, she wrote about the “myth of the one.” Even at a young age, we’re hit with fairy tales and Disney movies depicting these knight in shining armour stories of love. But is this reality? If I think about the people I’ve known who’ve been in successful long-term relationships, that’s not their story. Sometimes the people with the great stories are the relationships that end up crashing and burning.

Maybe it’s a collective illusion that a good, solid, healthy relationship is the fairty tale/movie version. Maybe it blinds us to the reality that solid relationships are built on work and partnership, and besides all of that, there are also single people living happy, fulfilled lives doing their own thing.

Social media

Todd Rose wrote about how social media allows for people with fringe ideas (and bots) to create rapid shifts in what’s perceived to be the consensus. These collective illusions can feed into “a deep, unsettling sense that something is wrong with our society.” Sounds about right.

Twitter seems particularly likely to feed into polarization because of the 280-character limit. That’s just not enough characters to be able to include nuance, so even posts by people firmly in the grey area are likely to appear as black or white. The nature of the platform can make grey area hard to find even if you tried, although that doesn’t mean that the grey area doesn’t exist.

Challenging expectations

Self-censoring and quietly going along probably feels like the safest option. But what if other people also disagree with perceived social expectations, and they’re staying silent because no one else seems to disagree? What if silence perpetuates illusions of a normal that doesn’t actually exist?

Maybe part of the power of blogging is that it offers a way to question the unwritten rules and expectations of the society we live in. It’s an alternative to silencing ourselves and sustaining collective illusions, and a way to question the things in the world around us that don’t make sense. It’s a way to see that there are other people who want different things than what’s served up to us as part of the dominant social messaging.

Maybe it’s okay to say “to hell with what’s normal” or “fuck what’s expected” and carve out our own paths. Sure, it’s not easy, but who knows, maybe that would be a whole lot more satisfying than bowing at the altar of the cult of what’s normal.

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You Don’t Need External Recognition to Be a Good Blogger

By Ashley L. Peterson / 2022-05-15
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the word blog repeated around a globe

I think it’s part of the blogging package deal that sometimes insecurities will creep up. With stats being so in your face, it’s hard not to get caught up in them sometimes. It can also be intimidating to come across bloggers who’ve won awards, have high follower counts, or get loads of likes/comments, and you might start wondering what’s wrong with you and your blog that you’re not managing to keep up.

Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need any sort of external recognition to be a good blogger. If you’re still posting on your blog and putting your words out there into the world, you’re doing a good job. The quality of your blog is only a small factor in the amount of visitors you get. You can only have one person reading your blog and that doesn’t mean you’re a lousy blogger.

So, in this week’s blogging chat, I invite you to share some of the things that intimidate you or make you feel like you’re not a very good blogger. I suspect there’s a lot we all have in common because, as I said, insecurity is part of the package deal. And if you’ve managed to opt out of that particular part of the package, please share how you’ve managed that feat.

Blogging toolbox: graphics of toolbox and wordpress logo

The Blogging Toolbox has tips & tools to support your blogging journey.

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Weekend Wrap-Up

By Ashley L. Peterson / 2022-05-14
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Here’s what happened in my life over the past week:

