Contact Us

CONTACT US

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO INQUIRE ABOUT TREATMENT AT CSAM, PLEASE FILL OUT THE FORM AND A THERAPIST WILL CONTACT YOU TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT.

You may also contact us via phone or email:

Phone: 858-354-4077

Email: info@csamsandiego.com

Name *
Name
Phone *
Phone
OK to leave a detailed message on this phone? *
How did you find CSAM? *

7860 Mission Center Ct, Suite 209
San Diego, CA, 92108

858.354.4077

At The Center for Stress and Anxiety Management, our psychologists have years of experience. Unlike many other providers, our clinicians truly specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety and related problems. Our mission is to apply only the most effective short-term psychological treatments supported by extensive scientific research. We are located in Rancho Bernardo, Carlsbad, and Mission Valley.

Blog Awards 1:18.jpg

Blog

Read our award-winning blogs for useful information and tips about anxiety, stress, and related disorders.

 

Filtering by Tag: suffering

A ‘Yes’ Community

Jill Stoddard

a guest blog repost by Dr. Nic Hooper

Two days ago, Thursday June 1st 2017, an article in The New Scientist magazine was published that I co-wrote. It is a great achievement because it will be one of the largest impact writings about Relational Frame Theory (RFT) i.e. it is possible that more people will lay their eyes on this article than for any other RFT article that currently exists.

At a personal level it feels like a big deal; it feels like an ‘I made it’ moment. And, of course, ‘I made it’ moments matter only because of the history of moments where me making it wasn’t, by any means, a sure thing. I think of my A-Levels where I studied like hell for Psychology and scraped a B. I think of the first two years of my degree where my average mark was 57 (see picture below) and I think of starting my self-funded PhD where some members of staff in the Psychology Department weren’t happy about me being accepted onto the program because I wasn’t ‘PhD material’. How the hell did I, an average boy from a working class family, make it to a point in my life where I publish in a magazine that has a readership of over 100,000 people?

The answer is quite simple. When I was 20, I started reading a book about a new approach to human suffering named Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). This is when everything changed for me. Prior to this point, unhelpful thoughts and feelings heavily influenced my decisions. Sure, they kept me in a comfort zone where I was safe but in that comfort zone I could make no progress towards the things that were important to me.

Have you seen the film ‘Yes Man’ with Jim Carrey? The film documents how a man’s life changed when he started saying ‘yes’ to everything. It’s a cool idea and following what I learned about ACT it is pretty close to the way I began interacting with the world. Of course, I differ from ‘Yes Man’ in that if someone asks me to steal a pig from a farm and paint it green then I wont say ‘yes’ (most of the time). However, if someone asks me to do something that is in line with my values, and provided this something wont infringe too much on my ability to self-care, then I say ‘yes’.

Over the years I have especially said ‘yes’ when the offer made me feel uncomfortable or when my mind fed me thoughts like: ‘You’re going to get found out – you’re not smart enough to do this’. My values guided my decision-making. Yes to a PhD, Yes to presenting my work at international conferences, Yes to travelling to the US to meet people like Steve Hayes and Kelly Wilson, Yes to lecturing in Cyprus, Yes to writing a book, Yes to going to the ACT Dublin Conference, Yesto meeting up in Bristol with some people I met at that conference, Yes to setting up an ACT centre with those people, and Yes to trying to write this New Scientist article with those people. Sure, it wasn’t plain sailing and it brought me plenty of failure and discomfort along the way but there is no doubt that I am where I am because of how readily I said ‘yes’. And I was able to say ‘yes’ because ACT taught me that saying ‘yes’ to things that are important to you, even when they bring discomfort, is a way of living that brings liberty and fulfillment (see any recent work by Aisling Curtin and Trish Leonard to learn more about ACT inspired comfort zones).

