Why Mental Health Professionals Don’t Help

Why Mental Health Professionals Don’t Help

Are you unsatisfied with mental health care? Do you get the feeling that professionals just don’t care about you and would rather you just went away and left them alone? Do you get disappointed or angry when clinicians ignore your tears or tantrums. Have you ever wondered why?

Mental health professionals deal with all sorts of psychological, emotional and behavioral problems every day. They’re trained to assess and react appropriately to many different situations and are often confronted by violence, manipulation, ridicule and sometimes even honest distress. They’re also human.

Not all psychiatric patients have an illness. Many are just trying to manipulate the system. They may want to escape a court judgment or perhaps they’re keen to get more benefits from the state. Sometimes they want to manipulate a family member and are pretending to be depressed to get their own way. There are lots of reasons why some people will get themselves into the mental health system. Mental health professionals are interested in treating illness. They’re not generally too interested in spending a lot of time and energy ‘treating’ someone who’s healthy but trying to use the system for their own ends.

Some patients are genuinely ill but use their illness as an excuse for unacceptable behavior. Just because you’re anxious doesn’t give you the right to hurt others. If you have a drug habit or alcohol problem staff can help you with that but don’t expect to intimidate them as well. Caring does not mean being fooled by a manipulative threat to injure self or others and mental disorder will not always protect a person from the consequences of their actions. After all, ill or not most people still have choices and can choose to abide by the law just as easily as they can choose to break it.

Very often staff will ignore a client’s threats simply because they believe them to be a manipulative technique. Common examples include:

Threats of suicide if staff don’t dispense or prescribe inappropriate medication;

Threats of violence, including veiled threats such as ‘I don’t think I can control myself much longer’ (a common one from people awaiting trial for violent assault as they think a diagnosis of anger problems will mean a reduced sentence);

Emotional blackmail such as the suggestion that the professional is making things worse by not letting them have their own way and thus is a ‘bad’ practitioner.

When faced with manipulation the usual course of action will be to ‘disattend’. This means effectively to ignore the threat and so demonstrate the pointlessness of manipulation. Often clients learn this lesson very quickly and then real work can begin on the actual problems. This does not mean that the manipulation isn’t a symptom of the disorder – often it is but focusing too much upon threats of self-injury or whatever just clouds the issue.

Of course any one of these threats could also be a statement of fact from a genuinely distressed client. In these cases the reaction from staff is often very different. As a rule mental health professionals are so used to manipulation that they can quickly tell the difference. For example the drunken young man who breaks up with his girlfriend, takes an overdose of aspirin and then calls her to get the ambulance is more likely to want her to feel guilty than to end his life. Most psychiatrists resent getting out of bed at three in the morning to interview such cases.

Some people come into contact with services with impossible expectations. For example they may expect to sit back and wait while the clinicians sort out their marriage difficulties or change their apartment for a state owned house. They may have themselves admitted to a ward for detoxification so that they can sell drugs to patients already there – sometimes they even sell drugs prescribed to them by the unit they’re in. It’s surprising how often these people claim a mental illness defense when the hospital authorities call the police. Mental health units generally take a very hard line where drugs are concerned because many drugs, when combined with psychiatric medications can cause major problems and even kill.

Inpatients are often very vulnerable and the effects of other patients upon their mental health can be devastating. Clients admitted to psychiatric hospitals who set about exploiting, ridiculing or otherwise distressing their fellows are generally ‘moved on’ very quickly by the ward team. It’s not a good way to get help for yourself and it can be very damaging to the care of your victim. This is also why those patients who demand a lot of staff time and attention will only get it if the staff think it’s because of genuine need. Time spent with one patient is also time taken away from another. Many people are surprised to learn that this is also considered an abuse as it prevents other patients from getting the care they need.

Bear in mind that this does not mean that inpatients are expected to sit quietly and wait for their medication like good little girls and boys. Mentally ill or not adults are adults and have a right to express their needs, fears, distress or whatever. They’re also entitled to friendly conversation and many clients do strike up friendships with professionals as a result. It’s simply that attempts to monopolize staff time for non-genuine reasons cause problems for patients and staff alike.