  • I think the lady woodpecker who roosts on my balcony has a suitor. He sometimes pecks at the chimney around 6am. I guess the crows managed to get the robins’ eggs or babies the other week, because the robins have disappeared.
  • I had a rather odd visitor on last week’s weekend wrap-up. Dude was an Israeli dermatologist (as per his LinkedIn profile) who decided that my post conveyed that I had racing thoughts, and he seemed to want to diagnose me. When I pointed out that this was odd, he wrote, “When you show the world your thoughts don’t think that professionals in this area can’t write what they think about it in the prospective of psychiatric medicine, and I know exactly what it is.” Uh-huh, sure you do…
  • I was checking a medical clinic’s schedule to see what doctors were working on a particular day, and then I Googled the doctors’ names so I could have a look at any patient reviews. One of the docs had been reprimanded and fined a year and a half ago by the College of Physicians for using sexualized language with a teenage female patient, like referring to her as a “loose woman.” There were multiple reviews on RateMDs.com that leaned hard into victim-blaming. One said, “I think the woman who complained should pay for the fine!!!” That’s pretty fucking gross.
  • I think I mentioned a while back that my latest book wasn’t available for expanded distribution on Amazon (meaning it could be ordered by non-Amazon booksellers), and when I asked about this, I was told it was because of the interior images. So I removed those, but it’s still not eligible. Now they’re saying it’s because “our distributors don’t accept content that is excessively reused, recycled, or repeated within or across books.” What on earth are they talking about? When I emailed again to say that didn’t make sense, I got a reply from someone who was either a bot, didn’t speak English, or hadn’t actually read my email. I think Amazon has a lot of confused people working for them.
  • I was browsing through books on Netgalley and came across one entitled How to Tell if You Are Fat and What to Do About It, and the cover had an arrow pointing from the “how to tell if you are fat” in the title to a picture of someone’s belly. Seriously? How did a publishing house decide that this was what they wanted to put out into the world?
  • I rarely look at Bing’s Webmaster Tools because I forget Bing exists (and who are all these people who use it?). Anyway, I was looking at it this week and comparing the search terms that I get the most clicks from on Bing vs. Google. There’s almost no overlap, which I find very interesting. I’m not sure if that’s entirely to do with differences in their algorithms, or if there are also differences between Bing searchers and Google searchers.
  • I’m always proud to be a Canadian, but sometimes I’m reminded of just how much I appreciate living here rather than in the US. Our Supreme Court is far less politicized than in the US.
Casper the guinea pig sitting in a hay rack

This is Casper McFloofy Floof around the time I adopted her 4 /2 years ago. She was found in a parking lot, and the fur around her midsection had been shaved off. Shee was happy to have a new home, and I think she’s very happy being an adoptive mama to Brownie and Toffee. Brownie is Little Miss Independent, but Toffee is very attached to Casper.

Guinea pigs Peanut and Butternut, who has

This is Peanut Potato and Butternut. Butternut’s favourite spot is tucked into that corner of the cage with his little fence he can chew on and his canopy towel. The boys’ cage normally lives in the bathroom, but I’ve temporarily moved it into my bedroom while waiting for the stupid bathroom ceiling leak to get dealt with.

colouring page with flowers and leaves and black background

Here’s some colouring from this week. I was quite happy with how this one turned out.

How has your week been?

Mental Health @ Home Books by Ashley L. Peterson - book covers
Mental Health @ Home Books by Ashley L. Peterson – You can find them on my Amazon author page.

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How losing my hearing, temporarily, impacted my mental health and shocked me into caring for my ears!

By chroniccampaigner / 2022-05-13
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“Suddenly, I couldn’t hear. I started to panic as my partner tried to ask what was wrong, but I could barely hear him.”

Alt-text: Image of an egg wearing headphones. The loud noises

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What Is… Schema Therapy

By Ashley L. Peterson / 2022-05-12
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List of schema therapy schema domains

In this series, I dig a little deeper into the meaning of psychology-related terms. This week’s term is schema therapy.

My friends Wandering Sprout and SH both do schema therapy, so I was curious to learn more and share it with you all. Schema therapy was developed by Dr. Jeffrey Young in the 1990s. Kind of like dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), it’s based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), but developed to address the needs of people who weren’t getting better with CBT. It also draws on other concepts and approaches, like Gestalt therapy and attachment theory.

Schemas

Schemas, which are also a concept in CBT, are stable and enduring patterns of looking at the world and beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world around us. Schema therapy addresses early maladaptive schemas (EMSs), which develop in response to traumatic events in childhood and environments in which the child’s basic needs were unmet.

Dr. Young originally identified 16 schemas, and this later grew to 18. These are grouped into five domains, and each domain is associated with particular unmet needs. A given individual may have several EMSs.

