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Learning to overcome relationship anxiety from unhealthy attachments

Healing Arts Institute - A happy couple enjoy each other's company watching the sun set.
Written by David Davenport – Contributing author Healing Arts Institute of South Florida | Canva

In our previous article, ‘How Your Attachment Style Maybe Shaped by Abandonment’, we introduced the idea of attachment styles. If you remember, attachment styles will determine how you interact with people and how you behave in a relationship with them.

Our attachments styles are heavily influenced by how we were raised as children. It is shaped by how our parents used to interact with us.

Everyone approaches relationships through the bias of their personal experiences. However, if we experience emotional abandonment as children, we can develop a skewed perception of how relationships work.

That doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with us. It just means that we should try a little harder to see people for who they really are. Sometimes, our early childhood programming can make that challenging.

Fortunately for us, abandonment challenges are treatable, and you can start today!

1. This is your first step on a long journey

Before we can begin to heal, we must first recognize our unhealthy behaviors. People tend to repeat the same patterns of behavior. This all but guarantees that they will continue to pursue abusive or neglectful relationships. If you haven’t done so already, read ‘How Your Attachment Style Maybe Shaped by Abandonment’ to get an idea about what your unhealthy attachment style might be.

  • Anxious attachment
  • Avoidant attachment
  • Disorganized attachment

Once you can put a name to what is causing your relationship anxiety, it becomes much easier to move forward. You are one step closer to building healthier relationships!

2. Learn to calm yourself

Now that you know what is triggering your relationship anxiety, you can learn to calm yourself before it becomes too obtrusive. When you’re just starting out, this can be very difficult! You may be used to indulging your anxiety and working yourself up into a bad state of mind.

When you feel that your shoulder muscles are tensing, you have a knot in your stomach, and those catastrophic thoughts are beginning to take hold – STOP.

Just stop. When you are calm and aware of your thoughts, you will have power over what you think rather than be controlled by them.

Breathe deeply and realize that you are safe. Your amygdala is working overtime to make things seem dire. Can you identify any behaviors that match with any of the attachment styles that were discussed?

By practicing deep breathing techniques, you can take control of your thoughts again and make sure the rational centers of the brain are back in control.

3. Listen to your thoughts and track them

Now that you can think a little more clearly, it’s time to really understand why you are feeling nervous. Pay attention to the negative thoughts you are having right at this very moment. What is this negative self-talk saying to you?

Are you not “good enough”? Are you not lovable enough? Not attractive enough?

These are all lies. These lies feed your fear and are the seeds of your anxiety.

Write down these thoughts as you have them. List every single one. Then put that list away.

Once you can pinpoint your negative thinking, you can begin to replace them with positive thoughts and beliefs.

This takes time. This is difficult.

BUT YOU CAN DO IT!

4. Practice self-kindness

It’s easy to criticize yourself, especially if you were raised in an environment where you were often told that you were wrong.

You must know how to show yourself kindness, especially if you are feeling down, disappointed, or anxious.

Practice mindfulness, exercise, start taking yoga. Slowly learn to feel comfortable in your own skin. If you catch yourself in a bout of self-loathing or criticism, realize that these voices are not your own. They are not to be believed, and in time you can begin to silence those damaging negative opinions.

Final thoughts

You are deserving of a beautiful life and strong healthy relationships. With time, patience, and practice, you can learn what triggers your relationship anxiety.

A trusted therapist like the ones you find at Healing Arts Institute can help you find your path and support you along your journey.

Read these other interesting articles found on the Healing Arts Blog:

Citations:

Huang, S. (1970, January 1). [the different types of attachment styles]. https://www.simplypsychology.org/attachment-styles.html. Retrieved February 3, 2022, from https://www.simplypsychology.org/attachment-styles.html

Journaling for mental health. Journaling for Mental Health – Health Encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center. (n.d.). Retrieved February 3, 2022, from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4552&ContentTypeID=1

YouTube. (2021). What’s your Attachment Type? — Therapist Explains! YouTube. Retrieved February 3, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZSRwOxRg1U.

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How Your Attachment Style May be Shaped by Abandonment

Written by David Davenport – Contributing author Healing Arts Institute of South Florida | Canva

The way we interact with others and form relationships is strongly influenced by how we learned to relate to our parents as children. For some, it seems quite easy to form new relationships with new people. Nurturing those relationships and forming strong long-term bonds seems instinctual. For others struggling with childhood emotional abandonment, trying to form those same connections may feel like an impossible task.

Someone once tried describing their difficulty with building relationships as if they were an alien observer attempting to figure out how humans on Earth make healthy connections.

But we’re all human, aren’t we? Why then do we find it so difficult to relate to one another?

This answer is complex and multi-faceted, and we will be covering varying aspects of these dynamics in future articles. Today we are going to focus on one contributor – attachment style.

Childhood Origins

When we are very young and very small children, we learn how to interact with the world based on how we experience our immediate surroundings. Who then is more immediate than our parents? We have an instinctual need for comfort and security in a large and unfamiliar world. Our caregivers are most responsible for providing us with that need.

People (including parents) are imperfect. We are all doing the best we can. Sometimes parents may not be able to provide the needed level of emotional security that their child instinctively craves. Usually, this is because of their own learned experiences growing up. It becomes an inter-generational dilemma.

A child may always have clothes and food, and their parents may always be physically present. But if that child feels that their basic need for emotional security is not being met, the result may be the development of unhealthy attachment styles as that child grows up. Essentially, that child is exhibiting trauma as the result of abandonment.

Today we are going to briefly talk about three attachment styles so that you can begin to think about yours. Next week, we are going to talk about how you can start forming healthier and longer-lasting relationships if you are struggling with a difficult attachment style.

