Archive: Addiction

The Inescapable Impact of our Ancestry


In a paper from Jon Blend and Roz Carroll Witnessed Improvised Diaspora Journey Enactments (WIDJE): an experiential method for exploring refugee history, the authors’ interest was on the impact of forced displacement of people from their family and culture. Their focus was on current refugee movements, and on the displacement and loss of family for the Jews from the last World War. Their paper reviews what is known, and then provides a way for displaced peoples to begin to heal and reconnect with their past.

Why is this important? Because whether a person is able to have a connection with their ancestors – both in terms of their blood relations and community – people’s identity is impacted in profound ways.

Becoming separated from our past creates wounds that we protect and pass to our offspring. It prevents us from living fully, or for our children to live fully.

I invite you to consider that almost everyone in the United States and Canada is, to some extent, displaced from their history. Most families and individuals who immigrated to North America did so because they had to, leaving behind their community and families and culture to begin again. The indigenous peoples of North America were forced away from their communities and ways of living – even from their lands – by those same people; thereby losing their birthright.

We all have a birthright to reclaim. Sometimes that means recreating or rebirthing ourselves, sometimes it means retracing our stories (including what we imagine as the stories of our forbearers), and sometimes it means a little of both. By doing so, we reconnect ourselves to our past, and create a positive connection for those who come after us.

There is an indigenous belief that we are influenced by the 7 generations before us, and will influence the 7 generations after us. How do you want to influence everyone that comes after you?

 A family tree of humanity


Quote of the Week

We’re all ghosts. We all carry, inside us, people who came before us..”
― Liam Callanan, The Cloud Atlas



Need more? At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website or contact me directly at .

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at





Have you ever felt intimidated? I have: by the appearance of a large stranger in an isolated location; or an aggressive man or woman who talks loudly non-stop; or a teacher whose good opinion I depend on. Those are the kinds of people and situations that intimidate me the most.

Psychology Today looks at this topic in the October 2019 edition.

Sometimes when I’m feeling intimidated I begin to question myself: am I really getting this right? Did I make a mistake? I often automatically suspend judgment, giving myself time to think it over (I believe) before responding. When I do this, I become silent, effectively losing my voice. And this act of voluntary silence only adds to my sense of insecurity.

For many, we were taught as children to be silent. We were taught that adult opinions mean more than our own. Then, when we become adults, instead of shaking our childhood silence off, we carry it with us – as an ingrained habit that does nothing for our own personal sense of power.

What do you do when you feel intimidated? If I’m aware of that feeling, I speak up, because speaking up, no matter how badly it might come out, is a lot better than remaining silent.

It’s risky. I might hurt someone or get hurt. But with practice, I get better at it.

You will too!

(For tools in speaking up, watch the video below)

How to speak up for yourself

Quote of the Week

If you spend all your time thinking about how someone is going to one-up you, you can’t put your best foot forward..”
― Miranda Kenneally, Coming Up for Air


Need more? At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website or contact me directly at .

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at





That word – addiction – seems to be accumulating more categories and sub-categories these days. 20 years ago (or more), it meant a chemical dependence on a substance, and was limited to drugs (particularly opioids), and alcohol. The dependence was deemed so powerful that the medical world considered addicts close to hopeless.

This was the social and medical atmosphere when Alcoholics Anonymous was founded. It was begun in the hope that alcoholics could help one another. This turned into a kind of movement, inspiring others dependent on drugs, then on cigarettes, food, and relationships to develop similar support groups.

It was during this time that ‘addiction’ took on a broader meaning. Today, we understand it to mean (from Webster): a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects and typically causing well-defined symptoms (such as anxiety, irritability, tremors, or nausea) upon withdrawal or abstinence.

Many of us have experienced this, or something similar to this, even if we don’t consider ourselves addicts: the need for comfort food, computer games, porn, nail biting, shopping … the list is probably endless, when we need a distraction, feel nervous or anxious or overwhelmed. These kinds of external and often mindless activities give us a momentary comfort. They don’t, however, dissolve the problem, but merely temporarily mask it.

