Archive: Anger and Depression

Being vulnerable – what does it really mean?


Listening to Krista Tippett  being interviewed (for a change). The topic was Vulnerability.

Her point, when asked about her own vulnerability, was that it is ever-present. Otherwise, why all the many studies that continue on this topic?

It’s something we learn to hide at an early age – that’s why we armor. Something that we protect the most. Something that we know is precious, and that we therefore treat as fragile.

I know I do at times. I can become highly protective of my own vulnerability whenever I’m with someone I don’t trust, or who I feel is attacking me.  What I tend to do is to attack back. It’s a natural response: one of two that we have at our disposal when feeling threatened.

My challenge – and I suspect this is true for may of you – is to learn to treat my own vulnerability as powerful, and not fragile. So that when I feel threatened, I can still show that I’m vulnerable – can still show the tender parts – and know, deep down, that I am safe.



If you like this blog, you’ll also like my newsletters for a sample. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

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

Turning into a wilted flowed from burnout


I have a dream. And today I’m discouraged and disheartened because my efforts in realizing that dream aren’t going as well as I’d like.  It’s so hard sometimes: spending hours that I thought were going to be minutes on one task after another, then discovering a flaw and starting over.  Those are just the every-day issues.  The worst thing that gets in my way is me: my own discouragement, my own loss of faith that I can do this.

This isn’t the first time I’ve felt like this, and it won’t be the last.  I haven’t given up on my dream, and honestly, don’t see that I will. I know there are a lot of people out there just like me, and I hope that what I say next will help you, as it helped me.

I have to remind myself on days like today that how I feel right now will pass, if I let it. And I ‘let it” by taking care of myself in every way. I keep putting one foot in front of the other, I get clear on what’s important, and I find ways of de-stressing and maintaining faith in myself.

Sounds simple. We all know it isn’t.

But it works. I know.

My online workshop on Burning the Candle at Both Ends is starting this October. Click here if you’re interested in learning about it.

Beating the Odds

There are many kinds of disasters. Some life-shattering, most not life-shattering. Those that are truly awful aren’t usually the kind we can predict or avoid. The rest usually are.

Like driving down a major highway in traffic, wearing white and eating cherries.

I did exactly that 5 days ago. My thinking went like this: You know this could be disastrous.  But it’s OK.  I’ll be careful.  Well, the inevitable happened … I wasn’t careful enough.

I predicted it. I could have avoided it easily. I didn’t, instead convincing myself that I could beat the odds. This time.

I take silly risks like this every day, filling the void created from avoiding worry or boredom with something that brings excitement and distraction.

How would my day be different if, instead, I acknowledged my worry or boredom, and truly nourished my spirit?



If you like this blog, you’ll also like my newsletter. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

To sign up for my insider newsletter, click here.  If you find it doesn’t work for you, all you have to do to unsubscribe is click on the link at the bottom of the newsletter.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my growing list of insiders!



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

Bullying and moving beyond


You might have heard of Lizzie Valasquez, a motivational speaker and author. Lizzie suffers from a rare congenital disease that makes her stand out, whether she wants to or not. In her latest book Dare to be Kind, she talks, among other things, about bullying.

Even when she was a young child, people would sometimes react negatively to her physical appearance.  As young as 5 years old, she would hear adults comment in hurtful ways about her appearance, unable to understand how they as adults could hurt a child who hadn’t done anything to them. She’d want her parents to righteously protect her, but instead, one of them would approach the adult and say “This is my daughter Lizzie.  Would you like to meet her?”

It took Lizzie a long time to recognize the wisdom behind her parents’ response. Instead of seeing one person as victim and the other as perpetrator, they saw 2 people who needed help in 2 different ways: Their daughter needed to be made visible in a truly supportive way; and the bully needed to be seen for who he or she was in that moment – someone who was hurting.

Only people who are hurting hurt others. The bully lashes out because they’re hurting, and they don’t know how to better handle their pain.

Here’s how to deal effectively with bullying.

