Tomorrow is Another Day

Tomorrow is Another Day

What are the difference between now and tomorrow? What lies between our desires to our fulfillment? What lies between our expectation of ourselves and those around us and having it? This is a process that is either immediate or slow. “Some things are very easy for me to get,” says Betty (43), “for example, at my job, I ask the employees to complete certain assignments and they perform immediately.” “Where is the process slow?” I asked. When it comes to me, there is always a gap between my desire and my performance. Every night before I go to sleep I tell myself that tomorrow I will start the change but it hardly happens.

Betty is frustrated and disappointed with herself. She is also disappointed with her physical appearance. “Most of my clothes do not fit me,” she complains. “Every morning I discover a new wrinkle in my face, I decided to start from tomorrow a healthy lifestyle. I know exactly how to do it, but somehow it doesn’t happen.”

 

The gap between the desire to performance and fulfillment of our dreams was a subject of many articles, books, and research. Most of these deals with self-help advice from professionals and people attesting to their success. Betty reads many of these self-help books and understood their message as: “if you think positively – you will succeed.” However, such promises do not help the process. The human mind is not simple and easy. Usually, the process is long and tedious, and in fact, it is an endless process. Even if you fulfill your dream or reach your goal, you will have to continue to maintain what exists.

At the beginning of each psychotherapy session, we examine together what is success or failure for Betty. We examine different patterns of success and failure in her family as well as in her past and upbringing. Betty described her mother as a hardworking woman who was ambitious and focused on her success. As a child, Betty felt that her mom didn’t love her. She views her mom as a model but has a hard time juggling taking care of herself and raising her two children. The thought in Betty’s head is very rigid: “I can be either a good mom or only take care of myself.”

 

Part of the psychotherapy is the fear behind Betty’s difficulty with dealing with her life. If you are undergoing a similar process you can use the following tools. First, Betty understands that what is important is the process and it has to begin now. Starting now, at this moment, is the basis. Tomorrow is the future to which we want to reach, and we cannot reach it if we do not start changing now. Second, as part of the change, Betty learns to accept that change is as written above a process and that in the process she might feel ups and downs of frustration, anger, sorrow and self-judgment and that the change might not be tomorrow. Third, the perfect change or the “perfect day” does not really exist, but she needs consistency and persistence for when success seems far away. As part of the process, we often have to ask for help from friends, family and professionals. As for help, at this point Betty is in the process of understanding the meaning of “getting help” for her (“I am weak, I can not”) and learning that taking and getting help is actually meaning “being strong”. She learns ways that Cognitive- Behavioral Therapy will help her to get the help she needs.

Film actress Cameron Diaz writes in her book, The Longevity, that we are the only ones that have the keys to healthy living: eating right, exercising, and getting adequate rest. Her main point is optimistic: ” Tomorrow is Another Day” says Scarlett in the famous book by Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind”.

 

The article is based on an article I wrote in Hebrew published in Israpost Magazine

 

 

Relationship with my Smartphone

Relationship with my Smartphone

Most parents that come to my office are very concerned that their children are non-stop roaming the Internet and constantly use modern technologies (computer, Facebook, cell phone, Twitter, Instagram). Being immersed in computerized technology prevents a person from communicating with others. Therefore, it is very important to become aware of the effect of technology on our own lives. However, did you as a parent look at yourself and not just on your children ?

Sarah, a 43 year-old married woman with three children, reports a feeling of emptiness. Most of her days are spent running errands, shopping, meeting friends, or talking on the phone. Her friends are jealous of her life style and the fact that she has time for herself. However, she feels lonely and empty. She finds herself more and more upset with her children and herself, and often suffers from breathing difficulties. She recently started to consume more food because she feels empty and bored. Sarah found that her cell phone has gradually become the center of her world. She talks on the phone almost nonstop with her friends, her children, and her husband. When the children return from school she read posts on Facebook, participates in many groups chats, responds immediately to any email, and constantly posts new pictures on Instagram. Her cellphone goes with her everywhere and anywhere, without a single break from social media.  In the beginning, she really enjoyed the idea that she could be in touch with family and friends who live far away and read and see their activity. She liked the idea that she can know and be in touch with her children and her husband and know where they are at all times. Recently, however, she realized that her children spend more time on social media then on homework and learning. Moreover, even the teachers at school confirmed that her children were not focused in class. They barely play with other children, stayed inside their rooms after coming back from school, because they connect with their friends on social media. She decided to restrict their cell phone and computer use, but her children were unwilling and argumentative.  When her son said: “Mom, you’re always on the phone when we are together. Why aren’t we allowed to do the same?!” At that moment, she realized—I’m really afraid to leave my cell.

Sarah suffers from anxiety of technology and fear of missing out, which is the anxiety from the thought that she is left out from everyone’s experiences. Her anxiety was further aggravated by her personal feelings of emptiness and lack of action. Using her cell phone was her attempt at reducing the anxious feelings by knowing what was happening in other people’s lives. Instead, however, her constant connection to social media increased her anxiety by making her feel as though as was missing out.

