One of my cardinal goals is to push my patients' recovery beyond the absence of symptoms--normally defined as healed or "cured"-- and help them emerge from their suffering into an emotional realm of satisfaction and happiness. Equally important is to teach them how to fend off life's difficulties and emotional roller coasters as much as possible on their own.
I help my patients feel empowered again and in touch with the energy force present in each one of us--the inner core being--true engine of our actions, thoughts and feelings. I help them learn the pragmatic tools of realistic goal setting, planning and decision making, leading them more directly to where they want to be in their lives. I give them plenty of tools to handle their emotional well-being. That helps them understand themselves better, prevent and control their emotional reaction patterns and make better choices. I also teach them how to know how to prevent or avoid an emotional disorder episode, so that they will not have to spend months and months being emotionally despondent while losing important relationships, jobs, income and self-respect.
Even in the absence of an emotional problem, even when going to a psychiatrist has never been necessary, we are constantly looking for ways to achieve a better, happier life. I have distilled the essence of my experience into this self-guide for healing and happiness--a new and original approach.
A turquoise lake on the High Plateau of Tibet, at 15,000 feet altitude.
This guide can effectively assist you in your efforts, and give you a reliable framework you can easily use to achieve better results in return for your efforts.
I follow these guidelines in my own life and I find them very helpful. In exploring them, please remember that there is no right or wrong way of approaching them. No matter how you decide to try them, use them in a way that benefits you the most. This is the only rule. Avoid feeling guilty about the past and fearful about the future. The past cannot be changed and the future is in your power to design and construct.
Here is a brief introduction to Better Than Cured--A Six Point Self-Guide to Healing and Happiness:
1. Self-knowledge: Everything begins with you. You are your own best means to create a happy, successful and balanced life for yourself. Become your best friend. Get to know yourself well. Learn and respect what you like and make peace with or change what you don’t like about yourself. Learn how to comfort yourself and address yourself as you would your best friend. Make peace with your character flaws and forgive your missteps.
(You will find more details, examples and practical applications of this guideline in the upcoming e-course.)
2. Outer directed awareness: If self-knowledge refers to understanding yourself--inner directed awareness--awareness of the world is about understanding the world outside of yourself and your interrelationship with it--outer directed awareness.
Outer directed awareness begins with the world of your everyday life and expands, as your awareness itself expands, to the world at large. Preoccupied of our immediate world as we all are at times, we cannot afford to live in ignorance of the world at large because it affects us profoundly. Think, for example, elections or global warming. At a certain level, everything is interconnected. Our lives are interwoven in the fabric of our times; and because of that, we need to be mindful of the world around us. There is no need to feel overwhelmed. Steadily keep your eyes open, learn about it as much as you can and form your own opinion about what is going on.
Also try to develop a greater awareness of yourself in the context of your personal world. Carefully identify your place in it, the problems you are facing and the reasons why you are not happy or not moving forward. Be honest with yourself and stop being afraid of what you will see in yourself.
3. Self-help: Listen, read and learn how to use your creativity and imagination to find trouble-shooting solutions for dealing with life’s problems: dealing with a demanding boss or annoying neighbor; managing a bad date or enjoying a good one; finding new and healthy ways to relax; learning how to say “no” politely when you need to, rather than going along with something that makes you unhappy; being assertive but not abrasive, and so on. Don’t shy away from or ignore such problems. Start thinking creatively of possible tools you can learn to use, and try them one by one. Your creativity and curiosity will be stimulated. Your confidence will soar when you know you can handle awkward situations as they arise. You will feel more in control, more relaxed, and you will definitely have more fun.
Tibet--The High Plateau
4. Self-therapy: The tools of psychotherapy work in the psychiatrist's office, and they can work for you as well if you learn how to apply them to your own situation. Some of the well tested and most effective psychotherapy techniques are:
- placing mind-over-mood--diminishes the emotional response and emphasizes the rational one instead--cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT
- changing perspective to look at a problem from more than one angle, which will reveal other ways to approach and handle it for a better outcome--reframing therapy
- understanding the meaning and motivation of your own behavior and reactions by paying attention to yourself, your feelings and your thoughts; become clued into how and why you are reacting to the world in a certain way and how you can reshape that interaction to establish a better relationship between yourself and others, between your actions and their impact on your life--insight oriented therapy.
You can learn how to use these techniques by yourself. They are widely used by leaders of all orientations and by highly successful people in general. You do not need to have an "emotional disorder" to benefit a great deal from them. But whether you are dealing with an emotional problem or not, your life can be significantly improved by learning these tools, and you will have an easier time navigating through life's challenges when you do.
If you need more help, consider working with a psychiatrist, psychotherapist or a counselor to further guide and assist you.
