Blog & Video Archives
Past Bridge Street Mental Health segment with accompanying text.
Recently, I have been writing about the impact of brain research on our understanding of psychology and its implications for psychotherapy.
In this segment, I wish to explain how the very old psychological concept of empathy has been validated by modern neuro-science studies and why it is so important for emotional healing and growth.
In brief, stress and a perception of imminent threat shift a person into survival mode which is controlled by the limbic system which disconnects him/her from his/her cortex.
Empathy, one the other hand, conveys a sense of safety, turns off the physiological alarm and allows neuro-pathways to the cortex to be re-connected. This science explains why empathy works to help folks who are experiencing great distress. So, let us look in more detail at how empathy functions …
As a pastoral counselor , I am often asked about how my psychological training has influenced my Christian beliefs. While I believe that science does not conflict with my fundamental experience of faith or my belief in God, I believe that it can add to and make more comprehensible some of the more mysterious aspects of life and faith.
The notion of sin is an especially good example. You know the traditional Garden of Eden story and how humankind was seduced into sinning by the serpent. According to Genesis, human beings were a created perfection who were corrupted by the temptation of outside influences. Adam and Eve were driven out of Eden and paradise was lost.
There is, however, another way to understand the nature and origin of sin which does not rely on myth and is more congruent with modern science. If God is understood to be love, then any behavior which does not express love is not of God. Sin is the absence of God. Rather than simply blaming Adam and Eve and seeing the source of sin as stubborn disobedience, sin ( which involves disobedience) may be understood as a sense of fear and insecurity which stems from Adam and Eve’s inability to trust God. A basic understanding of brain physiology reveals the structural basis for human fear and insecurity which makes trusting so difficult.
n other words, unlike a traditional, volitional understanding of sin, a scientific view sees unloving behavior as the consequence of fear and panic blocking our capacity to love. We don’t chose sin. Sin ( selfish – irrational behavior) takes us over. Let me explain in more detail.
We all know the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and how a loving and compassionate doctor who, in trying to research the secrets of mental illness, unleashed a monster that dwelled deep within his own psyche. Modern neuroscience has gone a long way in explaining how such opposite demeanors could belong to the same person. And, rather than being a “strange case”, this seeming contradiction, (that persons could hold within themselves such opposite traits), is built in to the very structure of the normal human brain .. The key to understanding this mystery and what determines which persona is in control is found in the relationship between the limbic system and the cerebral cortex.
Without having to become an expert or get lost in the details , some basic knowledge about brain physiology can help everyone understand confusing, but less extreme, differences in our own behavior and in that of others.
Here are some clues to let you know when your rational brain is being hi-jacked and some tips to get rational brain back.
Although there is less stigma associated with mental health counseling than there used to be, there are still areas of ignorance and misunderstanding. it is understandable that some people think of marriage counseling as tilted toward keeping a couple together and as being a relational repair shop. While true in many instances, that is not the only function that marriage counseling serves.
Sometimes, when marriages are in crisis, individuals and couples aren’t clear about what to do. They wonder (often without a clear understanding of their issues) if their relational problems are so severe that it’s better to just end it all. Many don’t realize that marriage counseling can be a helpful resource to:
— Assess the nature and severity of their problem.
— Explore options and help each individual to clarify ; and,
— Come to a reasoned and well thought out decision about what to do going forward.
More specifically, here are some crucial things that couples who are confused about the future of their marriage can clarify through marriage counseling :
America doesn’t like quitters. The legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, used to say, “Winners never quit and Quitters never win.” But , is that necessarily true?
An alternative to the must fight-on and never-say-die attitude is a liberating point of view which acknowledges that, sometimes, significant changes are necessary. Letting go of the struggle to overcome the impossible can provide peace and serenity and lead to great personal satisfaction.
Here are some questions to help you figure out if your struggle is in vain and it’s time to hang it up or if a little more persistence and faith is needed to see things through.
As the cold weather reluctantly gives way to warmer temperatures here in Upstate New York, thoughts turn to spring cleaning. It’s funny how quickly neglect can take its toll and junk can pile up. Just like houses, relationships need to be spruced up, too . ...
America's Stress Epidemic and what to do about it. Although opioids and measles are getting most of the attention, there is no denying that America is facing another devastating epidemic - STRESS. Unbelievably , by comparison, more people are being affected by stress...