I guess you might be wondering why I am telling you these things. Well, for two reasons. Firstly, I wanted to advocate for ‘yes’ living because of the positive effect it has had on me. However, secondly, and more importantly, I wanted to make a prediction for the future. Here I am, one average person, who became introduced to ACT, started moving outside of his comfort zone when his mind told him that he wasn’t worthy or capable, and started to achieve remarkable things (relative to what I thought was possible). But I am not the only person in the ACT community with that story. You see the thing about ACT is that it isn’t an approach you ‘do’ to other people; it is an approach that starts with oneself. So here is my prediction: ACT will get bigger and will stay the course. I don’t think this will happen because ACT will win therapy wars with 1000’s of studies (those wars don’t have winners). I think it will happen because over time more and more ‘average’ people will start to achieve remarkable things by saying ‘yes’ when their mind tells them that they aren’t good enough. If this does happen then although none of us will be remembered as individuals, as a ‘yes’ community we might just change the world.

Originally posted on NicHooper.com

Part 2: Thriving through the Embrace of Life: Learning to Open through the Pain

Jill Stoddard

Part 2

Thriving through the Embrace of Life:

Learning to Open through the Pain

By Lauren Helm, M.A.

In the first segment of our blog on learning how to thrive, we explored the role that suffering may have in preventing or blocking our ability to live a valued, full life. Part two continues our discussion of thriving versus suffering, and introduces an alternative approach to responding to emotional or physical pain or discomfort.

 

hiding-photodream-art.jpg

“Human beings, we have dark sides; we have dark issues in our lives. To progress anywhere in life, you have to face your demons.” – John Noble 

It can be said, in a sense, that in running away from our pain, we are metaphorically running away from our demons. These demons appear large, menacing, and powerful. They wave their limbs in frightening gestures, and offer deafening roars or shrieks when we move close to them. Our instinct is to flee – to run and escape these frightening beings – for fear that irreparable harm will come our way.  However, our constant attempts to hide away from painful events leads to the cycle of suffering that prevents a thriving, full life. Thriving is not happiness without pain. To thrive is to experience the full range of what it means to be human, and to consciously move forward on a path that is in alignment with who you want to be, and with what is important to you. Life is made up of the “good” and the “bad,” or the “pleasurable” and the “painful,” but focusing on removing the bad or the painful is likely to also prevent you from experiencing the beautiful , the awe-inspiring, and the heart-warming types of life experiences.

 

Sometimes it just takes a little willingness to open up to all that life has to offer, even when there is pain involved. This may take a certain degree of faith or bravery, because actively taking steps forward into valued territories often entails some degree of risk. There is risk in opening up to vulnerable but deep love, there is risk in pursuing an education or career path that inspires you but has no guarantees, and there is risk in boldly moving forward when there will likely be a certain level of pain (and growth) in doing so. Openness to the fullness of life on some level requires an acceptance of all that comes with it – the ups and the downs. In fact, an embracing of the twists and turns of life may very well be what leads to the transformation and growth that fosters thriving and well-being. Remember, pain in and of itself is not the problem. Suffering-caused by efforts to avoid pain- leads to the seemingly inescapable vortex of pain, and is a beast that feeds itself through escalating distress and avoidance. It requires extensive time and energy to maintain, and yet convinces us of its necessity. However, paradoxically, the way out of suffering is in “embracing the demons.” The alternative to suffering is thriving, an embracing of life.

 

Metaphorically, this cycle is like feeding a hungry tiger. Dr. Russell Harris, an ACT practitioner, explains how this works: “You discover a baby tiger in your house, and it’s cute and cuddly, so you play with it. Then it gets hungry, and restless, and irritable, so you feed it – and it settles down. But over time, the more you feed that tiger, the bigger it grows - and the more food it needs, and the more aggressive it gets when it’s hungry. Now it’s not cute anymore; it’s scary.  And you spend more and more time feeding it, because you’re terrified that if you don’t, it’ll eat you! But the more you feed it, the bigger it gets” (Harris, 2007).

