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I learned something else interesting from my brother when I was talking to him and seeking his thoughts, opinion, and advice on a situation that was making me "frustrated", "irritated", and "angry". He cut me off and said, "Well, Marc, that's where I think you're making a mistake. You're letting this thing make you upset. You don't have to allow anything to make you feel any kind of way. The reason you're feeling this way is because you're allowing it and you're wasting your time, energy, and happiness. You're giving away your joy. The reason I'm not upset, frustrated, or angry about this situation is because I never go past disappointed. I never let anything make me unhappy. I'm disappointed in what's happening but that's as far as I will go with it. I don't get angry, frustrated, and upset, I get disappointed. I choose to stop myself at "disappointed" and I hope this situation gets figured out. I'm not allowing anyone or anything to rob me of my happiness. Going past disappointed is creating negative energy and I have no time or space in my life for any kind of nonsense. So, I think you need to re-evaluate your thinking process on this one, back track a little bit, and just stop yourself at disappointed. Get rid of the anger and frustration part. It's not helping or solving any problems. When you come to the fork in the road where you can be disappointed or angry and frustrated, choose to only be disappointed and let everyone else go down the other path. Anything more is a waste of time." He's right. When you allow ANYTHING to make you angry, frustrated, upset, depressed, etc., you're giving it your personal power. You're giving it your happiness.

You're allowing it to rob you of peace and joy. I say f*ck that. The next time something bad happens or someone lets you down, be disappointed but stop at that. Never allow yourself to become emotional and out-of-control with frustration, anger, and rage. Michael Wildman was admitted to McLean Hospital, where I was medical director, after countless unsuccessful efforts to get his substance use under control. He was in his forties, handsome, with great charm. But his family, who still stood by him, were running out of patience and were convinced he was going to hurt himself or someone else as a result of his carelessness and impulsivity. I had arranged for admission, and he was flown on a private plane from where he was hospitalized in another state. On board, the security people asked to accompany him somehow thought he would be less trouble if he had his way with the liquor cabinet. Michael liked to drink, could down a liter of vodka in short order, and liked to mix the vodka with stimulants such as cocaine or tranquilizers such as Valium when they were available. When I met him at the admissions department, he was intoxicated and insulting to the staff. He was a little less obnoxious with me, I think because he knew I was the source of the detox meds he wanted, which would ease his withdrawal. I put him on a detoxification regimen of Librium, folic acid, lots of fluids, and nutritional supplements. We monitored his vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and temperature), and he had an uneventful withdrawal. But then what? What might make a difference this time, unlike the many times he had tried before? This is why, when we looked at the poem about Siegfried Sassoon's soldier above, we saw that his effort to force himself not to think "ugly thoughts" was ineffective. The more he tried to avoid them, the more this effort brought them even more into the center of his focus. In one of his late novels, The Winter of Our Discontent, the Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck offers a very different approach to managing panic and rumination. Like the soldier in Sassoon's poem, the speaker here is someone who is struggling with feelings of "shell shock" - a psychological reaction to war that we would now consider to be a form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The speaker is a former commanding officer of the narrator of the novel, back when he was in the army, and he offers interesting words of advice about how to prevent oneself from being overwhelmed by "ugly thoughts" of wartime experience: Trouble is, he says, a guy tries to shove it out of his head. That don't work. What you got to do is kind of welcome it. [...] Take it's something kind of long - you start at the beginning and remember everything you can, right to the end. Every time it comes back, you do that, from the first right through to the finish. Pretty soon it'll get tired and pieces of it will go, and before long the whole thing will go. Even though he was writing in the early 1960s, long before modern clinical therapeutic practice, Steinbeck had stumbled by intuition onto one of the most important insights of modern psychotherapy. Paradoxical as it may seem, the best way to halt rumination or panic is to "welcome" both mental states, just as the character quoted above advises us. Allow them both to happen, remember that they are not actually dangerous, and see what happens. Before my problems with procrastination became habitual in nature, there were times when I delayed taking action and whatever opportunity may have been lost, the most significant and costly loss was the effect upon my self-esteem. Even if the task were relatively simple, such as mailing back a prepaid postcard within a time limit, I would misplace the card, forget about it, and then find the postcard after the offer it promoted had expired. Afterward, I would think, "No one else on earth could have goofed-up like I just did!" There were many such times when brilliant opportunities were lost--forever. One might think that after enough such occasions, I might have learned my lesson. Unfortunately for me, quite the opposite happened: my problem grew. You may have some personal experiences involving the squandering of precious opportunities, and you may be wondering if your own procrastination has been more than just a bad habit. The short answer to this question is: If you believe that you have a problem with procrastination, then you probably do. However, should you want more of a quantitative measurement, then look for the combination of: How frequently procrastination occurs. How many areas that procrastination crops up in your life. How strong your opposition to "do"-ing is. It's this across-the-board aspect that really determines how much impact procrastination can have, and the extent to which it plays a part in a person's life.