How healthy is your marriage ? If you’re not sure maybe it’s time for marital check-up. Here is a check-list of the vital elements which create satisfying and lasting marriages. They can help you to spot trouble before it gets out of hand. As you go through these factors don’t get discouraged. No marriage gets a perfect score. For couples who are experiencing difficulties, however, keeping these elements in mind can help locate the source of the trouble and suggest what aspect of the relationship needs work. The good news is that, with a little learning and effort, problems can be overcome and your marriage can become the greatest blessing in your life.
If you have ever witnessed an amazing sunset, looked up at the stars and imagined the vastness of the universe or simply stood at the base of an immense, magnificent building, you know the feeling of awe — that reverential feeling of amazement ,fear and wonder which comes from realizing that you are but a small part of the immense larger reality which is the universe. Recently, science is reporting just how important the feeling of awe is for our emotional, spiritual, physical and social health. If it has been too long since you have felt real awe, don’t despair. You can learn to discover something awesome in almost any situation.* To begin:
Despite all of the research and medical science, discomfort about masturbation continues especially among older conservative Christians who view it as immoral and sinful. Indeed , the harsh and threatening lessons regarding masturbation learned in childhood have created deep feelings of shame are hard to shake. Further, the anti-forces and especially the evangelicals and Mormons (who also oppose women’s and LGBTQ rights) are still at work. In recent years there have been anti-masturbation campaigns and political candidates who have who have falsely equated and linked masturbation with serious offenses such sex abuse, human trafficking, and child pornography . Others have warned that masturbating will prevent you from being able to love or to function sexually with your spouse or even … going to Heaven. With a view of history it is easy to see why the guilt and shame surrounding masturbation is unnecessary. Many people live under the false impression that, if they masturbate to an erotic image, they are mentally ill or addicted to pornography. It is indeed liberating for these folks to discover that masturbation is normal and that it does not poes a medical risk.
It is also important for people of faith to understand masturbating does not conflict with being a Christian. Just like with other social issues, Christianity is split. The harsh and intolerant views regarding masturbation express only the views of fundamentalist thought and not the only or even main outlook of Christianity .
In the wake of Valentine’s Day, it is important to remember the 49% of Americans who do not celebrate it and 46% who struggle with loneliness. The problem is so great that it has even been called a national epidemic.
To be clear, loneliness is different from living or simply being alone or desiring solitude. Loneliness is the experience of sadness and desperation which comes from not having intimate human connection. Loneliness can spring from isolation , being alone and not having friends but is also true that even married people or embers of large families or communities can be lonely and feel its pain.It is also important to understand the loneliness is not simply an unpleasant feeling. Loneliness can cause serious medical complications and is correlated with shortening life spans. Surprisingly, loneliness is a greater risk to longevity than smoking a half pack of cigarettes a day or being obese.
So, if you are in a lonely place, the first thing to remember is that it is not a terminal condition. Here are some tips to remember if you struggle with loneliness:
As Valentine’s Day approaches, it is a good time to look at the state of romance in America and how it has changed over the centuries. To do so is to recognize that relations between men and women have significantly changed due to the impact of the #MeToo movement. While the full impact of this consciousness-raising tidal wave is not fully known, it is clear that women (and hopefully men) are not going to tolerate the sexual abuse and extortion which, unfortunately, has been so prevalent in the past. While some men worry that romance has been ruined by those who have spoken the truth, I beg to differ. Most of us understand that offensive and exploitative behavior have no place in loving relationships. Likewise, there is no evidence that women’s increased awareness and caution has diminished their interest in romance or ruined the spirit of Valentine’s Day for men who know how to behave properly. Quite to the contrary, I suggest that this revolutionary movement has taken a major step in creating better, more equal and more intimate relationships between men and women than were possible in prior times.
Indeed, looking at Valentine’s Day as a symbol of cultural attitudes concerning love, it is obvious that our understanding of romance and the relations between men and women has evolved and progressed over time. Here is a brief review of how Valentine’s Day has changed over the centuries.
While communication is a complex topic, a key ingredient is empathic, non-anxious listening. But, putting our thoughts and emotions aside and being able to focus on another person is not easy. There are three common problems which get in the way of sensitive listening and create unnecessary misunderstandings and conflicts between couples and among families, friends and workmates. Fortunately , these problems can be eliminated with some information and a little practice. Here are the basics:
This time of year is filled with year-in-review lists. Things like the best movies, the biggest news stories and the famous people who have died flood the media and internet.
Likewise, as we anticipate the beginning of the new year, people’s thoughts turn to new year’s resolutions and things they would like to change about themselves and improve on in the following year.