Anxious Attachment

People with an anxious attachment style have a very hard time being alone. The thought of being alone can cause extreme distress and panic. The anxiety only worsens as the person perceives that a relationship is beginning to distance, and their fear of rejection begins to take hold.

As the panic worsens, they may overcompensate by chasing and “smothering” others with attention in a desperate attempt to maintain control of the situation. One unanswered phone call may turn into ten. Dozens of text messages may be sent in desperate hope for a response.
Unfortunately, these very actions often destroy the relationship leading to the very catastrophe that the person was attempting to avoid.

Avoidant Attachment

People with avoidant attachment styles will often withdraw from a relationship before being hurt by it. They can become overwhelmed by the emotional requirements needed to maintain healthy long-term connections. The moment they perceive that a relationship has reached a challenging point, they bail before the other person has a chance to reject them. This is the opposite of anxious attachment. Their anxiety will increase as people attempt to become closer to them or “chase” them.

Avoidant types may seem aloof and cool when things get rough, but they withdraw because they are afraid of rejection and judgment. The thought of going through rejection is more painful than not having a relationship at all. They choose what they perceive as the less painful option.

Disorganized Attachment

People with a disorganized attachment style may be perceived as cold, distant, and lacking empathy. Their fear comes from the thought of forming lasting long-term relationships as all. Unlike the anxiety and avoidant types, the disorganized attachment type may not feel that it’s possible to form true lasting relationships at all. So, why bother trying when it’s just going to end on disappointment and pain?

Final Thoughts

All of these relationship approaches are anchored in childhood abandonment trauma and are allowed to persist through our distorted perceptions of how relationships are formed and maintained.

The good news is that abandonment challenges are treatable! We must first recognize our patterns of behavior so that we can begin to challenge our negative thought patterns. We have to remove damaging belief systems and replace them with more realistic and positive ones.

Until we do this, we will be trapped in a recurring cycle of behavior that might keep us from developing happy and healthy relationships throughout our lives.

Read these interesting related articles from the Healing Arts Blog!

Citations:


A brief overview of adult attachment theory and research: R. Chris Fraley. A Brief Overview of Adult Attachment Theory and Research | R. Chris Fraley. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2022, from http://labs.psychology.illinois.edu/~rcfraley/attachment.htm

What is attachment theory? Bowlby’s 4 stages explained. PositivePsychology.com. (2021, December 13). Retrieved January 26, 2022, from https://positivepsychology.com/attachment-theory/

YouTube. (2021). YouTube. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZSRwOxRg1U.

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Three Things to Know Before You Start Therapy

Written by David Davenport – Contributing author Healing Arts Institute of South Florida

If you are thinking about seeing a therapist, congratulations! I realize how strange that sounds but hear me out.

People who are seeking therapy are not defective. They are not broken or partial people. If you are thinking about therapy, it means that you have identified something (or many somethings) in your life that you would like to improve.

That’s amazing! It can be uncomfortable to talk about your deeply held private matters with others, so even thinking about doing it at least proves one thing right away. That you’re brave.

Therapy is about discovering yourself and learning about new tools that can help you to overcome tough situations. It’s about teaching you to live better. It’s about showing you how to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

I think that certainly deserves congratulations.

There are many reasons why you might want to consider therapy. Maybe you are trying to make sense of a traumatic past or difficult relationship. Maybe you have noticed that you are repeating patterns throughout your life that keep leading to the same unpleasant results. Or maybe, you just want more from your life than what you are experiencing right now.

Whatever your reason, we are going to go over five important considerations that you should be aware of when you just start therapy.

Ask what methods the therapist uses

Each therapist will have their areas of interest and expertise. Therapy is not a one size fits all relationship. Depending on your personality and comfort level, you may want to choose a therapist who practices in an area that will help you build trust with them.

For example, you may be someone who wants to take a logical and rigorous approach to your therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a method that provides you with meticulous and logical tools for improvement. You are given homework, asked to record your observations, and challenged to come up with counter-rationales for negative thinking. CBT is very scientific in its approach, and it can work wonders if you work the system properly.

Some people may find all of that intimidating. Maybe you would prefer to have a more emotional connection with talk therapy sessions?

Therapists may be more directive in their approach, guiding you to conclusions that they want you to reach. Others may be non-directive, providing you with basic tools while you discover those answers for yourself.

There is no right or wrong approach.

Don’t be afraid to ask about your therapist’s style and approach. If you don’t like how they guide your therapy, they won’t be offended. Find someone who fits you. That is the most important aspect to take from this.

You have to like your therapist

If you are going to do the work of self-improvement, you must be comfortable with your therapist. It is not enough just to trust them; you must like them as well.

Some therapists may be outgoing, friendly, and empathetic. Others may be more distant, clinical, and quiet giving you room to talk.

Starting therapy should feel a little uncomfortable, but it should never be distressing.

Find a therapist that fits your personality and level of comfort. If after a couple of sessions, you are not feeling a connection with your therapist, you can always find a new one. Again, they won’t be offended I promise!

Therapy is not forever

There is no definitive time to know when it is right to leave therapy. Some journeys are more involved than others. It might take time to uncover and unravel hidden causes to emotions and thoughts that are a source of distress.

You may find along the way that you have gathered enough tools to work with, and you just need some time to try them out on your own for a while.

Ultimately, it’s up to you when to decide if you need a break. You are in complete control of your journey!

Final thoughts

Navigating life doesn’t come with an instruction manual but a trustworthy therapist guiding your way may be the closest thing that you will find. School has taught us many things but learning about what makes people tick isn’t one of them.

