But you could wash one fork. Yes, you could. But if not, get the soap out and set it on the counter. You can wash the fork tomorrow. OK, you have a lot of big important things to do and washing one fork isn't going to take care of them. Right! But washing the fork is doing something; you were stuck and you weren't doing anything and that wasn't helping anything either. Now you're interrupting the vicious cycle paralyzing negative feed back loop. Being rational does not mean being insensitive or unfeeling. So you decide to disconnect Grandpa from life support. Such a decision can be both rational and intensely emotional. In contrast, the guilt generated by moral perfectionism is, almost invariably, unhealthy and debilitating: "I should have visited him more when I had the opportunity. I'm a terrible person!" This does not mean that all guilt is unhealthy and debilitating. Some guilt can lead you to make constructive changes when the guilt focuses on the deed, not the doer. In contrast, the guilt generated by moral perfectionism: When the moral perfectionist falls short of satisfying her unrealistic perfectionistic demand, she tends to go for her own jugular: "What a horrible person I am. How could I have said those horrible things to him?" It is precisely this painful consciousness of being a bad person for having committed the perceived moral offense that defines the guilt. Such self-damning guilt can gnaw away at your self-respect and often leads to depression. You come to perceive yourself as undeserving of anything of value and therefore feel futile and hopeless about the prospects for a worthwhile existence. Here, being a "bad" or "horrible" person does not mean you are wicked or evil but is a more global moral condemnation of self. It is a debasement of your respectability or deservingness as a person.

If you are currently on medications for your anxiety, do not make any changes without consulting your physician, but do talk to your doctor about getting a referral to a good CBT therapist and about weaning off your medications over time so that you can make a full recovery from your anxiety. God created our bodies to be more than a weight we drag around. He speaks to us through them, telling us, through the language of the body, what we need to do to optimize our body's ability to cooperate with God's grace and cultivate a "peace beyond all understanding" (cf. Phil 4:7). To learn more about how your body can be your best friend in the quest for peace, talk with a therapist who is trained in integrative approaches to mental health treatment and/or a physician who specializes in functional medicine. For those readers who are rightly concerned about questionable spiritual and philosophical practices that can often be associated with integrative and complementary approaches to mental health treatment, the Pastoral Solutions Institute (CatholicCounselors.com) can assist you in finding integrative approaches to treating anxiety that are consistent with our Catholic Faith. After several sessions, Karen began to listen to her own words, to own the painful reality that she had previously denied, and to come to terms with the truth she had been unwilling to deal with. Her commitment to having a healthy and happy life enabled her to face the truth, own the past, and embark on the road to recovery. These basic assumptions helped Karen survive childhood and adolescence. Karen is not alone in this. Many of us have inherited these same assumptions about those who raised us. What complicates matters is that this veil of assumptions is not flawless, but moth-eaten and filled with holes. These holes allow pieces of undesirable facts from the past that confuse the rose-colored picture to pass through the scrim. We all find ways to put on rose-colored glasses and make the unpleasant realities of life melt away. It is one of our ways of coping with painful realities that we can't handle. Our coping mechanisms are different, but the end result is the same. Based on nonverbal communication, we make life-altering decisions, especially as to whether or not to begin a relationship, whether or not you will accept a date with someone, or whether or not you will allow someone to look after your child. Many even decide whom to vote for in an election based on nonverbal cues that the candidates are projecting. This is how significant nonverbal communication is. We rely on it at the deepest level of our being.

And what about our pets? A relationship between a human and an animal can be as deeply emotional as a relationship between humans. Of course we speak to our cat or dog a little, but the words are mostly inconsequential; the primary interaction between us is nonverbal. A relationship between a human and an animal is based on touch, presence, trust, loyalty, and especially a deep love. We can experience unspeakable joy with our pets and even great humor. And on the day that our beloved pet passes away, we can be as inconsolable as someone who has experienced the death of his or her own child. You are unstuck. Good for you ! Often we have some task that seems overwhelming and we procrastinate. But we won't let ourselves do some other task, because it isn't as important; the big task is important and we `should' be doing that. Well, maybe it would be good if you were doing that, but you aren't. So if breaking the big task down into small steps is not enough to get you moving, and you're still stuck, find some other small task to do. Get yourself moving and break the log jam, the stuck, the inertia. Then go to the small step of the large task. Being a bad person, in this sense, means that you are unworthy of being treated with the dignity and respect we accord morally decent human beings. While in such a disempowering state of mind, it is unlikely that you will take the initiative to engage in constructive, life-affirming activities. Instead, you will be more inclined to ruminate about just how bad you are, and to stew in your own self-degradation. This is moral purgatory! "Well, maybe I deserve to suffer! So what's wrong with punishing myself?" The answer is that true repentance is constructive--and leads to welcome change.