In this spirit I wish to recommend doing a psychological year-in-review. A PYIR is a time to look back and remember moments which have increased your understanding and have had a lasting impact on your outlook of life, that is the times which have helped you to make sense of the world and your place in it.
As the holidays approach, despite the celebrations, gift giving and merriment, many experience the pain of going through festive times in the wake of recent loss. Others are haunted by past memories of departed loved ones. Death, divorce, losing a job are just a few of the kinds of losses that seem more difficult at this time of year.
For those who are the friends and family of those who have suffered losses, the holidays can be tricky as well. Not knowing what to say or how to act often makes for awkward or uncomfortable encounters.
Here are some tips to help you and those your love better deal with grief and grieving .
- May 31, 2017
Understanding the Parallels between Biblical and Psychological Wisdom
- May 14, 2017
Aprreciating the Emotinal Complexity of Mother’s Day
- May 02, 2017
Redefining Mental Health: The Struggle to be Reasonable
- April 16, 2017
Easter and the Therapeutic Process: The Rest of the Story
- April 02, 2017
Judgers and Perceivers
- March 19, 2017
Communication Tip # 6 : Understanding the Differences between Thinkers and Feelers
- March 04, 2017
Communication tip #5 : Understanding iNtuitive and Sensate Personality Differences
- February 21, 2017
Communication Tip # 4: Understanding the differences between Extroverts and Introverts
- February 03, 2017
Aristophanes and the Myth of Androgyne: The Soulful Meanings of Love
- January 15, 2017
The Myth of “Holding on” to the Past : Neuro-science and the Grieving Process
- January 02, 2017
Being Reasonable about New Year’s Resolutions:
- December 17, 2016
New Research offers Hope for Resistant Depression
- December 04, 2016
Bursting Some Common Myths About Pastoral Counseling
- November 23, 2016
Thanksgiving: A Time for Regaining Perspective and ,for some, Conflict
- November 11, 2016
Dealing With Political Grief
- November 02, 2016
Explaining the Facebook Study: Turns out Cyber Friends Are Important Too
- October 19, 2016
Beyond Romantic Myths: 9 Tips for Getting real about what it takes to have a great marriage
- October 03, 2016
Why Mental Health Check-Ups Are a Good Idea
- September 15, 2016
Appreciating the Health Benefits of Good Friends
- August 31, 2016
When it comes to sex, men are Windows and women are DOS
- August 14, 2016
Good News for People Who Worry about Memory Loss
- August 05, 2016
The Psychology of Blaming: Learning to See the Fear Behind the Anger
- July 07, 2016
Psychological Manipulation: What it is and How to deal with it.
- June 21, 2016
Coping with the Absurd and the Horrifying Stories in the News
- June 05, 2016
Do you have to be “crazy” to see a therapist ?
- May 18, 2016
Sex in Marriage : Are You having Enough ?
- May 07, 2016
Updating the Image of Psychotherapist: A Life-Tour Guide
- April 29, 2016
Updating the Image of Psychotherapist: From Orthodontist to Helicopter Pilot When people think abo
- April 12, 2016
Spring Cleaning for your Marriage
- March 28, 2016
Some thoughts about the importance of Hope
- March 16, 2016
I-Statements 101: The Keys to Expressing Anger Constructively
- March 02, 2016
Understanding Leisure as an Essential Part of Self-Care
- February 12, 2016
Romantic Myth # 3: Love is a Special Feeling
- February 09, 2016
Romantic Myth #2 : Love Never Ends
- February 06, 2016
Bursting Popular Myths about Love
- January 25, 2016
How to Make a Worry List: The Importance of Emotional Triage
- January 12, 2016
Want More Intimacy In Your Relationship? Try Sharing Your Dreams
- January 02, 2016
The Secret to Keeping New Year’s Resolutions
- December 21, 2015
Light and the Meaning of the Holidays
- December 07, 2015
Dealing with Increased Terror-Related Anxiety
- November 20, 2015
Dealing with the stress of Holiday Gatherings
- November 10, 2015
Are You An IMpatient Person ?
- October 27, 2015
How Exchanging Marital Report Cards Can Improve Your Relationship
- October 07, 2015
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
- September 21, 2015
Understanding the new “Female” Viagra
- September 12, 2015
Talking about end of life issues and facing our fears of dying
- August 24, 2015
Bursting the Forgiveness Myth
- August 13, 2015
Understainding our False Guilt about Sex
- August 02, 2015
Do you know your “Organ of Distress”: Recognizing when an emotional fire is about to break out.