Disconnection and rejection domain

  • Abandonment/instability: the belief that as soon as an attachment is formed, the other person will leave
  • Mistrust/abuse: the expectation that others will harm oneself
  • Emotional deprivation: the belief that others will never meet one’s emotional needs
  • Defectiveness/shame: the belief that one is fundamentally flawed, and anyone who gets close will realize this and leave
  • Social isolation/alienation: the belief that one is isolated from and different from others

The key unmet needs are for safe attachment, acceptance, and care.

Impaired autonomy and achievement domain

  • Dependence/incompetence: the belief that one is unable to handle basic tasks competently and independently
  • Vulnerability to harm/illness: the expectation that a major catastrophe may happen at any time
  • Enmeshment/undeveloped self: may involve enmeshed relationships with others or a sense of lack of identity and emptiness
  • Failure to achieve: the expectation that one will fail and never be as good as others

The key unmet needs are for autonomy, competency, and sense of identity.

Impaired limits domain

  • Entitlement/self-centredness: the belief that one should be able to do/have what one wants immediately, regardless of how it might affect others
  • Insufficient self-control/self-discipline: inability to tolerate frustration re. achieving goals, lack of impulse control, and lack of control over emotional expression

The key unmet needs are for realistic limits and self-control.

Other-directedness domain

  • Subjugation: the belief that one will be harmed unless one submits to the control of others
  • Self-sacrifice: excessive focus on others’ needs while neglecting one’s own
  • Approval-seeking: seeking approval from others at the expense of developing self-esteem and a secure sense of self

They key unmet needs are for free expression of needs and emotions.

Hypervigilance and inhibition domain

  • Negativity/pessimism: focus on the negative and minimizing the positive
  • Emotional inhibition: the belief that expressing emotion would cause harm to others or negative effects for the self
  • Unrelenting/unbalanced standards: the belief that whatever one does isn’t good enough, and there’s always a need to try harder to do better
  • Punitiveness: the belief that others should be punished for mistakes

The key unmet needs are for spontaneity and playfulness.

Schema processes

There are several processes by which schemas influence people. Schema maintenance involves cognitive distortions as well as self-defeating behaviours that keep the whole shebang going.

Schema avoidance involves attempts to stay away from things that might activate a schema and lead to emotional distress. This avoidance may be cognitive, emotional, or behavioural.

Schema compensation also involves attempts to avoid activating schemas, but it’s done by going to the opposite extreme of the schema.

Schema modes

While schemas tend to be stable over time, schema modes involve emotions and ways of coping that may become activated at a particular point in time. People are able to switch between different modes, and these switches may happen quite rapidly.

The identified modes fall into four categories:

  • Healthy adult
  • Child modes:
    • Vulnerable: lonely child; abandoned and abused child; dependent child
    • Angry/unsocialized: angry child; enraged child; impulsive child; undisciplined child
    • Happy/contented
  • Maladaptive coping modes:
    • Surrender: compliant surrender; surrender to damaged child modes
    • Avoidance: detached protector; spaced out protector; detached self-soother; avoidant protector; angry protector
    • Overcompensation: attention and approval seeker; self-aggrandiser; overcontroller; bully and attack; conning and manipulative; predator
  • Maladaptive parent modes:
    • Punitive parent
    • Demanding parent

Weakening early maladaptive schemas

Different personality disorders have different typical combinations of modes that tend to be most prominent. In borderline personality disorder, there tends to be a strong punitive parent mode (associated with self-hate and low self-esteem), an abandoned/abused child mode (associated with feelings of abandonment and anxiety), an angry/impulsive child mode, and a detached protector coping mode (associated with attempts at numbing difficult emotional states, such as by using substances or self-injuring).

A schema triggering and mode analysis logbook is used to help the client recognize when and how their schemas are being activated.

