Wonderful Post by Seth Godin on Anxiety

I read Seth Godin almost every day and love his work.  Today’s message is so spot-on in describing a healthy way to reframe anxiety that I am copying and pasting the entire post.  Enjoy.

reframing thoughts to treat anxiety

Trash talking important work

The self-induced anxiety formula often goes like this: What I’m about to do is important. I’ve never done it quite like this. It’s incredibly crucial, a turning point, a high risk venture, a moment in time I won’t have again. Therefore, I am nervous. And I need to get more nervous, because the importance of the moment warrants it. This is going to fail. I can vividly picture all the ways it won’t work…
On and on.
A common approach to decreasing the unhappy cycle is self talk to minimize how important the upcoming event is. The mantra is: No one will be watching, I’m exaggerating this moment, it’s no big deal, it’s not as important as you think, it doesn’t really matter…
The problem with that approach is that you spend your day trash talking your leverage and impact. By actively diminishing what you’ve accomplished, you make it less likely you’ll see yourself as worthy of even bigger achievements tomorrow.
In fact, it does matter. In fact, this is an important thing you’re about to do, and denigrating it undermines the very reason you’re doing this work in the first place.
Here’s an alternative: It’s okay to be nervous. Instead of fighting that anxiety, dance with it. Welcome it. Relish it. It’s a sign you’re on to something. “Oh good, here comes that itch!” This is important after all.
When we welcome a feeling like this, when we embrace it and actually look forward to it, the feeling doesn’t get louder and more debilitating. It softens, softens to the point where we can work with it.
Use your fear like fuel.
Try reading some of Seth’s other blog posts, he has some fantastic ideas.

Controlling Emotions: Is it possible?

This discussion about controlling emotions compares two different women’s reactions to the same event.


First Woman’s Reaction:  Take a Picture

controlling emotions

From Hannah Price’s collection, City of Brotherly Love

When photographer Hannah Price moved from Colorado to Philadelphia, she began to experience something new to her – catcalls from men on the street. After several catcalling episodes, she decided to take action.  She would either snap a photo of the man immediately; or she would talk with him about the incident, and then ask if she could make his portrait. Ms Price created a project called “City of Brotherly Love” from these photographs.

Ms Price states her project is not meant to be an aggressive rebuttal to the individuals in the photos. It is, she states, “just a way of trying to understand it. It was way for me to just deal with it on another level besides avoiding it. Sometimes it’s easier to … just respond….. you just start talking to people, you find out more about them than your initial [impression].”

To see the complete 17-photo collection, see the NPR blog post of Code Switch by Kat Chow.

Second Woman’s Reaction:  Send a Message

controlling emotions

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s original posters on Tompkins Ave. in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Brooklyn artist Tatiana Fazlalizadeh’s response to her experiences in Brooklyn is very different from Ms. Price’s response with the photography project. She created posters with direct negative messages to the catcallers and posted them around her neighborhood.  Ms Fazlalizadeh states she can’t walk down her street without getting catcalled or harassed. “It happens almost daily to me where I get frustrated or annoyed or upset by something that someone has said to me or done to me outside on the street.”

Ms Fazlalizadeh used her posters to try and rally the neighborhood around her efforts to stop the cat-calling.  She hopes that by calling attention to the negative effects of this behavior, the men will change.

controlling emotionscontrolling emotions

Why the Difference?

Why does one woman feel okay to take photos and even have a conversation about the experience, and another woman feel anger and frustration?  Our individual responses to catcalls are a result of our thoughts about the experience. If we think: “wow, someone thinks I’m cute.”, “I still have it”, or “this is going to be a good day”, our response may be:  happiness, a big smile, a skip in our step, better posture.

If we think:  “that reminds me of my abusive former boyfriend”, “will he try to come after me?”, “they must think I am promiscuous”, our response may be:  fear, increased heart rate, hunched posture, a frown, anger.

