Monthly Archive: September 2016

It Takes One to Know One

So often, and every day, we find in others a mirror of ourselves.  At times, it’s a loving and welcome mirror; at other times, it’s a teacher.

I’m in Sicily participating in a conference on Gestalt therapy, thoroughly enjoying the scenery, the people, the food, and the atmosphere. At dinner a few nights ago, there was an event that really brought home to me how we mirror and learn.  We had all ordered, when out of the kitchen came a barrage of screaming (in Italian or Sicilian), banging and crashing.  Apparently, a waitress had had enough and was sweeping everything off the counters with her arms, and breaking plates with every impassioned and anguished sentence.

A young British woman from the table next to me then began a slow-building outrage: at first exclaiming to me and others that this was unacceptable, then some minutes later declaring that the service, and then the food was bad (the service was actually good, and the food delicious), finally after about half an hour refusing to pay and abruptly leaving the restaurant, also leaving her table mates to quietly and apologetically trail after her.

From my viewpoint, the young British woman was mirroring, in her own way, the Sicilian waitress. She seemed to need an outlet for her anger and outrage, and chose that moment to express it. How often have I done the same? Whenever I judge someone immature, how am I seeing my own immaturity in the other? Whenever I feel unseen, how am I not seeing the other?

Deliberately and unconsciously mirroring others is how we learned as children. It’s a natural process that continues throughout our lives.  Children feel good when they successfully mirror others; they also feel good when we mirror them: it’s a powerful way of connecting. And when we find ourselves strongly impacted emotionally by another person’s actions, it may be because we recognize that same thing in ourselves.

That night in Sicily was both entertaining (I’d never see that in Canada), and enlightening. Mirroring goes both ways, revealing us to ourselves, and challenging us to really see ourselves in others. It is a powerful way bringing our deepest values into full awareness. As Thornton Wilder said:

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasure.
— Thornton Wilder

Children are our greatest mirrors

Quote of the Day
Life is for each man a solitary cell whose walls are mirrors. -Eugene O’Neill

At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my or contact me directly

3 Uncommon Corporate Depression Symptoms

6.7% of the US adult population, approximately 14.8 million, are depressed in a given year. While we think of someone with depression as sad, dirty, refusing to comb hair or bathe, or simply with a flat and emotionless face, this isn’t always the case. There are 3 uncommon depression symptoms that can be well-hidden in the corporate world. The information below isn’t meant to act as a diagnosis, but rather to help you identify if you (or someone you know) may need to consider seeing a professional for further evaluation.

Anger is a major symptom of depression that is uncommonly tossed to the side. People think anger is a sign of frustration at work when it really can be rooted in depressive feelings. Understanding why you are angry or what your true emotions are that are causing the anger can help you understand if you are truly frustrated at work or if you are depressed and that is causing you to feel anger.

Working too much is a sign of depression. Yes, throwing yourself into your work to avoid confronting why you feel down or glum is a very real symptom of depression. According to a recent piece on Forbes that did focus on this very topic, ” they cannot change about their life or in themselves so instead they immerse themselves in something they can do something about: work. It becomes a type of drug to distract oneself in the hopes that the despair will dissipate and they’ll eventually pull out of it.”  Are you working too much to avoid dealing with sadness or disappointment? Maybe feelings of not having control over one’s life?

Feeling burnt out. It is possible to get burnt out, but most of the time that feeling is really depression. It isn’t that you have worked too hard or that your kids have drove you to a place of exhaustion for the last time- it is that you feel things are so stuck in their ways that you resign to being burnt out- when, essentially, this is a heavy place of depression.

The workplace is challenging. Anger, working too much, feeling burnt out – those can be associated with a tough job, but they are all signs of depression too. If you are having these symptoms, it may be time to start considering seeking a professional evaluation.