Therapy will help you face fears that you didn’t think you were strong enough to face on your own. Your therapist can show you that all these scary things that you have been avoiding may not be so bad after all. It’s a transition. A light shining on a dark road to help guide your way.

So, congratulations. Well done on the start of a new journey, finding yourself, and living your best life.

Read these related interesting articles from the Healing Arts Blog:

Citations:

Dow, G. (2022). Things you Must know before you go to Therapy! YouTube. Retrieved 2022, from https://youtu.be/yhCKHdQp5q0.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2019, March 16). Cognitive behavioral therapy. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 20, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cognitive-behavioral-therapy/about/pac-20384610

What is Non-Directive therapy? | psychology Today. (n.d.). Retrieved January 20, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-doesnt-kill-us/201408/what-is-non-directive-therapy

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The truth behind how you form new relationships

The truth behind how you form new relationships - Healing Arts Institute of South Florida
Written by David Davenport – Contributing author Healing Arts Institute of South Florida

Believe it or not, just about every relationship you have ever formed in your life is based on some level of fantasy. These fantasies that you have created to frame these relationships may not be even remotely accurate!

How does this happen?

Our brains are constantly bombarded with new information. Our minds take every opportunity they can to cut down on having to process all of it directly (i.e. consciously). In terms of people and relationships, our brains create a quick snapshot of the people we meet. This saves time and mental energy from having to do a ‘deep dive’ into everyone’s personality to form trust and emotional bonds.

These snapshots, or stereotypes, are based on our past experiences with other people. It is influenced by how we have been raised and the kinds of relationships we have had throughout our lives.

The advantage is that we can use these stereotypes to evaluate new people to begin building new bonds quickly. The downside is that sometimes these stereotypes are distorted and produce an inaccurate picture.

These snapshot fantasies you create will have a strong influence over how you treat and interact with the person you attribute them to. It can either help you maintain a healthy relationship or keep you trapped in an abusive one.

Why do people form attachments?

Before we try to figure out why we attribute these personas to others, let’s first understand why we develop attachments to people in the first place.

Humans have a deeply rooted desire for acceptance and belonging within a group. On the surface, this could be explained by the evolutionary advantage derived from protection from danger as part of a larger ‘pack’. After all, if you are just one of many the chances of danger befalling you from an outside source decrease as the group size increases.

The thing is, humans are far more intelligent than other animals. As a result we have developed complex social interactions with each other. So, if we want the protection of the group, we have the added requirement of maintaining social acceptance within that group.

There is debate as to whether this need for acceptance is influenced by the environment (upbringing) or genetics. It would stand to reason that both are highly influential. There are exceptions though. Some people are completely comfortable spending large amounts of time with little to no social interaction. Alternatively other people have difficulty spending mere minutes in isolation.

Balancing an opposing duality – your needs vs. the needs of others

Now that we know how important group acceptance is to our psyche, we come across an interesting problem. You have your own sense of identity, personal needs, and way that you interact with the world. Balancing your needs with the needs of your social group can be challenging. Family, work, and friend groups all require different approaches, and each has a different expectation.

Let’s take this a step further.

An individual’s self-esteem and sense of self have been shown to be closely linked to acceptance within the groups to which they belong, even if those needs are different from the group. However, it is this manifestation of your sense of self that begins to distort your perception of others.

In other words, you project your own needs, ideas, wants and experiences onto other people within your group that you interact with. You assume that what is important to you is important to them. You project your values and expectations onto them as if you shared equal perspectives.

Just as you have your own unique identity, so does every other member of that group.

Okay, now this is getting complicated…

Parataxic distortion – the fantasy of interpersonal relationships 

Studies with adolescents have shown that self-esteem and the need to please others within your social circle are inextricably linked. While we want to please others, we also have our own sense of self and very little time to investigate the nuances of everyone’s perspective, value systems, and upbringing.

So, how do our brains deal with this challenge? Well, we gather as much immediate information as we can and make up the rest.

We fill in the gaps with our own experiences and values and project that fabricated image onto whoever we are forming our connection with. Remember, we are hardwired to connect with others. Our self-esteem is dependent on it. We just take a lot of liberties in how we form those connections.

For example, someone who is self-critical and overly harsh may be quick to see others in possession of those same attributes. They may even find “evidence” of this by cherry-picking nuanced examples of what that other person has said or done to confirm their suspicions. This is called confirmation bias.

On the other end of the spectrum, a spouse may excuse their partner’s abusive and demeaning behavior because they choose to filter only the positive qualities of their personality.

In either case, one person is choosing to view the other based on their projected fantasy of who they think that person is (or who they want them to be) rather than who they really are.

Final Thoughts

Parataxic distortion is common. Nobody is perfect, nor should anyone strive to be. What is important is to see and accept the people in our lives for who they are rather than who we want them to be.

It is not fair to project our mistreatment onto others, nor is it safe to assume that everyone has our best interest at heart.

One of the greatest challenges of our lifetime is to strip away the facades and fantasies that we assign to people and to find acceptance with the right kinds of people. Healthy relationships. Authentic interactions.

When you are true and authentic to yourself, you will attract the right people into your life. You will find that you will accept them, and they will accept you – not because of an attributed fantasy, but because of who you really are.

Read these interesting articles from the Healing Arts Blog!
Citations:

Lester, Paul Martin. “PICTORIAL STEREOTYPES IN THE MEDIA.” Http://Paulmartinlester.Info, 1996, paulmartinlester.info/writings/stereotype.html.

Levine, Amir, and Rachel Heller. “What Attachment Theory Can Teach about Love and Relationships.” Scientific American, Scientific American, Jan. 2011, www.scientificamerican.com/article/get-attached/?error=cookies_not_supported&code=11b2c281-a0ff-41e7-97c7-dd0f0b98da9f.