- July 20, 2015
How to Build Trust After an Affair .
- July 05, 2015
The “Emotinal Cigarette” – A breathing exercise to help you relax.
- May 18, 2016
Sex in Marriage : Are You having Enough ?
- June 24, 2015
Good News for Work Outs
- June 15, 2015
Sneaky Depression Triggers
- June 03, 2015
Human Sexuality Is More Complicated Than You Think.
- May 28, 2015
Mental Health Myth # 4: Talking to friends is the same thing as going to therapy.
- May 28, 2015
Myth # 3: Psychological disorders are very rare
- May 06, 2015
The Myth of Mental Illness: 2.0
- May 03, 2015
Did you know that May in Mental Health Awareness Month ?
- April 25, 2015
Bruce Jenner Interview Outshines Olympic Gold
- April 10, 2015
White House Supports Ban on “Conversion Therapy” for Gay and Transgender Youth
- April 03, 2015
Sexism in FDA: Continues a Double Standard, Hurts Women
- March 16, 2015
Taking Your Emotinal Pulse
- March 05, 2015
Your Emotional Docimeter
- December 21, 2015
Rekindling Passion: Part Two – The Secret to Re-igniting the Fames of Desire
- January 30, 2015
Rekindling Passion: Part One – The Truth about Aphrodisiacs
- January 14, 2015
Emotional Triage and the Worry List
- January 06, 2015
A Check-List Before Making Your New Year’s Resolutions
- January 30, 2015
- December 10, 2014
Reducing Stress Around the Holidays
- November 23, 2014
Feeling Grattitude When Times Are Hard
- November 07, 2014
Reducing Stress for Seniors : Tips for Dealing with Everyday Worries and Finding More Joy in LIfe
- October 27, 2014
Five Things You Didn’t Know About Halloween
- October 14, 2014
Having Good Sex is a Sign of a Healthy Marriage
- September 30, 2014
New “Consent” App Asks Partners Important Questions to Think About Before Having Sex
- September 09, 2014
Lame Excuses – Why we make them. How to stop.
- August 13, 2014
Robin Williams’ Severe Depression: Keeping Things in Perspective
- July 16, 2014
The Quiet Crisis: Adult Children Caring for Aging Parents
- June 18, 2014
Clearing up the confusion about Transgendered People and Gender Non-Conformity: Getting the medical
- May 21, 2014
Getting Rid of Grudges: Just let it go – or maybe not.
- April 16, 2014
Finding Romance among the Diapers
- March 26, 2014
Bursting the “Hard Work” Myth”: The Importance of Leisure
- February 12, 2014
Wedding Insurance and Pre-Marital Counseling :Bursting the Obligation Myth.
- January 15, 2014
Submissiveness and Leadershipin the Modern Marriage
- December 23, 2013
Reducing Stress Around the Holidays – A Pastoral Counseling Approach
- December 18, 2013
Balancing Career and Family
- November 19, 2013
Dating Younger: How the internet and social media have expanded dating choices for single people
- October 30, 2013
Five Things You Didn’t Know About Halloween
- October 09, 2013
Are You Bing Bullied in the Workplace ?
- September 04, 2013
Are You Addicted to the Internet ?
- August 14, 2013
Post-Partum Depression: What every expectant or new mom needs to know.
- July 31, 2013
Secrets of Assertiveness 101:
- July 08, 2013
Sex Education for Adults: Cheating
- June 17, 2013
- June 05, 2013
Leaving the Nest – Vaulable Tips for Parents and Young Adults
- May 22, 2013
Five Mental Health Myths
- May 08, 2013
A Spring Cleaning for Your Marriage: Personal Appearance
- April 17, 2013
Dealing with the Boston Marathon Bombings?
- March 28, 2013
“Breaking up” with your Hairdresser
- March 13, 2013
Is This ( am I ) Normal
- February 27, 2013
Romantic Second Chances: When should I give him (her) another chance?
- February 13, 2013
Caring and Consideration: The Keys to Lasting Passion
- January 17, 2013
Emotional First Aid: Tips for Responding to Everyday Psychological Distress
- January 02, 2013
New Year’s Resolutions: Why We Brake Them, How To Keep The,
- October 30, 2012
Here’s the Skinny on Scary: The Facts about Phobias
- October 19, 2012
Oh, I Remember it well … or maybe not !
