Author Archives: braindoctr

About braindoctr

A Christian by confession, A Psychiatrist by profession, & Life's Student by obsession.

The Law of Cause & Effect

A Pastor drives through the country on his way to visit a church member.  He sees a large field, rich with green healthy corn stalks,  rows and rows of vegetables, near ripe and bright with color. 

The field seems to stretch for miles, with an abundant and vibrant crop.  As he approached the end of the great field, he spotted the farmer repairing a fence.  The Pastor slowed his car and pulled up next to the farmer who paused from his labor.  “The Lord has blessed you with a wonderful and fertile plot of land”, said the Pastor.

The farmer raised his sweat beading head, turned and cast his gaze behind him, without a word.   “Yes, He did “, said the farmer, wiping his forehead on his raised sleeve as he turned back.  His blue eyes fixed back on the pastor as he spoke with deliberate clarity,  

“But you ought to have seen it when only God owned it”.

This is a rendition of a story based on a radio program with Earl Nightingale.  The topic of the focus centered upon rewards returned from an investment of service.  He shared that too many in our world expect rewards without providing a valued service to others.  This type of mindset has been massaged deeply into our society.  When this process blossoms, it is manifested in those who spend their life seeking treasures, blessings, and recognition without knowing about responsibility and the healthy pride of mastery.  One does not have to look far to find such people.  They exist in two common camps; Takers and Wanders.  

Takers have an issue with those that possess riches, treasures of due effort; even though justly earned. Takers believe the world is unjust and success depends on the lucky. Takers believe they are justified in taking what they wish, and treasures are acquired by those that are skilled in taking. They are often personable, and engaging. They often assume roles where recognition is placed on what they gain for themselves or others they represent.  In time,  they are often discovered as Con Artist or scam artist.  The more polished they become and the more skilled they become in their trade, the harder it is to unveil their schemes.  Takers leave devastation in their wake. Often, you will find they are involved in a number of social circles.  Yet, each separate circle members rarely share a connection between groups due to the risk of being found out.  In order to maintain separate identities, it is necessary to limit friendships that share common circles. This keeps their influence broad while minimizing the risks of being discovered.

The other camp belongs to those that are Wanderers.  These are those that seek “happiness” as if it is a state of life to acquire. They are on a quest to find contentment and feel the burden of discontent in their daily ventures.  They attend a variety of events, change jobs, move from place to place; never feeling complete and at peace.  As time unfolds, they leave a trail of brokenness in their wake. They are usually good people, having the intent of sincerity and honest lives. But feel their choices to invest in others and activities are unfulfilling.  Worst yet, they see the hurts their lack of commitment causes in the lives of others, but it lacks impact on their own course.  They never really learn about trust and the value of need in others.  Instead, they seek avenues of life which are safe, independent, esteemed as strength, less attached, more mechanical and aloof.  Though possessing an active life, often recognized through great achievements, they appear controlled and calculated in all they do.  Yet, behind this cold curtain of control is a fear which torments and threatens loneliness of isolation which visits them in every quiet moment.  

Can “Takers” and Wanderers” find the happiness and contentment they desperately seek?

Yes.  But it requires a tactic which is foreign and vastly different than what they have ever known before.  You see, throughout life’s journey, they have clutched firmly to a mental map which leads them astray. But they tend to believe their particular map has been the reason for their success.  It did, in fact, serve a valuable place in their life. It brought them some recognition and their map did help them to make sense of their world in a time when they sought stability and certainty, especially at a time when all seemed to be falling apart around them.  Often this was viewed as a tragic time, likely due to the choices of a primary caretaker in their life.  It may be a partner, the parent or a different type of security, which failed, was lost or became dismantled at a crucial time.  In order to steer through the threatening storms in those dark moments, survival required them to unhook themselves from was what was firmly trusted, and reattach their security to what was most available and secure; their own control.  Often, in order to manage the storm, they may even absorb guilt for the loss (imagine as something they did to interrupt love) or maybe even construct elaborate logical frameworks to tease out a variable that can be identified as a reason for this trauma( he left because of a good reason).  In identifying a variable that clues the disaster, they can believe the myth that the risk of another trauma can be averted. Unfortunately, such a belief will not only oppose their happiness but left unchecked, will assure a destination of only repeated sorrow and pain. Sorrow is the only destination when safety is the goal.  After all, it is very safe when you are alone on an island.