“Parataxic Distortion.” Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias, 2021, medicine.en-academic.com/118877/parataxic_distortion.

Yalom, Irvin. The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom (1986–01-01). Basic Books; 3rd edition (1986–01-01), 2021.

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Six mindsets that create toxic bias and distort your perceptions

A pair of glasses overlooking a serene mountain forest. A forest fire can be seen through the lenses.
Written by David Davenport – Contributing author Healing Arts Institute of South Florida

Knowing yourself, your bias, and how you perceive the world is an important part of developing your emotional intelligence. You may not think about it often, but everything you experience in life is filtered through different layers of thought and belief.

Think about what it might be like to experience your environment through a pair of glasses several lenses thick. Light will reflect off the surfaces of everything around you before passing through the glasses and reaching your eyes.

Some of these lenses may be clear and smooth allowing the light to pass through without much distortion. Other lenses may be warped or tainted – scattering, magnifying, discoloring or blurring the image.

Each experience that we collect in life adds another lens, and no two people have collected the same set. Our unique filters based on experience are what create our environmental perception. Sometimes we inadvertently add a lens that prevents us from seeing the world and other people as they truly are.

The development of anger, confusion, anxiety, and various neuroses are common if those defective lenses are not replaced. The good news is that it’s never too late to begin identifying which lenses need a little bit of maintenance.

Here are six warped lenses that you should be aware of which can distort your perception of reality:

The sunk-cost fallacy

If you have put a lot of time and emotional energy into a relationship, it can be difficult to let it go. This holds true even if it is harmful or causing you pain. You may believe that since you have already invested so much of yourself, you should continue to do so in the hopes that things will get better.

If you are in a relationship that is toxic or harmful in any way, be honest with yourself to determine if it can be fixed. If not, it may be time to let it go.

The Barnum Effect

Humans have an amazing ability to “read between the lines” and fill in gaps of information. It is an incredibly useful talent because it allows us to function in a complex world without always having access to a complete set of data.

However, it is also the source of many misunderstandings. Your mind is going to try and make connections in any way that it can to make sense of incomplete information. Vague comments or generic statements can be interpreted as being more personal and specific to you than they are.

Passing comments which may not involve you can appear to be focused directly on you. Challenge this feeling by examining whether you are filling in your gaps of information and perhaps reading too much between the lines.

Self-serving bias

This is a cognitive bias where you may be quick to attribute personal success to your efforts and talents while blaming personal failures on the actions of others. This is a “heads I win, tails you lose” mentality. It can’t be both ways.

Keeping an honest assessment of how others have helped you achieve success while taking responsibility for your actions is critically important.

It may be hard to admit your mistakes but taking responsibility for your actions and decisions will hand control of your life back to you.

Groupthink

Sometimes it is easier to go along to get along rather than challenge established group dynamics. It can be extremely uncomfortable, or even detrimental to your social standing or livelihood to do so.

Groupthink prevents you from thinking critically as an individual and voicing your thoughts, ideas, or concerns.

Try to engage in reasoned, kind, and rational discussions with people you may disagree with. Try to not take criticism of your ideas as a personal attack, but rather as an opportunity to learn something new.

Confirmation bias

People tend to want to be right. We don’t like it when we find out that a belief we hold may be incorrect, so we are always on the lookout for evidence to support it.

If you look hard enough for that evidence, you can find it anywhere even if you have to fabricate it. It is this ability to lie to ourselves that makes this bias so damaging.

Allow your beliefs to be challenged by new ideas. Sometimes they will hold up under scrutiny, other times they won’t. This is how we learn new things and grow as individuals.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

This is an interesting phenomenon where a person who is inexperienced in an industry or area of study will feel more confident than someone who is an expert in that field.

As strange as that sounds, it makes a lot of sense. The more you learn about something, the more you realize how much more you don’t know. You begin to see the scope of it for what it is and begin to feel intimidated at how little you may know about the total body of knowledge in that area.

This leads you to incorrectly conclude that you are less competent than you are. Conversely, it gives inexperienced people a false sense of expertise because they are unaware of how much they don’t know.

Practice humility in everything that you do. Be open to learning new things and keep a healthy and accurate perspective of your accomplishments.

Final Thoughts

There is much more to bias and cognitive distortions other than what we have just discussed, but we hope these should get you thinking more about how your past experiences are influencing your day-to-day interactions. Let us know what you would like to learn more about in a future article by leaving a comment!

Have an amazing week, and thank you for reading!

Citations:

Arkes, Hal, and Catherine Blumer. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 1st ed., vol. 35, ScienceDirect, 1985, doi:10.1016/0749-5978(85)90049-4.

“Barnum Effect.” Oxford Reference, www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110810104425651. Accessed 21 Oct. 2021.

“Confirmation Bias.” ScienceDaily, 2021, www.sciencedaily.com/terms/confirmation_bias.htm.

“Dunning-Kruger Effect.” Psychology Today, 2021, www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/dunning-kruger-effect.

“Groupthink.” Psychology Today, 2021, www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/groupthink.

Ruhl, Charlotte. “Self-Serving Bias: Definition and Examples | Simply Psychology.” Simnple Psychology, 19 Apr. 2021, www.simplypsychology.org/self-serving-bias.html.

Read these other interesting related articles from the Healing Arts blog:

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Resolve to Free Yourself From Unhealed Trauma

Happy woman enjoying a sunny day
Written by David Davenport – Contributing author Healing Arts Institute of South Florida

Just this past Sunday, we celebrated World Mental Health Day. It’s a day dedicated to breaking the stigma of mental health challenges and resolving to heal the emotional scars we carry.

