Think of a loved one. If I asked you to write down and read out the following sentence – "I hope (name of your loved one) dies today in a car crash" – would you do it? This 'test' was originally designed for use with people with OCD, but most people (not just people with OCD) feel icky about it. My latest Southern Star column explores what's known as thought-action fusion and suggests that most of us are prone to taking our thoughts and feelings too seriously.
‘As human beings, we are all “stuck in the mud-hole.” We are all slogging through the “muck,” we are all equally dirty, and we all “stink,” but we give meaning to our lives by pursuing our goals and overcoming challenges.’ Dr Steven Phillipson is a celebrated psychologist today, but as a child he felt inferior and ashamed. My latest column explores how nobody has it easy in life and why we are, as Dr Phillipson says, 'all in the mud-hole together’.
Many people say self-criticism keeps them on their toes and helps them achieve their goals. However, critical self-talk is linked to multiple mental health problems. Research shows that if you want to motivate yourself to 'do better', self-compassion beats self-criticism. When you see mistakes as human and inevitable, I argued in last week's Southern Star, you are more likely to accept and learn from them.
Animal phobias – of dogs, cats, spiders, and so on – are common in children and sometimes persist into adulthood. My column in last week's Southern Star explained the CBT treatment of animal phobias; how the bulk of this work is done in a single extended exposure session lasting up to three hours; and mentioned some reading for people interested in trying a DIY approach.
When life is good, you’re more optimistic, more confident, more open to trying new things. But when you’re down, you’re more pessimistic, less confident, less open to actions that might ease your plight. In last week's Southern Star, I explained how a vicious circle is at the heart of most emotional problems and how, through effort and awareness, you can turn that unhelpful, vicious circle into a helpful, virtuous circle.
Denial is a common thing. It's common in dysfunctional families, where problems get swept under the carpet. It's common in relationships; often, people turn a blind eye to problems for years until they became too big to ignore. These are obvious examples, but denial can also resemble what Dr Jonathan Grayson calls a wishing ritual, where you keep comparing reality to fantasy. ‘Reality may not be as pretty as fantasy', says Grayson, 'but it is far better than the misery of wishing'.
All of us occasionally worry about our health. For some people, however, the worry is not occasional, but persistent and excessive. In last week's Southern Star, I asked: how is health anxiety different to other forms of anxiety and how can it be treated?
Scientific evidence shows astrology doesn’t work, but many people swear by it, relating how a fortune-teller made all kinds of accurate predictions about them. What's going on in such cases? I explore what the research – and a former astrologer – has to say.
Office parties, getting together with extended family, meeting up with old friends and acquaintances – Christmas is a social time, but what if the thought of socialising fills you with anxiety and dread? My column in last week's Southern Star explored how to beat social anxiety, or "self-consciousness on steroids", as one expert calls it.