It is only through challenging the mental map, can we correct our voyage for the contentment we seek. A principle which is at the heart of mental health is found at the seat of our own mind. It is about control, but a realistic and truth based control.  We have to come to the point of knowing what is within our control and what is not.  We can never know the mind of another person.  We can only observe their choices in decisions they make.  As we are individuals, we have our own mindset; we make our own choices, good and bad.  When outcomes are not what we desired, we have the ability to make changes for different outcomes.  

The quality of our life is determined by our mindset.  A great motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, once said, “The voyage of our lives is not dependent upon the waters or the wind but by the set of our sails”

In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, there was a debate with Brutus about Cesar, held to be God-like and powerful, who ruled with divine authority, as if elected by the stars of heaven. “..the fault dear Brutus is not in our stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings”.

In his book, “As a man thinkers”, Author Vic Johnson states:

We can control our thoughts.  We possess our own thoughts.  When people meet a challenge we are faced with decisions.  Our decisions lead to outcomes.  If the outcomes are not what we had expected, we then have the capacity to make a different choice.  But this is only about our own choices, not someone else’s choices.  If we wish to make truth based choices, we will need a way to assure they are actually true. The great thing about truth is, when it is applied, it will assure the outcome will always be true.  If true happiness is the goal, we need to employ truth based thoughts.  In order to help people think more truth based, I have a tool which I will share that can be very useful.

But before I provide a tool to evaluate thoughts, it is important to set a correct perspective about happiness.  Just as John Lennon once shared, “Life is what you do when you are planning life”, happiness is also similar.  Happiness is not an end in itself.  It is the process which accompanies right and truth based thinking.  Chasing happiness is like chasing your shadow.  It will always appear within reach but never obtained.  When we are at peace with who we are and we are confident about our integrity and investment into the lives of others, happiness will present itself and cloak us with warmth in the coldest and darkest moments.

Now, to end this writing, I share once again the life-giving tool which brings great peace to my life.  It is not a new paradigm but was already provided by the writings in God’s Word.  Here I will list them briefly in a simple format.  Feel free to read more on this on my blog in the section labeled, “What lies beneath”.

The following lines reveal lies that our thoughts brew up.  Identify the lies, challenge them and replace them with truth statements.  This will lead to the truth we seek true happiness.

  1. Maximizing others, minimizing ourselves
  2. Overgeneralizing from one situation to another
  3. Personalizing content as if it is about us.
  4. Jumping to conclusions; it is just going to happen again
  5. Ignoring the evidence; it seems good but it is not
  6. All or Nothing thinking; it is all good or bad

May your Joys be full in the coming New Year Dear Friends.



The Law of Cause & Effect was originally published on

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Posted by on May 2, 2019 in Interesting Items


The Emotion Compass

The Emotion Compass



Emotion Compass



This is a short introduction to the emotion compass which I designed during my last year of my Psychiatry Residency.  If you wish to see more information about this instrument, feel free to visit the article on my blog.  This is an instrument which I created based on some data extracted from the book, “Language of Emotion”, by Dr. Joel Davitz.

In short, he would give a group of people a scenario like, “you give a speech and find your blouse or pants were undone”.  Then he would ask the subjects to respond to what you would feel by a survey.  Dr. Davitiz had the subjects answer based on a categorical system as well as provide a label of the emotion.  In the case of embarrassment. the subjects agreed on the categories as, “High Energy”, “Moving Away” and “Discomfort”, for example. 

By applying the various data formats, I aligned 50 most frequently (and most reported as common) emotions on a three graduated axis. This permitted me to actually visualize some similarities about various emotions in relation to each other.



It was only sometime later that I explored how it would work in reverse; by reflecting on characteristics of emotions in order to clue me into an emotion which I would be feeling (when I was not clear on what I felt).  Sure enough, it seemed to prove helpful.  I then constructed the following chart and asked some of my clients to use it during their journaling.  It was well received and seemed very useful in helping my clients connect to their emotions more clearly.  This was then the springboard I used for Cognitive Therapy. For when my patients could own the true feelings they experienced, then they can begin asking, “what types of thoughts bring these feelings on?”.  As it seemed useful in breaking through barriers in Cognitive Therapy, I have found it useful for myself as well.  Feel free to try it out.

