YOUR BRAIN IS NOT WIRED TO MAKE YOU HAPPY. YOUR BRAIN IS WIRED TO SURVIVE.
Here's the deal.... Our society teaches us that being happy all the time is “normal” and that should be our baseline. This is something called the "happiness trap" (coined by Russ Harris). But this notion is radically incorrect. There is literally no survival value in being happy. You aren’t more likely to have kids if you’re happy. You aren’t even more likely to be successful if you're happy. Sometimes our anxiety and fear can actually drive us to get things done. (Isn't that crazy?!) And in evolutionary terms, all your brain cares about is surviving and reproducing so its genes can be passed on.
So over the millions of years of evolution, the people that were careful, likely to hesitate when they saw something in the bushes were the ones more likely to SURVIVE. Even if they were only right 1% of the time, that gene got passed down and was compounded.
The more careful our ancestors were and the more they were driven to never be satisfied (more food, stronger shelters, more children) the more successful they and their genes 🧬 were.). Which is why all of us that exist at this moment in history are HARDWIRED to be careful. We come from a long lineage of ancestors who were careful and made calculated risks. Ancestors who constantly surveyed their surroundings to make sure they were safe, while also trying to get as many resources as possible.
Fast forward to us living in a modern society and our “threats” are typically not life threatening. We no longer are in danger of being eaten by a bear, we are in danger of being called out at work, feeling rejected by friends or being ghosted by a partner. Now, being careful hurts us. Constantly worrying about outcomes that are not going to happen makes us less productive and happy. It's no wonder so many people have anxiety.
Unlike other animals, who can have a fear about something (say, a dog had a traumatic instance with almost drowning), we can literally imagine being around water and being scared 24 hours a day. A dog lives his life and doesn't think about the traumatic incident unless he is immediately exposed to water. Through the part of our brain that developed to plan, reason and imagine, though this initially helped us survive, it now allows us to replay unhappy events all day long as if we are still in the situation! Again, no wonder so many of us struggle with feeling happy.
I share this because important information about being happy because before I knew this, I would berate myself and get mad at myself for not being happy. I thought something was wrong with me and that I was a bad person because I had so much. You may feel this way too because of what our society teaches us. I’m here to set the record straight.
YOU CAN BE GRATEFUL AND BE UNHAPPY.
YOU CAN HAVE EVERYTHING YOU COULD EVER WANT AND NOT BE HAPPY.
YOU CAN STILL FEEL LIKE YOU WANT MORE & THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU.
That's just the way you were wired- your brain was wired to want more and not be satisfied, no matter what you have. You're not ungrateful, you're a human being!
Once you learn about the happiness trap and the way your brain was wired, you can stop torturing yourself and start offering yourself compassion for the human being that you are. When you have this information, you gain the ability to stop the self-loathing, stop berating yourself and start acting differently. With this knowledge you now have the power to stop listening to your thoughts and start choosing something different!
Hey guys! Although Maddie joined our team in August, I wanted to officially introduce her to all of you and share about her background and experience.
Maddie and I went to graduate school together at La Salle University. We met in 2012 in the same ethics class. Since we are both a little awkward and are introverted, it wasn't until we. actually ran into each other at the same yoga class that we hit it off! Since then we have attended and co-lead multiple yoga and therapy trainings together. We both went on to work in the addiction field at separate treatment facilities and reunited after Maddie completed her requirements for licensure.
Besides having a lot in common in terms of our background, experience and philosophies, one thing that I love about Maddie as a therapist is she has a different perspective on addiction. While I was the "identified patient" in my household, the one with the addiction and eating disorder in my family, Maddie grew up as the sibling of a child with addiction. She knows first hand the tole addiction and mental health issues can take on the entire family, even those not afflicted.
She is such an asset and I'm so excited for you guys to get to know her and work with her. She specializes in working with women with anxiety, depression and substance use disorders as well as their families. She also is our official online video counseling therapist! So if you don't live in the Philadelphia area, cannot make it into the office, or generally just have anxiety about in-person therapy, she is your girl! Don't know about you, but doesn't having a therapy session in the comfort in your home, wearing pjs sounds awesome?!