  • 2 choices. In this situation, you have only 2 choices: you can choose to ignore the bullying, or you can respond to it. Neither choice is the “right” one, and only you can determine what’s right for you. One suggestion: consider the consequences of your choice.
  • Ignoring it. Is this a battle you really want to fight? If the bullying isn’t extreme, if it’s a one-off situation, or if it’s potentially dangerous, you might consider ignoring it. Putting yourself in physical danger is rarely justified, and there is no shame in turning away if that’s what you need to do.
  • Responding to it. This takes courage, and if done effectively, can end bullying, or at least suppress it. Effectively responding to a bully requires empathy – putting yourself in the shoes of the person you feel is being a bully, because we all have the potential to bully.  If I’m hurt and feel isolated, I’ll respond or react to anything or anyone with, at the very least, caution and self-protection.  If, on the other hand, I feel safe, I’ll be a lot more open to giving others the benefit of the doubt.

A bullying person is a hurt person.  Respecting that they hurt, and at the same time respecting your own needs, may make the difference between a potentially dangerous and explosive encounter and a minor incident.

If you’ve ever been bullied, being empathetic isn’t easy. It’s a personal affront – hurtful, ignorant, abusive and disrespectful. It might help to understand that everything we see, do and say is a reflection of what’s going on inside us. To bully others, we must first bully ourselves.

To move on from being bullied means being able to leave it behind, emotionally and mentally, so that it doesn’t take up any space inside you.  Moving on means that the current encounter, and all future encounters are no longer a problem – that you’ve mastered them.

Choosing to respond to bullying in an empathetic and balanced way is empowering.


If you’re interested in knowing about your natural character traits, you might be interested in Discover Your Natural Character.

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

Anger: how it helps and how it hurts us

Let me tell you a story that you may know yourself. You’re in the office and hear your manager tearing a strip off a co-worker. The manager is angermeterangry bordering on rage. She seems to have a point, but her attitude toward the co-worker is, in itself, anger-making.

How does this impact you as an unwilling observer? What would you find yourself doing about it?

Some of us would get angry and react by either saying something in anger or avoiding the situation altogether, likely feeling badly about it later. A few of us may get angry and then take it in, responding once we were ready, feeling OK later, if we thought about it at all.

The former reaction hurts us and the second helps us. As Ambrose Bierce said, “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”

Anger is a natural and necessary emotion. It’s how we deal with our own anger that determines whether it hurts or helps us. Anger is a natural response to perceived threats. It causes our body to release adrenaline, our muscles to tighten, and our heart rate and blood pressure to increase. Our senses might feel more acute and our face and hands flushed. Anger becomes a problem only when we don’t manage it in a healthy way.

Anger helps us in at least three ways:

  1. Anger protects us when we are in physical danger by kicking in our “fight or flight” response, allowing us to act quickly.
  2. Anger can let us know when something isn’t right and we need to take action. For instance, if a person isn’t listening to us when an important situation arises.
  3. Anger teaches us about what is important to us and about our own bottom lines. For instance, back to the story, is mutual respect in the workplace a bottom line for you?

Next time you get angry, notice how you respond. Begin to appreciate how getting angry, if felt mindfully, can be a powerful teacher in our lives.

 Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.


Toxic? Moi?



I was inspired to write this from an article I read in Psychology Today (June, 2017) called Poison People. It’s a topic that interests many – being with someone we believe is poisonous is at minimum uncomfortable, and can be difficult. I don’t think anyone’s afraid of being physically hurt by a toxic person, but are afraid of being damaged socially or emotionally.

Poisonous, or toxic, behavior is something we see more and more in the workplace. It can be from narcissism or callousness, but more often it’s from the kind of environment everyone’s in. That environment is one where productivity is the only benchmark of success. This kind of atmosphere nurtures uncertainty and mistrust, divides people and forces everyone to hide behind the psychological armoring of manipulation and turf-protection.

I invite you to read the article.  What interested me as I read it is that all of us – that’s right, you and me – can be – and will probably end up being – toxic if immersed in a toxic environment for very long.