Brief Instructions



When you want to explore what you may be ‘feeling’, go to one bold category that you are more certain about. Here I am pointing to “Movement”, with the subcategory of, “Away”. The feelings you may be having is probably one of the emotions in a colored box as this.



Now, identify one more column which you are confident about.  Here in the example, I point to the column of “Energy-Low”. So, if I want to “move away” and have “low energy”, then the likely emotion will be where I have a color box in both columns.



So, if you look at the emotion list on the left-hand side, any emotion that has both the “move away” and “low emotion” are likely emotions I am currently experiencing. Some of the emotions in common by this example are, “shame”, “grief”, “depression” and “apathy”.


I hope you will find this Emotion Compass as useful as I do.  








If you wish to download your own Emotion Compass, feel free to click HERE



The Emotion Compass was originally published on Braindoctr’s Blog


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“I Feel Your Pain…Not”

“I Feel Your Pain…Not”


“I Feel Your Pain..Not”


Last year, I was battling my fourth week of coughing without end.  I became determined to treat my symptoms through a standard protocol. I took zinc tablets for one week for my presumed viral infection. After no relief, I started antibiotics for a 10-day schedule.  The upper respiratory infection left me with laryngitis with a continuous cough.  Frustrated with my prolonged coughing, I started using a steam vaporizer to loosen my congestion and even used a muscle thumper to areas of my chest to help clear my lungs.  However, for some reason, my deep cough continued without significant resolution.  I decided to pay the local medical clinic a visit to have my primary physician provide other strategies for treatment.



He agreed with my diagnostic impression of post-infection bronchitis and he prescribed an expectorant, cortisone along with two kinds of antitussives (cough suppressant medicines), Benzonatate and Dextromethorphan.  I had used Dextromethorphan in past years without any problems.  The other antitussive, Benzonatate was a medicine that I had never tried before.  I started the treatment right away, hoping for a speedy recovery.

After nearly a week of treatment, I began to have a resolution of my coughing symptoms.  I also became increasingly aware that my normal level of energy and emotional posture had shifted.  On one level, I was a quiet observer of the change I was experiencing.  But on a different level, I was feeling numb and apathetic, and oddly, depressed.  Clearly, I was experiencing what Mental Health professionals call “anhedonia” (no pleasure in activities ) and psychomotor retardation (sluggish) with a decreased appetite and increased need for sleep. What I found noteworthy was that I seemed to have lost interest even in my personal feelings about everything that was important to me; even my appreciation of others, especially with those closest to me.  I recognized that even during that time if I had the energy to gaze at what I was actually experiencing, it would have shocked me that I could not have cared less for anything or anyone. Since this was an experience I had never felt before, and knowing this was a clear departure from my character, I reasoned that this dysphoria had to be medication related.  I decided to stop the Benzonatate and I reduced my routine dose of Dextromethorphan.


After I recovered and was finally on the other side of my illness, I was compelled to revisit this dysphoria in order to unravel the mystery behind my mood experience.  For me to have such a profound emotional shift from a routine prescription treatment, I began to question how often I may have missed treating a depressed patient effectively for a refractory depression without considering possible iatrogenic (treatment induced) influence of their medicines?  Since I tolerated Dextromethorphan, I knew the culprit had to be the Benzonatate.


So what is unique to Benzonatate that it could actually diminish my sense of connection with others? What would interfere with my level of empathy and even the influence the deepest sense to even care about anything?   


What I found was that Benzonatate..


“ is an ester local anesthetic derived from tetracaine. After absorption and circulation to the respiratory tract, it distributes into the mucosa, anesthetizing vagal afferent fibers that contribute to both cough and hiccups.”

Benzonatate behaves like a painkiller of sorts for vagal afferent fibers. These nerve fibers actually monitor the upper respiratory tract and have motor fibers that stimulate the diaphragm.  On further reading, I found an article that surprised me and seemed to explain what I had experienced. Apparently, the blunting of empathy such as what I had experienced, had been a side effect recently attributed to some common pain killers. In this article, blunting was also associated with very common pain medicine, Tylenol.

