By: Julie D. Bruno, Psy.D
I often wonder why it’s so difficult to let go of things, and when I say things they are mostly negative in nature, for I don’t believe people truly have difficulty of letting go of positive things in their life because in essence there’s no need to. My first thought turns to evolutionary psychology. One of the many tenants of evolutionary psychology is the idea that people hold onto negative memories as a method of self protection, for survival. If you forget something horrible that happens there is a greater chance it will happen again. This survival function is hard wired into our reptilian brain. So the idea that you lack the desire, motivation or spiritual capacity to let go of negative life events is preposterous. These events are much like tattoos on the psyche that take can take a lifetime process of letting go. I often use the following analogy: Our lives are like an Egyptian rug, one of a kind, resilient but delicate as well. Each thread (each life event) builds upon another to make the entire rug (one’s entire life). When something negative happens, one cannot just pull this thread out of the rug, they must learn how to make that thread blend with the rest, this is the process of letting go, it’s life long and one must be vigilant an brave.
Here are just a few ways of starting the process of letting go:
1. Change your perception – a negative in one moment can become a positive overall
2. Don’t suppress your emotions – if you want to cry, cry. If you want to scream, scream.
3. Sublimate – meaning make lemonade out of lemons rather than suck on the bitter seeds
4. Take care of your mind and body with health food and weekly exercise.
5. Journal – let yourself vent in your journal.
6. If possible confront those who have harmed you an express what their actions did to you.
7. Take responsibility for your future – horrible things happen everyday but with each day you are given another opportunity to do something different.
8. Empathize with others
9. Remind yourself that you only have three options: change the situations, leave the situation or accept the situation.
10. Identify what you have learned.
11. Get involved in any type of activity: political group, team sport, networking group
12. Pamper yourself – go for a manicure or a massage.
Remember, the art of letting go is understanding that there is no final destination, it’s a journey that requires your active participation. Now, let start with that first step…
By: Julie D. Bruno, Psy.D
With all the news of Ariel Castro, people are wondering how could such horrible things happen in their own back yard and though there are reports that neighbors called the police a couple of times during the last ten years, most who thought his behaviors odd, never took their suspicions further. Why didn’t they, you might ask? Well, it’s not because they didn’t care or that they didn’t want to get involved (some may have not for a variety of reasons), it’s basically because of a very common social phenomenon called the Bystander Effect.
The bystander effect is the idea that when a collective people witness something happening, the presence of others diffuses responsibility. Hence, the more people, the less action that takes place and in the case of Ariel Castro, there is an entire neighborhood. This concept came about after the infamous 1964 Kitty Genovese murder in New York. Mr. Genovese was stabbed to death outside her apartment, while bystanders who reportedly observed the crime and people in nearby apartments heard her screams, did not step in to assist or call the police.
So, what can one do when they feel someone is acting outside of the norm or if they are witnessing a crime in a crowd of people? The answer is simple, now that you’ve read this blog, pick up the phone and call the authorities. Do not assume someone else will do it. Do not assume your suspicions are odd. A report can be made anonymously and who knows it could save someone’s life.
By: Julie D Bruno, Psy.D
“To thine own self be true,” a famous quote by William Shakespeare, often spills from the lips with ease but to live by these words is vastly more difficult. In psychology we have coined the term congruence, which essentially means one should act in accordance to their thoughts and feelings. Hence, “to thine own self be true.” Now what happens to the self structure when a person cannot be congruent or act in accordance to what they are thinking or feeling? Well, very simply put, the self first utilizes its defense mechanisms (discussed in previous blogs) to preserve the ego but when the defense mechanisms fail to protect the ego, a multitude of mental health disorders can develop e.g. anxiety and depression are the most common.
So, if an individual isn’t true to themselves, one could develop mental illness. Then, why would anyone choose to not live a congruent life? Well, the answer is simple, most people live their lives on autopilot and thus without much thought one lives according to social norms, familial norms and gender constraints. In order to live a congruent life, one must be an active participant in their own life, on a daily basis. Unfortunately, life in western culture does not lend it self to easily living a congruent life.
Clients come into my office all the time suffering from anxiety and depression. More often than not, it is related to living an incongruent life. “I can’t date that person, my family would kill me.” “I need to go to graduate school because my mother is expecting me to.” “I cannot live with my boyfriend before marriage because women in my culture don’t do things like that.” These are just a few things I’ve heard in my practice that cause great stress in my client’s lives. When a person is presented with an expectation that they don’t/can’t fulfill there is only two options. One, is to be congruent which creates short term anxiety/depression. Two, is to be incongruent which creates long term anxiety/depression. For, no mater where you go, there you are, the choice is always ultimately yours.