In the October edition of Psychology Today, a doctor talks about his battle with Opiods. He had been in a serious accident, and ended up having to take opiods to relieve his debilitating pain, discovering after taking this drug for a number of months that his body was addicted to them. His story includes the lack of understanding and support in the medical community on how to deal successfully with this. He eventually found a way to stop this dependency. I applaud him for this accomplishment, but throughout the article, I found it more interesting how he differentiated himself from other addicts: that he was dependent purely physically, and not mentally, emotionally or spiritually.

I, personally, don’t believe we can make such a distinction. I don’t believe we know enough on how these different systems in our body interact with each other to do so. I do know that there is a physical component in every addiction, and that it’s our dependence on something external to ourselves that is at least as destructive (for an excellent discussion on this, see the video link below).

In my line of work, dependencies on external substances, activities, and relationships come up constantly. When we are in pain, we tend to reach for the quickest path to some relief, and that is likely going to be something physical. The harder thing is to discover what inside us needs support and development.

External support is wonderful, and sometimes necessary. Long term relief from the ultimate pain of addiction needs more than that if we want to move toward a more permanent change for the better.


Everything we know about addiction is wrong

Quote of the Week

Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol, morphine or idealism..”
― Carl Gustav Jung


Need more? At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us.  I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website or contact me directly at .

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist and Life Coach.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at



Common Trauma Misconceptions

I’ve been speaking this month, quite often, about trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There are many misconceptions associated with PTSD both in the medical field and everyday society.

Rashish, a healthy living website, recently published the story about Rebecca, a 23 yr. old who never suspected she had issues related to trauma. The article states, “Before her diagnosis this past summer, Rebecca says she didn’t know much about PTSD. “I knew it was something serious that veterans dealt with, but I never had a reason to research the subject,” she says. “I thought there was some scale or level of degree of trauma that caused PTSD. I didn’t think my issues were comparable to a veteran’s, so I thought I was just weak.” Rebecca had struggled with depression and anxiety before, but she knew she was dealing with something else.” You can read the entire piece here:

I think what bothers me about misconceptions of trauma and PTSD is that we always think of someone ready to “snap” versus the daily struggle. Most people with trauma are like Rebecca. They feel anxious. They have panic attacks for that they think as “no reason”. They feel like laying down in bed all day or they can’t bare to stay home, they have to stay busy.

People deal with trauma in many different ways, often thinking they are fine- and often suffering from a multiple of subtle symptoms. Not everyone with trauma and PTSD is sitting at home, shaking, hallucinating, are being directed to commit a crime. Those cases are very rare. In fact, trauma victims are usually so confused about the subtle ways they feel, they end up being more of a harm to themselves than society- which is where I feel the misconceptions are birthed.

Another misconception is the cause of trauma or PTSD, which is often (and correctly) related to sexual abuse as a child or war. Well, these are not the only causes. Falls or sports injuries, Surgery (especially in the first 3 years of life),
the sudden death of someone close, a car accident, the breakup of a significant relationship, a humiliating or deeply disappointing experience, or the discovery of a life-threatening illness or disabling condition can all lead to the same feelings of anxiety, depression and withdrawal.

So, what are some of the more subtle emotional and psychological symptoms of trauma or PTSD:

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief
    Anger, irritability, mood swings
    Guilt, shame, self-blame
    Feeling sad or hopeless
    Confusion, difficulty concentrating
    Anxiety and fear
    Withdrawing from others
    Feeling disconnected or numb
    Insomnia or nightmares

Of course, this isn’t the complete list. People respond to different circumstances with a combination of these symptoms or symptoms not listed above. I can tell you that if you have been feeling anxious or depressed for the past three months and you find a life event on the causes I listed above, you should start to speak with someone about not only how you’re feeling, but how you’re coping.

I also offer free consultations and a free 7-Day Mediation program, which you can find here:

What Is PTSD?

The myth around Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is that only those who have been to war or beaten and abused as children can end up with it in life. In fact, there are many people who don’t even believe that PTSD is real.

Yes, it is real and NO you don’t have had to go war or have been the victim of childhood physical abuse to suffer from PTSD. Thus, I want to clarify a few things about PTSD in today’s post.