In dating, I teach men when they feel things are going south, the attraction is fading, and they don't know the right move is, the best thing to do is to just stop, take a step back, let it settle, let the emotions settle, and then let her take the next step. I teach this because when most men see things going in the wrong direction and they feel they're losing their power and her, they freak out, over respond, and over correct. They overdo trying to fix it. They buy flowers, text and call more often, and they smother her with questions and attention and I've noticed, from experience, that the best thing to do in this situation is to not do anything drastic. It's best to completely stop, calm down, put the emotions away, don't bombard her with questions, take a step back, and just watch to see what she does. This approach, pretty much, works well with all conflict, drama, and problems. When things are going wrong in your life and you're noticing problems coming up, instead of freaking out and doing drastic things in an effort to fix them, just stop, calm yourself down, put your emotions away, and open your eyes. Look to see what's really going on. Look to see if you're making the conflict, drama, and problems worse with your thinking, emotions, and perspectives. Look to see if you're making all of it bigger and more complicated than what it really is. When the smoke clears and settles and you're not so amped up on your feelings and emotions, it's easier to decipher what actually happened and whether you should just walk away from it or fix it. If you're going to fix it, the solution is clearer and less complicated than originally anticipated. Overall, "don't jump to conclusions" means to stop, lose the emotion, think, observe, and respond instead of react. 90% of the time, when we react using an emotional mindset instead of a logical one and we don't stop to think about what we're doing, we look back, feel stupid, and realize we could've handled the situation in a more appropriate manner. With colleagues at the hospital, I set up a program of individual (with me) and group counseling, which included relapse prevention and CBT; daily exercise in whatever form he wanted, though usually he wanted none; training in meditation focused on his breath; and regular meetings with his family, his biggest supporters even as he caused them immense pain. He began and sustained attendance at daily AA and sometimes NA meetings. We weaned him, if you will, not only from intoxicants but from red meat, french fries, sugary beverages, and sweets, and he came to like a Mediterranean diet rich in fish and vegetables. When it was time for him to leave the hospital, we knew his risk of relapse would be high. He entered first a sober home, then "graduated" to his own apartment not far from the hospital and its outpatient services, including me. His mother came and stayed with him initially, which he did not like, but soon he was on his own and building a life in recovery, which included going back to work.

We did not rely on AA/NA alone, or counseling alone, or just family meetings. We helped him learn the mind-body technique of breathing, how to eat well, and to try to walk every day to have a physically healthy heart. The new, nondrinking relationships, improved family relations, and employment--all that built up his heart in other ways. Comprehensive treatment is what he received, and it worked. That's what we are talking about for everyone facing the ravages of addiction. For psychotherapists working with depression, this method has come to be known as acceptance therapy. In essence, it simply means that when one notices that one is ruminating, one should not try to stop ruminating. Instead, simply notice that one is ruminating and tell oneself that it is okay. Tell oneself that rumination does not have the power to harm you and that you will, therefore, simply let yourself ruminate for as long as it takes. In other words, accept the rumination. Applying the method of Steinbeck's commanding officer is an interesting way to reach this state of acceptance. Rather than trying to prevent oneself from ruminating on a frightening or upsetting topic that is trying to force itself onto one's awareness, actively try to think the whole topic out from start to finish. While everyone's experience is different, chances are you will find that your rumination has nothing to proceed on, as soon as you are no longer blocking it, but actually encouraging it. It is as if rumination feeds on resistance, and as soon as you relax and welcome it, it disappears. A very similar method has been shown to be remarkably effective in managing panic attacks - including in the author's own personal experience. Very often, feelings of panic are associated with a frantic effort to escape, as we have seen. One feels that one must make an instantaneous decision in order to protect oneself. This is the essence of the basic "fight or flight response" that all animals enter when they are in a position of perceived threat or danger. We all have obligations of various types. Bills need to be paid, bank statements need to be reconciled against checkbooks, and even making time to watch television programs can be a balancing act.