Some clients have an expectation that mental health staff are there to be assaulted. They too become surprised at the reaction they receive. Staff who are attacked by florid schizophrenics as a result of a genuine delusional state tend to be quite philosophical about it. Staff attacked by people who simply want to prove a point or by those who just enjoy hurting people tend to press charges.

Mental health professionals are not anywhere near so stupid as many of their clients believe them to be. It’s true that they are often deeply cynical but that’s different. As a rule, however, they will work hard to help the genuinely ill so long as the client is also prepared to help themselves. It’s often impossible to help a mentally disordered person to move on without co-operation and so people who spend their time trying to justify their illness instead of working to overcome it tend not to do very well. Shortage of professional resources often means that after a while professionals stop trying to treat those who would prefer to manipulate them and move on to those they can help after all.

The concept of ‘treatability’ is very important to mental health clinicians. In any other job or profession people would not be expected to spend time trying to do the impossible.  Much can be done to alleviate or even cure mental disorder but this is rarely possible if the client doesn’t play their part.  Sometimes of course the client doesn’t know how to behave appropriately or isn’t able to in which case practitioners tend to do the best they can. Often teaching appropriate coping skills is the first step. The person who can control their actions and chooses not to however is a very different proposition.

This does not (or at least should not) mean that clients are written off. It’s simply that clients aren’t always ready to change. Often they are so bogged down with secondary gain issues that no amount of therapy will help. The response from services is often to stop trying and wait until the client is actually ready to change. That’s why many clients who begin drinking or using substances immediately after an inpatient detoxification program will not be admitted until six months or a year has elapsed. The client needs time to come to terms with their situation and build some motivation before trying again.

This concept of ‘readiness’ is valid for many types of mental disorder from neurosis to depression. It does not mean that medication won’t help in the meantime and very often medication is all that is necessary but for those who need to make other changes the will to do so must be present.

It’s often very difficult for professionals to know exactly what is going on. Patients tend to tell their doctors, nurses or social workers what they think the professional person wants to hear. The obvious result of this is that professionals are generally very wary and regularly find themselves ‘second-guessing’ their patients. This is not usually helpful for either patients or staff but it does explain why professionals are so used to spotting manipulation. Usually professionals will ‘see through’ the deceit to the distressed person beneath and hopefully will always begin from a position of trust but it doesn’t take long for that trust to disappear in the face of obvious and persistent lies.

Professionals are also very aware that a client who lies to one staff member will usually be just as ready to lie to all the others. That’s why playing one member of staff off against another often results in the whole team’s mistrust. Mental health staff are ordinary people who do their work in order to help people – not to be treated as fools. Neither do they take kindly to verbal or physical abuse and will respond with criminal charges if necessary.

Of course not all mental health service users are trying to manipulate their careers. In many cases they genuinely want help but don’t know what to do. Some of these people use manipulation because it’s a part of their culture. They may not even realize that it’s a problem. Many people genuinely believe that everyone manipulates others and are just doing what they think is appropriate. Until recently mental health services have not been good at understanding this distinction. Psychiatry is a relatively young science and there is still much to be learned.

The process of learning, like the process of helping is always hindered by deceit however and clients in contact with mental health services generally do better by being honest in their dealings with professionals. If you genuinely want help with your problems it’s important to trust clinicians to do what’s right. Given the chance they generally will although giving you what you need isn’t always the same as giving you what you want.

Permission by Anonymous Person



Welcome to Selah Counseling’s Blog: What Therapy is and is Not


Welcome to Selah Counseling’s Blog: What Therapy is and is Not

What Therapy is and is Not

“Therapy isn’t curing somebody of something; it is a means of helping a person explore himself, his life, his consciousness. My purpose as a therapist is to find out what it means to be human. Every human being must have a point at which he stands against the culture, where he says, ‘This is me and the world be damned!’Leaders have always been the ones to stand against the society — Socrates, Christ, Freud, all the way down the line.” – Rollo May