There are many ways that people are haunted by traumas that stay with them for many years. For some, trauma may result from a single event. For others, trauma may have a more subtle origin, perhaps from mistreatment during their childhood. Whatever the cause, the result is every bit as damaging to our minds as well as our bodies.

Trauma does not heal on its own. Without proper help and guidance, trauma can continue to get worse over time.

The effects of unhealed trauma can destroy our mental and physical health. Even worse, these effects can continue to propagate throughout generations as unhealthy coping behaviors are passed down from parent to child.

According to Harvard Medical School’s editorial “Past trauma may haunt your future health” here are just a few of the ways that unhealed trauma can negatively impact your life:

Violently Acting Out

When holding on to past traumas, it’s possible to develop hypersensitivities to things that normally would not bother you. You may become easily angered and lash out at those around you for perceived slights, whether real or imagined. Most often these people will be your friends and family. These are the very people who you should look to for support and healing.

This type of behavior can be learned by children from parents who are holding onto their traumas. These dysfunctional behaviors can be passed from one generation to the next. Multi-generational abuse and violence are difficult to break but can be done with the help of a therapist, awareness, and self-compassion.

Development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder can result from any event that you interpret as being extremely distressing. Unresolved trauma of this sort can manifest as a state of constant anxiety, frequent nightmares, outbursts of anger, or emotional numbness.

Sometimes reminders of the trauma can trigger these events, but often the person who is suffering may not even be aware that they have PTSD. Tragically, they may be holding onto the false belief that something is wrong with them, that THEY are the cause of their suffering.

There can be an uncomfortable truth to that, although it may not be because of anything they have done wrong. The pain they feel can be overwhelming because of an inability to recognize that they need help. They need to learn how to heal.

Substance Abuse

One of the unhealthiest and most damaging ways to cope with the pain of persistent trauma is self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, tobacco, or illicit substances. To numb the pain, a dependency on the use of chemicals can temporarily provide relief, but the long-term effects can be devastating.

The short-term effects of substance abuse can result in the development of severe insomnia, anger management challenges, and deterioration of relationships. Long-term effects include increased paranoia, depression, and the development of severe panic disorders.

Physical Health Deterioration

Holding on to trauma for extended periods will put your body in a constant state of alert. Your body will enter a ‘fight or flight’ mode releasing a stress hormone called cortisol. 

As we discussed in a previous article “How Long-Term Stress Will Make You Sick”, there are physical manifestations that will adversely affect your physical as well as your mental health. Make sure to visit the link above to that article to read more.

Be sure to read these other interesting articles from the Healing Arts Blog:

Citations:

Eske, Jamie. “What Are the Effects of Drug Abuse?” Medical News Today, 18 June 2020, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/effects-of-drug-abuse#long-term-effects.

Harvard Health. “Past Trauma May Haunt Your Future Health.” Harvard Health, 12 Feb. 2021, www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/past-trauma-may-haunt-your-future-health.

“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 6 July 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967.

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The Dark Triad: Three of the Most Dangerous Personality Traits

Written by David Davenport – Contributing author Healing Arts Institute of South Florida

It is difficult to imagine a more toxic combination of dysfunctional personality traits and pathological disorders than those found in the Dark Triad.

Those few who possess Dark Triad traits see the world in a fundamentally different light from the rest of us. These individuals tend to have a cynical view of human nature, will manipulate others to advance their own agenda, and will have an inflated sense of their own importance.

If this sounds a bit like narcissism to you, you’re not far off. Narcissism happens to be one of the Dark Triad traits.

The Dark Triad consists of the following three pathological disorders and defective personality constructs:

  • Narcissism (narcissistic personality disorder)
  • Psychopathy
  • Machiavellianism

We will discuss each of these in a little more detail down below.

In contrast, emotionally healthy people should strive to feel a genuine connection to one another. We want to believe that other people are fundamentally good, and that we would help someone in need if we were able. It is this fundamental trust and connection to others that Dark Triad personalities exploit for their own benefit.

Narcissism

We have discussed narcissism already in a few articles on the Healing Arts Blog including ways to remove narcissists from your life. You should take some time to read those articles if you are interested in learning more about narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Links to those articles are provided here and down below.

In summary, narcissistic personality disorder is a diagnosable pathological disorder. Narcissism is characterized by a sense of entitlement and an inflated perception of importance. These individuals have massive egos which are often not backed by any substantial accomplishments. Narcissists have a difficult time recognizing their own faults, and often blame others for their poor behavior.

Psychopathy

Psychopathy is another diagnosable pathological disorder that makes up the Dark Triad. Some of the traits that are found in psychopaths are:

  • Anti-social behavior
  • Limited or non-existent impulse control
  • Extreme selfishness
  • Lack of empathy or remorse for harm they cause towards other people or animals

Anti-social personality disorder (APD) is a trademark feature of psychopathy. It also happens to belong the same family of B-cluster personality disorders as narcissism. One of the biggest misconceptions about anti-social behavior is that people think it means that someone chooses not to be social. Nobody should ever be labeled as anti-social for that reason. Not under any circumstance.

People who are diagnosed with APD tend to be violent, remorseless, and have little to no consideration for the well-being of others. Anti-social people do not respect boundaries. They will use intimidation and threatening behavior to get what they want.

Machiavellianism

Machiavellianism is not a diagnosable disorder like the previously mentioned traits. Instead, it is considered to be a personality structure. People who exhibit this trait tend to use manipulation to get what they want from others. They are usually not bound to any moral or ethical standards which might constrain their behavior in this regard.

For people like this, the ends justify the means. They achieve their goals by any means necessary with little regard to those who stand in their way. Lying, cheating, stealing, or causing harm or loss to another person is rarely considered.

Machiavellianism tends to correlate with low emotional intelligence, lower intelligence overall, and lack of empathy.