There are four broad categories of interventions used to weaken maladaptive schemas: emotive (experiencing and expressing emotions), interpersonal, cognitive, and behavioural. These are some of the techniques used in schema therapy:

  • One of the cognitive interventions used is gathering evidence against a schema and creating flashcards that the client can refer to as needed. PositivePsychology.com has a flashcard template here.
  • Schema diary worksheets can be used to work through triggering situations.
  • Chair work involves having chairs represent multiple aspects of the client, with the client moving between them. This is a way to engage with and express difficult feelings like anger.
  • Guided imagery can be used for things like trauma rescripting and meeting unmet childhood needs.
  • Empathic confrontation involves the therapist empathetically and nonjudmentally challenging the client on maladaptive cognitions and behaviours.
  • Limited reparenting by the therapist to recognize, validate, and help to meet the client’s needs and allow the client to develop secure attachment. The client is able to develop a healthy adult mode based on what’s modelled by the therapist. Part of the limited reparenting process involves reaching the client’s vulnerable child mode and providing constructive outlets for angry child mode.
  • Behavioural techniques can include rehearsing adaptive behaviour and behavioural homework.
  • Letter-writing to parents or other signifficant figures in childhood (these aren’t usually sent).

Schema therapy in practice

Because schema therapy is less than 30 years old, there’s less research evidence behind it compared to some other therapeutic approaches, it’s not as commonly used, and it’s not as well-known as some other forms of therapy. Its use is most well-established in the treatment of borderline personality disorder, for which it’s considered an effective, evidence-based treatment. There have also been promising results for other conditions, including other personality disorders and depression.

Is schema therapy something that you’re familiar with or have tried?

Resources

These resources are recommended by Wandering Sprout:

  • Reinventing Your Life, a book by Jeffery Young
  • What the Schemata? podcast episode on integrating DBT and schema therapy

References

The Psychology Corner: Insights into psychology and psychological tests

The Psychology Corner has an overview of terms covered in the What Is… series, along with a collection of scientifically validated psychological tests.

The post What Is… Schema Therapy appeared first on Mental Health @ Home.

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Book Review: Secret Keeper

By Ashley L. Peterson / 2022-05-11
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Book cover: Secret Keeper: The Joys & Struggles of Being a Therapist by Marcia Kostoff

Secret Keeper: The Joys and Struggles of Being a Therapist by Marcia Kostoff gives readers an inside look at what it’s like to be a therapist. The author is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, and Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, and she specializes in CBT and DBT.

The book includes stories about the author’s experiences working with various clients. She writes that every one of her clients has changed her. They have “inspired me, worn me down, hurt me, made me proud and every emotion in between.”

Topics that are covered include lessons she’s learned from her clients, urges that she’s needed to rein in (like trying to fix people), navigating boundaries (e.g. around hugging), establishing trust, the importance of validation, and the little-t traumas that people often don’t recognize.

There are tips and lots of reassurance for people who are contemplating starting therapy, and at the end of the book there are also two letters written by her former clients to anyone considering therapy. The author assures readers that “no one is more of an expert in your mental health than you,” a perspective I always appreciate in a mental health care provider. Regarding intake appointments, she writes they “feel a little like first dates. You each often have some anxiety, hoping that the other person will ‘like’ you and that you will live up to their expectations. It also has the awkwardness often as well. Silences… long pauses…” So if you’ve ever felt awkward during a first appointment with a therapist, it might just be mutual!

The author is very open about the challenges of being a therapist and some of the things she’s needed to work on, like being more vulnerable and not expecting perfection. The Secret Keeper title refers to the confidentiality that’s necessary for clients, but can present challenges for therapists. The author admits that “we at times struggle to maintain any sense of emotional availability with the people in our own lives after carrying the weight of so many secrets.”

The book’s typography is creative, with different font sizes and weights, capital letters that are larger than lower-case letters, and wide spacing between lines of text. That kind of thing can decrease readability if it’s done badly, but in this book, it works well and is very easy to read.

I liked how this book gave a very honest, authentic, vulnerable look at what it’s like to be a therapist and how things look from that side of the therapeutic relationship. I think this book would be very reassuring for anyone who’s on the fence about starting therapy, and it would offer interesting insights for people who are in or have been in therapy.

Secret Keeper is available on Amazon (affiliate link).

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

You can find my other reviews on the MH@H book review index or on Goodreads.

The post Book Review: Secret Keeper appeared first on Mental Health @ Home.

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