may 14 2009



Mental Health Awareness Ribbon
Mental Health Awareness Ribbon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Hello. I just figured since everytime I come to therapy with you I have difficulties talking I would atleast write to you and maybe that will be a start for our session in the morning which you probably won’t get this till before I see you anyways and it will be fresh in your mind. Well anyways DBT group I felt went well for the most part although I realize I did get annoying. It is difficult for me to sit through the whole thing normally I guess and I get unfocused. I am ready to stop going to group but I am not ready to go to Continuing care DBT group as I know what the skills are and am very able to help and explain them to others and I am also able to give examples for the most part and help others learn and try to understand them but I am using them regularly and have a hard time seeing when I am using them the way they are supposed to be used as opposed to manipulating the skills in a way that justifies my wants, needs, and desires. I actually like helping out with others who want to learn the skills but then also feel that I am hipercritical and have no right to tell people how to use them when I can not use them effectively. I think what it all boils down to in my head is I do not have a life worth living when I use them or when I do not use them and I analyze too many things to an extent in which I am able to find the loopholes and manipulate them to use negavtively more than positively. I also know that I am using the word manipulate alot in this letter because it seems that you feel I manipulate everything and everyone so it appears to fit here more than in any context you have tried to use it with with me. yes I do manipulate skills and things I do in my life to justify my behavoirs and lack of happiness and shit like that but I do not purposely manipulate people and that is where I get offended and build my walls up. I also know that I need to start working on things with you because to me it appears I am just coming there and nothing is changing but yet everything seems to be going away and the professionals such as yourself are the ones feeling I do not need the services but yet I do not see much has changed and really my life appears to be a chaotic mess. I also know that I am the one who allows my life to be this way but how do I stop it? You have stuck with me through thick and thin these past few years and really has not been as long as you think or feel considering the time I have been in treament for mental health but I realize maybe it has been too long for you. Maybe you feel overwelmed and burnt out a bit with me. I do not know but not really sure where we are not really working on anything that I should be working on talking about and learning to let go of maybe we should begin the process of ending treatment altogether. Maybe I can see you tommorrow and 1 more time this month and start out done with DBT and therapy. Maybe it is just time to fly free out of the nest away from comfort and all I really know. I did it before until I was forced by social services to have treatment again. Maybe we can try it and see how it goes? Maybe like say we will schedule an appointment in September which is right after the fall semester begins and I have hopefully found myself a place in Lynchburg and wont need it at all. What do you think? You probably are thinking it is not a great idea but why put yourself through the burnout and stress of seeing me and talking to me when I am not really doing any work with you as I should. I am having a hard time talking bout stuff that happens and that I have been through and that is being triggered by things occurring currently and by myself placing myself in that situation so then it just feels so lonely and as if I will never be able to unburden myself and let this stuff and let it go or get over so then why continue to use your time in an unproductive manner when others in the area really need help and you could be helping them. You could be showing them a better way of life rather than me taking the time I have and not using it th e way it is meant to be used. Well I guess this should be alot to discus more than enough and probably alot to digest at once and figure out analyze and comprehend so I will leave it at this and maybe these are the things that should be talked about tomorrow at the beginning of our session as they are important and time should be spent on them. I will see you at 10am. probably be there before then depends on the taxi if you need to see me earlier. Take care. Have good night if you get this before the morning.



december 7 2008


why not finally succeed at something instead of always failing why not succed at my finality