How can we not? If we know that nothing anyone says is straight up, and that the only thing that matters is who gets noticed first, how long will it be before nobody is motivated by anything but fear of not making it, and “making it” will include others not making it.

In today’s work environment, where more and more of us are treading with our noses just above the water line (or not anymore, it just seems that way), this toxic environment can feel like it’s everywhere.  I’ve been to so many networking events lately where there’s this mad rush to hand out cards and spill forth what we do, with little or no interest in what the person we are talking to does or cares about.

Too many of us are scared.  And when we’re scared, we’re in stress response.  When we’re in stress response, it’s actually impossible for us to be present and available for others. And that’s when We – you and I – become toxic.

What can we do individually to clear out the toxin? At least 3 things:

  1. Self-cleaning: it always begins with us. If we’re stressed and/or miserable, then we’re also likely heading in that direction.  And before we can do anything about our surroundings and others, we need to deal with whatever is making us miserable first.  This might mean changing jobs, or discovering what the stress is all about and addressing it.  It might mean seeking help, or joining a self-help group.  Whatever your choice, begin it, because without that first step, nothing else follows.
  2. Be the example. If you find yourself in a toxic environment, and in a position of leadership, then you’re in a great place. Because you have the power to start changing things. It may be that you’ll eventually need to relocate or find another job, but in the meantime, you can become a ray of hope for others. And, what you’ll learn is never lost, and can help you find a better job in a non-toxic place next time.
  3. Engage your empathy. We are all in this together!  If you’ve read this far, then you know what I mean.  Even the worst offender deserves our empathy and understanding (which doesn’t mean caving in and going along with toxicity).

I want, more than anything, to live in a productive world where the people around me are happy and feel fulfilled.  I believe that most of us want that.  And sometimes this means first taking stock of our own part in what we see as the problem.


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

When it looks like Checkmate, is there another way?

There’s a wonderful description and discussion, written by Glen McDonald, of Friedrich Retzsch’s painting The Chess Players, that is – sadly – published on a non-public website, and is therefore not accessible.

I’ve included an image of this famous painting.


The Chess Players, also commonly called Checkmate,
by Friederich August Moritz Retzsch (1779-1857)

On the board, the white figures represent the virtues of a righteous life, the black figures symbolize temptations. The black side is definitely winning, and is being played by Mephistopheles, or Satan. The white is played by the young man.  He sits in despair, his pieces surrounded and his queen captured.

Retzsch’s inspiration came from Goethe’s Faust. It’s the story of a young doctor who makes a deal with Satan in exchange for adventure. The young man is just at the point of realizing the true cost of his decision.

Notice the details: the chessboard sits on the top slab of a tomb, there’s a large deadly-looking spider crawling onto the board, the angel behind them is looking sad and resigned at the young man.  All is lost.

In the 1800’s, this painting captured the imagination of Rev. R.R. Harrison of Virginia, and he hosted a dinner party with Checkmate as the star player. It was for the benefit of members of a local Chess club. One of the guests was a famous Chess Player – Paul Morphy. Harrison decided to recreate the positions of all the pieces. Harrison thought the devil had won, but Morphy thought differently.

Morphy took on the remaining white pieces, and by the end of the evening, he’d beaten all the other guests, who had taken Satan’s black pieces.

You may find yourself in a similar position – feeling hopeless and defeated, unable to see any light at the end of the tunnel.  You may have made some big mistakes, and feel you sold your soul to the devil. But all is not lost!

If you take the time to find the master inside you, the game isn’t over.

In the video below, the narrator talks of the Lakota story and their desperate circumstances. Comparing their situation to that of the young man in the painting – desperate, feeling hopeless, maneuvered and forced into the situation they’re in by others – it would require an incredible kind of person to climb out of that morass.