The Dark Core – one trait that binds them

Studies have pointed to a strong candidate that ties the Dark Triad traits together – antagonism. Antagonists tend to be highly manipulative, self-centered, paranoid, attention-seeking, and above all callous.

It is this concept of callousness, or the disregard for the concern of others that seems to be among the most influential components of the Dark Triad personality.

Final Thoughts

Each of these three traits on their own would be disturbing to witness in one individual. The thought of all three being exhibited by the same person is utterly terrifying.

The development of a Dark Triad personality can be influenced by genetic and environmental factors, childhood upbringing, and early childhood trauma. While it is important to show empathy towards all people, individuals who possess a Dark Triad personality can be extremely dangerous. They can damage your sense of self, manipulate you into doing things that you otherwise would not, and can be extremely charming.

If you believe that you have a narcissist or Dark Triad personality in your life, it is critically important that you seek out help from a professional who can help you untangle yourself from their influence. Get help from trusted family and friends and begin to develop a support group.

You can begin to learn more about how to distance yourself from narcissist and Dark Triad personalities by reading the articles below:

Citations:

Dinić, B.M., Wertag, A., Sokolovska, V. et al. The good, the bad, and the ugly: Revisiting the Dark Core. Curr Psychol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-021-01829-x

Dolan, Eric. “New Study Provides Insight into the Psychological Core of Dark Personality Traits.” PsyPost, 2 Oct. 2021, www.psypost.org/2021/10/new-study-provides-insight-into-the-psychological-core-of-dark-personality-traits-61914.

Hopwood, Christopher J et al. “Connecting DSM-5 Personality Traits and Pathological Beliefs: Toward a Unifying Model.” Journal of psychopathology and behavioral assessment vol. 35,2 (2013): 10.1007/s10862-012-9332-3. doi:10.1007/s10862-012-9332-3

Kaufman, Scott Barry. “The Light Triad vs. Dark Triad of Personality.” Scientific American Blog Network, 19 Mar. 2019, blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/the-light-triad-vs-dark-triad-of-personality.

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Five Destructive Mindsets That Keep You Down

Written by David Davenport – Contributing author Healing Arts Institute of South Florida |
Image by Canva

Everyone experiences times in life when they feel as if they cannot get ahead no matter what they do. Sometimes you remain stuck in destructive mindsets and thought patterns that prevent you from breaking free and moving on.

The worst part is that if you are unaware that you are engaging in these destructive thoughts, you remain stuck. You find yourself in a never-ending cycle of negative thinking, harmful actions, and terrible feelings.

The good news is that once you are aware of your thoughts, you can begin to take steps to break free!

With practice, patience, and discipline you can learn to recognize and prevent your destructive mindsets from manifesting harmful consequences in your life.

Here are five destructive mindsets that can prevent you from living your best life:

Resisting change and living in the past

We all hold onto habits and ways of thinking that are most familiar to us. Most of us want to avoid drastic changes in our lives because it creates discomfort and uncertainty. But holding on to these habits can keep us trapped in self-destructive mindsets that cause far more pain and discomfort.

What may have worked for you in the past may no longer be the best approach in the present. You should continually evaluate, test, and adjust your beliefs and actions.

These are unprecedented times for most of us. If we are going to emerge stronger and better than when we started, embracing change is something we should work toward.

Setting unrealistic goals for yourself

Once you have decided to move out of your rigid way of thinking, you must figure out what you want to move towards. While it’s important to dream big, it is also important to make sure that we can reach the goals we have set for ourselves. Otherwise, we can become discouraged and give up.

Big dreams and big changes are reached by identifying multiple smaller goals and achieving each of those goals one step at a time. Take your time to figure out what those smaller goals are. Ask for help when you feel stuck. Make sure that you are giving yourself plenty of encouragement when you succeed – and forgiveness when you don’t.

Not asking for help when times get tough

Burnout is real. Avoiding help is another result of holding onto a fixed mindset and not allowing yourself to embrace change. Your goals will not be achieved by trying to do everything on your own. Find a mentor, a therapist, or a coach to help you work through rigid thought patterns that are preventing you from realizing your dreams.

Relying too much on others for your sense of self-worth

Most of us are guilty of this far more than we may want to admit. We look to others for validation so that they can provide us with tokens and signals that make us believe that we’re valuable, loved, and accepted. While this is completely natural and one of the ways that we have evolved to connect with people, some people have developed an unhealthy dependency on it. 

One of the most common ways people do this is through obsessive social media interactions. It’s easy to get quick likes and agreement among like-minded people in your friends’ group, but ultimately you are feeding into an emotionally unhealthy echo chamber that is reinforcing insecurities more than they are building your confidence.

Thinking that we can change other people 

We cannot control how others think or behave. Therefore when we rely on others to help us determine our worth, we relinquish control over our self-esteem. People are not projects, and expecting others to change who they are is not realistic. Of course, people can change if they want to, but that is up to the individual and no one else.

The only person you truly have control over is yourself. You can direct your own behavior, sense of self, and interpretation of your environment. Expecting another person to change who they are to suit your own expectations will only lead to disappointment, anger, and strife.

Final Thoughts

With practice, patience, and discipline you can learn to recognize and prevent your destructive mindsets from manifesting harmful consequences in your life. It is important to talk often with trusted friends, family members, and therapists as you progress on your journey. Healing Arts Institute trains highly talented and empathetic therapists to keep you on the right path. Call us today to learn more about how we can help you achieve your personal life goals.

Read these other interesting blog articles from Healing Arts Institute!

Citations:

Sussex Publishers. (n.d.). 4 tips to effectively ask FOR HELP-AND get a yes. Psychology Today. Retrieved September 27, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tracking-wonder/202002/4-tips-effectively-ask-help-and-get-yes.

