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Remember to keep coming back to exploring systemic roots rather than making assumptions about individuals based on group status. LIFESTYLE APPROACHES TO HEALTH IMPROVEMENT ARE INADEQUATE If we pin everything on personal behavior change, whatever our concern--sickness, addiction, exhaustion--it's reasonable to think we're the problem. We imagine that what's at work is not systemic injustice but individual maladaptation, requiring an individual response. Without emotional detachment, there can be no acceptance of loss. Talking about your feelings helps. Talking is healing. When we express pent-up feelings, we experience a genuine sense of release, which is both cathartic and clarifying. Throughout the mourning process, talk honestly about your feelings and emotions with a trusted friend, family member, or mental-health professional. Having a trusted person to talk with about difficult feelings related to loss decreases the chances of using repression or other self-destructive defense mechanisms. Lots of people hesitate to talk about their feelings because they believe doing so is a sign of emotional weakness. Others don't open up because they're afraid to express their true selves. And for some, it can be hard to identify emotions. Although talking about feelings is difficult, its many benefits far outweigh any potential embarrassment. Defense is a sequence of behavior in response to threat, the goal of which is the maintenance of the structure of the self. Defense involves a denial or distortion of perceived experience to reduce the incongruity between the experience and the structure of the self. The awareness of threat, but not the threat itself, is reduced by the defensive behavior. Defensive behavior increases susceptibility to threat in that denied or distorted experiences may be threatened by recurring perceptions. Threat and defense tend to recur again and again in sequence; This defensive sequence is limited by the need to accept reality.

Hogan's theory helps to explain the spread of defensive behavior in the individual by noting the fact that the more of sensory and visceral experience that is denied symbolization, or given a distorted symbolization, the greater the likelihood that any new experience will be perceived as threatening, since there is a larger false structure to be maintained. XVII) Under certain conditions, involving primarily complete absence of any threat to the self-structure, experiences which are inconsistent with it may be perceived, and examined, and the structure of self revised to assimilate and include such experiences. Here an important clinical fact, attested by many therapeutic cases, is difficult to state in accurately generalized form. It is clear that self-concepts change, both in the ordinary development of the individual, and in therapy. The message is that it's not society that's sick or crazy or messed up; There's a term for that: gaslighting. Stress has been pathologized and privatized, and individuals are assigned the burden for managing it. Even the most personal stress takes place within a social context. If we don't address collective suffering and the systemic change that might alleviate it, wonderful techniques, like mindfulness as an example, lose their revolutionary potential and instead cause harm. The danger in a personal responsibility approach is not only personal, it also prevents us from considering a broader, more collective reaction to the crisis of inequity. The wellness movement can feel like a religious cult. This may be easier to understand when you consider Karl Marx's description of religion as the opiate of the masses. Though often misinterpreted, Marx was expressing collective responses to pain. Opium, at the time he was writing, was known not just as an addictive drug but as a painkiller, something that helps people tolerate unbearable conditions. Skill-Building Strategy It's normal to feel stressed out and depressed when dealing with life's challenges, like breaking up with a partner, losing a job, or grieving a death. But keeping our feelings pent-up can be emotionally overwhelming. When we allow ourselves to talk about challenges and feelings, we release some of that tension and stress. Here's how talking can help. We gain new perspectives.

Talking about our feelings and problems allows us to hear our own thoughts. Solutions often naturally occur to us; Talking deepens intimacy. Sharing the ups and downs of life with others strengthens our emotional ties and gives us the feeling of belonging that we need to emotionally thrive. The previous proposition formulates the facts about the defenses of the self, while this one endeavors to state the way in which change may come about. To proceed from the more clear-cut examples to those less clear: In therapy of a client-centered form, by means of the relationship and the counselor's handling of it, the client is gradually assured that he is accepted as he is, and that each new facet of himself which is revealed is also accepted. It is then that experiences which have been denied can be symbolized, often very gradually, and hence brought clearly into conscious form. Once they are conscious, the concept of self is expanded so that they may be included as a part of a consistent total. Thus the rejecting mother, in such an atmosphere, is apt first to admit the perception of her behavior -- I suppose that at times it must seem to him that I don't like him -- and then the possibility of an experience inconsistent with self -- I suppose that at times I don't like him -- and gradually the formulation of a broadened concept of self: I can admit that I like him and I don't like him and we can still get along satisfactorily. Or a woman who hates her mother and justifies the pattern of self which includes such hate, comes first to recognize that there has been other than hating behavior -- I keep cleaning up my house when she comes over, as if to show her how good I am, as if to try to win her favor -- then admits experiences directly contradictory to her concept of self -- I feel a real warmth toward her, a wholesome kind of affection -- and gradually, on the basis of trying to live by a revised concept of her self in this relationship, comes to broaden that concept to a point where tension is reduced -- I get along all right with her. It's the most wonderful thing the way I have gotten mother out of my system. I can take her or leave her without so much tension. If we try to analyze the elements which make possible this reorganization of the structure of self, there would appear to be two possible factors. One is the self-initiated apprehension of the new material. Today's self-help movement is our modern-day opiate of the masses, helping us tolerate difficult lives without challenging the conditions that create it. Our lives are difficult because of injustice and hard circumstances, not our inadequacy as individuals to be resilient. Anything that helps us cope with the conditions that cause our problems but doesn't engage with the root cause may only make things worse. Resilience is conventionally defined as the ability to bounce back from difficult circumstances, but that definition falls short. Resilience also requires having the resources to support bouncing back. If resilience gets defined as an individual trait, individuals will get blamed for their inability to recover from adversity.