(In the e-course I will explain when and how to find this qualified help. You will also find more explanations, case examples and practical ways to apply these tools to your own situation.)Tibet--The High Plateau
5. Be mindful of the vast ocean of choices available to you: At any given point, you are faced with choices. They can be many and they can be confusing. You can sort them out by keeping an open mind and learning as much as you can about each one of them. One such important choice is whether to use medication to help you manage an emotionally overwhelming situation after you have exhausted all other reasonable options.
Biochemical changes in the brain, spontaneous or created by certain environmental situations, can trigger strong emotional reactions of anxiety and/or depression . Their toxic effect on the brain can be decreased by using anti-depressant/anti-anxiety medications. About 60% of people suffering from depression and anxiety have inherited a genetic predisposition to these disorders. Other people never got the chance to learn better ways to handle difficult situations and stumble through life feeling more and more anxious and hopeless until they become long term anxious or depressed. Many have forgotten how it feels to be well.
After you have tried other options (self-help, therapy, counseling) and feel that you are still not moving forward or you are still plagued by overwhelming anxiety or depression, you may consider the temporary use of medications to help you better and faster overcome these obstacles.
To use the medication option you will need the expertise and help of a psychiatrist. But by learning as much as any reasonable non-specialist can learn about this option, you will be in a better position to influence your own treatment, including bringing in your pertinent observations and insights. This way, you will make better choices about what medications to try for how long. And you will have a far better idea of what to expect. You can become an active participant in your own treatment rather than a passive recipient, and the outcome will be significantly better.
As a general rule, if you are ever in doubt whether you should consider medications or not, don’t cut your options short. Make an appointment with a psychiatrist for a consultation and discuss the options. You may feel it is exactly what you need, or you may want to put this option aside and come back to it later if you still have difficulties. It is entirely your call.
(I will provide more examples and details about this complex subject, scary for many, in the e-course. You will become more comfortable with this option so that if you must use it, you will feel much better about it.)
Tibet--The High Plateau
6. Self-driven action: Change happens only when you shift from contemplating the change to taking real action. You are in the driver's seat. Keep your life in balance while you are moving forward. To build a happy life, understand that you are its architect, builder and owner--all at the same time. There are specific ways in which you can set healthy goals, and there are important skills you can use when designing effective strategies, which are action paths toward reaching your goals. But there is nothing you cannot learn once your mind is set on that path. When your emotions are in balance and you feel confident in yourself, you can make good use of all the opportunities life will offer. Remain open minded and unafraid of change. Adjust to new situations in healthy ways.
Does that sound like a lot? From the moment you start having your first victories and breakthroughs you will see how addictive it is to feel in control and to make good things happen in your life. It is exhilarating. It is so empowering that, when they get to this level, people usually feel there is no obstacle able to stop them from their course. Be mindful and remain true to yourself. Your life will gradually transform into a wonderful journey. Observe the transformation process. You will be amazed of how far you can go. Take enough time to make changes. Relax and enjoy your victories along the way. The journey itself and all that you will learn and experience will be valuable, fulfilling and joyous far before you will reach the final goal. You don't have to wait to be happy. You can begin this journey right now and enjoy its benefits from today forward. Take these guidelines to heart. Work with them and you will see the positive changes in yourself, just as I have seen them in my patients and within myself.
I will go into greater detail about each one of these guidelines and how to apply them to your own situation in the upcoming BetterThan Cured--A Six Point Self-Guide to Healing and Happiness e-course. To receive the e-course, you may sign up by entering your name and e-mail address in the sign-up box. One chapter a week will be delivered, for seven weeks, directly in your mailbox. It doesn't cost you anything to sign up, to receive or to use the course. Just work with it and, if you will, send me feedback about what works and what doesn't work well for you. I hope it will help you figure out some long sought answers and some viable solutions whatever you are trying to accomplish.
The Zen circle, or The Enso, (Japanese for 'circle') is a Zen symbol of the absolute, the true nature of existence and enlightenment. It is a symbol that combines the visible and the hidden, the simple and the profound, the empty and the full. As an expression of infinity, it has links to the western lemniscate, and may be painted so that there is a slight opening somewhere in the circle, showing that the Enso is not contained in itself, but that it opens out to infinity. The enso, a simple circle drawn with a single, broad brushstroke, is the zen symbol of infinity. It represents the infinite void, the 'no-thing,' the perfect meditative state, and Satori (enlightenment.), according to the Dharma Memphis, a comprehensive web site on Buddhism you can visit when you click the above quote and link.
I invite you to print out this image and use it as your personal work sheet.
Take the "Better Than Cured Self-Guide to Healing and Happiness" for a ride and see what it can do for you!