Psychotherapy sessions helped her to understand the role of technology in her life and how it actually increases her level of anxiety. She was able to take short breaks from using social media, such as leaving her cell phone in the house while going on a walk in the park. Studies show that observing nature (even watching a pot or flower) enhances the experience of disconnection from the Internet, and focuses on the present time and strengthens the awareness of being present to yourself without any fears and worries. Gradually, Sarah extended the periods of time she placed her cell phone aside, and was able to be in touch with herself. During our sessions, we spoke about her life and her future plans.

Technology affects us mentally and functionally. It is important to identify anxiety-related reactions and change our relationship with our smartphones.

The article is based on an article I wrote in Hebrew published in Israpost Magazine

 

I am a failure

I am a failure

Who doesn’t want to succeed ?! It makes us feel joy and pleasure and strengthens our self-confidence. There is nothing like the feeling of victory. However, what happen when we fail?

Judy, a 36 year-old woman, is married and has three children. Three years ago, she decided to return to school and pursue law school. It took her a while to implement the decision and collect information about the registration. Finally, she was able to study for the entrance exam for law school (LSAT). She studied hard and even took a preparation course, but her score was lower than she expected.  Judy was angry, annoyed, and frustrated, and decided she was not smart enough to ever attend law school. She felt ashamed, dropped the idea, and never told anyone outside the family about it. She internalized the failure and blamed herself. Since then, she never tried again or went back to school. She continues to work as a bookkeeper. Judy is very frustrated and discouraged but does not make any changes because “[she] is not smart enough to be a lawyer.” Judy approached me for psychotherapy due to her lack of joy in life, irritability, and depression.

We all want to succeed. Even the slightest success makes us feel joy and pleasure and strengthens our self-confidence. There is nothing like the feeling of victory. However, in real life, we have success but also failure. What happens to us when we experience failure? Failure acquaints us with feelings of disappointment and anger and hurts our self-image often. As a result, we tend to stop and keep going in the direction it wanted to go. Failure is defined as a lack of success that we defined or someone else defined for us.  Hence, failure is subjective and is based on our beliefs: perceived failure in the eyes of one person may be considered a success in the eyes of another person. The degree of failure is also subjective, whether we look at the process as a failure or just at the result, and so on. Psychological factors that may influence the perception of failure include: low self-esteem, poor planning (e.g., learning time too short for the specific test), lack of knowledge, unrealistic expectations, overload of tasks in a short period of time, or sometimes fear of success (fear of change and preference to live in a state built even if you are not satisfied). Judy’s test score was maybe not high enough to be accepted to her target university but was high enough to be accepted to other universities. When we reviewed together the steps she took for test preparation, we found out that she mainly studied for a relatively short period of time. Therefore, her automatically inferring that a low exam score equates with a feeling of unworthiness, is not rational thinking because it is not based on facts. Indeed, it was very disappointing when she could not achieve the goal she set for herself, but that does not mean she could not achieve her goal to study in law school as she was still able to be considered as a strong candidate for other universities. During the session, Judy learned to develop rational thinking, such as: “Yes, I am very disappointed that I didn’t receive the score I wanted, but it doesn’t mean I am not smart. I can still try to continue to study, retake the exam again, or apply to different universities.”

If we can consider failure as part of life and as a way to realize that we have strengths and weakness, it will help us to overcome it and feel even stronger. Don’t forget that successful people succeed not because they didn’t fail but because they look at failure as a challenge and a way to improve.

If you try and don’t succeed, it doesn’t mean that you are a failure.

 

The article is based on an article I wrote in Hebrew published in Israpost Magazine

 

On Pain and Suffering

On Pain and Suffering

When Ran was 8 years old his father was killed in during a military combat operation. His memories of his father were only from family trips and spending weekends at the pool. However, Ran learned that life moved on. His mother worked and raised him just like the other children in his neighborhood. Ran served in the army, graduated from college, married, and moved to the United States. He constantly thought about his father, and was jealous of children who had a father, but learned to keep his thoughts and feelings inside.

Recently, Ran started to feel physical and emotional pains. He underwent medical tests and the results turned out normal. His thoughts about his father returned, thinking on what he missed by not having a father. Ran rarely shared those thoughts with his wife because he did not want to hurt her. His primary physician suggested he should see a psychotherapist.

Most of us are familiar with the concepts of pain and suffering, and we tend to confuse between the two. Pain is defined as a sensory and emotional experience associated with an unpleasant bodily injury or mental injury. Pain is part of our lives, and sometimes the most important part of survival. Suffering is the perception of the pain experience. Suffering concerns our thoughts about pain, about what happened, and about what might have happened. Our mind becomes part of the pain experience. In sessions, hearing himself talk about his pain of having a life without a father, and about the loss he suppressed all his life, Ran began to unravel his emotions and cry. Ran understood that the pain of losing his father will always remain a part of his life but he does not need to suffer. Ran practiced mindfulness breathing to relax and become aware of what is happening inside his body and mind. Mindfulness approach helped him make a distinction between the pain and suffering he experienced in his life. He realized that he spent too much energy to ignore the pain, fight with it and that his suffering is related to his thoughts about a reality which does not necessarily exist. In reality he is a father to a son and his son has a father that he himself unfortunately never had.