I sit here pondering why I feel the need to cut when it has been 70 days since the last time I cut. Yeah 10 weeks. That’s a long time for me lately even if it does not seem that long it is a long time for me since in the past almost 3 years I have gone 96 days one time without self harm and mainly less than 30 so this is a while for me to go without it. Although I can not say that I have gone without hurting myself for that long or without avoiding and escaping my thoughts feelings pain and suffering. During these 70 days there was one day where I smashed my head into the door several times for being angry at myself. Then there are the several times that I have used drugs and can not seem to get away from them where I am living currently. I also have gone some days without eating trying to control that since everything else has been out of control. I do not understand why I continue to struggle day in and day out with thoughts of suicide and then want to cut just to minimize my suicidal thoughts and lesson them. The desire to cut recently has been extreme although not sure if the cutting thoughts or the suicide thoughts have been worse. I have been actively planning my suicide although have not acted upon the thoughts of trying to purchase a gun just to have around incase. I have been watching the clock for the exact times of the trains coming incase I build the courage to jump in front of it. Although not really sure I have that much courage. I am a coward and try to think about the least amount of pain and suffering I will use to complete my suicide. I have searched for the beams in my ceiling in case I believe I can complete my death by hanging myself although with how fat I am the rope will probably break or the beam will. So I am not too sure about that method. I did give one of my treatment providers my check because of me wanting to cash it and purchase a gun off the streets somewhere but I will get that back tomorrow and may just go buy one if I can find one just to have in case I can build my nerves up to pull the trigger on myself but not sure I have enough oomph to pull it. I want to cut as an escape from all these thoughts and although I am in therapy I am not sure she really does care whether I am dead or alive anymore. A month ago she told me she would not do therapy with me if I did not attend IOP and quit using drugs. And I hadn’t seen her since she said that for an individual therapy session but I have been going to IOP although have been unable to quit the drugs for any major length of time since I can not get rid of certain people in my life lately even when I flip out and try to run them away. Although the people that I want in my life and want to be here and around to help me through seem to not care and just want to get rid of me and not have anything to do with me any more. My family could care less about me and most of them have not lived around me for years. I have not spoken with my sperm donor father since 2005 and my mother appears to call me less and less. An then it seems it is only when she wants something from me. The same thing with my brother. Then my brother who my son lives with only calls when he can not deal with something that is going on with my son. Other than that he does not tell me much about my son although makes sure he tells me when he is doing something wrong but nothing when my son is doing nothing wrong. I do not seem to really matter to anyone that has been part of my life both growing up or as of now. I have grown up with so much of the system and none of them people who worked with me even care how I have done or what’s up with me or even if I am still alive. Supposedly cared so much but yet I do not seem to see that any of them ever really cared or the ones I work with now even though they say they care I do not feel they do. And then alls they do is manipulating me into their own ways by blackmailing me into more services and keeping my pills and so on and so forth. Why should I continue to try to get anywhere in life when life is worthless and there is really nothing here for me in life. Yeah so I am supposed to wait another 10 years try to create a life and live in society and wait for my kids to search for me and when they don’t what am I supposed to do then. Continue to live in misery yearning for them wanting them to hold and love. But yet they wont want too be loved by a loser mother like me they probably won’t want anything to do with me ever. So why should I sit here and wait for them and then end up killing myself because of there rejection. Why not just end it now and not have to deal with the rejection pain and suffering. Why sit back and wait for the inevitable when it is bound to happen then. Why not just do it and get it over with and allow everyone else to stop dealing with my pain and suffering. The sooner I get this over with the sooner they will be able to move on with their lives and be relieved by not having to wonder when I will do it because deep down they know eventually I will succeed in killing myself and even though I have failed so many times before they still await the day of that call waiting for some relief from the fear of the unknown not knowing when and how I will do it. So why keep putting it off and failing why not finally succeed at something in my life…..


