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.

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I think people’s attitudes need to change at a deep psychological level about how they view these different personality styles. For introverts particularly, to get rid of the guilt and the shame that they feel about who they are, but also for how the world looks at them.

As far as the world is concerned, I’ll give you three concrete places where it needs to change. Number one is in the establishment of psychology itself. What I do in my research, I was actually amazed at how biased psychology is against introversion. I expected it not to be that way because so many psychologists are introverts themselves. But I think it’s just the nature of the field that it mirrors whatever the biases are at the current time. So it used to be biased against homosexuality, biased against introversion and other stuff too. Right now, for example, they’re in a process of revising the diagnostics manual. And the last I heard is they’re considering an entry for something called introverted personality disorder. And that, to me, is just appalling.
The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.

Steven Furtick

(as quoted by The Atlantic's Megan McArdle, in “Why Writers Are The Worst Procastinators”)

by Tara Parker-Pope

One of the great divides in male-female relationships is the “chick flick” — movies like “Terms of Endearment” and “The Notebook” that often leave women in tears and men bored. But now, a fascinating new study shows that sappy relationship movies made in Hollywood can actually help strengthen relationships in the real world.

A University of Rochester study found that couples who watched and talked about issues raised in movies like “Steel Magnolias” and “Love Story” were less likely to divorce or separate than couples in a control group. Surprisingly, the “Love Story” intervention was as effective at keeping couples together as two intensive therapist-led methods.

The findings, while preliminary, have important implications for marriage counseling efforts. The movie intervention could become a self-help option for couples who are reluctant to join formal therapy sessions or could be used by couples who live in areas with less access to therapists.

“A movie is a nonthreatening way to get the conversation started,” said Ronald D. Rogge, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and the lead author of the study. “It’s really exciting because it makes it so much easier to reach out to couples and help them strengthen their relationships on a wide scale.”

The initial goal of the study was to evaluate two types of therapist-led interventions called CARE and PREP. The CARE method focuses on acceptance and empathy in couples counseling, while PREP is centered on a specific communication style that couples use to resolve issues. The researchers wanted a third option that allowed couples to interact but did not involve intensive counseling.

They came up with the movie intervention, assigning couples to watch five movies and to take part in guided discussions afterward. A fourth group of couples received no counseling or self-help assignments and served as a control group.

Going into the study, the researchers expected that the CARE and PREP methods would have a pronounced effect on relationships and that the movie intervention might result in some mild improvements to relationship quality. To their surprise, the movie intervention worked just as well as both of the established therapy methods in reducing divorce and separation.

Among 174 couples studied, those who received marriage counseling or took part in the movie intervention were half as likely to divorce or separate after three years compared with couples in the control group who received no intervention. The divorce or separation rate was 11 percent in the intervention groups, compared with 24 percent in the control group.

Dr. Rogge and senior author Thomas N. Bradbury, a director of the Relationship Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, published the findings in the December issue of The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

In determining the list of relationship movies that might be useful to couples, the researchers eliminated popular romantic comedies or “falling in love” movies like “Sleepless in Seattle” or “When Harry Met Sally.” Instead, they put together a list of movies that show couples at various highs and lows in their relationships. “Hollywood can place very unrealistic expectations on romantic relationships,” Dr. Rogge said. “The idea that you are supposed to fall in love instantly and effortlessly is not reality and not relevant to most couples who are two, three or four years into a relationship.”

Some of the movies on the list, like “Couples Retreat,” are funny and not necessarily realistic. “But they are enough to get a dialogue going,” Dr. Rogge said.

Since completing the initial study, Dr. Rogge and his colleagues have been recruiting couples from around the country to study the effect of the movie intervention on different relationships, including long-married and same-sex couples. Megan Clifton, a 27-year-old student in Knoxville, Tenn., has lived with her boyfriend for nearly two years. Although she says the two have “great communication,” she opted to try the movie intervention.

While watching the movie “Date Night” with Tina Fey and Steve Carell, the couple laughed at a scene in which the husband fails to close drawers and cabinet doors. “He leaves cabinet doors open all the time, and I become the nagging girlfriend and he shuts down a little,” Ms. Clifton said. “When we were watching the movie, I said ‘That’s you!,’ and it was humorous. We ended up laughing about it, and it has helped us look at our relationship and our problems in a humorous way.”

Matt and Kellie Butler of Ashtabula, Ohio, have been married for 16 years and also feel the movie intervention has helped their relationship. So far they have watched “Love and Other Drugs” and “She’s Having a Baby.”

“It’s kind of powerful,” Mr. Butler said. “It’s like watching a role play in a group-therapy session, but it’s a movie so it’s less threatening and more entertaining.”

Mr. Butler said that even though he and his wife have a strong bond, long-married couples sometimes forget to talk about their relationship. “We’ve been married 16 years, but it’s not something you sit down and have a conversation about,” he said. “When you watch the movie, it focuses your conversation on your relationship.”

Couples interested in the method can find more information at

Dr. Rogge noted that more research is needed to determine the effect on a variety of couples. One flaw of the study is that the control group was not truly randomized. While the couples in the control group seemed similar to other couples in the study in terms of demographics and relationship quality, further research is needed to validate the movie method.

“I believe it’s the depth of the discussions that follow each movie and how much effort and time and introspection couples put into those discussions that will predict how well they do going forward,” said Dr. Rogge.

Q: “Why does structure come so hard for ADD-ers?”

