Archive for January, 2016

The Surprising Benefit Of Going Through Hard Times

Saturday, January 30th, 2016

The phenomenon of art born from adversity can be seen not only in the lives of famous creators, but also in the lab. In the past 20 years, psychologists have begun studying post-traumatic growth, which has now been observed in more than 300 scientific studies.

The term post-traumatic growth was coined in the 1990s by psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun to describe instances of individuals who experienced profound transformation as they coped with various types of trauma and challenging life circumstances. Up to 70 percent of trauma survivors report some positive psychological growth, research has found.

Growth after trauma can take a number of different forms, including a greater appreciation for life, the identification of new possibilities for one’s life, more satisfying interpersonal relationships, a richer spiritual life and a connection to something greater than oneself, and a sense of personal strength.


The physical rebuilding of a city that takes place after an earthquake can be likened to the cognitive processing and restructuring that an individual experiences in the wake of a trauma. Once the most foundational structures of the self have been shaken, we are in a position to pursue new—and perhaps creative—opportunities.

The “rebuilding” process looks something like this: After a traumatic event, such as a serious illness or loss of a loved one, individuals intensely process the event—they’re constantly thinking about what happened, and usually with strong emotional reactions.
It’s important to note that sadness, grief, anger, and anxiety, of course, are common responses to trauma, and growth generally occurs alongside these challenging emotions—not in place of them. The process of growth can be seen as a way to adapt to extremely adverse circumstances and to gain an understanding of both the trauma and its negative psychological impact.


From Greg O’Brien’s latest book, “On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s”

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

At a recent Cure Alzheimer’s Fund symposium at the Harvard Club of Boston, Tanzi noted that without a cure, more than 100 million people worldwide are expected to have Alzheimer’s in the next 25 years, which will bankrupt health care systems. Alzheimer’s, he said, is not your grandfather’s disease. The buildup of amyloid plaques, neurofibrillary tangles and inflammation–telltale signs of Alzheimer’s–can begin when one is in their 30s. It’s a slow progression leading to the 10 warning signs:

• Memory loss that disrupts daily life
• Challenges in planning or solving problems
• Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
• Confusion with time or place
• Difficulty understanding visual images and spatial relationships
• Problems with words in speaking or writing
• Misplacing items and losing the ability to retrace steps
• Decreased or poor judgment
• Withdrawal from work or social activities
• Changes in mood and personality, such as chronic depression, anxiety and fearfulness

Alzheimer’s, Tanzi said, is not just the end stage, but a journey to the grave, a slow death by a thousand cuts. Chief risk factors, he notes, include: family history, head injury, Alzheimer’s marker genes, gender, age, and stroke/emotional trauma. I’m hitting for the cycle on risk factor with a generational family history of the disease, two traumatic head injuries, clinical depression, and the marker gene APOE-4.

“You’re not getting out of this,” my doctors tell me.


2015 Changed The Way We Address Mental Illness On TV

Saturday, January 16th, 2016

Dr. Paul Puri, a psychiatrist and TV writer, also joined the conversation explaining how mental health is getting more respect on TV. He explained:

“We’ve really seen the movement from peripheral, secondary or supporting characters to the primary characters and the leads displaying not just more subtitles to it but really the experience of what it’s like to be going through different forms of mental illness — or what the writers think mental illness is or want to represent about it.”


Spiritual tourism has travelers asking the big questions

Saturday, January 9th, 2016

They’re among a fast-growing number of travelers doing more than lying on beaches and roaming through museums. They’re seeking spiritual encounters, from private healing ceremonies with a shaman in Peru and Sufi meditation sessions in India to monastery stays in northern Thailand and Christian pilgrimages to Fátima and Lourdes.

Travel companies report that the number of people taking “faith-based” vacations is up as much as 164 percent in the last five years, even at a time when surveys show that the fastest-growing religious category in the United States is no religious affiliation at all, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

“In the absence of belonging to an organized religion, I still think there’s a universal desire for people to connect with deeper things,” said Ben Bowler, the Australian founder of Monk for a Month, which offers Westerners long stays in Buddhist monasteries in Thailand. “They’ve already been to the beach on holiday. So when they get the time and resources, they think of doing something more meaningful.”

In addition to that search for a higher purpose — especially among retiring baby boomers — observers speculate that all kinds of factors are driving this wave of spiritual tourism, including anxiety caused by economic and political uncertainty, the popularity of Pope Francis, the looming 500th anniversary in 2017 of the Protestant Reformation, and the once-in-10-years Oberammergau passion play that will be staged in 2020.


Stanley Siegel, LCSW – The Soul of Therapy: Our Problems Are Our Solutions

Saturday, January 2nd, 2016

As I continue to teach and lecture among my colleagues around the world, I have become increasingly aware that most psychotherapists train and practice within a paradigm that sees patients’ problems as rooted in pathology. These therapists wait and watch for a symptom to see how it might fit into a a category of identified disorders. That neatly solves the problem for the therapists, but not for the patients.

For nearly four decades, I have sat and listened to people who present their stories and their anguish. I still marvel at how unique are many of their problems and how well these problems also function as solutions. The more I explore a situation to find out what is right rather than what is wrong about it, the more creativity I discover and the deeper is my conviction that the human spirit is way ahead of the human mind in its genius for adaptation.

While an understanding of the science of psychology is the accepted basis for treating patients, a wider appreciation of the human spirit informs my practice. A therapist’s job may be less to cure a problem than to identify, respect and even revere how it solves or rectifies life’s dilemmas. And whenever I am able to cast a so-called problem in a positive light, the person gains a reinforced respect for himself and for what his or her spirit is seeking to achieve. And so do I.


Thomas Ramey Watson is an affiliate faculty member of Regis University's College of Professional Studies. He has served as an Episcopal chaplain (lay), trained as a psychotherapist, done postdoctoral work at Cambridge University, and was named a Research Fellow at Yale University.

In addition to his scholarly writings, he is a published author of poetry and fiction.