Wednesday, June 23, 2010


If you feel lonely, you’re not alone. Loneliness is a subjective sense of isolation – a feeling of not being able to connect with other people, a sense of being apart. As humans, we feel the need to be with other people. We need to relate to others, to get involved in their lives, to work with them, and to express our emotions around other people. Our social needs are nearly as powerful as our other basic needs, like our needs for food, water, and shelter.

When we are deprived of our social needs, we can become fearful. Our sense of being alone might become amplified. It is common for a person in social isolation to magnify the thoughts that accompany loneliness – and then withdraw even further from others. When we choose to withdraw, we may end up feeling trapped in our isolation.

Given the importance of social connection, it is surprising that twenty percent of people feel sufficiently isolated that loneliness plays a major role in their lives. Over the past several decades our culture has changed to the point where loneliness has emerged as a major social and psychological problem. We are a culture that places a premium on individualism. We emphasize the importance of being able to do things on our own. Many people pride themselves on their ability to survive and experience success without having to depend on other people. The down side of this social norm, however, is that many of us feel lonely. We do need other people.

Research findings confirm that as a society we are moving toward more loneliness. Respondents to a social science survey in 2004 were three times more likely to report that they had nobody with whom to discuss important issues than respondents in 1985. During the past twenty years the size of the average household has declined ten percent to 2.5 persons. In 1990, more than one in five households was headed by a single parent – and today that figure is one in three. In 2000 more than twenty-seven million in the U.S. lived entirely alone, and the estimate for 2010 is twenty-nine million.

The Effects of Loneliness

Physical pain alerts us to the need to take action to end the pain. Social pain in the form of loneliness tells us to end our isolation. Indeed, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) of the brain indicates that the same region of the brain is activated when a person feels rejection as when they feel physical pain. Research has found that chronic feelings of loneliness accelerate the aging process. It has an effect on our stress hormones, immune function, and cardiovascular function, which, over time, are compounded.

Loneliness also has an effect on our thoughts and feelings. When we feel socially isolated, it is more difficult to concentrate and we are more easily distracted by unimportant events. Our self-esteem might plummet when we feel lonely. We tend to make small errors into catastrophes. We are more likely to have feelings of depression.

When we feel apart from other people, we find it more difficult to take corrective action when things go wrong – and we might find false comfort in addictive behavior. We might feel that everybody else is connected and happy – and here we are struggling to get by alone. Our thoughts may become distrustful, and we isolate ourselves even further from other people. We might think that we are destined to be alone, and then we may give up hope that things will ever get better. We may feel that if there were only a friend out there, life would be easier (and it would be).

Interestingly, research has found that people who feel lonely have as many social contacts as people who don’t feel lonely. And almost everybody has a feeling of being lonely occasionally. Loneliness becomes an issue only when it settles in long enough to create a persistent loop of negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Loneliness emerges from how we think.

Breaking the Loneliness Cycle

We create a reality for ourselves that determines how others view us. Other people observe this reality and use it to define us. Then they act toward us on the basis of that assessment. So, if we see ourselves as lonely people who are trapped in a cycle of isolation, others will also see us that way and will treat us accordingly. We then get caught in a negative feedback loop where we become self-protective, we distrust that others will like us, and we move even further into isolation. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When we get caught in this loop, we lose control and self-regulation. Our thoughts might become distorted so that we can’t take effective action in connecting with other people. Our level of activity declines, replaced by passivity and negativity. In our loneliness, we might not be able to read cues from other people appropriately, and then we make decisions that hamper our ability to break out of the isolation and make friends.

Obviously, the place to start when we want to break out of the loneliness cycle is to change how we view ourselves, despite our years of evidence that might convince us otherwise. And then we need to start taking action to bring people into our lives. It might sound hard, but it can change things for the better.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Rapid Resolution Therapy: Healing the invisible emotional wounds.

RRT is a state of the art and cutting edge psychotherapeutic approach that has applications in all sorts of areas and two places it has the most amazing results is with complicated grief and trauma.

One of the most powerful tools you learn in Rapid Resolution Therapy is how to heal the invisible emotional wounds, the kind that typically don't get better with traditional talk therapy.  

What most therapists learn in graduate school is that when going through painful, horrific, traumatic experiences people are unable to express how it made them feel. Instead, they repressed the feelings, buried them, locked them behind a closed door and it is the therapists job to provide a safe and nurturing, warm and supportive environment for the person to emote, re-experience the past pain to release it.  It is a difficult and painful process for both the client and therapist (compassion fatigue).