A: For the same reason that running comes so hard for fish. They don’t have the equipment. The ADD brain lacks internal organization that naturally leads most people to structure their lives. People with ADD must make a conscious, deliberate effort to build structure into their lives.

—Edward M. Hallowell & John J. Ratey, Answers to Distraction

For years mental health professionals taught people that they could be psychologically healthy without social support, that “unless you love yourself, no one else will love you.” Women were told that they didn’t need men, and vice versa. People without any relationships were believed to be as healthy as those who had many. These ideas contradict the fundamental biology of human species: we are social mammals and could never have survived without deeply interconnected and interdependent human contact. The truth is, you cannot love yourself unless you have been loved and are loved. The capacity to love cannot be built in isolation.
The Mindful Revolution

Finding peace in a stressed-out, digitally dependent culture may just be a matter of thinking differently…

The endless, useless urge to look on life comprehensively, to take a bird’s-eye view of ourselves and judge the dimensions of what we have or have not done: this is life as landscape, or life as résumé. But life is incremental, and though a worthwhile life is a gathering together of all that one is, good and bad, successful and not, the paradox is that we can never really see this one thing that all of our increments (and decrements, I suppose) add up to.

Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss

(via wilfordlauren)

"Our attractions are forged in the deep space of our being, born of countless, often unknowable forces. When we encounter someone for the first time, our psyche and our heart begin an astonishingly complex scan, picking up obvious cues like physique and facial structure, but also noting myriad subtle cues such as body language, facial expression, the contour of the lips, the nuance of the voice, and the muscles around the eyes. We instantly process all this information without even knowing it. All we feel is desire or the lack of it. Scientists tell us that a silkworm can smell one other silkworm moth of the opposite sex from six and a half miles away. While our mating instinct may not be as developed as this species of moth, nature has bestowed an exquisite sensitivity upon our romantic radar, programmed to find just the right person to trigger whatever emotional circuitry we need to work through.

All of us are attracted to a certain type that stops us dead in our tracks: a physical type, an emotional type, and a personality type. Let’s say that there is a spectrum of attraction, from one to ten, and the people at the low end of the spectrum (like numbers one and two) aren’t physically or romantically attractive to us at all. But those on the “ten” end of the spectrum are icons: they’re compellingly attractive, they make us weak in the knees, and they trigger both our insecurities and our longing. Harville Hendrix, the founder of Imago Therapy, illuminates this phenomenon in a way which sheds light on our entire intimacy journey. He teaches that these people are so attractive to us in part because they embody not only the best, but also the the worst emotional characteristics of our parents!

Even though we may be adults, all of us have unresolved childhood hurts due to betrayal, anger, manipulation or abuse. Unconsciously, we seek healing through our partner. And we try to achieve this healing by bonding with someone who we sense might hurt us in similar ways to how we were hurt as children, in the hope that we can convince him or her to finally love and accept us.

Our conscious self is drawn to the positive qualities we yearn for, but our unconscious draws us to the qualities which remind us of how we were wounded the most.

This explains part of why we get so awkward and insecure around people we’re intensely attracted to.

It also explains why our greatest heartbreaks often occur with these most intense, fiery attractions. Some of us react to these past heartbreaks by only dating those on the low end of the spectrum. We are frightened of the intensity and the risk of painful loss when we deal with people on the high end of the attraction scale. We often feel safest with people who don’t do much for us on a physical or romantic level because it just feels more comfortable that way. But the downside is usually boredom, frustration and lack of passion.

Many others only date people on the high end of the spectrum, just going for the iconic types, because they believe that that’s where real love and passion lie. With someone who is a “high number” on your attraction spectrum, you can tell that you’re attracted in a fraction of a second. While this can be achingly exciting, it’s rarely comfortable or secure.”

How to Develop Sexual and Romantic Attraction to People Who Are Good for You (Psychology Today)

A dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it.
Mary Karr, The Liars’ Club

You’re worried about X, Y, and Z. You obsess about them for hours every day, maybe for weeks.

How do you know whether this is typical worrying, a normal way of processing something that’s important to you, or if you have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)?

Karen Swartz, M.D., the Director of Clinical Programs at the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center, says the main difference between worry and GAD is that the symptoms are more frequent with GAD. In a Depression and Anxiety Health Alert, she mentions one study that found that people without GAD tended to worry an average of 55 minutes a day, while those with GAD worried for 310 minutes each day. That’s one hour compared to five.

She identified a few other differences, as well:

Normal Worry: Worrying does not interfere with your job or social life.

GAD: Worrying significantly interferes with your work or social activities.

Normal Worry: You feel that your concerns are controllable and can be dealt with at a later time.

GAD: You feel that your worrying is out of your control.

Normal Worry: Your worries cause only mild distress.

GAD: Your worries are very distressing and pervasive.

Normal Worry: A specific cause initiated your worrying.

GAD: Worrying began for no reason.

Normal Worry: Your worries are limited to a specific topic or a small number of topics.

GAD: You worry about a broad range of topics, like job performance, money, personal safety or the safety of others, etc.

Normal Worry: Significant worrying lasts only for a brief period.

GAD: You have experienced excessive worrying for six months or more.

Normal Worry: Your worrying is not usually accompanied by physical or other psychological symptoms.

GAD: Three or more physical or psychological symptoms occur with your worrying (such as sleep problems, irritability, tense muscles, problems concentrating, fatigue or restlessness).