And yet, some have. Truly incredible people.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

America’s Native Prisoners of War

Quote of the Week
When things go wrong, don’t go with them.
― Elvis Presley

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

Hurt People and Free People

hurt people hurt people and free people free people – anon

I first heard that phrase in an interview with Sarah Jones.  I thought it perfectly captured the dynamics of both sets of people.  When I’m hurting, I’m miserable and all my focus is on my misery. When I’m feeling great, the exact opposite is true: anything that happens during that time is completely workable.  There is nothing that really gets to me.  I’m generous with myself and others, helpful in a real way, and generally positive and energized.

I’m really no different from anyone else in this way.  To prove my point, if you’ve ever wanted something really badly – say, a red VW Beatle (are there any of those outside Mexico anymore?) – then all of a sudden, you will – guaranteed – begin to see an amazing number of red VW Beatles, or at least red cars.  Every time a red car is in your line of vision, it will literally grab your attention.  It’s like being in an auditorium and hearing your name: you may not have heard anything else, but you will hear your name.

Whatever I’m focused on is what I’m going to notice.  So, when I’m miserable, I’ll notice things that make me more miserable.  And even more, I’ll want subconsciously – or even unconsciously – to be with others who are miserable.  That old saying “misery loves company” should really read (as a psych prof of mine once said) “misery loves equally miserable company”.

And, when I’m feeling great, my focus is on that great feeling. And I want everyone around me to feel that great.

It reminds me of what I heard many different inspirational people say: if you’re simply surviving and not thriving, there is no way you can wish anything better on others.  The focus must be solely on survival. I don’t know if this is a law of nature, but it seems so. Sometimes, however, we only feel we are surviving; and simply feeling this will make us act as if that’s all we’re doing: surviving.  There may not be anything we can do when we are truly barely surviving – all our resources really must be focused on survival – but we can do something about our mindset if we’re beyond that point but don’t know it. Like the relative who has a million dollars in the bank but still rummages around garbage bins looking for cast-away produce (yes, I have known people who do this) – not because they believe in not wasting anything, but because they believe they are barely surviving.

For me, the way I got myself out of feeling I was only surviving, was understanding what I was doing to those I cared about.  I was making them as miserable as I felt, without realizing this.  I simply couldn’t help it! As long as I was focused on surviving, this was bound to happen.  For me, that realization snapped me out of the survival mindset, creating a crack in my armor, and I was able to see the truth of my situation.
Today, I don’t have a million dollars in the bank, but I can still feed and shelter myself. I’m careful with my money so that I can use it to live well and happily. Instead I spend a great deal of my time volunteering and finding ways of helping those in my community.

I love what I do, and a big part of why I love it is my focus.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

Pastor Rick – Surviving isn’t thriving

hurt people

Quote of the Week

If human beings are perceived as potentials rather than problems, as possessing strengths instead of weaknesses, as unlimited rather than dull and unresponsive, then they thrive and grow in their capabilities.
― Barbara Bush

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

Is It Depression or Something Else?


Many celebrities are talking about the positive mental health movement. They want to take away the stigma of mental health challenges and encourage everyone to be more proactive. While I was thinking about today’s post, I came across a story on a popular TV show that dealt with depression…. only the lady didn’t have depression. In fact, she had pancreatic cancer! Her psychiatrist was seeing her for other reasons, noticed the change, and encouraged a follow-up with her doctor.

Depression is serious on its own, but sometimes there are underlining medical issues that need to be considered (or ruled out) before anyone starts treatment for depression. We tend not to think about underlining medical causes for depression because, well – we tend to be busy people with varied stressors within our lives. Depression can happen or we can be hiding it for years, or we don’t want to deal with the stigma of seeing a mental health professional and then we decide to simply “live with it”.

I’m here to tell you, today, that simply “living with it” isn’t a good option because you deserve to address your happiness – or, in rare cases, an underlining medical condition!

I am GIVING AWAY online therapy consultations. I can help you discover what the online therapy benefits are and you get to test-drive my services and see if we are a good match. To learn more about me, my programs, and read my free blog- please click here:

The Best Anti-Depressant – Self-Love

Depression is increasing in our society, to the extent that it is expected to become the second largest cause of disability by 2020. So often these days, depression is treated with anti-depressant drugs, either on their own or combined with psychotherapy.