Maddie is a master at making you feel comfortable in video sessions. We promise you, your online sessions with be just as effective and not awkward at all! We have a HIPPA compliant video counseling platform, and all you need to get started is your email. You can even conduct them from your phone or iPad. Email Maddie for more questions and information.
A few words from Maddie
"As a therapist my philosophy is to 'meet you where you are' and I practice implementing change and providing insight at a pace that you are comfortable with. My goal is to assist you in identifying and letting go of limiting beliefs you have about yourself and the world that no longer serve you. I utilize a variety of therapeutic approaches including motivational interviewing, solution focused therapy, gestalt therapy, and body-based approaches such as yoga and mindfulness. I believe that therapy is a collaborative process and a journey we are in together.
As Ram Dass says, 'we are all just walking each other home'
In addition to therapy I am also a certified yoga instructor and reiki practitioner. I strongly believe in the mind-body connection and I feel that true change comes from holistic healing and addressing all parts of the self- mind, body, and spirit. I am passionate about empowering other women as I believe that stronger, healthier women create a better world for everyone. In my free time I enjoy yoga, weightlifting, cooking, reading, traveling and watching movies with my cat and husband!"
Amanda & Maddie
The holidays can be a stressful time, especially for those of us who struggle with our mental health. With all the focus on alcohol and food, and the holidays and gifts can bring about negative habits and added stress.
This year, instead of buying someone another gift card, take the time to give someone a gift that will really take care of them and actually boost their mental health. These gifts are great for everyone, regardless of whether the receiver has anxiety, depression or not! Also BONUS for you, all these gifts are available on Amazon or online, to boost your mental health too by not waiting in line. These are all products I actually use and love (and I don't get any commission off these products, I just wanted to share them with you).
1. Scented Therapy Putty
Recently, I have become very into
aromatherapy, and notice how different scents
can affect and calm my clients’ anxiety. One
of the most effective grounding techniques
involve using the 5 senses and scent is known to
be the most powerful sense we have as it
directly affects the brain. I love this putty
because it combines two grounding tools in
one! Scent and physical touch! Not only does
this putty come in different scents (my favorite
is lavender), but will calm your anxiety and
keep you focused through the tactile movement.
2. Great Books
I love giving people excellent books for the holidays, especially books that I have read and love. It gives us a deeper reason to connect and depending on the book can support emotional growth. Some of my favorite books I’m giving this year include:
3. Massage Gift Certificate
One of my favorite gifts to give are massages. Massages are one of those things that are so good for us, but are rarely a luxury that people will buy for themselves. Humans are hardwired to connect with one another and studies have demonstrated that physical touch can boost mental health. I typically choose to give a gift card to Massage Envy or Hand and Stone because you can order them online and they have numerous locations that are likely close to where your loved one lives. Find them at : https://www.massageenvy.com/ or http://www.handandstone.com
4. Down Blanket
There are few things that I love more than
being wrapped in a down comforter in my
bed. Sometimes when I’m reaching for
something sugary and comforting to eat, I
realize what I’m really craving is the
ultimate comfort…being wrapped in blankets
in my bed. Since its annoying and too big to drag
my comforter all over my house, I love this
down blanket. It feels like a comforter but with
less bulk and all the softness. I also love that
this style has a satin trim for extra softness
5. Aromatherapy Diffuser
Recently, I’ve gotten really into aromatherapy and the positive affects it can have on my mental health. I love having a diffuser running and picking different scents depending on my or my clients’ needs that day. I love the grain wood of this diffuser. I have this one in my office and it blends right in with the decor. It turns different colors and has 1, 3 and 6 hour settings so you can diffuse all day long!
I've been typing and deleting and trying to muster up the courage to write this post for the last 24 hours. Its so clear to me how important it is to write this post, and yet, like everyone, I hate vulnerability and recoil from it like a hot flame. Must look good, must not embarrass oneself or others, must not cause a commotion, what if people identify who it is? are just a few sentences that run through my head in attempts to not post.
But screw it. Here we go. Nine years ago I was raped. I was at a party and was very drunk and high during my active addiction. I knew the guy and he was older than me and really cool. I desperately wanted him to like me. I hazily remember him inviting me back over to his place and I accepted. I had only had sex with 2 people at that point in my life and both were serious boyfriends. This had been a value of mine, and it was a big part of who I was. Soon after going over to his place, things began to move quickly and I asked him to stop. He ripped my dress and pushed me on the bed. He refused to use protection despite my protests. I remember at some point, he left and other people came into the room. I was lying naked and helpless on the bed, I was too intoxicated to speak or move.