First, let me repost the clinical side of PTSD. PTSD symptoms are grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, or changes in emotional reactions.

Second, PTSD can come from any type of trauma. Emotional abuse, sexual abuse, childhood bullying, witnessing a violent crime, being a teller at a bank that has been robbed, etc. We all have different levels of tolerance, which impacts how we cope (or don’t cope) with various scenarios.

Now- on to the symptoms:

Intrusive memories

Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:

Recurrent, unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event
Symptoms of avoidance may include:

Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event
Avoiding places, activities or people that remind you of the traumatic event
Negative changes in thinking and mood
Symptoms of negative changes in thinking and mood may include:

Negative feelings about yourself or other people
Inability to experience positive emotions
Feeling emotionally numb
Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
Hopelessness about the future
Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
Difficulty maintaining close relationships
Changes in emotional reactions
Symptoms of changes in emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:

Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
Always being on guard for danger
Overwhelming guilt or shame
Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
Trouble concentrating
Trouble sleeping
Being easily startled or frightened
If you feel that you have more than half of these symptoms, it is time to seek out help. No, pills are not the full answer. Prescriptions can help with sleep or help with anxiety, but cognitive therapy is a very important element of recovering from PTSD.

Free Online Counseling

Many people are busy. You’re on LinkedIN networking. You have work to do. Maybe you have kids or parents to take care of. When do you have time to get caught up with all of your personal and then professional obligations in order to take care of yourself?

I offer individual counseling sessions online. Yes, they are secure and confidential and – best of all- the first one is FREE. Yes, a free session of counseling with me. After all, you want to know how this works and if I am a right match to help you with a variety of problems or a specific challenge. If you want to sign up, click here:

How can counseling help? Well, there are a variety of ways to counsel people to help with different emotional and mental health issues. The reasons people seek out counseling is for growth and help and support, not because they are different or that something is wrong with them. With the ability to now offer online counseling, I am able to truly help people in a convenient and confidential manner.

The Huffington Post recently published a great article on the 8 Signs You Should Seek Counseling. The article states, ” Everyone experiences periods of stress, sadness, grief and conflict, so when you’re feeling off it can be hard to know if it’s time to see a professional about the problem. And apparently, those who would benefit from some therapeutic intervention are not seeking it enough: While one in five American adults suffer from some form of mental illness, only about 46-65 percent with moderate-to-severe impairment are in treatment, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

And while identifying and managing diagnosable mental illness is a priority in the psychiatric community, psychological help for those without a clear condition to manage can be just as important. Aside from suffering needlessly, those in distress may actually make the problem worse by avoiding professional help.”

You can read it in its entirety here:

Want to know more about me and my programs, or just want to read my prior blogs? Please check out my company, The Joy of Living, here:

Abuse At Work!

Do you work with abusive people? It’s very possible and probable. We don’t get into relationships with abusive people willingly (it usually happens for a variety of reasons) and we can’t select the people we work with, either. This is not to say that we are not working alongside, if not for, some very emotionally abusive people.

Do you know how to spot a workplace bully? If not, I’m putting some tips below.

According to a recent study, 72% of all people bully at work. But what is the difference between bullying (not that its right) and being downright abusive? If your co-workers or your boss are constantly slamming doors, being verbally rude and insulting or erupting in angry tirades, but then appear to act reasonably on the surface – abuse is being dealt out.

In fact, isolation is a form of workplace place abuse. If your boss or a coworker instigates malicious rumors and gossip, provides excessive work with unrealistic deadlines, shuns or ignores you in meetings, giving unwarranted, invalid or public criticism, blames without factual justification, swears and provides excessive micromanagement, the abusive actions and bullying are taking place!

I found a great free website that deals with bullying and abuse at work. It has quizzes and resources, which can be accessed here: I can also help you discuss how to be proactive within your organization or company to prevent employees from abusing and bullying one another. Want to learn more about my workplace therapy programs? Please click here:

A New Way Of Looking At Addiction, That Contains A Ray Of Hope

I want to share with you an amazing message given by Johann Hari in a recent Ted Talk.  It’s amazing because it makes so much sense on a topic that is both painful and sensitive to so many of us – addiction.  I’ve included the link below.  I think it’s worth the time to watch and listen.