In a recent study, published in 2016, researchers from the University Medical Centre in Amsterdam studied the results on patients with depression using antidepressants of varying kinds. They compared the results of using these drugs without additional psychotherapy, against using them with psychotherapy, and also compared the results of using psychotherapy without drugs.   Their analysis included 23 studies with a total of 2164 patients.

The results were: that in the short term (up to 6 months), using a combination of drugs and therapy was beneficial; using drugs alone was not beneficial.  However, longer than 6 months, using psychotherapy alone was more beneficial for the patients in these studies than either of the other two alternatives.
In other words, Anti-depressants, long-term, provide no added value. Psychotherapy does provide added value.

Depression is defined as a mood disorder or illness, and one that is characterized by sadness and a feeling of hopelessness.  It’s something that lasts for a long time and doesn’t go away after a few hours. When we’re depressed, we may “know” logically that this feeling won’t last, but still feel emotionally that it will last forever; we are listless, lack motivation, and isolate – all which deepen the depression.

If you’re mildly depressed, then there are things you can do for yourself, the primary one being to move: go for a walk or a swim, do the dishes or make your bed.  Any kind of movement will lift depression to some extent.  The other major thing you can do is connect – with a friend, a pet, or even with Nature – countering the impact of isolation.

If you’re deeply depressed, these two things will help, but you’ll need the extra help of a therapist that you trust and can work with. Here are some suggestions:

  • Find two or three therapists. Take the time and effort to find two or three therapists in your area; or if you’d rather meet online, then find two or three therapists who can meet with you online. Check out their credentials – in Ontario a person can’t call themselves a psychotherapist unless they are registered with the College of Registered Psychotherapists of Ontario, or CRPO, in which case they will have an “RP” beside their name.  This ensures they have the appropriate training and minimum number of hours to be of service.  There are other equivalent designations as well as Registered Psychotherapist in Ontario and elsewhere; you may need to do some searching to discover what these are.
  • Set up phone interviews with each of these therapists. During your interview, you will want to find out what kind of person they are and if you will be able to trust them and work with them.  Assuming they have good credentials, this is more important than specific credentials, because it’s the interconnection you make with this other person that will be the foundation of your road towards health and happiness and out of depression. Have a list of questions ready to ask. These might include the following:
    • What is your experience in working with people with depression?You will want someone who has some experience working in the field of depression, or in related fields such as anxiety or stress.
    • What is your approach? How are you and I going to work together?  You will need to be comfortable with their particular approach, having some idea of what you will get out of a given session.  A therapist will not be able to tell you how long it will take be rid yourself of depression because every person and situation is different, but they will be able to tell you about how they will work with you.
    • What do you expect from me? This is a critical question: a therapist isn’t there to make you better, but to help you make yourself better. Their expertise is in facilitating change, but it’s still your commitment to this process of change that will make the difference.  If in your interview the therapist claims they can make you better, chose a different therapist.
    • What goals will be set; how will you assess how I’m doing?   Their answer has a log to do with their style, which you will need to comfortable with.
    • What is your gut feeling about this therapist? The most important question of all – because in the end you need to feel good about working with this person.
  • Chose a therapist and set up your first appointment. You will not be able to tell for sure if this therapist is the right one for you until you’ve been with them for a few sessions.  Forget about the cost – most good therapists charge about the same amount, and you can also discover from google what the going rate is in your area. If this therapist doesn’t work out, then thank them for their time, and move to the next one on your list.  It won’t be long until you find the right one for you. None of the sessions are a waste – you’ve discovered something about yourself in terms of what works, and you’ve done it in a considered way.

Self-love means taking care of ourselves. Taking care of ourselves can sometimes mean getting professional help. If we’re caring and considerate, then it can’t help but lead us into a better space: by taking action on our own behalf, we are acting from the place of empowerment, and in doing so, have already taken our first step on the road to health and happiness.

Dwayne Johnson on Depression

Quote of the Day



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