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an empirically supported treatment that teaches clients to reduce suffering and truly thrive.  ACT is an experiential therapy and so relies on the use of metaphors and experiential exercises to facilitate learning in an experienced way. Metaphors can help us to really connect with concepts and ideas so that we can begin to apply these concepts; so that we can begin to more openly experience difficult life events, instead of automatically avoiding them. So that we can thrive.  Another commonly used metaphor in ACT that illustrates this point is the Chinese Finger Trap Metaphor. The more that you struggle with, and try to escape the finger trap by trying to pull your fingers out of the trap, the tighter the trap becomes. The struggle to control the situation and escape makes it worse. Instead, the way out of the trap is to yield, and bring both fingers closer together within the finger trap. And then it loosens, and you are set free.  Similarly, in the ACT Quicksand Metaphor, the cycle of suffering is represented by the experience of being in quicksand. If you struggle and try to fight your way out of quicksand, you sink more quickly. The way out of quicksand is to make as much contact with the sand as possible, lying on your back, and in doing so, you rise to the surface.

It is through the willingness to make full contact with life, the embracing of the many possible experiences that make us human, that we thrive. There is richness and fullness of life to be found when we creatively choose to embody meaningful living. We can start this process by letting go of trying to control the pain, and committing to act in ways that allow us to thrive.

 

Clinicians who wish to incorporate metaphors and experiential exercises into their therapy practice can check out Dr. Jill Stoddard’s The Big Book of ACT Metaphors here.

 

 

If you'd like to speak with Dr. Stoddard or another professional at the Center for Stress and Anxiety Management for help learning about how to “embrace your demons,” please click here.

Follow us! Subscribe to the CSAM RSS feed, and follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@CSAMSanDiego).

 

 

References

Harris, R. (2006). Embracing your demons: an overview of acceptance and commitment therapy. Psychotherapy in Australia, 12(4), 70.

Harris, R. (2007). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) ADVANCED Workshop Handout. Retrieved from: http://www.actmindfully.com.au/upimages/2007_-_advanced_act_workshop_handout.pdf

Hayes, S. C., & Smith, S. (2005). Get out of your mind and into your life: The new acceptance and commitment therapy. New Harbinger Publications.

 

 

Tags: anxietyanxiety therapyacceptance and commitment therapyACTstress and anxiety in san diegoCenter for Stress and Anxiety Managementmental healthemotion regulation,anxiety disordersfulfillmentsufferingthrivingpainpersonal values

Part I: Thriving through the Embrace of Life: To Thrive or to Suffer

Jill Stoddard

Part I

Thriving through the Embrace of Life:

To Thrive or to Suffer

By Lauren Helm, M.A.

 

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style” ― Maya Angelou

 

If you were to ask yourself, “Am I thriving in life?” what would your honest answer be?  Is there a palpable fullness, or a vibrant, colorful aliveness that paints the story of your life? There are as many different ways to thrive as there are individuals on the planet, and each person likely has a unique story to tell about what thriving means to them. What does thriving mean to you? You may not have a ready answer, but perhaps you have a general sense of what the experience is like when you are living a life that is full, satisfying, and meaningful to you. Is the experience of moving forward in life in a deeply satisfying way your current reality? Or do you only catch glimpses or taste brief moments of thriving, without being able to maintain this as a steady flow? These are challenging and potentially uncomfortable questions to ask yourself.  It may seem that living a truly vital life is without reach, where it is possible for others to attain it, but you cannot.  

“Pain is universal, suffering is optional.”

If you experience a regular sense of enlivenment, this is excellent. The chances are, however, that life has peaks, and it has its valleys too. In our society, we may often misconstrue what it means to live fully and thrive. Often we equate successful living with happiness. If we feel pain, we assume that something is wrong, and we must immediately fix the situation in order to feel happy again. Unfortunately, pain simply is going to be experienced throughout our lives. It will occur, again and again, in various domains, including our relationships, career, and other life experiences. We will experience psychological pain   (i.e. painful thoughts and emotions) and physical pain (e.g. back pain or migraines). Does this mean that we will never be able to truly thrive, or live a deeply rewarding life? Certainly not! Pain, in and of itself, is just that – the experience of discomfort (in its many forms). Though it may not sound pleasant, pain is not the problem. Rather, our reactions or responses to the pain, is what leads to suffering. Suffering is pain’s more dramatic and pervasive cousin – suffering often wrenches, grips, and gnaws at us—and typically stems from our efforts to move away from our pain. It draws in all of our attention and sucks away all of our vital energy or life force. Generally speaking, to suffer is not to thrive.

