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10 Things to Change in 2011

February 18th, 2011 by Dr. Ilona L. Tobin

The turning of a year turns our thoughts to how we might improve upon the year that’s receding. Here are 10 suggestions for things to change in 2011.
<ol>
 <li>Fear of making a mistake. Face it, you will. Do your best and no one can fault you.</li>
 <li>Jumping to conclusions. Think situations through before rendering judgment. Consider whether you know all of the facts.</li>
 <li>Trying to please everyone. It’s just not possible, and the effort usually makes YOU displeased.</li>
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 <li>Thinking you’re always right. Opening to other points of view can be a liberating experience.</li>
 <li>Putting yourself down. Modesty may be a virtue, but self-denigration does nothing but harm.</li>
 <li>Overly focusing on the negative. You don’t have to be Pollyanna, but don’t miss the good things in your life.</li>
 <li>Regret. Learn the lessons of the past, and then let your regrets go. Nothing is served by dwelling on them.</li>
 <li>Comparing yourself to others. This is a destructive game you can never win. Refuse to engage in it.</li>
 <li>Despair. No matter how unfortunate your circumstances, it is possible to improve them. Seek help and support.</li>
 <li>Fear of aging. Medical advances, exercise, good nutrition and community raise our life expectancy and well-being. Embrace those elements and enjoy your longer life.</li>
</ol>

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Ilona Tobin has been a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years in Birmingham, Michigan. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory.

Shared Meaning

January 11th, 2011 by Mel Schwartz, LCSW

We take for granted that our words convey exactly what we intend them to. This is a particularly misinformed assumption. I have observed that upon deeper scrutiny, the words, let alone the concepts, tend not to be received in the way the messenger anticipates. By the time a few sentences have passed, we may have a totally missed communication. How often does we pause and considerately ask the other what they mean by the word they are using?

Although this problem is more glaring in confrontational discourse, it impacts amicable conversations as well. “You don’t know how to be intimate,” she exclaims. He retorts, “I don’t know how to be intimate? You’re so angry and cold who would ever want to be intimate with you?” In the following minutes this couple is off to the races, pushing buttons and hurling invective.

They are arguing around this word intimate. Yet, no one has bothered to share or inquire what the word intimate suggests. She might be referring to emotional intimacy, he might be thinking of sexual intimacy. This is a common disconnect. Yet the problem runs deeper. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are fighting about whether he can or cannot be emotionally intimate. Have they ever discussed the concept of emotional intimacy and reached a shared meaning? This would be most unlikely. Read the rest of this entry »

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Mel Schwartz is a psychotherapist with offices in Westport Ct and NYC. For more information, please visit his listing on the Therapist Directory or his website. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.

Coming into Balance

December 27th, 2010 by Mel Schwartz, LCSW

A few summers ago I broke my foot, the fracture occurring as I missed a step on my front porch. The break occurred on the outside part of my foot- the fifth metatarsal. My doctor provided some good news in that I wouldn’t need a cast and I proceeded to adjust to my broken foot. Or so I thought. In deference to the pain on the outer perimeter of my foot I shifted my weight toward my other side, compensating for the break.

By the following week I had developed a new and more painful problem. I had stressed the unbroken part of my foot by placing an excessive amount of pressure on it. I actually experienced more acute pain in that area than in the break itself. A month later the broken bone had essentially healed–but the damage I caused to the inner part of my foot still lingered. This is an issue of compensation. I had come out of balance, quite literally. And nowhere does this tendency provoke more havoc than in our emotional and psychological lives.
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Mel Schwartz is a psychotherapist with offices in Westport Ct and NYC. For more information, please visit his listing on the Therapist Directory or his website. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.

Recovering from Debt Addiction

December 20th, 2010 by Dr. Ilona L. Tobin

(Excerpt from Fall Newsletter 2010)

John has a well-paying job, but carries a debt load equal to half his salary. He spends compulsively, buying things he doesn’t really need. Because he also doesn’t keep track of his finances, he frequently bounces checks. John would like to get control of his spending, but hasn’t been able to rein himself in.

Sarah never spends money unless she has to and neglects self-care such as dental check-ups. She is self-employed but doesn’t make enough to cover her basic expenses and uses credit cards to pay bills when she falls short. Her debt load is a great worry to her, but she feels helpless to change the situation.

John is a compulsive debtor and Sarah an underearner, but their core problem is the same. According to Jerrold Mundis, author of How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt and Live Prosperously, repeated debt results from dysfunctional or distorted subconscious attitudes and perceptions about money and self.
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Ilona Tobin has been a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years in Birmingham, Michigan. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory.

The Empty Nest: What Happens When the Chicks Fly

November 20th, 2010 by Dr. Ilona L. Tobin

From the second they arrive on the planet, just inches long and utterly dependent, our children occupy a place in our hearts deeper than most any other relationship.