“..acetaminophen has a general blunting effect on individuals’ evaluative and emotional processing, irrespective of negative or positive valence..”
“..It is thus conceivable that acetaminophen may also reduce willingness to help others in physical or emotional distress

This description adequately portrays what I felt.  I did not seem to value anything or anyone and I did not even care that I felt this way.  The only incongruence I experienced about this emotional state is that I knew that under ‘normal’ situations, I would be bothered about not caring for anything or anyone. It was as if I had no Will to change my state.

Understanding that pain-reducing mechanisms can because apathy and diminished empathy, it brought me to a different level of questioning.  When we speak of the blunting effect on empathy, what is it that we are describing? The first step was to define what is meant by the term, “empathy”.


According to Webster “Empathy” is:

 “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also :  the capacity for this ” (“empathy”).


Empathy plays an important part in our lives as social beings.  It is that part of our internal monitor, which appeals to fairness and justice in the world.  It helps us to “walk in someone else’s shoes” and stirs us to ponder the question, “What if that person were me?”.  Empathy is important for modifying our behavior, aligned to the survival and safety of each other.  When empathy is returned, we can depend on this emotion to assure our wellbeing as well.  This is not just about our physical safety from harm, but it includes the preservation and the welfare of others in our social circle for security, which we all require in our relationships.  As one author shared, “Empathy regulates prosocial and antisocial behavior”.

Components of Empathy

In order to empathize with others, there has to exist something within us to register “what if that person was me?”  This would require both the Will [W] to take a template of another person (like us) [T]  and recreate a similar scenario [S] of ourselves in such a situation. Then we would need to employ some sort of a “personalized assessment” [A] where our resulting emotions [E(r)] are compared to our baseline emotional function [E(b)]. If the disturbance of comfort exceeds our baseline comfort, we are motivated [M] toward action to restore the balance.

                                    [W] * [M] = [E(b)] – [E(r)], where  A (S* ( [T] ) ) = [E(r)]

If we present this process as an equation, we can see that if a baseline Emotional state E(b) is not significantly altered by the imagined self in the represented scenario E(r), there will be no motivation (M) to alter the situation. An example of this could occur , when one who is actively suffering a loss, observes another experiencing a loss. However, if the number of losses of the other person (E(r)) is exceeded by personal loss (E(b)), one might be motivated to give comfort.

What condition, based on this equation, would increase the likelihood of empathy?  First,  there would have to be a willingness (W)  to look beyond ourselves. Then there would have to be a high degree of similarity of the observed person (T) to ourselves (e.g. age, gender, traits, etc) and the assessment (A) of imagined distress (E(r)) would have to be significantly different from our baseline emotional comfort (E(b)).


The Biology of Empathy

“Simulation theories of empathy hypothesize that empathizing with others’ pain shares some common psychological computations with the processing of one’s own pain.  Support for this perspective has largely relied on functional neuroimaging evidence of an overlap between activations during the experience of physical pain and empathy for other people’s pain”


A substantial body of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) research suggests that observing others experiencing pain (e.g. observing a person receiving a hot probe placed on the hand), activates brain regions that are also activated during one’s own experience of pain—the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the anterior insula (AI) cortex.



It is not the purpose of my present writing to discuss the neurological detail of empathy.  However, it suffices at this point to say we have the brain structure which is designed to fill a particular role for Empathy. Our design supports the importance of “being wired” for this function in our lives and it also stresses the importance of our relating to each other as social creatures.

I believe this shared pain phenomenon, has something to offer us when we discuss empathy.  When we observe others suffering from specific injuries, our brains mirror a similar pattern of pain activity related to the one we observe being injured. In fact, if you consider the brain pattern activity, it is much like we experience the very same injury, just by observing the one in pain.

Pain is a subjective experience of discomfort but from a physiological perspective, there are some common characteristics behind the “pain” experience.