april 20 2008


every week I go through so much in my mind and want to let it out and talk about it but it seems when I get to therapy I just cant…sometimes i have a hard time even looking at my therapist…it is like she already knows too much about me and I am ashamed to be face to face with her…I wish I could just let it all out and not keep holding it inside…when I do let it out it is by writing but it doesn’t seem to go away…I write to my therapist more easily than I do talking to her and yes my writing is an outlet but yet i cant face talking bout the pain only writing…maybe I let her know too much and can’t face her after she knows who I really am…she don’t understand that even though I was 12 that i knew the difference between right and wrong because I had already gone through it once before when I was a child from 4-6 years old…so I knew what was happening should not have happened but yet I allowed it and became a whore instead…I went out searching for grown men to fuck me even though I didn’t know them and didn’t even know their names at times…I would be seductive as I was walking down the street or in the park just wanting someone to have sex with me…I was a 12 or 13-year-old whore who just looked for someone to love me…I never have found love…I was married and still am even though we have been separated for a year and I allowed him to treat me how he wanted most of the time…he did what he wanted even when I didn’t want to…most of the time I laid there and couldn’t even remember some of it as if I was somewhere else…I did this as a teenager also…my moms boyfriend constantly reminded me that I couldn’t say anything or he would get into trouble so I didn’t until 4 years of it had gone on…but even then there are only few memories of it…I remember the first time and the very last time but not much about in between those 4 years just brief memories here and there about it…i try to get my therapist to understand that i knew it was wrong and allowed it to go on for years so in a way i am at fault…yes he was a 40-year-old man and i was just 12 but i should have said no and not protected him all those years even though he protected me from my mothers physical and emotional abuse alot…i want her to understand how at fault;t i am for my daughters abuse…my daughter was an innocent child who my husband had no right to steal her innocence and i had no right to be blinded and not see her pain but instead I believe him and not my inner feelings that something was wrong and happening to her by him…everytime he did something that I caught and felt very uncomfortable about I flipped out on him and was told by him that I was over reacting and I was sick in my fucking head and that just because I was sexually abused as a child by family doesn’t mean that he was doing anything to our daughter…and this was drilled in my head several times over her short life that we had her…i ignored her cries for help i was too wrapped up in the other kids and their issues to see her pain…my mother was just too wrapped up in herself her jobs and her men to see my pain…but i was constantly on the run trying to care for the other 3 that had eating issues behavior issues physical issues back and forth to the doctor’s and shit with the other three that when she missed behaved i spent a little time with her by taking her shopping with me or something but she never trusted me I guess to let me know how he was hurting her I never allowed her to trust me as much as I talked with her and tried to show her I loved her and that she was beautiful and my world I really didn’t spend alot of time with her to allow her to trust me and see how much I loved her and what she meant to me…my therapist tries to get me to see that my child hood was so fucked up that all I knew was chaos and instability and this is why I couldn’t give my kids stability but no matter what I did to try to provide stability it was never enough and all I did was run from everything whenever there was a fear in me I could not bear…my therapist wants me to let her in and what happenings is I let her in just a bit and then put up 3 more walls to keep her out once I feel vulnerable and like she just likes to her about everyone’s misery and it really don’t matter to her who you are or what u have been through or how you became who you became she always just wants you to talk about shit and let her in only for her to leave you stranded with that pain once it is brought up…I feel like she wants me to just let it all out and get over it but there is no getting over losing my kids because of my inability to protect them…my therapist don’t see what a low life I really am she don’t understand that I allowed my kids to experience the abuse they endured…there were many times I watched my husband smash our son upside his head and all I did was scream yell and hit him but yet stayed…even when i did try to leave on a few occasions I allowed my fear and insecurities to rule me instead and came back…i feel guilty for my children’s pain I feel I caused it even if I didn’t physically hurt them I feel like I hurt them even worse than he ever could have…I want my therapist to see what a fucking inadequate mother I was and how I don’t deserve to be happy because I allowed so many lives to be destroyed…want her to understand that I deserve to be punished I don’t deserve to get anywhere in life I deserve to be tortured and killed…I want her to understand how much a bad terrible person I am I want her to look at all the bad shit I have done and do do instead of trying to look at and search for positive shit that really will never compare to the awful shit i have done in life…she will never understand how much I don’t deserve a life she don’t know the real me the me that has hurt so many people and allowed them to be repeatedly hurt and ignoring the feelings that boiled inside and protected the scum who did this..she dont know how much I am at fault for ruining lives and how much i am at fault for what has happened in my life even as a teenager she dont want to see that i am at fault for what has happened in my life…i just wish someone would hunt me down and torture and murder me…I deserve to be tortured and killed slowly a painful death

Read more: http://www.myspace.com/hopelesslynogood/blog?page=4#ixzz13mIfRGcU


Applying Learning Principles to Thought: Cognitive Restructuring – Psychological Self-Tools – Online Self-Help Book


English: Arnold's appraisal theory of emotion
English: Arnold’s appraisal theory of emotion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Applying Learning Principles to Thought: Cognitive Restructuring – Psychological Self-Tools – Online Self-Help Book


Cognitive Restructuring (sometimes known as “reframing”) is essentially the core technique from cognitive behavioral therapy, a highly regarded, scientifically validated psychotherapy format. The technique is designed to help you alter your habitual appraisal habits so that they can become less biased in nature and you less moody. You alter your appraisal habits by becoming aware of them as they occur, and then criticizing and critiquing them. Usually there is no logical or rational basis for your appraisal bias. When you really examine your judgments carefully, looking for evidence to support them, you find that there is none. You are then in a position to form a new, more accurate appraisal.


Appraisal habits cannot be manipulated directly, but the thoughts that carry them can be. The first task in cognitive restructuring is thus self-monitoring; learning to become more aware of your thought behaviors. Habitual appraisal habits are not conscious things, and neither are the thoughts that carry them. In addition to the thoughts you are conscious of having, there are also all manner of unconscious automatic thoughts which flit through your mind without you noticing. Automatic thoughts are not inherently unconscious; they are just so common that you’ve habituated to them and no longer notice them.