You are not the pain. The pain is part of your life experience.

The article is based on an article I wrote in Hebrew published in Israpost Magazine

 

 

 

 

 

Is the Secret to a Good Marriage Still a Secret?

Is the Secret to a Good Marriage Still a Secret?

Nancy and Michael called to set up an appointment. They are both in their 40s, married for 18 years with three children. Both complain of endless arguments about “silly things” and feelings of hopelessness. After several intense fights, Michael left the house only to return a week later. They both decided that they would like to stop fighting and just have a “happy and healthy” relationship.

What is a happy marriage? Does it even exist? Countless research and literature has been done exploring the things many of us wish for: feel good, be happy, and have fun. However, are these things even possible after years of marriage?

The short answer is ‘yes, it is possible but…”. During our sessions, Nancy and Michael were asked individually to describe what does happiness mean to them and how does it fit into their relationship. This was not a simple exercise, as we are dealing with two people with unique feelings, ideas, and thoughts that may not perfectly align together. The main way to address the underlining issues in the relationship is to start a dialogue where each partner openly listens to the other.

Professor John Goodman from the University of Washington conducted interviews with around 95 couples and concluded that:

  1. The more the couple viewed their relationship as positive, the more stable their marriage was. They did not necessarily fight less, but the way in which they dealt with the arguments was more constructive.
  2. Even couples that reported a healthy and loving marriage still experienced fights, but they did not let those fights take over the relationship and they were able to move on.

The psychologist Albert Ellis exclaimed that in marriage, each person has an inclination for irrational thinking which causes disappointments, rather than simply the behavior of the spouse. Nancy says: “Michael always forgets our anniversary. It doesn’t interest him”. While Michael says: “she is always promising that she will spend more time with me, but things always seem to pop up that are more urgent, I’m sick of her excuses”.

If Nancy and Michael understand, through therapy, that his thoughts are irrational due to the idea that “she must be with me” and her thoughts are irrational due to the idea that “it is awful that he forgets” they can change their irrational thinking to rational ones. For example, she will say to herself, “I wish that he would remember our anniversary and it disappointments when he doesn’t. However, that does not mean that he does not love me. I will talk to him before our anniversary comes around and we will plan something together”. Likewise, Michael will say “I would like to spend more time with Nancy. I know she is very busy so I will try to help her get the work done so we can spend time together”. A change in thinking even when dealing with the same behavior will create a more pleasant experience for both partners. Now going back to our original question if a happy marriage exists? Both partners’ definition of marriage is important, and maybe the answer is “good enough marriage”.

The article is based on an article I wrote in Hebrew published in Israpost Magazine

What Would You Do if Today Was Your Last Day on Earth?

What Would You Do if Today Was Your Last Day on Earth?

 

“What would you do if today was your last day on earth?” I ask Daniel (52). Daniel does not know how to respond to my question. “this is a hypothetical question, most likely it’s not my last day on earth, I don’t like to imagine things, I am a practical person.” He added, “anyways, let’s just pretend it was, what would I do? I would go to the beach, eat delicious ice cream, kiss my wife, hug my children, call my mother and sisters in Israel…”

I nodded my head and asked Daniel, “so what stops you from doing all those things today?”. It is important that you, the reader, should also ask yourself this question every once in a while.

Many people who were asked this same question described in their answer very basic activities, not necessarily related to money or social status, but rather personal relationships with the people they love.

Daniel was referred to me through an Employee Assistant Program in his work place after he complained about various pains and many sick days due to medical issues. Daniel underwent several medical evaluations that found no physical problems with his body. He came to me for several sessions to receive help and mental support. He told me that he was boring at job. The clock never seems to move while he’s at the office and work is repetitive. His co-workers do not interest him and he would have already quit his job, but he can’t because he isn’t young anymore and have responsibility to support his wife and kids. As a result, Daniel began to develop anxieties and stress which translated into actual physical pains and discomfort in his daily life. Together, we agreed that because he cannot leave his job, he must find ways to deal with his anxieties and make the correct changes in his life. We discussed how he could find the motivation and energy to enjoy what he does have, instead of only focusing on what’s missing from his life.

Through our sessions, Daniel understood that things he wished would happen and haven’t happened yet, such as life goals, will only happen if he actively works towards accomplishing them. Because he did not want to leave his job, it was now up to him to either feel stressed or make the decision to focus on the things outside of work that will bring him fulfillment and happiness, such as his wife and kids, or go on more vacations with his friends and family.

During his famous Stanford University commencement trip address, the late Steve Jobs began his speech with a similar question about life, “if today was my last day alive, would I be doing what I am currently doing today?” In his speech, he went on to say that he wakes up every morning asking himself this same question. If the answer is “no” for too many days, he knows that he must make a change. The realization that he might die any day is a vital tool that helps him make the important decisions in his life. Jobs said that fear, pride, failure, and shame all fizzle away in front of death. Your time on this planet is limited and you must not waste your days while you are still here. Strive to live every day doing what is truly important to you.

The article is based on an article I wrote in Hebrew published in Israpost Magazine