My Writing

I’ve done a lot of writing.

Book cover 2Last year, I published a book that can help you deal with conflict, Constructive Conflict. It’s available in paperback, Kindle, and Audible from Amazon.

I also have two novels: Fate’s Janitors: Mopping Up Madness at a Mental Health Clinic and Intersections.

My blog is below. I’m currently posting two series: The Shrink’s Links once a week, alternating with a series on forgiveness, The Road to ReconciliationClick here if you would like to read this series from the beginning.

Seeking Sensation

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You may think you know what kind of person is sensation seeking, but if you take the survey, you might find it’s you.

You might expect an adrenalin junkie, the kind who will jump out of a perfectly fine airplane, who will eat worms, use dangerous drugs, and who will start a fight just to have something to do. They are sensation seeking people, true; but not the only kind. A person could also be sensation seeking if you crave new experiences, like to meet different people, hate boredom, and can’t wait to see what comes next.

That is, at least, according to the conception of Ken Carter, an Emory College professor of psychology, who researches the subject and has constructed the sensation seeking scale. I would have called it an openness to experience scale, if it were me; that would have been a lot less confusing.

According to Carter, there are four components to sensation seeking. There’s thrill and adventure seeking, or physically risky behavior; what we usually think of when we think of sensation seeking. But there’s also experience seeking, disinhibition, and a susceptibility to boredom.

Carter found a genetic link to sensation seeking. People seem to be born that way. If you do not have a high sensation seeking score, new experiences make you uncomfortable, maybe even nervous and panicky. You like the familiar and predictable. You dislike change. Why on earth would you try watching a new movie if you have one you like? Why go to a new restaurant if the neighborhood diner has a twelve-page menu? Why travel to a strange place if you have everything you need right here? To those who are not sensation seeking, those who are, are needlessly reckless and irrepressible.

Carter, who confesses he has a very low sensation seeking score, was attracted to this research because he wanted to understand people who seem to take unnecessary risks. He discovered that they’re not after the risk, they’re after the reward. They don’t have a death wish, they have an edge of death wish. They just like challenge more than comfort. If it feels safe, why do it? They like to live right at the crux of the matter. Besides, what’s the point of doing things you already know you can do?

Carter found that those with high sensation seeking scores simply get to achieve more than others do. You might be surprised to hear that they have fewer injuries, perhaps because, by stretching their capabilities, they master things others do not. If they’re exposed to combat or natural disasters, they’re less likely to develop PTSD. Danger, horror, and drama feel right at home.

My own sensation seeking score was through the roof. I don’t jump out of planes, but I did leave home at the age of 19 and built a house 350 miles away. I enjoy hiking in lonely places and I’ve started two businesses. It’s one factor that led me to be a therapist and the reason I accept every client who comes along. It’s why, when I listen to tragedy, histrionics, and angst all day, I sleep well at night.

If you would like to have less of an uncomfortable reaction to novel experiences, you can do so by habituation: making them less novel, in other words. Before the railroads, people used to be terrified to travel more than 20 mph; now most will say that’s too slow. Hang around the bungee jumping platform long enough and bungee jumping will seem like the normal thing to do.

Habituation is responsible for the dark side of sensation seeking, it compels people to take greater and greater risks. If you have a loved one whose thirst for adventure causes him to do dangerous things, expressing your concern may make them think twice before trying that new club drug or joining up to be a war correspondent; but defying you may be part of the thrill. Once a person gets a taste for that feeling of mastery in the face of danger, it’s hard to give it up. The most reliable force that moderates sensation seeking is age; so, you better hope he gets old before he gets dead.

If you would like to learn more about sensation seeking and take the test, click here.

 

Why You Should Observe Advent Even If You Don’t Do Christmas

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You know what Christmas looks like. There’s the busy malls, the colorful lights, the ubiquitous Santas. You know what it sounds like: jingle bells, jolly music, ho ho ho. You know what you’re supposed to do: attend parties, kiss under the mistletoe, go mad buying things no one needs. You know what it’s supposed to feel like: generosity, warm fuzziness, wonder, enchantment, and excitement. Christmas has the distinctive smell of pine needles and ham dinner. You know when it’s supposed to occur; November first is definitely too soon. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you know all about Christmas. Getting what you want is like Christmas to you.

You may think you know all about Christmas, but you may not realize that you’re missing a whole ‘nother holiday between Thanksgiving and December twenty-fifth. No, I don’t mean Black Friday. You’re missing Advent.

You think you know about Advent, do you? There’s the candles and the little paper houses where you open a new door every day. You’ve been there and done that; it’s not your thing. But, I bet you never thought about the true meaning of Advent, just like the true meaning of Christmas is often hidden under mounds of discarded wrapping paper.

Advent is about waiting. Continue reading

When Reconciliation is Impossible: Settling for Personal Peace

Not everyone makes it all the way to reconciliation. You can’t get there alone. If your partner has not done his part, you’ll have to settle for Personal Peace. Personal Peace is nice; but, because it’s personal, you can’t share it.

If you have done your part to arrive at reconciliation, you’ve already experienced much of Personal Peace. You assessed the injury and noted the part of you that can’t be hurt. You put the damage in perspective and have not been carried away by your feelings. You acknowledged your role in the matter and have done what you can to make that part right. You’ve asked for the kind of justice you can get, in an effective manner, and waited long enough for it to be delivered. If you have done all that and your partner has not, you won’t have a true reconciliation; but it may not matter so much anymore, at least you are starting to have a sense of Personal Peace.

In Personal Peace, you can’t change the past or undo what has happened. You’re not going back to the way things were in the beginning. You’re at peace with what happened. You haven’t effected change or stopped her from harming anyone ever again; but you’re making the best of a bad situation. You took a bushel of sour lemons and made gallons of delectable lemonade. Continue reading

How Normal is Abnormal?

shrinbks-links-photo1Bringing you the best of mental health

Just how common are mental health problems? According to researchers following more than a thousand New Zealanders for 35 years, they’re extremely common. By age 38, they say, 83% have had a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their lives; in most cases, a mild depression, anxiety, or substance use disorder. Continue reading

Learn to Walk

Stand with your feet comfortably together. Take one foot and stick it out in the direction you want to go until you throw yourself off balance. Then, at the last instant, when you’re about to fall on your face, bring the other foot forward to stop yourself from falling. Repeat this dangerous operation as long as it takes to get where you’re going.

When you think about walking this way, it’s a wonder anyone would try it. Why would you throw yourself off balance and risk injury when you could stand in one spot?

Because you want to get somewhere. Continue reading

Neuro-Linguistic Programming

Bringing you the best of mental health

If you’re going to learn how to be a psychotherapist, you should study psychology and acquaint yourself with all the theories of human behavior. I believe it also helps to read Russian novels and ponder philosophy. You can do worse than have a solid grounding in statistics and research design if only to wade through the malarkey that tries to pass itself off as science. If you’re going to do your psychotherapy in a large organization, you should be able to practice politics. But if you really care about being a good therapist, you need to study magic. Continue reading