Occupying Space

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • What does it mean to occupy space in a social environment?
  • How does occupying space build confidence and promote emotional intimacy in relationships?

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I’m the second child in a family of five siblings. By most standards, particularly in the 21st century, my family of origin is a pretty big one. I remember walking into restaurants or other public places as a moody, self-conscious teenager and feeling like we needed special accommodations just to have a meal.

Perhaps the most memorable experience where I felt self-conscious was when my family was visiting New Orleans. My mom had heard that Bourbon Street was a sight not to be missed. I turns out that Bourbon Street is the heart of New Orleans revelry, lined with bars and adult clubs. Imagine our family of seven, five elementary to high school aged kids, wandering down this street to take in the sights. My mom’s pace seemed to quicken with every step we took down the block. Continue reading “Occupying Space”

Redefining Strength

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • Is having mental illness a weakness?
  • How can getting help for our problems be a sign of strength?

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I’ve talked in other posts about my relationship with anxiety. It’s a hard beast to tame. Just being aware of anxiety makes it grow. It affects the way I think about and interpret my life and experiences. Like many other personal issues, anxiety can become a cyclical problem that persists due to the symptoms it produces.

Anxiety can redefine reality. It can dictate the parameters of an ambiguous event in a way that seems very valid in an anxious moment, though it may not seem valid another time. Critical feedback, an argument with a friend or family member, or an unstructured social setting, can all feel like threats when viewed through the lens of anxiety. Continue reading “Redefining Strength”

Will and the Subconscious

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • What is the subconscious?
  • How is decision-making influenced by subconscious processes?

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The Will Debate

I took a course as an undergraduate called “Principles of Learning.” One of the texts for the course was a book called The Illusion of Conscious Will, written by psychologist Daniel Wegner. The book details a series of experiments and naturally-observed phenomena wherein people believed they had control over the outcomes of events that were actually controlled by someone or something else. Wegner’s conclusion was that conscious will is an “illusion” – an experience our brains create in an effort to maintain a sense of control over our world. It’s an interesting book and idea, though it’s been met with a good deal of criticism (Nahmias, 2002).

Fast forward 10 years from that class, to a conference I attended where the keynote speaker was noted psychologist Roy Baumeister, widely considered to be a top expert in the concept of self-control. Baumeister’s 2011 book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, describes a person’s ability to exercise their conscious will as one of the finest virtues a person can have. As with Wegner’s work, Baumeister’s has also come under fire in recent years (Hagger et al., 2016).

Continue reading “Will and the Subconscious”

Normality, the Fermi Paradox, and Faith – A Rational Perspective

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • Are there rational arguments for having spiritual/religious faith?
  • How can the assumption of normality and the Fermi paradox be understood as faith-affirming?

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The mental health field maintains a complex relationship with religion. In a 2009 survey of 1,500 university faculty across the U.S., psychology professors emerged as the least likely to believe in a higher power, when compared to professors in other disciplines (Gross & Simmons, 2009). Where less than 10% of accounting professors identified themselves as atheists, 50% of the psychology faculty surveyed denied belief in a higher power.

Continue reading “Normality, the Fermi Paradox, and Faith – A Rational Perspective”

Passing the Buck in Parenting

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • How do we pass personal problems on to others?
  • What can we do to avoid taking our problems out on others?

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My first actual therapy experience came during my first year in my doctoral program. I was brought on as a trainee at a large community mental health center in Aurora, Colorado, where I worked on the child and family unit. Most of my clients during that period were kids between the ages of 8 and 16, and I frequently had parents sitting in on their sessions. One thing I came to learn through my experiences there was that effective therapy with young children almost always necessitates work with the parents; in many cases, it wasn’t difficult to see how parental influences contributed to the child’s mental or emotional struggles. Continue reading “Passing the Buck in Parenting”

Simple Explanations

Issues this post seeks to address:

  • Why do we sometimes use oversimplified explanations for personal problems?
  • Why can it be difficult to ‘let go,’ ‘move on,’ or ‘just push through’ our problems?

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My first psychology-related work experience came when I was an undergraduate student. I was hired on as an “intern” at the Utah State prison, where I administered standardized psychological tests to inmates. My assignment was to the Sex Offender Treatment Program. It’s a group that doesn’t elicit a lot of empathy from most people; they were even housed in a separate area from the general population of inmates in the prison, likely, to some degree, for their own safety.

Continue reading “Simple Explanations”

Redefining Trust

Questions this post seeks to answer:

  • Is trust in a relationship earned?
  • Why can trusting others be difficult?

Previous posts relevant to this post:

I participated in the scouting program as a young person, and eventually reached the rank of Eagle scout. Truth be told, I probably couldn’t use a solid 90% of the skills I learned in the scouting program. How to tie a clove hitch, starting a campfire without matches, or turning my pants into a flotation device – I have to admit I’m a little rusty. However, there is one thing that I’ve never forgotten in the 20+ years since I became an Eagle scout – the Scout Law.

Continue reading “Redefining Trust”

Doing No Harm

I’ve decided to edit this post, following a series of misinterpretations and evidently poor communication on my part that led my someone to contact my supervisor at work to complain. I’m saddened that some people seem to presume that my intent is to break down and diminish faith or instill doubt in church leaders. My intent was only ever to suggest that policy change can help protect our most vulnerable members. I feel passionately about this because I work on a daily basis with those who were mistreated or abused when they were in that vulnerable position. Since the time my post was published, the LDS Church released a statement revising the policies for children being interviewed by church leaders. I’m glad this has happened and am hopeful that continued efforts will lead to greater safety for everyone. If you would like a copy of my original post, you can request one using the contact form on my website.

The Problem with the Mental Health Solution

– This post is adapted from a post I made on social media earlier this week –

Eleven days ago, a former student of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, brought a semi-automatic rifle to his old school and killed 17 people. 14 more were injured. It feels callous to mention these numbers; I imagine that to those who were close to the victims, the numbers can feel depersonalizing. And yet, to read the stories told by those who survive their loved ones, to think about the loss and innocence of those whose time was cut short, is a very bitter undertaking. I feel like I’ve become jaded – hardened to the reality of these events, perhaps because they’ve become so relatively commonplace.

Continue reading “The Problem with the Mental Health Solution”