We nurture, guide, feed and protect them for years. The relationship brings us a complex mixture of joy, frustration, sadness, delight, anger, pride and love. Our children occupy our focus like nothing else, as they grow taller and more independent with every year. And then they go away.

Of course, we knew that from the beginning. And that’s been the goal all along.
But that doesn’t make an empty nest any easier when it finally comes.
Fortunately, an empty nest is also the beginning of another era for parents, one that can be equally fulfilling.
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Ilona Tobin has been a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years in Birmingham, Michigan. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory.

Top 3 Enemies of Depression

November 9th, 2010 by Dr. Ilona L. Tobin

(Excerpt from Fall Newsletter 2010)

In addition to talk therapy, there are powerful yet simple things that you can do to help yourself heal from depression.

Inspired by Dr. Robert Hedaya’s book on dealing with the side effects of medication, The Anti-Depressant Survival Program, here are three ways to combat depression, whether you’re on anti-depressants or not.

1. Good Nutrition. A diet rich in protein, low on the glycemic scale (e.g., barley, grapefruit and yogurt) and high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and good fats, like omega 3s, will help stabilize your mood. Protein is essential for the production of neurotransmitters that regulate mood, and foods low on the glycemic scale help stabilize your blood sugar, reducing fatigue, unhealthy weight gain and mood swings.

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Ilona Tobin has been a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years in Birmingham, Michigan. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory.

Say the Hard Thing: How to Have that Difficult Conversation

October 29th, 2010 by Dr. Ilona L. Tobin

There are no classes in life for beginners,” wrote poet Rainer Maria Rilke. “Right away you are always asked to deal with what is most difficult.”

Saying the hard thing can be one of the most difficult things we ever do. And for many of us, just thinking about doing it can cause worry, fear and stress. The good news is that getting these conversations right has more to do with planning and practice than saying “just the right thing.” And when we dare to broach these hard topics with other people, there are often hidden rewards.
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Ilona Tobin has been a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years in Birmingham, Michigan. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory.

How Did Humans Become Empathic?

October 8th, 2010 by Rick Hanson, Ph.D.

Empathy is unusual in the animal kingdom. So empathy must have had some major survival benefits for it to have evolved. What might those benefits have been?

Empathy seems to have evolved in three major steps.

First, among vertebrates, birds and mammals developed ways of rearing their young, plus forms of pair bonding – sometimes for life. This is very different from the pattern among fish and reptile species, most of which make their way in life alone. Pair bonding and rearing of young organisms increased their survival and was consequently selected for, driving the development of new mental capacities.

As neuroscientists put it, the “computational requirements” of tuning into the signals of newborn little creatures, and of operating as a couple – a sparrow couple, a mountain lion couple, that is – helped drive the enlargement of the brain over millions of years. As we all know, when you are in a relationship with someone – and especially if you are raising a family together – there’s a lot you have to take into account, negotiate, arrange, anticipate, etc. No wonder brains got bigger.

It may be a source of satisfaction to some that monogamous species typically have the largest brains in proportion to bodyweight! Read the rest of this entry »

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Dr. Hanson is a neuropsychologist in San Rafael, California. His practice includes adults, couples, families, and children, as well as psychological assessments of children and adults related to temperament, school performance, and educational and vocational planning. For more information, please visit his listing on the Therapist Directory

It’s Not An Option

October 1st, 2010 by Ruth Gordon, LCSW

I saw an interview on TV a while back with the fashion designer, Diane Von Furstenberg. When asked about the people who had inspired her, she named her mother, a concentration camp survivor, who taught her that fear was not an option. Well, that got my attention.
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Ruth Gordon is licensed clinical social worker in both Massachusetts and Florida. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory. This article may not be reprinted, reproduced, or retransmitted in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author.

21 Ways To Turn Ill Will to Good Will

September 30th, 2010 by Rick Hanson, Ph.D.

My recent posts have highlighted two very powerful, yet opposing forces in the human heart: in a traditional metaphor, we each have a wolf of love and a wolf of hate inside us, and it all depends on which one we feed every day.

On the one hand, as the most social and loving species on the planet, we have the wonderful ability and inclination to connect with others, be empathic, cooperate, care, and love. On the other hand, we also have the capacity and inclination to be fearfully aggressive toward any individual or group we regard as “them.” (In my book – Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom – I develop this idea further, including how to stimulate and strengthen the neural circuits of self-control, empathy, and compassion.)

To tame the wolf of hate, it’s important to get a handle on “ill will” – irritated, resentful, and angry feelings and intentions toward others. While it may seem justified in the moment, ill will harms you probably more than it harms others. In another metaphor, having ill will toward others is like throwing hot coals with bare hands: both people get burned.

Avoiding ill will does not mean passivity, allowing yourself or others to be exploited, staying silent in the face of injustice, etc. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dr. Hanson is a neuropsychologist in San Rafael, California. His practice includes adults, couples, families, and children, as well as psychological assessments of children and adults related to temperament, school performance, and educational and vocational planning. For more information, please visit his listing on the Therapist Directory