Forgiveness Redeems Lives

I happened across the movie The Railway Man, staring Colin Firth.  It’s based on a true story of a British Prisoner of War, Eric Lomax, who had experienced terrible cruelty and torture in a Japanese internment camp during WWII.  It had left its mark on him, making his life miserable. The rage and pain ate him up.

There are many differences between the true story and the movie, but not in terms of what Lomax suffered, or in the outcome of his reconnection with his Japanese tormentor, Takashi Nagase, years later.

Eric’s second wife, Patti, was instrumental in helping this reconciliation along. After Lomax had discovered that Nagase was alive, Patti wrote Nagase and asked him how he could feel forgiven if one of those he had harmed had not yet forgiven him.  His response prompted Lomax to travel to see Nagase:  The dagger of your letter thrusted me into my heart to the bottom.

From this beginning, Eric eventually travelled to Thailand with Patti to meet Nagase. By making this trip, he not only redeemed his own life, but did so for Nagase as well.  As he wrote in his book ”Meeting Nagase has turned him from a hated enemy, with whom friendship would have been unthinkable, into a blood-brother. If I’d never been able to put a name to the face of one of the men who had harmed me, and never discovered that behind that face there was also a damaged life, the nightmares would always have come from a past without meaning.

There simply isn’t a way to spoil the movie for anyone wishing to see it.  If you do, be warned that it is graphic and accurate in it’s portrayal of the harsh treatment prisoners of war experienced. It’s hard to watch. And yet, the message is all the more powerful for that.

In our everyday lives, we encounter people and circumstances that are unfair and hurtful.  Perhaps we, too, can remember that we all have histories, and that we are all doing the best we can.

As we forgive: the story of Rwanda’s Redemption

Quote of the Day

Those who choose, even on a small scale, to love in the midst of hatred and fear are the people who offer true hope to our world. – Henri Nouwen


At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my or contact me directly

PTSD & Quality of Life

One of the most talked about, yet under treated, medical mental illness issues is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is defined as one’s emotions and behavior, especially stress reactions, following a trauma. The good news is these behaviors and feelings can get better with time and therapy. When I speak to my corporate groups and individual clients, they often don’t realize PTSD impacts not only how someone functions in life, but how they react to certain situations at work.

First, let me describe some symptoms of PTSD:

  • You may have nightmares.
  • You may feel like you are going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
  • You may avoid crowds, because they feel dangerous.
  • You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships.
  • You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.
  • You may think the world is completely dangerous, and no one can be trusted.
  • You may have trouble concentrating.
  • You may be startled by a loud noise or surprise.
  • You might want to have your back to a wall in a restaurant or waiting room.

There are other prominent symptoms, too. And you don’t have to have lived through a war to have PTSD. Things like trauma in early childhood, specifically with sexual or physical abuse, can cause these symptoms.

So, how do yo deal with work and your impact on your environment at work when you are dealing with PTSD?

First, understand the symptoms at work;

  • Feelings of fear or anxiety
  • Physical problems
  • Poor interactions with coworkers
  • Unreasonable reactions to situations that trigger memories
  • Absenteeism
  • Interruptions if you are still in an abusive relationship, harassing phone calls, etc.
  • Trouble staying awake at your desk
  • Panic attacks

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event. But for some people, they may not happen until months or years after the trauma. And symptoms may come and go over many years, which is why understanding if any of the above symptoms last longer than a four week period, help is needed.

Having proper coping mechanisms, or working with a professional who can help you develop these and strategies, is important. Monitoring your emotional responses to situations will always help you increase your awareness of things that may trigger your PTSD symptoms. You can either navigate a way to avoid these triggers in the workplace or prepare yourself for them in meetings, etc.

Understand you will not be able to control everything and there are going to be times you will need to give yourself a time-out. Yes, the inevitable may happen and there will be times at work when your symptoms are triggered and you start to feel out of control. This stress not only impacts your quality of life and ability to produce quality work, but the stress you feel can impact your coworkers. To be ready for such a situation, plan what you’ll say if you need to excuse yourself from your co-workers or from a client. This isn’t avoidance,  but the opportunity to be alone while you put your coping strategies to work. It is always OK to take a bathroom  break to collect your thoughts and implement your coping strategy.