Rapid Resolution Therapy provides an alternative view on Trauma.  When going through painful events, the experience slams into the person's consciousness and leaves it's impression (think of hand slamming into the sand).   What happens is that the deeper part of the mind, not the intellect, will confuse the impression left thinking it is the experience itself.

As a result, the primitive, deeper part of the mind is in a hyper state of awareness and will confuse thoughts about the experience thinking it is the experience. In addition it will confuse smells, images, voice tone, sounds, time of day and time of year with the painful experience causing the same physiological and emotional reaction as if the experience were happening.

The real problem with trauma is the deeper part of the mind has never gotten the good news that the bad experience is finished.  Instead of trying to get the feelings out, what one does with RRT is to update the primitive part of the mind.  To do this requires some skill but is easy and fun to learn.  The therapist job is to keep the client emotionally present as they recall the past troubling event. Once that happens, the person is no longer troubled by the painful experience.  The primitive part of the mind realizes the event is completed and finished. The triggers have been eliminated and the person is free.  This is a fast and painless process for the client and often times can be completed in a single office visit.

Dr. Quintal & Associates
5460 Lena Road
Suite 103
Bradenton, FL 34211

To Forgive

All of us have been hurt, in one way or another, by someone else. While it is easy to forgive a friend for the slight distress we feel over a phone call that was not returned, it is not so easy to forgive those who have harmed us in a major way. The greatest hurt seems to come from those who play the most significant roles in our lives. The enormity of the hurt may lead us to conclude that we can never forgive the other person. To forgive or not to forgive is one of our life choices. It is important for our own emotional well-being to understand that it is a choice, and a choice with consequences.

Consider this question – if the harm we have experienced leads us to a life dominated by unresolved anger, a negative image of ourselves, and an inability to trust, are we not allowing the perpetrator to continue to have power over us? When we have sleep-less nights cycling and recycling thoughts about old hurts, when we seethe with anger, when we ask questions repetitively that seem to have no answers, we continue to suffer the consequences of being hurt. Perhaps our goal should be to find a way to free our-selves from the damage and to reclaim our lives for ourselves.

There are many ways of being hurt. Some are minor and some are more severe. In some cases we are the unwitting victim of those who hurt us. At other times we collude in allowing ourselves to suffer by building expectations that make us vulnerable or placing our trust in the wrong places. Whatever the nature of the damage done to us, it is a potential source of learning. We can allow the hurt to keep us down as we continue to play the role of the victim – or, alternatively, we can learn to overcome it, adapt to it, try to make sure that it never happens again, and, if it does occur again, learn to deal with it more effectively.

Here are some of the ways that people are hurt –

Unmet expectations. We are disappointed when we build expectations that are dashed. We don’t always get what we want, and this is to be expected. When we build our hopes on achieving a major goal, however, like not getting the promotion we had hoped for or losing the love we had so longed for, the result can be catastrophic. The hurt can be enormous.

Humiliation. When we are ridiculed by others – especially during childhood, as often happens when children are called derisive names – or when our pride is wounded, as might happen when a supervisor at work berates us in front of others, the assault on our dignity may impel us to hide, put up impenetrable walls, and vow never to be hurt again.

Rejection. When we are rejected or abandoned, we experience loss – but perhaps more impor-tant is the fact that we hear the message that we are not good enough. We have to deal with grieving the loss of an important emotional bond – and our self-image is assaulted as well. The fear of abandonment is a powerful force in the lives of many people. This fear can have a strong impact on the way they relate to the world and other people.

Deception. Some people may manipulate or lie to us, using us to further their own goals. This occurs, for example, when we are asked to keep “family secrets” or to deny real problems. Not only do we learn to distrust others, but we might also come to distrust our own judgment for falling prey to the deceptions of other people. This harms our ability to trust, and our self-esteem as well.

Abuse. We hear about abuse frequently in the media these days. Abuse comes in many forms – physical, emotional, sexual, or through neglect – and it can happen in childhood or in an adult relationship. Many people who suffered from abuse during their childhoods go straight into an abusive adult relationship. The consequences are enormous for the victim. We feel low, unable to share with others, and suspect that others must somehow know about our horrible secrets. We are left with a sense of powerlessness and a legacy of guilt and shame.