- September 26, 2012
The Importance of Remembering
- September 05, 2012
Going Back to School Chaos: Help for Parents
- August 17, 2012
Money Conflicts and Marriage: Tips for Keeping the Peace
- July 30, 2012
Using Your Imagination to Overcome Procrastination
- July 23, 2012
UPreventing Tragic Story Overload in the Wake of the Colorado Massacre
- July 09, 2012
Redefining Normal: An Inclusive Way of Understanding Mental Health
- June 27, 2012
PTSD National Awareness Day : Myths and Facts
- June 20, 2012
Reducing Stress When You Travel
- May 30, 2012
How to Cope with an Unreasonable Boss
- May 16, 2012
How to Disagree without Being Disagreeable
- May 14, 2012
Myths and facts about happiness: What really makes us happy ?
- April 25, 2012
Body Language: Our Emotional Traffic Lights
- April 04, 2012
The Importance of Work Place Colleagues
- March 14, 2012
Stress and Relationships
- February 29, 2012
Is It Love or Chemistry ? Tips for knowing when real love comes along.
- February 13, 2012
Can Love and Romance Last ? Yes, But It Takes Work !
- January 18, 2012
Why am I so Impatient ? Tips for Dealing with the New Technologies that are Driving us Crazy./a>
- January 04, 2012
The Psychology of Successful Weight Loss — Tips for Avoiding the Emotional Pitfalls which Sabotage
- December 23, 2011
Are You Emotionally Out of Shape ? Here’s a Check List to Help You Become Emotinally Fit
- December 07, 2011
Don’t be So Defensive – Tips for Dealing with Criticism Gracefully
- November 23, 2011
Feeling Gratitude in the Wake of Hard Times
- November 08, 2011
The Truth about Secrets and Itimacy in Marriage
- October 26, 2011
How to Have A Constructive Argument
- October 12, 2011
The Psychological Cigarette – Understanding the Breathing/Relaxation Connection
- October 03, 2011
Am I OCD or just really particular ?
- September 12, 2011
The 411 about Marriage Counseling – What it Can and Can’t do.
- August 09, 2011
Psychology and Smart Phones: The Risks of Overusing your PocketPC
- August 01, 2011
The Art of Compromise: Keys to Successful Marital Negotiation
- July 20, 2011
Planning your wedding ? Don’t forget your relationship: the Essentials
- July 05, 2011
Creating 2nd Chances: Tips for Turning a Bad Situation into a Good One
- June 08, 2011
The Seven Year Itch: Why it Happens and How to Prevent i
- May 25, 2011
Fair Fighting – Some Ground Rules for Resolving Marital Conflicts
- May 11, 2011
Unnecessary Criticism: Why we do it ; How to stop it
- April 27, 2011
Money Conflicts in Marriage: It’s not just about the Money
- April 13, 2011
Spring Cleaning Your Marriage: Personal Appearance
- April 01, 2011
Understanding and Coping with Jealousy in Marriage
- March 16, 2011
Therapeutic Self-Talk: What it is, Why it’s Helpful and How it Works .
- March 09, 2011
Breaking the Ice After an Argument: Understanding the Psychology of Post Argument Silences
- February 23, 2011
Guilt-Tripping and Emotional Manipulation No one likes to be guilt-tripped, yet it happens all
- February 14, 2011
The Secret of Keeping Romance Alive: Tips for Busy Couples
- January 26, 2011
Sibling Relationships 101:Tips for Updating your Sib Status
- January 19, 2011
How Words Can Help Us to Heal The tragedies of the Tucson shooting has created many emotional wounds
- January 14, 2011
A Myth About Mourning Although most of the country was moved by the ceremony held for the victims
- January 06, 2011
Boosting Your Brain: Sorting out the Facts from the Myths
- December 29, 2010
End of Year Marital Review and Marital Resolutions for the New Year
- July 19, 2010
- June 28, 2010
Are You Just Discouraged or Really Depressed ? How to Tell the Difference
- May 25, 2010
Emotional False Alarms
- May 06, 2010
The Science of Making Up
- April 12, 2010
Spring Cleaning for your Marriage
- December 07, 2009
Marital Make-Overs for the Holidays: Tips for Fallling in Love All over Again
- November 02, 2009
Marriage Is Hard
- October 05, 2009
Keeping Your Cool
- September 10, 2009
Nagging: Why we do It , How to Stop
- July 23, 2009
- June 30, 2009
- June 01, 2009
Helping our Parents with Difficult Decisions
- March 09, 2009
The Good News About Stress
- February 19, 2009
Talking to Teens about Sex