“…pain can result from increased activity in excitatory pathways involving, for example, substance P, glutamate, etc. decreased activity in inhibitory pathways involving, for example, noradrenaline or serotonin (5-HT) or both mechanisms..”(3)


Given that we seem to experience a similar injury pattern from observation, questions were raised on how this ‘perceived pain ‘ would be impacted after an observer is administered a painkiller. Even though it is unclear exactly how acetaminophen works, it does have analgesic and fever-reducing properties. Tylenol (acetaminophen) is believed to regulate serotonin pathways.

Paracetamol has a central analgesic effect that is mediated through activation of descending serotonergic pathways.

Paracetamol (aka Tylenol)


Empathy and Painkillers


To examine the impact of painkillers on empathy, a study was conducted where randomized subjects were given a direct form of irritation by quick air puffs. A group of subjects was tested where they were to estimate the level of pain other subjects experienced when observed in the “painful situation”.  Subjects again assessed the pain experience after an oral administration of 1000mg of acetaminophen in a double-blind study.

You can review this study here.

Surprisingly, what was discovered is that acetaminophen (aka paracetamol or Tylenol) had a profound effect not only on direct painful stimuli but also in the pain attributed to others experiencing pain.  In other words, empathy was directly diminished by taking 1000mg of Tylenol.

As hypothesized, acetaminophen reduced empathy in response to others’ pain.  Acetaminophen also reduced the unpleasantness of noise blasts delivered to the participant, which mediated acetaminophen’s effects on empathy. Together, these findings suggest that the physical painkiller acetaminophen reduces empathy for pain and provide a new perspective on the neurochemical bases of empathy (2)

This ought to raise some concern for those involved in Mental Health care.

“Based on the drug-induced reductions in empathy seen here, acetaminophen, and potentially other analgesics, might interfere with social processes that are critical for the promotion of social bonds and social order.” (2).


“Because empathy regulates prosocial and antisocial behavior, these drug-induced reductions in empathy raise concerns about the broader social side effects of acetaminophen (as well as other potential pain regulating medicines), which is taken by almost a quarter of all adults in the United States each week”. (2)

“As hypothesized, acetaminophen reduced empathy in response to others’ pain. ..these findings suggest that the physical painkiller acetaminophen reduces empathy for pain and provide a new perspective on the neurochemical bases of empathy”.

What this study implies is that most people taking Tylenol for chronic pain are likely experiencing an ongoing emotional shift just like the one I had experienced.  Tylenol (acetaminophen) is frequently administered to manage chronic pain since it does not have the same concerns that most other pain medications, which may contribute to gastric ulcers and increased bleeding risks.  Yet it seems very important to expose the impact that our medicines have on our emotional tone.  Let us face it, without the awareness that a very common pain medicine can dampen our empathy and fuel our depression we would not appreciate a different level of our emotional experience.  One can understand that taking pain medicine while being treated for a depressive disorder, it would be easy to conclude, “it is just how I feel’ or “something must be wrong with me for not caring for others in my life”.  Counseling is always important in addressing the maladaptive way we approach relationships.  It is very important to be ‘equipped emotionally’ to make necessary changes in our thinking for our progress.  If we do not consider the broad impact of our medicine strategies, many people may be left hopeless in path toward healing.  Emotional trials contribute to problems in our relationships despite all our mental health efforts to help others improve in their relationships.  The missing piece of someone’s emotional puzzle may just be as simple as a change of pain medicine.

I wonder how many people we meet in our lives who struggle with “I should care about him/her but I just don’t”?  

 I wonder how many clergy or pastors, dealing with chronic physical pain are questioning their lack of empathy for others in their congregation?  I wonder how many spiritual people actually wrestle with feel abandoned by God because they do not have the love for others as modeled by their Savior.


For some frustrated people, this post may bring some hope just knowing their pain medication may be preventing them from effectively restoring a wayward relationship.


There is so much we do not know about our treatment strategies for the many health problems we experience. Most strategies are evidenced-based, in that results of our best-known treatments guide future treatments of particular pathologies.  The scope of clinical treatment is most often based on physical goals and it rarely considers the impact efforts on other aspects of life, i.e. influence on emotions.  Medicine is not perfect, but good clinicians strive to improve their efforts by observing the impact of treatment on all planes of a patient’s life.  My post did not provide clear answers, nor did it reveal the exact mechanisms behind the dysphoria I experienced from my prescription medicine.  However,  it does likely explain what I experienced and it offers an insight to consider in treating patients with similar symptoms of depression. ,


If my readers personally experience depressive symptoms that seem untouched by prescribed medicines and applied therapeutic counseling efforts, please consider the impact of any pain medicines, which may be contributing to your prolonged dysphoria.  Always seek the alliance with mental health professionals if you are depressed and feeling hopeless.  I wish you joy and peace in your journey.  Thank you for taking this walk with me.