Hari’s main point is that addiction isn’t about some physical dependence on something:  he gives loads of evidence showing that many of us, including drug addicts, have experiences with habit-forming drugs, and don’t end up needing them afterwards, or even experiencing withdrawal.  The real underlying reason for addiction – to drugs, alcohol, sugar, work, exercising – anything at all that we turn to compulsively – is, in his words, isolation. Of “not being able to bear to be present in our lives”.

Our response to drug addicts is to punish them.  Our response to alcoholics is to avoid them.  Our response to food addicts is to shame them.  All isolating. All fail to work.

The real answer, he claims, is connecting, bonding.  If for some reason we aren’t able to bond with other people or with our world, then we will bond to whatever we can – and this might be drugs, alcohol, food, work – anything that gives us something to connect with, avoiding our sense of isolation.

Addictive substances and addictive habits, looking at it from Hari’s point of view, are natural ways of coping with the unbearable. He points out that our modern society is one of the loneliest societies that have ever been! No wonder addiction has become a way of living for so many!

How can we truly help ourselves, our friends, and our society?

There is all kinds of help out there – from 12-step programs to rehabilitation centres, to harm reduction, to community support.  The one thing they all have in common is community support, where the addict is loved back to a healthy balance.

Hari’s suggestion: deepen the connection.  Love our friend, or ourselves, no matter what.  Commit to being there for them, so that we all know that we are no longer alone.

Because the opposite of addiction is connection.

Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong!



Quote of the Week
I felt that if he touched me, I’d die. And then the thought crawled into my brain that if he didn’t touch me, I’d die.
-Kitty Thomas, The Auction

3 Ways to Stay Grounded


Staying grounded is easy- well, at least this is what “they” tell you. Staying grounded during difficult time requires work and being aware of your environment and what is impacting you.  While the tips I am listing below are ways to help you stay grounded during tough times, I also recommend one-on-one therapy.  These tips are suggestions and they do help, but they do not solve the inner challenges or responses when it comes to dealing with difficult times in life.

Now, without further delay, 3 ways to help you stay grounded during difficult times;

1. As difficult and painful as it can be,  look at things just as they are and make an honest assessment of the situation. What is going on in the world, in your relationships, in your work situation, etc? How are things really?

2. Be thankful. Now that you’re seeing more clearly, it is important that you practice gratitude. Perhaps this seems a bit odd when we are looking into the face of painful, stressful situations, yet gratitude can help us put things into perspective.

3. Seek support. Because staying present can be extremely difficult in the face of a chaotic and exciting world, you will always need some sort of support. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, we all have to at some point.

Developing Awareness 101

I help people develop their own personal awareness in my therapy sessions. It is part of my Gestalt therapy rooted applications and process when helping clients grow.  This said, however, I was recently asked if there are any Gestalt rooted practices someone could do at home to help develop their own self-awareness. Well, of course, there are!

What I really like people to start with at home is a concentration technique.  There are four steps to this process, which are as follows; First- start with maintaining the sense of actuality. This means you concentrate on your here and now.  Don’t disassociate to stress or daydreams. If you’re sitting in a quite room, try to remain (mentally) in the quite room and not lost in thought.

Next, realize that you are living the experience – acting it, observing it, suffering it, resisting it.  If your mind keeps wandering away from the quite room, understand this is happening and then ask yourself why your mind keeps trying to leave the room. Will it suffer from being in the present? Will it resist it because you may be forced to deal with the stillness of the here and now?  The follow-up step to this is to attend to all experiences, whether internal or external, the abstract as well as the concrete, to those that you ‘wish’ for and to those that you deliberately produce. It is key to take responsibility for them all, including your blocks and symptoms.

The final step is to verbalize what you are feeling out-loud and to yourself. Try something like, ‘Now I am aware that I can’t keep my mind still and in this room, I realize that I am overly stressed about money. I can’t stop worrying about it. Money is causing me to stress and causing me harm. I’m going to take action now by……”

Of course, all this takes practice. I can help you. Make sure to click and connect with me for personalized help and deeper work.