You become more conscious of your automatic thoughts by self-monitoring. We don’t want to count thoughts, however, so much as we want to record them. A good way to do this is to write down all the thoughts that occur to you shortly after some event has occurred that causes you to feel bad.


Automatic thoughts are often situation specific instances of more core fixed beliefs about yourself and the world. While automatic thoughts reflects your reaction to a given event, core beliefs describes your general expectations and identity. For example, if you have recently done poorly on a test, your automatic thought will probably reflect your situation, “I’m so embarrassed! I should have done better!” , while your core belief might reflect a deeper fear: “I’m a stupid person!” Core beliefs influence appraisals, and thus are a major source of bias. They are not always obvious or conscious. The way to identify them is to examine multiple instances of your automatic thoughts over time for the repetitive themes that underlie them. You will likely be able to distill some of your core beliefs by examining your self-monitoring thought records, and by asking yourself the question, “Why am I reacting this way?”.


Writing down your automatic thoughts and core beliefs makes it easier for you to get a handle on them; to view them from an outsider’s perspective rather than your own. When you actually get to look at what you are thinking and believing, you may find that your thoughts and beliefs are inaccurate, incorrect or irrational, and that with a little work you can correct them so that they better reflect “reality”; the shared social consensus.



Cognitive Restructuring – Definition of Cognitive Restructuring


Cognitive Restructuring – Definition of Cognitive Restructuring

Definition: A cognitive-behavioral therapy technique used to identify and correct negative thinking patterns. The technique involves altering negative automatic thoughts that occur in anxiety-provoking situations (such as “They think I’m boring”) by replacing them with more rational beliefs (such as “I can’t read other people’s minds; they are probably just tired”). As thoughts are challenged and disputed, their ability to elicit anxiety is weakened.


Therapy Metaphors


Therapy Metaphors

Therapy metaphors use a story or illustration to see alternative ways of looking at something. Every culture and religion uses these types of stories, analogies, parables to improve understanding, make a point more memorable, and help us make positive changes.

The example metaphors here are to help us see thoughts – their nature and role – in a different light. Just that alone, seeing thoughts differently, helps to create a space, a distance, between us and our thoughts, which helps us to stand back a little, see things a bit more objectively, and make wiser and more helpful decisions about how to react effectively.

Passengers on the Bus
You can be in the driving seat, whilst all the passengers (thoughts) are being critical, abusive, intrusive, distracting, and shouting directions, or sometimes just plain nonsense. You can allow those passengers to shout and chatter noisily, whilst keeping your attention focused on the road ahead, heading towards your goal or value.
(Hayes et al 1999)

Playground Bully

Our minds are like school playgrounds that are surrounded by secure high fences – they keep children in, and others out. Any bullies in that playground mean that the other children can’t escape for long. This particular bully uses verbal abuse, shouting, teasing, and threats. They’re all fenced in together, and ideally, all the children have just got to learn to accept and learn to be with each other. So neither can we escape our thoughts, we can’t stop them, but perhaps we can learn to live with them by seeing them differently. Along comes bully, and takes on 3 potential ‘victims’ who all react differently.

Victim 1 – believes the bully, distressed, reacts automatically (bully carries on)

Victim 2 – challenges the bully “hey I’m not stupid, I got 8 out of 10 in my spelling test this morning, you only got 4” (bully eventually gives up)

Victim 3 – looks at the bully (acknowledges the thought), then walks away and goes off to play football with his mates (dismisses the thought, then changes their focus of attention.
(Based on Hannan & Tolin 2005)

The River
Sometimes it feels like we’re being carried away downstream, struggling to stay afloat amongst all the mud, filth and debris. That muck and debris are thoughts, sensations, events, feelings, and that river is our distress as we drift helplessly downstream. But we can stand on the riverbank, watching as those thoughts, events, sensations, feelings go by. You might watch individual items as they pass – perhaps a thought floating on a leaf, a sensation as a log, event as on old bicycle. We can stand and watch.