I woke up the next morning covered in bruises. I walked back to my dorm the next morning in my ripped dress I had to hold together, feeling so ashamed. I was so angry at myself for getting so wasted. I thought it was my fault. I rationalized and made sense of the situation by saying that I must have wanted to have sex with him.
Soon after, my drinking and drugging spiraled out of control. I stopped caring about myself or my values. I became very promiscuous.
Years later, while studying to be a therapist in school, I learned that promscuity is actually a response to sexual trauma. If a child is physically abused, a common way a child's brain will reprocess the trauma is through re-enacting the same behavior with toys (or other children). The child will do the same behaviors and often mimic the same words that were said to him or her. This is the reason that so many female strippers or prostitutes have a history of sexual trauma, they learn (unfortunately for many at a young age) how to survive, and that survival includes using their body for sex often so that somebody else doesn't use it for themselves instead. Learning this dramatically impacted my life. For the first time since iI was clear that I wasn't a bad person or a slut. I didn't "want this" just because of my sexual history that followed. And it is the reason I'm so passionate about working with young women.
If we can convince ourselves that it was our idea, it gives us a sense of control. We feel as though it won't happen again, or in the very least, it will be our choice and thus less painful.
There are many therapists who choose not to disclose to their clients. I have lots of respect for them. I know what I'm doing is risky. They believe that it is better to be a mirror and be as plain and objective as possible in order to bring healing to their clients. I have a different opinion. I find that there is so much power in sharing, in a client both seeing me and being seen. For me , this type of one-sided therapeutic relationship did not work. I needed a clinician who I trusted, who I knew had gone through a similar experience to me, who I believed would understand me. This is why I share. This is why I self disclose.
Because if its one thing I've learned from being in therapy and also facilitating tons of it over the years, its that there is so much power in speaking our truth. In sharing our stories with each other, in shining light on the darkness. And ultimately, saying, ME TOO!
P.S. Disclaimer: please note that the #metoo campaign is a spectrum. It doesn't necessarily look just like rape. Many women have been groped, assaulted, name called etc. and absolutely fit into this category. This is simply my experience. Abuse is a spectrum and is up to the individual to choose and classify for his or herself is she falls into that category. It is never our right to label someone else's experience.
I was sitting in an AA big book meeting roughly a year ago. I opened the cover and scribbled on the first page read "willingness without action is fantasy." The quote hit me in the stomach. Sometimes we need that in recovery...a wake up call. The quote found me at exactly the right time. Since grad school I had been saying that I wanted to start my own private practice but somewhere along the way I found comfort and security in my job at a drug and alcohol rehab center. I had steady pay, plenty of support and the comfort of knowing that I would always have a steady stream of clients. Being in private practice is...vulnerable. People cancel, they relapse, they no-show, they get angry, and you don't have a larger institution to support and protect you when things get messy. I've learned vulnerability is messy, as is anything worth having in life.
So there I am sitting at a meeting on a Friday night with truth staring me right in the face. It begged the question, the dream of opening a private practice would remain, just that, a fantasy, without action. The very next day I created a plan for how my private practice could become a reality in one year. I set a date and I began sharing this with other people and began to learn what it would actually take. The truth is, it doesn't matter how willing we are, if we put it on a dream board or meditate about it if we are not taking action. Don't get me wrong, I'm a proponent of all such things, its just that wanting it is not sufficient for actually making it happen. The entire point of manifestation is to put us in a space where we are willing to take action and new opportunities to act open up for us.
While I may be talking about something that is more of a luxury, I am clear that this quote applies to all parts of our life. When we are struggling, its easy to be willing. We say we will do anything to get better, to feel better, to not keep repeating our destructive patterns. Then, we take action. And guess what? Things get better. But somewhere along the way we lose our willingness. Saying that we are willing or "being" willing makes no difference. It is only through ACTION that things can move forward. So my invitation to you today is, whether you are struggling with something such as depression, anxiety, or an addiction, or you are simply looking to take the next step in your life, as yourself... what actions am I taking? If the answer is none, get real with yourself...I ask you, what is it going to take?