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Depression & Anxiety are Liars … Sometimes

Depression & Anxiety are Liars … Sometimes

Sometimes I share with clients that depression and anxiety function like con artists. They take some data, usually recent memories or expectations, and weave a story that fits their picture best. They get us to buy in, to give them power and sway, often against our better judgment. To make matters worse, they often work together. A depressive thought like “you’re such a failure” naturally leads to more anxious thoughts like “and now you’re going to fail again, and it’s going to be terrible” and then back to a depressive thought like “and things always will be terrible.” In fact, about 70% of people diagnosed with either depression or anxiety meet diagnostic criteria for the other. Depression and anxiety might be, in many respects, two sides of the same coin. For our purposes, we can consider them two illusion-creators who work in tandem to strengthen their illusions. (more…)

Figuring Out What Matters

Figuring Out What Matters

On separate panels in our group room we have the words Pursue What Matters mounted to the wall. These words express the core aim for many therapists–to help clients live harmoniously with their values, to do what matters. It seems self-evident that it’s better to do what matters than to do what doesn’t matter. And yet many of us find ourselves spinning out, living days that feel dry of vitality and purpose. One of the first tasks I have as a therapist is to get clear on what matters to the client, which often consists of helping the client get clear on what matters to her or him. Even with a therapist’s guidance, clients struggle to identify what matters to them. This is for several reasons, not least of which is that what matters is a moving target. (more…)

The Complexity of Growth and Progress

The Complexity of Growth and Progress

One of my favorite things about stories is their ability to chart personal growth (or decay) in a tight and rational narrative. The acclaimed series Breaking Bad tells the story of a mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher (Walter White) gradually becoming a vicious methamphetamine kingpin. It less famously tells the story of Walter’s brother-in-law, arrogant and racist DEA agent Hank Schrader, becoming a humble and stalwart pursuer of justice. Their arcs are horrifying and inspiring. And they can point to truths about the human condition and the nature of personal change. (more…)

Seeds of Hope in the Age of COVID-19

Seeds of Hope in the Age of COVID-19

The Carr Fire: Redding, CA, July 26, 2018

In the summer of 2018, the Carr Fire struck my hometown of Redding, CA, destroying well over 1,000 homes and taking nearly a dozen lives. The city shifted from a hot summer day to a hellscape in minutes. Skyscraper-tall towers of flame engulfed forests and neighborhoods, forming actual tornadoes of fire. The roads backed up as thousands fled the city, many losing their clothes and hair to the embers. (more…)