The Beach Ball
We try to stop thoughts, but that’s impossible. It’s like trying to constantly hold an enormous inflatable beach ball under the water, but it keeps popping up in front of our faces. We can allow the ball to float around us, just letting it be. So rather than stop the thoughts, we can stop fighting them, and let them be, without reacting to them.
(Vivyan 2009)

Thought train
We can sit on the train, watching the scenery (thoughts, images, sensations) go by, or stand on the platform watching the thought train pass by – we don’t have to jump on it.

The Tunnel
When we get anxious driving through a tunnel, the best option is to keep going rather than try to escape. This feeling will pass – there is an end to this tunnel.

The Mountain
Whatever the weather, or whatever happens on the surface of the mountain – the mountain stands firm, strong, grounded, permanent. We can be like that mountain, observing thoughts, feelings, sensations, knowing inner stillness.

The Mind Monsters (Bad Wolf, Good Wolf)
We can think of unhelpful or distressing thoughts as the Mind Monsters. (The Native American Cherokees use a similar example of a “Bad Wolf, Good Wolf”). Being a monster, we can’t do much to stop or fight them – that just seems futile sometimes. When we do fight, it can help for a while, but those monsters may well just keep coming back. Like all monsters though, these Mind Monsters need food. If we can deprive them of food, then they’ll eventually go off seeking sustenance elsewhere. These monsters (or ‘Bad Wolf’) feed off our reactions – our believing those monsters, reacting to them, being upset by them, and acting accordingly and often automatically and unthinkingly. We can maintain and make worse our situations just by those reactions. Those vicious cycles of our reactions mean that the monsters just keep coming. If we can stop ‘feeding’ the monsters – they’ll get weaker and weaker and eventually move away. Others will come, but again we can choose not to feed them – by changing the way we think and react, and by paying more attention to the ‘Good Wolf’ in us.

Bad Wolf, Good Wolf: http://www.rainbowbody.net/Ongwhehonwhe/cherokee.htm

Google Earth & The Helicopter View
Sometimes it’s useful to see the bigger picture. When something is distressing us, we’re so close to it, involved with it, part of it – it’s really hard to stand back from what’s happening. It’s a bit like Google Earth – we see the close up view but everything else is hidden from us. “We can’t see the wood for the trees”. We can zoom out our perspective, and see the bigger picture. Some might describe it as like having a helicopter view – as the helicopter takes off, getting higher and higher, it sees a bigger picture, and is less involved with the detail at ground level.
(diagram: Vivyan 2009)

Foreground & Background – Monitors & Zoom lenses
When doing presentations using a laptop and projector, there’s an option of what to display on each monitor. The laptop screen is called Monitor 1, and the projector is Monitor 2. The graphic in Control Panel is shown as 2 large screens with large white numbers on them. Click on Monitor 1 and it enlarges and comes into the foreground, whilst Monitor 2 gets smaller and further away. Click on Monitor 2 and it zooms up towards you, getting bigger, whilst Monitor 1 goes away. It can be like that with our attention. Something grabs our attention – a sound, a sight, a feeling, a thought – and we zoom in, putting it the foreground of our attention, making it bigger and more intrusive. Everything else moves away into the background. We can choose what we put in the foreground – more helpful thoughts, our breath, imagery, a sensation, what we see, what we hear – so that other more unhelpful thoughts or sensations go more misty into the background. Like a zoom lens as it focuses in on something particular, the rest of the picture goes out of focus, loses clarity. We can zoom in and out, shifting our focus of attention.
(Vivyan 2009)

The Plane Crash
Not so long ago, a plane landed seemingly miraculously on the River Hudson. All 155 people came out alive. What did those 155 people feel as they stood on dry land and realised what they’d been through? Would they all have had the same reaction? Absolutely not! Many would have felt very distressed and upset – they nearly died, and they might decide never to fly again as it’s clearly too dangerous. Others might been overwhelming relief and happiness at having survived. Some might decide to live life to the full as a result of their experience, and be determined to fly even more. There could be 155 different reactions. Same event, different responses. It’s not the event which causes our emotions, it’s the meaning we give them. Those who interpreted the event as terrifyingly dangerous may feel very distressed, and be too anxious to fly again. Others will feel ecstatic as the meaning they gave the event was that they were incredibly lucky to survive.
(Ayres 2009)

The Traffic Accident
When there’s a traffic accident, police ask for witnesses to come forward and describe what happened. They like to have as many witness statements as possible so that they can build up enough evidence to give them a broader, more realistic version of events. In a traffic accident, there will be many different perspectives on what happened. The driver of one car will have one view, another driver or a passenger will have yet another view. Each onlooker who witnessed the accident will have a slightly different perspective, depending on where they were, how far they were, how good a view they had, what else was going on, how much danger they felt they were in, how the accident affected them, what the accident means to them.