Sussex Publishers. (n.d.). Signs of overdependence on the internet and social media. Psychology Today. Retrieved September 27, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ending-addiction-good/201511/signs-overdependence-the-internet-and-social-media.

Ten reasons people resist change. Harvard Business Review. (2018, September 26). Retrieved September 27, 2021, from https://hbr.org/2012/09/ten-reasons-people-resist-chang.

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Proven visualization techniques to make the most of your life

Woman concentrating by a lake at sunset - visualize, create, heal - visualization. Healing Arts Institute of South Florida.
Written by David Davenport – Contributing author Healing Arts Institute of South Florida
Image by Canva

In a previous article, we discussed how your thoughts affect how you act and how those actions create your environment. In other words, the way you think is directly responsible for building your life and your reality.

There’s one catch, however. It isn’t enough to be able to think your way into a new life. You must visualize a “new you” and feel the positive emotional consequences of your thoughts.

Thinking leads to acting. Acting leads to feeling.

Feeling reinforces thinking. Think. Act. Feel. Repeat.

But we came across a bit of a problem. What if you desperately want to change your thinking, but you still feel weighed down by negative emotions? This is what I called the think/feel paradox. You need to feel positive emotions to form a new way of thinking. However, the reality you are experiencing makes that very difficult.

You want to think differently to experience emotions that reinforce those thoughts, which lead to new actions that will change your life.

Today, we will talk about techniques that can help you to break the think/feel paradox. You can be free from the kind of thinking that is preventing you from realizing your true potential.

Visualization is the way forward.

When you produce visual creations of thoughts, events, and emotions in your mind, the same parts of your brain will activate as if you were performing the actions. Visualization is a form of mindfulness training. 

Your brain will activate in the same way while either visualizing an event or while you experience an event first-hand. You read that right.

Athletes are trained to visualize every action in detail before their performance. This exercise will train their mind to react quickly and appropriately without much thought when the time is right. In other words, they are programming themselves to think and act in a specific way. And with victory, they experience feelings of success which reinforces and rewards more of this thinking. 

Top athletes and performers will even use failure to motivate themselves to persevere until they achieve success.

Visualization can help you practice challenging scenarios in a safe and consequence-free environment to help you gain the confidence you need.

Technique: Visualize your goals

Purpose: To associate positive feelings with pursuing new goals and to gain confidence before attempting new activities.

What to do:

  1. Assume a comfortable meditative position. You can choose to sit or lie on your back.
  2. Close your eyes and begin deep-belly breathing.
  3. Visualize a goal that you want to accomplish. The goal can be anything you want, don’t limit yourself to what you believe is “realistic”. After all, limiting beliefs may be holding you back from your true potential.
  4. Focus firmly on this goal. Imagine how, where, and which whom this goal can be achieved. These places and people can be real or imagined. The idea is that you practice a mindset where you are succeeding in your goal, and you can begin to formulate feelings of success from achieving those goals.
  5. In this meditative space, it is impossible for you to fail. If limiting beliefs or negative thoughts creep in, practice using positive affirmations and mantras. Don’t try and suppress those negative thoughts, as that will only make them more persistent. Visualize those negative thoughts slowly fading away as you introduce healthy positive associations.
  6. Visualize the accomplishment and happiness you feel from achieving your goal and remain as long as you like. Continue to breathe deeply.
  7. When you are ready, slowly return from your visualized scenario. Inhale deeply and open your eyes. You can return to this space any time you feel overwhelmed by stress, self-doubt, or negative thoughts.

Technique: Guided imagery

Purpose: To practice visualizing positive scenes and outcomes. This technique can lower stress and boost your mood.

What to do:

  1. Assume a comfortable meditative position. You can choose to sit or lie on your back.
  2. Close your eyes and begin deep-belly breathing.
  3. Visualize a place where you feel relaxed and content. This can be an actual place or somewhere that you have imagined.
  4. Imagine as much detail about your scene as possible. Describe to yourself what the sights, sounds, and feelings are. Use all your senses to imagine yourself as if you were there. Continue breathing and move around your imaginary space. Continue to describe every detail of your environment. The more detail you add, the more effective the technique.
  5. Visualize the peace and serenity you feel from being in this space and remain as long as you like. Continue to breathe deeply and explore.
  6. When you are ready, slowly return from your visualized space. Inhale deeply and open your eyes. You can return to this space any time you feel overwhelmed by stress, self-doubt, or negative thoughts.

There is one caveat to consider.

While visualizing, focus on how you want to achieve your goals. Do not concentrate only on the final success. 

You will be tricking your brain into thinking that you are already accomplished if you only visualize the final success.

You want to be motivated enough to create your new life rather than convincing yourself that you have already achieved it without putting in the work.

Final thoughts

While these techniques are extremely powerful on their own, it is a good idea to enact these methods with the help and guidance of a trained therapist and mental health professional. The caring and professional staff at Healing Arts Institute of South Florida will be able to help guide your through the most difficult parts of your journey.

Contact us today to learn about more visualization techniques and the life changing benefits of therapy. Come and set up your first appointment!

Thank you for reading, and don’t forget to check back each week for a new and interesting article.

We are all wishing you hope, health, and mental well-being… Have an amazing week!

Citations:

Adams, A. J. “Seeing Is Believing: The Power of Visualization.” Psychology Today, 3 Dec. 2009, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/flourish/200912/seeing-is-believing-the-power-visualization.

Clarey, Christopher. “Olympians Use Imagery as Mental Training.” The New York Times, 22 Feb. 2014, www.nytimes.com/2014/02/23/sports/olympics/olympians-use-imagery-as-mental-training.html.