Choosing to Forgive
Forgiving the one who caused us harm may seem like the last thing we would want to do. After all, by not forgiving, we can hold onto the belief that we have some power over the perpetrator and that we can therefore prevent the harm from ever happening to us again. Or we may be so invested in playing the role of victim that to forgive would mean giving up a large part of how we define ourselves. We may feel that evil should never be forgiven.

An important point to keep in mind, however, is that when we forgive, we are doing it for ourselves, not for the other person. Forgiving is one way of letting go of old baggage so that we can move on with our lives. Forgiveness does not change the past – but it does change what we can have in the future.

There are no deadlines for choosing the option of forgiveness. Forgiving is a highly personal act, and it will not happen until we are ready to let go of the old hurt and move on in our lives with a sense of personal empowerment. Premature forgiveness is not really forgiveness at all. We must prepare for it, and this requires a deep look into our lives. Above all, it is a choice – and some people may choose not to forgive at all. This is a perfectly valid personal decision in certain situations.

The Nature of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is not a way of forgetting the past. Indeed, if we have been harmed, we should not forget it. We can learn from the past about how to avoid being harmed in the future. Nor is forgiveness a way of exonerating the perpetrator. We recognize that the harm did happen, that the other person is responsible for this and must come to terms with their own guilt. We are not trying to minimize the harm or claim that the behavior was acceptable. When we forgive, we are not sacrificing anything or giving up our sense of self-worth. Indeed, we are doing just the opposite – by taking a stand that says that we are strong and finally free of playing the role of victim. Forgiveness is a way of declaring our integrity.

Forgiveness is a way of saying, “It’s time for healing. The pain of the past should now be put behind me.” Thus, forgiving is a way to express self-assertion and positive self-esteem. To forgive is to declare that our identity is centered around far more than the intense feelings that come from the past. It means that we have better things to do in life than continuing to live under the influence of the one who has caused us pain. Forgiveness implies that we no longer need to hold grudges – we no longer need self-pity or hatred, and we declare our independence from victimhood. Forgiveness signifies breaking the cycle of pain and abuse, giving up the belief that the other person should hurt as much as we do. It means abandoning the myth that if we hurt the other person, it will make us feel better. To forgive implies giving up the unrealistic hope that an apology will have the same meaning to the per-petrator as it has for us. It tells us that we are moving our energy from the negative to the positive.

A Forgiveness “To Do” List
  • Understand fully that forgiveness does not mean that it is all right for the aggressive behavior to ever be repeated. Forgiveness is meant for past behavior that was unacceptable.
  • Give up the unrealistic hope that the perpetra-tor will apologize, answer your questions or be able to explain why he or she hurt you. Even if apologies or answers were forthcom-ing, they would not alleviate the pain. The perpetrator’s views, and depth of insight, will differ from your own.
  • Understand that the pain is all yours, not the other person’s. When we forgive, it is for the purpose of dealing with our own pain.
  • Make up a list of the specific things that were done to you which you have decided to forgive. This means acknowledging and grieving the losses that have resulted from being hurt, and this may generate potent feelings of anger, sad-ness and fear. (These intense feelings may be an indicator that you may need to work some more on your losses before you are ready to forgive, and the help of a supportive person – a thera-pist or a trusted friend – may be needed as you progress through this experience.)
  • See if there were any positives about the rela-tionship. In some cases there may not be any-thing positive – but if they do exist, acknowl-edging them could help you move toward a more compassionate view of the relationship.
  • Write a letter to the perpetrator (this is a letter that you will never send). Allow your feelings to flow onto paper. Write freely about your hurt and anger, but include any positive feel-ings you may have about the relationship. If it feels right to you, acknowledge that the per-petrator may have been only doing the best he or she knew how to do at the time, or perhaps had been strongly influenced by her or his own upbringing. (If you don’t want to write a letter, imagine having a dialogue with the perpetra-tor. Or engage in a role-playing exercise with a therapist.)
  • Create a ritualized separation ceremony which ends the link between you and the perpetrator. For example, you might burn your letter and lists and then scatter the ashes. Or you might visualize a final goodbye where the perpetrator – and your feelings of hurt – will become smaller and smaller and eventually disappear. As part of this ceremony, give the perpetrator your blessing and forgiveness. You are now free to live your life unburdened by the pain of your past hurt. Celebrate that freedom.
“If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive.”
– Mother Teresa

Dr. Quintal & Associates
5460 Lena Road
Suite 103
Bradenton, FL 34211