It is within our nature to attempt to avoid, escape, or prevent pain. As a species, this is how we survived and persevered. However, in our modern day society, we are rarely threatened by actual physically dangerous situations that we need to remove ourselves from to survive (e.g.  if you see a rattlesnake, you turn and walk the other way instead of stepping onto it to avoid the painful bite which may also lead to physical damage). Many painful experiences that we currently face are internal experiences – the worried thought that your boss is negatively evaluating you, the anxiety in the pit of your stomach when the bills are difficult to pay, or the sadness that results from the loss of a friendship. Often, the mind reacts to these painful events in more or less the same way that it would react to a painful physical experience (such as stubbing a toe) – avoid this pain, and get rid of it right away, or else survival is threatened! Unfortunately, as our minds get to work at problem-solving how to control and get rid of a painful thought or a painful emotion, it often unsuspectingly steps onto the path of suffering.

 

 

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream.” – Paulo Coelho 

As the mind begins to systematically focus more and more time, attention, and energy to ridding itself of painful thoughts and emotions (like anxiety, sadness, guilt, anger, etc.) a paradoxical effect occurs – it begins to feed the beast. The very labeling of an emotion or a thought as “bad” creates a spiraling effect of distress. For example, if you experience anxiety, and then believe that it is a bad or harmful thing to experience anxiety (i.e. it is threatening), then you will likely feel an increase in anxiety or distress (because now you are anxious about anxiety), and also begin to do whatever you can to get rid of this threat (the escalating anxiety). You may try to control it by distracting yourself with drugs or alcohol, or perhaps you try to control it by avoiding whatever triggers the anxiety in the first place (e.g., not going to a party for fear of being disliked). Though this may reduce anxiety in the short-term and you may experience some brief sense of relief, the anxiety is unlikely to permanently disappear. In fact, it is guaranteed to reappear and your mind will likely respond to the reappearance of anxiety in a similar way, becoming like a rat on a wheel, running with all of its will and might to escape the relentless pursuit of anxiety (or any other uncomfortable thought or emotion). Thus, suffering grows, as more and more time and energy is needed to escape growing discomfort that returns again and again. Most importantly, the more attention is spent on avoiding, the less it is spent engaged in areas of life that may be important to you. “Life” can be put on hold while you invest your energy in “managing” the pain of life. Sometimes, in more minor cases, this works. But often, it can become a bottomless pit, and we can lose our way. To merely survive does not mean to thrive.

Though many of us would rather not fully acknowledge that this process occurs in our lives, it often characterizes the human condition. However, with awareness and recognition, we can begin to consciously alter how we respond, and thus begin to craft a way of living that supports thriving and fullness.

Part 2: Thriving through the Embrace of Life: Learning to Open through the Pain is the second segment of our blog which continues the discussion of thriving versus suffering, and introduces an alternative approach to responding to emotional or physical pain or discomfort.

 

 

If you'd like to speak with someone at the Center for Stress and Anxiety Management for help learning about how to thrive and relieve psychological suffering, please click here.

Follow us! Subscribe to the CSAM RSS feed, and follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@CSAMSanDiego).

 

 

References

Harris, R. (2006). Embracing your demons: an overview of acceptance and commitment therapy. Psychotherapy in Australia, 12(4), 70.

Tags: anxietycognitive behavioral thearpyanxiety therapy san diegoanxiety therapyacceptance and commitment therapyworryACTCenter for Stress and Anxiety Management,therapy in san diegoemotion regulationanxiety disordersvaluessteven hayesCSAMmeaningfulfillmentmindfulsufferingthriving