When I speak to my professional groups and one-on-one clients, I help them develop coping skills. While I like to personalize these skills and strategies to each person, below are a few tips to help get you started.

  • Put music on to help relax the brain and the muscles. If you can’t do this, take a bathroom break and use your phone’s headphones.
  • Work on deep breathing techniques. There are plenty of YouTube videos dedicated to this subject.
  • Smells work wonders. If you can, spray your space with a pleasant smell or carry a heavily scented lotion that will work.
  • Drink a glass of water slowly, this makes you focus on the water- which also adds oxygen to your system.
  • Explain that you need a personal moment and step away for ten minutes to go outside for a walk or to sit on a nearby bench for some positive self-talk.

These are just the starting points to coping with PTSD at work.  I highly recommend seeing a professional to help develop specific coping strategies and provide you with legal resources for working and living better.

Maryanne Nicholls of The Joy of Living


Hanging in there – the difference between success and failure

When I researched this topic, most the material I read focused on the success or failure of a particular business venture. What we do is part of our lives and failure in that arena can feel like failure in life.  But I was really thinking about life in general because many people who don’t have great success in their jobs have amazingly successful lives: their happy, healthy, active, and connected with their world.

I believe that’s what most of us want, and why we try so hard to be successful in what we do.  A flaw in this thinking is that once we achieve success, we often find we aren’t any happier than before. Success is more a feeling than a condition – feeling happy supports and even enhances health; and both health and happiness inspire us to be active in our world.

Wayne Dyer  believes that feeling successful depends on a single truth: Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.

In other words, when we have a positive view of ourselves, our lives and our world, what we see is what is positive and beneficial to life and to ourselves.  The world hasn’t changed, only our own focus. We still see the negative, but our focus isn’t on that part of life.

Dyer goes on to say this view is backed by physics: science has discovered that simply viewing a sub-atomic particle will change it. If we extend this to objects made up of these particles – the rest of the universe, including ourselves –  then it’s not that big a stretch to imagine that the way we view our world affects our world.

Given this, how can we begin to change the way we look at things?

  • Failure is essential to success. Success begins with failure, because living is about learning through trial and error.  Without failing first, we couldn’t know or even appreciate our successes.
  • Choose your focus. I deliberately choose a focus for my day, and my year.  This year, it’s physical balance, which means that everything I do has to contribute to that balance. So even on days where I fall short of achieving balance, I feel pretty good, knowing that everything I do – whether it works or not – is aimed at that.
  • Hang in there. It’s often said that the difference between success and failure is whether we stay or go; so stay.
  • Enjoy the benefits of your choice.  Last week I talked about Tolle’s challenge of acting as if we chose whatever is happening to us.  If we have a clear focus of intent that contributes to our success in life, then in a real sense we are choosing everything that happens. So relax, and enjoy the ride.
Deepak Chopra – the 7 Spiritual Laws of Success

Quote of the Day

A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do. -Bob Dylan
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my or contact me directly

Dealing with Unhealthy Thoughts at Work

When I speak to groups (large and small), personal issues tend to creep up into professional life. We spend so much time working that we start to use our co-workers as soundboards and then we start to break down our own reputations. I tell all the groups I speak with during my lectures that unhealthy thoughts at work are going to happen. Our past traumas, our insecurities, all of these things don’t go away from 9-5, but we have to learn to function professional as a result in order to financially survive in life.