I am not expressing approval of the long-standing phenomenon of men yelling things to women in public places.  My writing about this behavior is focused on the difference in the two responses, not a right or a wrong response.  I believe this is a perfect example of the Cognitive Model theory in action.  The theory is:
Our THOUGHTS about a SITUATION create our REACTIONS, which are EMOTIONAL and PHYSICAL.   In Cognitive Therapy, we focus on our THOUGHTS.  A few of the questions we may ask in therapy about our THOUGHTS are:
What are they? Are they true? How much do we believe them? How do we change them?  
Through training and practice, you can learn to control or change your thoughts that create negative reactions.  This type of training has been shown through extensive scientific testing to be an affective way to treat depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, and other mental health challenges.  My opinion on catcalling is that, for so many women, the experience generates extremely negative feelings; therefore, I do not like the behavior.  For further information and discussions on ending street harassment see Hollaback!.
Stephen Nessen : Reporter, WNYC, Not Taking it Anymore: One Woman Talks Back to Street Harassers, Friday, April 19, 2013

Kat Chow, A Photographer Turns Her Lens On Men Who Catcall, October 17, 2013.


Suicide Awareness Program.

Active Minds, an organization dedicated to spreading suicide awareness on college campuses, kicked off its tour of Send Silence Packing on September 10, 2013.  The tour is an exhibit of 1100 backpacks that represent the 1100 college students who die by suicide every year.  More details of the tour can be found here.

Are you in crisis? Please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline 
at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

suicide awareness

Active Minds traveling suicide awareness program of 1,100 backpacks representing the 1,100 college student lives lost to suicide each year is taking a heading to California. The tour is kicked off on September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day, at Riverside City College in Riverside, CA.

Suicide is one of the most frightening possible outcomes of mental illness. If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) immediately. This is the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a 24-hour service available to anyone in need of help. Never ignore or underestimate remarks about suicide. Take them seriously, and make certain that the person in crisis is cared for. And if you think your friend is in immediate danger, do not leave him or her alone—stay there and call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Additional Information from Active Minds:
An extensive list of web resources can be found here:

New School Year: Easy Exercises for School Counselors

The Center for Greater Good at Berkeley has found that creating a Positive School Climate is so important because it:


decreases absenteeism, suspensions, substance abuse, and bullying, and increases students’ academic achievement, motivation to learn, and psychological well-being. It can even mitigate the negative effects of self-criticism and socioeconomic status on academic success. In addition, working in this kind of climate lessens teacher burnout while increasing retention. All really good stuff!”

While meeting their criteria for having a Positive School Climate can be challenging, small steps can be made relatively easily.  School counselors may want to consider the Behind Your Back exercise with student groups, faculty groups, and maybe even parents.

Here’s to happy, healthy, students, teachers, and administrators in the coming academic year!

A View from the Roof | Rewire Me

Author Psychotherapist Pamela Milam shares inspirational thoughts on viewing others from a place of greater emotional generosity.

A View from the Roof | Rewire Mecounseling for happiness

I know someone who had a series of different jobs: clerk, cook, waitress, courier, even construction worker. She told me that she once had a stint as a roofer. She worked every day with the same guy, a blue-collar philosopher who used to take breaks sitting on the roof eating his sandwich and telling her stories: “People think they’re alone, that no one can see them, but up here I can’t help but see people living their lives—in their living rooms, bedrooms, backyards. The world’s a different place to me because of that.”

He felt a warmth and grace toward the people living in those houses, cooking barbecue, pushing swings for children, vacuuming rugs, fighting with spouses, clicking away on laptops, cooking spaghetti, or reading books by windows. He saw them in private moments and tried his best to honor that privacy. I might see, for instance, a client who is a tough businesswoman, but in fact is anxiety-ridden and worried about her young son’s autism diagnosis.

It struck me later that, as a therapist, my view can be similar. We are the roofers of the soul, seeing into hearts and minds and getting a look into the private lives and relationships of people who otherwise might seem like just “the guy in the next cubicle” or “that jogger I see every Saturday on the trail” or “the unassuming neighbor down the block.”

I might see, for instance, a client who is a tough businesswoman, but in fact is anxiety-ridden and worried about her young son’s autism diagnosis. Many of her colleagues write her off as being brusque and cold, but that’s nowhere near the truth. Or I meet the olive-skinned young model who radiates a golden beauty, but discover that he is wracked with self-doubt. I encounter the narcissist who admits that he feels empty in spite of his résumé of accomplishments, or the pregnant teen who pretends to look forward to motherhood but confesses that she’s terrified.

It’s helpful to get a different view, looking into their lives and seeing them, really seeing them live life: struggling, failing, succeeding, and managing to get through it all somehow.