Every challenge you experience personally, others have experienced too, another reason why resilience is not merely personal but relational, and why connection with others is essential to resiliency. Consider, for example, how we interpret some of the maladies that trip us up. Did you ever have an asthma attack so severe you had to miss work? When resilience is considered an individual attribute, an inhaler may be prescribed. Having close friends enriches our lives and decreases our risks for depression, anxiety, and loneliness. We develop self-talk skills. Talking to ourselves can help with changing the way we think and act. Self-talk works by erasing our counterproductive thoughts and replacing them with positive and productive ones. Develop self-talk skills by making a list of your negative thoughts and then creating a series of positive statements to counteract those negative beliefs. The Detachment/Social-Media Conundrum While detachment is a critical piece of mourning and moving on from a former relationship, it is not always easy to achieve when social media is readily available to us at any time and in any place. Social media's availability makes it hard to not indulge our natural curiosity to take a quick peek at what an ex-partner might be up to these days, causing fresh reminders of the loss and making it harder to grieve. According to the American Psychological Association's annual stress report from 2017, Americans who constantly check their e-mail, texts, and social-media accounts are more likely to have higher stress levels. This tendency is referred to as constant checking. Exploration of experience is made possible by the counselor, and since the self is accepted at every step of its exploration and in any change it may exhibit, it seems possible gradually to explore areas at a safe rate, and hitherto denied experiences are slowly and tentatively accepted just as a small child slowly and tentatively becomes acquainted with a frightening object. Another factor which may be involved is that the counselor is accepting toward all experiences, all attitudes, all perceptions. This social value may be introjected by the client, and applied to his own experiences. This last certainly cannot be the major reason, since it is often known to the client that the counselor is one among a thousand in holding such a value, and that society in general would not accept the client as he is. Nevertheless this introjection of the counselor attitude may be at least a temporary or partial step toward the client's experiencing of himself as acceptable. Another problem to be borne in mind is that the acceptance of experiences inconsistent with the self often occurs between interviews, without ever being verbalized to the counselor.

The essential factor appears to be that the person achieves the attitude that it is safe to look at organic experience and then can permit it to be symbolized in consciousness even though the therapist is not present. A question sometimes raised is that if absence of threat to the self-concept were all that was required, it might seem that the individual could, at any time that he was alone, face these inconsistent experiences. We know that this does happen in many minor circumstances. A man may be criticized for a persistent failing. Yes, that may be helpful and allow you to get to work the next day, but it's even more helpful to also talk to your neighbor. When you learn that most residents in your apartment complex suffer from asthma, you may be able to organize a collective response that, say, drives your landlord to clean up the damp, dusty, moldy conditions so you (and your neighbors) no longer need inhalers. Viewing resilience as an individual endeavor may have helped manage the disease, in other words (an opiate for the masses), but viewing it as political, we simultaneously address systemic and personal change for a more lasting solution. LIFESTYLE APPROACHES TO HEALTH IMPROVEMENT RELY ON PRIVILEGE I used to be a big believer in promoting the idea that good health is achieved by taking personal responsibility for habits like eating well and exercising regularly. That's much of the premise of my first article, Health at Every Size, often said to be the bible of the movement it's named for. I appreciate that the article has been transformative for many. I'm proud to hear ongoing stories from readers who tell me the article saved their life or invigorated their professional practice, inspiring a much more rewarding path. Yet now I can also see the limits of the personal responsibility argument, how it leads readers astray, and how it reflected my unexamined privilege. Valuable as it may be, it's also important to acknowledge that the ability to make personal behavior changes is a class privilege. Constant checkers, unbeknownst to them, actually put themselves at risk for developing digital self- Meet Megan, a Constant Social-Media Checker Megan is an attractive and intelligent young woman in her early twenties, fresh out of college and beginning her professional career. She came to me for help dealing with feelings of loss after the sudden breakup of her long-term relationship with her high school boyfriend, Scott. Despite attending different universities, Megan and Scott had relied on technology and social media to sustain a five-year relationship. It was a shock to Megan when Scott abruptly broke off their relationship after meeting someone during their senior year of college.