Negative self-talk and paranoia over one’s job, rank within the company, and interactions with authority figures are usually the topic first for discussion when I open up my talks to questions about stress at work.  If you feel your stress is beyond normal bounds, you have to seek immediate help. If you feel slightly overwhelmed or like you need more tools for dealing with these emotions, or other rooted personal problems, at work, take a deep breath and then implement the following tools / tricks;

  1. Do not take anything personal at first. Co-workers may say one thing and you feel it means something else simply based on past experiences, negative self-talk, etc. You should never accept every insightful idea or perceived negative remark right away. Ruminate on it. Think about it from several different angles. Analyze it before deciding if it was deliberate and needs to be addressed or if it was something said that didn’t really mean anything or was rooted in ignorance.
  2. Ask yourself tough questions.  Often we start to feel more stress at a job because something isn’t right. Maybe our boss is a jerk, or maybe we are constantly late- even if it is only 5 minutes. You have to be willing to ask yourself the tough questions like why are you working at that job?  Are you truly fulfilled? Can you handle this particular job given your emotional capability and personal issues at home? Really think about your answers because there is no shame in taking on a less stressful job to balance a really stressful personal life.
  3. When you get home from work everyday, slow down. This will make time for you to mentally unwind from the day and think about how to handle work pressure and personal pressure. These needed “down moments” naturally allow us to think about thinks and then develop ways to handle the problems. If we can’t develop ways to handle issues on our own , you can always seek out professional help. Yes, people like me are practiced professionals and help is what we offer.

If you’re having stress, please try my Burning the Candle at Both Ends Program, which is now being offered at a reduced price.

Accepting the moment as if you had chosen it

Accept—then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Eckhart Tolle

Sometimes, a moment will jump out at us, as if we’ve been waiting for it all our lives.  This quote from Eckhart Tolle is one of those moments for me.

How often have I said to myself or out loud “Why me?! How did whatever-it-is happen to me?  What did I do to deserve it?” Seeing myself as a victim of circumstances, perhaps being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As an experiment, what would change or alter for me if I accepted any moment as if I’d chosen it?  Because in a way I have chosen it: I might choose the real possibility of being late if I worked late the night before and drag myself out of bed in the morning, not really physically ready for any issues that might arise; or I might choose to put myself in a new situation where a lot I can’t predict might happen; or alternatively, I might choose to rest and remain home, safe and sound, missing any opportunities for growth that day – except what might happen in my nice, seemingly safe home.

As Tolle points out, the challenge isn’t to assume that the state we are currently in is entirely our doing.    Some things are unavoidable: a big or small misfortune, a long-term disease – some things are simply given to us by Nature.  His challenge for us is to act as if we chose what is, at any moment, part of our lives. I believe it’s really about taking charge of the moment, of altering our perspective from seeing the world as happening to us to really simply being in the world.

So, I challenged myself to live this an entire day. Beginning in the morning, I would take a moment throughout the day to ask myself Tolle’s question – What if I accept this moment as if I’d chosen it? – then journal my response.

Here are a few journal entries:

2am – Can’t sleep; there’s a skunk nearby. Get up, heat some milk, take a few drops of walnut tincture, and go back to bed.  Relax; let the skunk be there at that moment.  I think I needed that wake-up call; I’ve been over-busy lately.
Noon – late for circuit training class; left it as late as possible, getting a last bit of research in.  Could it have waited? Yes, but I’m worried I’ll be late in getting it done.  I wonder what I can do differently that will help me stop worrying.
End of day – This day was really pretty uneventful!  No real worries. No real challenges. Kind of a nice day.  I wonder if I chose the wrong day to experiment with.

In answer to myself, I didn’t chose the wrong day. With a different mindset, this might have been a day of annoyances.  Instead, it became a nice day.

If you find yourself in a day that seems to be going badly, see if you can ask yourself the question:  What if I were to accept this moment as if I chose it?

Eckhart Tolle

Quote of the Day

“What day is it?”
It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day,” said Pooh.”
A. A. Milne
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  As a registered psychotherapist and stress coach, I offer individual one-on-one consultations. For more information, visit my website or contact me directly at