Globokar, Lidija. “The Power Of Visualization And How To Use It.” Forbes, 3 Mar. 2020, www.forbes.com/sites/lidijaglobokar/2020/03/05/the-power-of-visualization-and-how-to-use-it/?sh=2f14c3b06497.

O’Brien, Irena. “Why Visualization Doesn’t Work to Make Your Dreams a Reality.” The Neuroscience School, 7 Apr. 2020, neuroscienceschool.com/2019/06/20/why-visualization-doesnt-work-to-make-your-dreams-a-reality.

Raypole, Crystal. “5 Visualization Techniques to Add to Your Meditation Practice.” Healthline, 28 May 2020, www.healthline.com/health/visualization-meditation.

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Change the destructive mental programming that’s shaping your life

Black chains breaking - Change the destructive mental programming that's shaping your life - Healing Arts Institute of South Florida
Written by David Davenport – Contributing author Healing Arts Institute of South Florida
Image by Canva

Have you ever just stopped and wondered about how your life came to be the way it is?

For better or worse, the life we have is a running tally of all the decisions that we have made up to this point. Some of those decisions may have been out of your control, but the result is still the same. Your life is your life.

The question is, are you happy with your current path? If not, can your life path be changed? Is it even possible to change your life?

The proverbial mid-life crisis is no longer exclusive to the over 40 crowds but is beginning to introduce itself decades earlier to people who are trying to find greater meaning.

Here’s a secret… The way you think affects the direction of your life path. If you want to change your life, this is where you should start.

Your thoughts construct your reality.

Don’t believe me? That’s alright, most other people don’t either – that’s the problem.

The way you relate to people and your environment are all stored by neural networks that are arranged in your brain and which come to consciousness as thoughts. In other words, your environment shapes your thoughts. Your brain in turn regulates these thoughts, personality traits, and beliefs which are then presented back to your environment in the form of communication and… decisions.

Your thinking creates your environment

So, if you are unhappy with your environment and want to change it, how do you start? Do you change your life to be able to form new thoughts, or do you change your thoughts to eventually bring about a new environment?

The answer is yes, to both.

You wake up each morning and generally follow the same routines. You go to work and interact with the same people, then come home and unwind in the same way. Every day you do this, you are programming and reinforcing your mindset to expect more of the same. Your environment and routine will activate and stimulate specific regions of your brain which confirm your thinking.

It’s you that continue to create and reinforce this life.

Now ask yourself. If you perform the same acts every day and reinforce the same mindset every day, how can you expect anything to change if you don’t do anything to disrupt your routine?

Producing change requires that you learn to think beyond your current circumstances and environment. Yes, I realize that’s a very tall order, especially if you feel stuck and unhappy.

But here’s the thing. The more you continue to feel stuck and unhappy, the more likely you are to make decisions and create circumstances to support and reinforce that unhappiness. It becomes self-fulfilling.

This is not mysticism, it’s psychology.

What can I do to break the routine?

Before we move on to how to break this mental programming and install a new one, you need to accept two uncomfortable facts.

  1. You must take responsibility for the direction of your life. It may not be your fault, and it may not be fair, but that’s the reality of it. You must take responsibility and take charge. Once you realize that you are in control, changing direction will not seem nearly as daunting.
  2. You must be willing to accept feelings of being uncomfortable. Change can be scary, and there will be days when you just want to go back to the way things were. This is where you want to work with a trusted mental health professional to help guide you in your journey. Someone who can help you see the path ahead more clearly.

I’m ready for a change! Now what?

There are two important components to enacting the change you want to see in your life. Learning and repetition. If repetition got you to where you are today, then learning and repeating a new way of thinking will get you to where you want to be.

If you want to break the programming that is keeping you stuck, you must first learn to think differently.

There is a direct correlation between the way you think, how you act, and the way you feel.

(THINK -> ACT -> FEEL)

Your thoughts lead to actions, which result in feelings. We want to experience feelings of happiness and success to reinforce the thoughts that lead to happiness and success. It’s not enough to just think good thoughts, we need to feel what the result of those thoughts would be. That’s the secret and the key.

When you feel the way you think, you begin to think the way you feel. It’s the same reinforcement as mentioned before but in a positive life-affirming way.

The think/feel paradox

The greatest barrier to change is that even if we want to think differently, we still feel the same!

If thoughts are the language of the mind, then your feelings and emotions must be that of the body. Your thoughts and emotions must agree for you to enact the change you desire.

Moving forward requires that you “become” someone new. You must remind yourself every day of who this new person is and what they want. Most importantly, you must FEEL it. Slowly, this will begin to make changes in the neural networks your brain develops. As this happens, your thinking will change. As your thinking changes, so will your environment and the people you attract to it.

Techniques for change

Make sure to read next week’s blog post where we discuss powerful techniques to help you through the think/feel paradox. Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!

Next, read these interesting related articles from the Healing Arts blog:

https://healingartssfl.org/learn-how-to-reach-your-goals-by-defeating-your-fears/
Citations:

“How Changing Your Story Can Change Your Life – Dr. Joe Dispenza on How to Reprogram Your Mind.” YouTube, uploaded by Dr. Joe Dispenza, 26 Apr. 2021, www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdaNcYDo5sg&list=WL&index=2.

Ruffino, Megan. “The Think, Feel, Act Cycle and How We Can Use It to Be Happier.” Happiness Is a Decision, 25 Aug. 2020, happinessisadecision.com/the-think-feel-act-cycle-and-how-we-can-use-it-to-be-happier.

Shaffer, Joyce. “Neuroplasticity and Clinical Practice: Building Brain Power for Health.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 7 1118. 26 Jul. 2016, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01118