psychology notes.

This site was originally created in 2009 as a virtual repository for all of the various psychology and therapy-related things (quotes, articles, videos, music, pictures) I came across both online and in my work as a psychotherapist. It has morphed into something slightly different in the past four years, and is now perhaps slightly more outward facing, but is still at heart a place for me to collect and share things related to the life of the mind.


Disclaimer: Posting something to this site does not mean that I necessarily agree with or endorse the opinions being expressed therein. All text on this site is informational and for educational purposes only. This site is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental health or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified mental health provider with any questions regarding a medical condition or mental health issue. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this site.


And please, be kind to one another.


"There is no settling down without some settling for. There is no long-term relationship not just putting up with your partner’s flaws, but accepting them and then pretending they aren’t there. We like to call it, in my house, ‘paying the price of admission’."

Dan Savage on love, long-terms relationships, and the myth of “The One”

Here are five one-minute activities from One Minute Mindfulness that you can practice every day to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

1.  Consider one small act of kindness you can do for someone.

For instance, in a minute, you can send a sweet email or give a compliment, Altman writes. If you don’t see anyone that day, he suggests being kind to yourself. It also helps to take a minute and remember a kind gesture from someone else that really made a difference in your life.

2.  Bring a dose of creativity to your workday.

Work no doubt takes up a large portion of our days. And no doubt the tasks can quickly become tedious. Fortunately, being mindful “can help you tap into a deeper sense of purpose and turn on the lamp of creativity,” Altman writes. He suggests striving to do one small creative thing at work or saying an affirmation, such as “The treasure of creativity is available to me at all times,” or “I let go of expectation and let creativity come to me.”

3. Find pleasantness at work.

Altman notes that this is one of the most profound practices. “Pleasantness is an anchor that helps us center by locating the peace that is ever-present, even when it is hidden.” You can find pleasantness in a song, a sound, a scent or a blade of grass, he says. All you have to do is scan your surroundings. Altman also suggests bringing a pleasant object to work – such as a photo of a loved one – or having something portable with you at all times.

4.  Calm anxious thoughts with a pebble.

Altman compares an anxious mind to a raging river. But it’s possible to find a safe place underneath the turbulent waves. You can do this by repeating a neutral word. Choose a word that doesn’t bring up any memories, associations or feelings, he says. He gives the following examples: one, peace, calm, neutral. “The pebble’s purpose is to distance you from the turbulence and settle you into the deep, still water, where you can see all around clearly,” he writes. When other thoughts pop up, just view them as shiny fish swimming past.

5.  Gaze at the sky and moon.

According to Altman, gazing at the sky and moon allows us to embrace wholeness and fosters pure awareness. He cited a quote from British philosopher and Zen practitioner Alan Watts on our interdependency with nature: “You’re breathing. The wind is blowing. The trees are waving. Your nerves are tingling. The individual and the universe are inseparable, but the curious thing is, very few people are aware of it. Everything in nature depends on everything else. So it’s interconnected…When you look out of your eyes at nature happening out there, you’re looking at you.”

As you start gazing, Altman suggests noticing your breath and if any tension or emotions are present. Then look out to the vast sky, paying attention, moment to moment, he says. You also can think of a specific problem or challenge you’ve been having and “release it to the spaciousness of the sky as you gaze. Whatever your challenge, let it be part of the big perspective and the big wisdom that exist in nature, free from the small you that holds on to it.”

Don’t let the minutes whiz by. Open your eyes, and notice the beauty surrounding you. Just one minute can make a difference in your days.

(Learn more about Donald Altman and One Minute Mindfulness)

You arrived weighed down with gifts. You should depart empty handed.
John Patrick Shanley

by Alex Williams

It was like one of those magical blind-date scenes out of a Hollywood rom-com, without the “rom.” I met Brian, a New York screenwriter, a few years ago through work, which led to dinner with our wives and friend chemistry that was instant and obvious.

We liked the same songs off Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde,” the same lines from “Chinatown.” By the time the green curry shrimp had arrived, we were finishing each other’s sentences. Our wives were forced to cut in: “Hey, guys, want to come up for air?”

As Brian and his wife wandered off toward the No. 2 train afterward, it crossed my mind that he was the kind of guy who might have ended up a groomsman at my wedding if we had met in college.

That was four years ago. We’ve seen each other four times since. We are “friends,” but not quite friends. We keep trying to get over the hump, but life gets in the way.

Our story is not unusual. In your 30s and 40s, plenty of new people enter your life, through work, children’s play dates and, of course, Facebook. But actual close friends — the kind you make in college, the kind you call in a crisis — those are in shorter supply.

As people approach midlife, the days of youthful exploration, when life felt like one big blind date, are fading. Schedules compress, priorities change and people often become pickier in what they want in their friends.

No matter how many friends you make, a sense of fatalism can creep in: the period for making B.F.F.’s, the way you did in your teens or early 20s, is pretty much over. It’s time to resign yourself to situational friends: K.O.F.’s (kind of friends) — for now.

But often, people realize how much they have neglected to restock their pool of friends only when they encounter a big life event, like a move, say, or a divorce.

That thought struck Lisa Degliantoni, an educational fund-raising executive in Chicago, a few months ago when she was planning her 39th birthday party. After a move from New York to Evanston, Ill., she realized that she had 857 Facebook friends and 509 Twitter followers, but still did not know if she could fill her party’s invitation list. “I did an inventory of the phases of my life where I’ve managed to make the most friends, and it was definitely high school and my first job,” she said.