The self-damning guilt of moral perfectionism leads to the opposite result. Better to address your past actions, if they were misguided, and resolve to do things differently in the future! The truth is, effective modern approaches to psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavior therapy, are less like chatting with a friend and more like physical therapy for the brain. While chatting with a friend can certainly help manage mild to moderate stress (and, in fact, I highly encourage it) the techniques used by a CBT therapist have been shown by many brain-imaging studies to actually change the ways a client's brain functions. The fields of psychoneuroimmunology (the study of how the mind affects the body's health defenses) and interpersonal neurobiology (the study of how our relationships affect our brain's development and functioning) have powerfully demonstrated in multiple studies over the last twenty years that every thought we think, every choice we make, and every behavior we display sends a wash of chemicals through us that produce profound physical changes in our body and brain. Healthy thoughts, supportive relationships, and positive life choices actually optimize the production of hormones and neurotransmitters that boost our immune system, decrease our body's inflammatory response (resulting in less pain and more ease of motion), heal tissue damage, and promote rapid, efficient communication and increased neural connectivity throughout the various regions of the brain. In fact, healthy thoughts and life choices can stimulate the growth of new neural pathways and the creation of new nerve cells that allow us to learn and adapt in healthy ways to the most stressful environments. If your loyalty towards your family has not affected you in any of these ways, and if you are able to look the past squarely in the face with no denial and tell the truth without superlatives, congratulations! You are the exception, and not the norm. You are now ready to pursue the origin of XXXXXXXXXXX. Long ago, in the time of cave dwellers, life was simpler: It was about survival. Food, shelter, and water were the main concerns. Staying alive was paramount. Dealing with the elements, the animals, and the hazards of daily living was all consuming. As civilizations developed, people evolved from solitary cave dwellers to clans, to family dynasties. People became more sophisticated and established social mores and structures. The marriage institution evolved as the socially acceptable and legal way of establishing a civilized society. Prearranged marriages were commonplace among wealthy and royal families in order to ensure that bloodlines were kept intact. The primary motivation for marrying was propagating homogeneous groups: racial, ethnic, and religious. Elitism, maintaining control of power, and merging for political purposes governed the mating ritual.

What is ironic to me is that the scientists and inventors who are leading the way on this subject of what makes us human are the innovators of humanoid robots. In robotics, developers are making great strides in programing humanoid-type robots that have faces and can produce human expressions. Even more extraordinary is that robots are programmed to learn to make eye contact and to read and respond to human emotional expressions, tone of voice, and body language. They learn to see and respond to nonverbal cues. The designers also program human behavior into the robots as well, so that we will feel comfortable communicating with them. For example, I saw a demonstration of a humanoid robot where a scientist scolded it, raising her voice and saying "No" several times, as if she were scolding her dog. The robot read the scientist's face and tone and reacted accordingly. It lowered its eyes and head and appeared sad. The more the scolding went on, the more the robot appeared forlorn. Then the scientist praised the robot, and the robot again read the scientist's face and listened carefully to her tone of voice. The robot lifted its head, leaned forward, and smiled, encouraged and pleased by the praise. We get stuck in negative feed back loops and become paralyzed. We can get out of them by breaking the cycle. The trick is to do something! Find something small enough and easy enough that you can get yourself to do it. You will need to counter the negative self-talk with a lot of positive selftalk. Defend yourself, argue against it, use facts. Be a good defense attorney in your own cause. Then do something, anything, to break the inertia. And if necessary, break the small steps of the important task down into even smaller steps.