• Balance Points vs. Expanding Polarities

    Posted on September 22, 2023
    by A. Tom Horvath, Ph.D., ABPP It is an old idea that we need to balance both ends of a polarity to have a good life. Over 2,000 years ago Aristotle suggested that using the mid-point between two extremes would be a sensible guide for behavior. For instance, the courage polarity has recklessness (acting without taking risk into consideration) at one end, and cowardice (being so afraid that you do not act at all) at the other. The mid-point, courage involves doing what needs to be done, even if you are afraid. There are many examples of balancing a polarity. Getting to balance involves moving to the center from both extremes. However, some polarities do not fit this pattern. On what I am terming an expanding polarity we want to move toward both ends of the polarity simultaneously. ...
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  • Practicing Psychological Skills: What is Effective Practice?

    Posted on September 7, 2023
    By Tom Horvath, PhD This blog will focus less on physical skills (like playing the piano or hitting a baseball) and more on “psychological skills” like being assertive. Physical and psychological skills are not entirely distinct. Your body will need to play its part in a psychological skill. For instance, you would need to say “no thanks, I’m not interested in that” with your mouth. The physical skills needed to accomplish a psychological skill are typically already well known to you. You just need to use them! Without further ado, let's take a look at practicing psychological skills. Practicing Psychological Skills #1: Interpersonal Skills Nevertheless, the physical aspect of a psychological skill can be a good place to start. To stay with our example, you could practice sayin...
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  • Coping with Regret

    Posted on July 20, 2023
    By Tom Horvath, PhD Regret is the feeling or sense that we did not behave or choose as well as we could have or should have. How many times might we ask ourselves, “why did I ….?” Or, “why didn’t I…?” Not only is it impossible to live life without regrets (who does not make mistakes?), regret appears to be quite common. One study suggested that we might regret nearly 1/3 of our decisions. It makes sense, then, instead of trying to avoid regret, to turn our attention toward coping with regret. Two Types of Regret There seem to be two main types of regret. You might regret falling short on responsibilities to others. When you realize the problem, it may be easy enough to correct your behavior or make amends. On the other hand, do you make a similar effort when you fall short on actin...
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  • Mindful Breathing for Reduced Stress

    Posted on June 21, 2023
    By Tom Horvath, PhD, ABPP One of the simplest but most powerful ways to reduce stress is to focus on breathing. Although books have been written on this subject, the following ideas may be a sufficient guide for you. Because we breathe continuously, you will have lots of opportunity to practice! Less is More Perhaps the most important single step to reduce stress is to breathe less, while breathing regularly, through your nose. A deep breath or two can get you started on “breath work,” but after those initial breaths, focus on breathing regularly but more slowly, and with lower volume of air. You are not going to reduce your rate of breathing instantly. However, over the course of many breaths your rate will (probably not entirely smoothly) reduce. With practice you might breathe a...
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  • Coping With Worry

    Posted on May 18, 2023
    by Tom Horvath, PhD It seems that almost everyone worries at times. We can think about a problem over and over and not make any progress. Ineffective strategies for worry include telling ourselves to “just stop,” and looking for guarantees or certainty when they are not available. Very little is guaranteed in life, and yet somehow we keep moving forward. Worry can be considered a problem-solving effort that is not working well because we are focused on the wrong parts of the problem. Most problems have aspects that 1) can be dealt with now or cannot be dealt with until later; 2) are under our control or not under our control; and 3) are more important or less important. If you focus your thinking on aspects of a problem that can only be dealt with later, are out of your control, o...
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  • Social Fitness

    Posted on April 21, 2023
    By Tom Horvath, PhD We regularly see criteria for evaluating our health, physical fitness, or financial well-being. If our relationships are the primary source of our emotional well-being (a statement apparently accurate for most people), then guidelines for evaluating our relationships would also be valuable. Having both one or a few intimates, and a wide range of other relationships, is conducive to well-being. We need to have one or a few people we know very well, and then many other relationships that could be meaningful in various ways. We can compare this situation to the specialist/generalist distinction. We need to be a specialist in one or a few areas (often to make a living), but we also need to have much general knowledge, to get along well in the world. The followin...
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  • Coping with Grief

    Posted on February 9, 2023
    By Tom Horvath, PhD, ABPP When we experience anguish (despair, heartache, melancholy, sorrow) after a significant loss, the depth of the anguish reminds us of the depth of the loss. Usually, the anguish does not surprise us, but we may be surprised at how powerful it is. Even our bodies can hurt. We feel anxious and confused. We ruminate about the past and imagine “if only” over and over. We neglect ourselves, and possibly others. We fear for the future. We think we need to talk about how we feel, but we don’t know where to start. Most often we think of grief as arising from the loss of a person or a relationship, but grief can arise from any significant loss. Like other aspects of human life, grief is an experience we will likely have several or more times. We will somehow get th...
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  • Managing External Boundaries

    Posted on September 24, 2021
    by Tom Horvath, PhD When we talk about having boundaries, we can talk about managing external boundaries and we can talk about managing internal boundaries. This blog will discuss the management of external boundaries. To better understand external boundaries, it helps to understand the concept of interpersonal boundaries. Interpersonal boundaries are the rules we establish for ourselves about how we interact with other people. We can compare interpersonal boundaries to having a house. The house, with roof and walls, protects us from the outside, and keeps our possessions together. But there are also doors, windows, window coverings, pipes, wires, vents, and so forth, which allow us to be flexible about what comes in and what goes out. In this blog we focus on protecting ourselves fr...
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  • Seeking Out and Managing Discomfort

    Posted on September 17, 2021
    by Tom Horvath, PhD A well-lived life needs to have significant and possibly considerable amounts of discomfort in it. For instance, do you want to exercise well, maintain a certain weight, get up early, work hard at something, or hold your tongue in an intense discussion? You are likely to feel uncomfortable! The key, then, is to learn skills for managing discomfort that will inevitably come. You might also be interested in: Coping with Stress in Addiction Recovery In particular, if you want to stop an addictive problem, you are likely to have a transition period as you change how you live. Cravings might die off almost entirely after 90 days (although there is no guarantee they will completely), but other challenges might last much longer. Maybe you should just give up now? Fortu...
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  • Asserting Myself

    Posted on September 10, 2021
    How well am I asserting myself? It is an increasingly competitive world. We need to assert our wants and desires in order to thrive. It is also an increasingly (socially) distant world, and not just because of a pandemic. It is easy to get distracted by the limited connections provided by social media, and not have the richer experience of direct interaction with others. To connect with others we need to be comfortable revealing ourselves. Considerations when answering the question, "Am I asserting myself?" Assertiveness is the direct expression of my experience and reactions, including my thoughts, beliefs, opinions, emotions, and the like, while recognizing that others may have (and have a right to) different experiences and reactions. Assertiveness is a mean between aggressiveness...
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