It’s the same principle with everything – each situation, event, conversation, means something different to all those involved, and also to those not involved.
(Vivyan 2009)

The Quicksand
Used by Stephen Hayes to introduce clients to Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT). When we’re stuck in quicksand, the immediate impulse is to struggle and fight to get out. But that’s exactly what you mustn’t do in quicksand – because as you put weight down on one part of your body (your foot), it goes deeper. So the more you struggle, the deeper you sink – and the more you struggle. Very much a no-win situation. With quicksand, there’s only one option for survival. Spread the weight of your body over a large surface area – lay down. It goes against all our instincts to lay down and really be with the quicksand, but that’s exactly what we have to do. So it is with distress. We struggle and fight against it, but we’ve perhaps never considered just letting it be, and being with the distressing thoughts and feelings, but if we did, we’d find that we get through it and survive – more effectively than if we’d fought and struggled.
(Hayes et al 1999)

The Poisoned Parrot
Imagine you’re given a parrot. This parrot is just a parrot – it doesn’t have any knowledge, wisdom or insight. It’s bird-brained after all. It recites things ‘parrot fashion’ – without any understanding or comprehension. It’s a parrot.

However, this particular parrot is a poisoned and poisonous parrot. It’s been specifically trained to be unhelpful to you, continuously commenting on you and your life, in a way that constantly puts you down, criticising you. For example, the bus gets stuck in a traffic jam, and you arrive at work 5 minutes late. The parrot sits there saying: “There you go again. Late. You just can’t manage to get there on time can you. So stupid. If you’d left the house and got the earlier bus you’d have arrived with loads of time to spare and the boss would be happy. But you? No way. Just can’t do it. Useless. Waste of space. Absolutely pathetic!”

How long would you put up with this abuse before throwing a towel over the cage, or getting rid of the parrot? We can often put up with the thoughts from this internal bully for far too long.

We can learn to use the antidote: notice that ‘parrot’ – and cover the cage. “There’s that parrot again – I don’t have to listen to it”, and go and do something else. Put your focus of attention elsewhere. Be persistent in your practice! Eventually this poisoned parrot will tire of the towel, tire of you not responding. You’ll notice it less and less. It might just give up its poison as your antidote overcomes it, or perhaps fly off to wherever poisoned parrots go.
(Vivyan 2009 – adapted from ‘The Malevolent Parrot” source unknown)

Tug of War with a Monster
Imagine you’re in a tug of war with some huge anxiety (depression etc) monster. You’ve got one end of the rope, and the monster has the other end. In between you, there’s a huge bottomless pit. You’re pulling backward as hard as you can, but the monster keeps on pulling you ever closer to the pit. What’s the best thing to do in that situation?

Pulling harder comes naturally, but the harder you pull, the harder the monster pulls. You’re stuck. What do you need to do?

Dropping the rope means the monster’s still there, but you’re no longer tied up in a struggle with it. Now you can do something more useful.

(Harris 2009)

Metaphors for the Mind (Act made simple, Harris 2009)

A master storyteller

The world’s greatest storyteller – it never stops! It’s never short of a story to tell, and it wants is for us to listen, whatever the story is. Like any great storyteller, it’ll say whatever it has to say to get our attention. Some stories are true: we can call these facts. Others are opinions, beliefs, ideas, attitudes, assumptions, judgements, predictions etc. Stories about how we see the world, what we want to do, what we think is right or wrong, fair or unfair, good or bad.

Just listen now, to the story your mind is telling you now.

Radio “doom and gloom”

Broadcasting a lot of gloom about the past, doom about the future, and dissatisfaction about the present.

A spoiled brat

Making all sorts of demands, and throwing tantrums if it doesn’t get its own way

A reason-giving machine

Churning out a never-ending list of reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t change

A word machine

Manufacturing a never-ending stream of words

A fascist dictator

Constantly ordering you about and telling you what you can and can’t do

A judgement factory

Spending all day long making judgements