Getting a new perspective—simply paying attention—helps me break free from assumptions or stale beliefs about neighbors, friends, colleagues, and even strangers.There’s a freedom that comes from getting an alternate view. The more you really notice other people, the less likely you are to write them off or pigeonhole them. Getting a new perspective—simply paying attention—helps me break free from assumptions or stale beliefs about neighbors, friends, colleagues, and even strangers.

For me, it’s important not to get locked into a mindset, one of judgment or negativity or willful oblivion. The key to unlocking my mind is the very same key to building good relationships: noticing people, taking my time, imagining how they might feel, making an effort to do no harm, and trying to do good when I can.

If I find myself taking a knee-jerk attitude toward a person or summing someone up based on one or two obvious traits, it’s a sure bet that I’m missing something that I might understand more clearly from a place of greater emotional generosity. I try to remember that I’m always free to take a fresh look. I’m the roofer casting a graceful look into their hidden lives.

Read about Pamela Milam.

– See more at:


Your Memory is like the Telephone Game: Northwestern University News

old telephoneNewest studies on memory.  How sure are you of your memories?  Could you actually be remembering later events?

Your Memory is like the Telephone Game: Northwestern University News



Each time you recall an event, your brain distorts it

September 19, 2012 | by Marla Paul

CHICAGO — Remember the telephone game where people take turns whispering a message into the ear of the next person in line? By the time the last person speaks it out loud, the message has radically changed. It’s been altered with each retelling.

Turns out your memory is a lot like the telephone game, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study.

Every time you remember an event from the past, your brain networks change in ways that can alter the later recall of the event. Thus, the next time you remember it, you might recall not the original event but what you remembered the previous time. The Northwestern study is the first to show this.

“A memory is not simply an image produced by time traveling back to the original event — it can be an image that is somewhat distorted because of the prior times you remembered it,” said Donna Bridge, a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of the paper on the study recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience. “Your memory of an event can grow less precise even to the point of being totally false with each retrieval.”

Bridge did the research while she was a doctoral student in lab of Ken Paller, a professor of psychology at Northwestern in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

The findings have implications for witnesses giving testimony in criminal trials, Bridge noted.

“Maybe a witness remembers something fairly accurately the first time because his memories aren’t that distorted,” she said. “After that it keeps going downhill.”

The published study reports on Bridge’s work with 12 participants, but she has run several variations of the study with a total of 70 people. “Every single person has shown this effect,” she said. “It’s really huge.”

“When someone tells me they are sure they remember exactly the way something happened, I just laugh,” Bridge said.

The reason for the distortion, Bridge said, is the fact that human memories are always adapting.

“Memories aren’t static,” she noted. “If you remember something in the context of a new environment and time, or if you are even in a different mood, your memories might integrate the new information.”

For the study, people were asked to recall the location of objects on a grid in three sessions over three consecutive days. On the first day during a two-hour session, participants learned a series of 180 unique object-location associations on a computer screen. The next day in session two, participants were given a recall test in which they viewed a subset of those objects individually in a central location on the grid and were asked to move them to their original location. Then the following day in session three, participants returned for a final recall test.

The results showed improved recall accuracy on the final test for objects that were tested on day two compared to those not tested on day two. However, people never recalled exactly the right location. Most importantly, in session three they tended to place the object closer to the incorrect location they recalled during day two rather than the correct location from day one.

“Our findings show that incorrect recollection of the object’s location on day two influenced how people remembered the object’s location on day three,” Bridge explained. “Retrieving the memory didn’t simply reinforce the original association. Rather, it altered memory storage to reinforce the location that was recalled at session two.”

Bridge’s findings also were supported when she measured participants’ neural signals –the electrical activity of the brain — during session two. She wanted to see if the neural signals during session two predicted anything about how people remembered the object’s location during session three.

The results revealed a particular electrical signal when people were recalling an object location during session two. This signal was greater when — the next day — the object was placed close to that location recalled during session two. When the electrical signal was weaker, recall of the object location was likely to be less distorted.

“The strong signal seems to indicate that a new memory was being laid down,” Bridge said, “and the new memory caused a bias to make the same mistake again.”

“This study shows how memories normally change over time, sometimes becoming distorted,” Paller noted. “When you think back to an event that happened to you long ago — say your first day at school — you actually may be recalling information you retrieved about that event at some later time, not the original event.”

– See more at:

The research was supported by National Science Foundation grant BCS1025697 and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health grant T32 NS047987.