After a divorce in his 40s, Robert Glover, a psychotherapist in Bellevue, Wash., realized that his roster of friends had quietly atrophied for years as he focused on career and family. “All of a sudden, with your wife out of the picture, you realize you’re lonely,” said Dr. Glover, now 56. “I’d go to salsa lessons. Instead of trying to pick up the women, I’d introduce myself to the men: ‘Hey, let’s go get a drink.’ ”

In studies of peer groups, Laura L. Carstensen, a psychology professor who is the director of the Stanford Center on Longevity in California, observed that people tended to interact with fewer people as they moved toward midlife, but that they grew closer to the friends they already had.

Basically, she suggests, this is because people have an internal alarm clock that goes off at big life events, like turning 30. It reminds them that time horizons are shrinking, so it is a point to pull back on exploration and concentrate on the here and now. “You tend to focus on what is most emotionally important to you,” she said, “so you’re not interested in going to that cocktail party, you’re interested in spending time with your kids.”

As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other, said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is why so many people meet their lifelong friends in college, she added…

(read the full article here)

brightwalldarkroom:

"Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary."

(illustration by Brianna Ashby, from Bright Wall/Dark Room magazine)

Psychotherapist and author Adam Phillips on Pleasure & Frustration:

One of the obstacles is the demand that we be happy and enjoy your lives. I think it’s a huge distraction and it’s very undermining, I think. In the old days, whenever that was, there was an internal injunction to be good. Now the injunction is to be happy or to be enjoying yourself. And the reason this is a distraction is because life is also painful…in other words—and it’s a very simple thing and it’s very obvious and this starts in childhood—which is that if somebody can satisfy you, they can also frustrate you. This is ineluctable. It’s structural. It’s never going to change. This means that everybody has to deal with ambivalence—they’re going to have to deal with the fact that they love and hate the person they love and hate.

What we’re continuously being sold are possibilities for pleasure, in one way or another, as though all we want to do is get rid of the pain and increase the pleasure. I think this is a very impoverished view of what a life is, even though every life must involve trying to do something with the pain and having the pleasure. But there’s a difference between evacuating pain and frustration, and modifying it. And what we’re starved of now is frustration.

It’s as though we’re phobic of frustration, so the moment there is a feeling of frustration, it’s got to be filled with something. It’s a bit like the mother who overfeeds her child. She does that to stop the child from having appetite, because the appetite is so frightening. Now it seems to me there’s an attempt to foreclose appetite, to foreclose people’s capacity to think about what is really missing in their lives, what they might want and what they might do about getting it. Fantasies of satisfaction are saboteurs of pleasure.” 

The Loneliest Job in the World
—Tony Hoagland

As soon as you begin to ask the question, Who loves me?
you are completely screwed, because
the next question is How Much?

and then it is hundreds of hours later,
and you are still hunched over
your flowcharts and abacus,

trying to decide if you have gotten enough.
This is the loneliest job in the world:
to be an accountant of the heart.

It is late at night. You are by yourself,
and all around you, you can hear
the sounds of people moving

in and out of love,
pushing the turnstiles, putting
their coins in the slots,

paying the price which is asked,
which constantly changes.
No one knows why.

"We sort of accept that the price for that free-flowing, fast-paced, inexplicable comic genius is a counterweight of solitary misery. That there is an invisible inner economy that demands a high price for breathtaking talent. For me genius is defined by that irrationality; how can he talk like that? Play like that? Kick a ball like that? A talent that was not sculpted and schooled, educated and polished but bursts through the portal, raw and vulgar. Always mischievous, always on the brink of going wrong, dangerous and fun, like drugs.

Robin Williams could have tapped anyone in the western world on the shoulder and told them he felt down and they would have told him not to worry, that he was great, that they loved him. He must have known that. He must have known his wife and kids loved him, that his mates all thought he was great, that millions of strangers the world over held him in their hearts, a hilarious stranger that we could rely on to anarchically interrupt, the all-encompassing sadness of the world. Today Robin Williams is part of the sad narrative that we used to turn to him to disrupt.

What platitudes then can we fling along with the listless, insufficient wreaths at the stillness that was once so animated and wired, the silence where the laughter was? That fame and accolades are no defence against mental illness and addiction? That we live in a world that has become so negligent of human values that our brightest lights are extinguishing themselves? That we must be more vigilant, more aware, more grateful, more mindful? That we can’t tarnish this tiny slice of awareness that we share on this sphere amidst the infinite blackness with conflict and hate?

That we must reach inward and outward to the light that is inside all of us? That all around us people are suffering behind masks less interesting than the one Robin Williams wore? Do you have time to tune in to Fox News, to cement your angry views to calcify the certain misery?

What I might do is watch Mrs Doubtfire. Or Dead Poets Society or Good Will Hunting and I might be nice to people, mindful today how fragile we all are, how delicate we are, even when fizzing with divine madness that seems like it will never expire.”

The disappearance of mourning rituals affects everyone, not just the mourner. One of the reasons many people are unsure about how to act around a loss is that they lack rules or meaningful conventions, and they fear making a mistake. Rituals used to help the community by giving everyone a sense of what to do or say. Now, we’re at sea.
Meghan O’Rourke, The Long Goodbye