2). Dominik Mischkowski, Jennifer Crocker, Baldwin M. Way; From painkiller to empathy killer: acetaminophen (paracetamol) reduces empathy for pain. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 2016; 11 (9): 1345-1353. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsw057


n.d.: n. pag. Print. 23 April 2017


3) What do we (not) know about how paracetamol (acetaminophen) works?

K Toussaint, XC Yang, MA Zielinski… – Journal of clinical …, 2010 – Wiley Online Library











p class=”wp-crosspost-linkback”>“I Feel Your Pain…Not” was originally published on


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The Bridge That Could Not

The Bridge That Could Not



The Bridge that could not..



It has been said, “if you want friends, do not build walls, build bridges”.  However, if you have ever felt depressed or under stress, you may have noticed that you did not really feel very sociable.  In fact, you may have avoided being around people.  Often when we face depression, impaired thinking and difficulty with planning accompany it.  When this is our pervasive state, any task undertaken can seem long and very energy demanding.  Even the steps we know we ought to take are challenging because we have difficulty moving forward.  We become myopic, (or nearsighted), lacking the capacity to see what the future has in store.

I have been reading an article recently that explains how this experience is actually a part of a neurobiological process; one that is common not only for times of stress and depression but it also appears to have a common involvement in most dementias.

You see, the bridgework of social engagement is much like the bridgework that can be found between neurons of our brains.  This bridgework aligns neurons across the signaling gap between downstream neurons. The terminal end of one firing neuron (presynapse) communicates with the dendrite (postsynapse) of the next downstream neuron through a gap known as a “synapse”.  This very important space regulates information as a communication relay for neurons.



Webster provides more about the origin


“Latin Synapsis, from Greek, juncture, from synaptein to fasten together”,


Presynaptic, synaptic and postsynaptic regions


 Depiction of Nectin Adhesion

 The correct alignment of neurons is an important feature for effective communication downstream.  Researchers discovered a structural protein known as Nectin-3 that maintains this important alignment in order to secure connections in their proper place.  This structural protein appears influenced by stress.  Through an experimental design, when mice were placed in a stressful environment, their brains showed a  significant reduction in Nectin-3. This reduction of Nectin-3 also correlated with the avoidance behavior observed in these mice.  In order to verify this relationship of Nectin-3 and avoidance, other experiments designed to restore fibronectin-3 resulted in increased cognitive function and improved socialization in mice.


When the scientist explored the mechanism behind the nectin-3 reduction, an enzyme known as MMP-9 was identified.  It was observed that during times of stress, high glutamate levels prompt the release of this enzyme, which degrades the nectin-3 protein.   


Normally, this enzyme has an important role in modifying memory. It likely has a part in fine tuning what we retain much like how a professional would tune a piano to precise tone.  However, in situations where we experience stress, there is a wider sweep of disconnections in a regional runaway mechanism, hindering our ease in social interactions as well as our capacity to think clearly.


MMP (like Military Police)

 Consider the MMP as if it were a rogue group of Military Police (MP), which lose their role as peacekeepers, causing mass chaos in a crisis.

As for the role of MMP-9 in our daily life, I can imagine how this may be a way our brains manage to protect us.  Life has many stressful moments.  Some moments are much worse than others are.  I can imagine that under a very intense and stressful situation, we may feel overwhelmed, requiring that we find a way to “step back” and reset our perspective in order to address our stress another way.  Such a mechanism as “sending out the Military Police (MMP) on our distressed brain, may allow us a certain “numbness”, a form of objectivity as it were until we can get back on our feet and face the problem a new way.

I am including a reference to this article below.

Thanks for joining me at this moment objectively!






I invite you to read this article below.


Stress Management Makes Us Antisocial Due To Severed Synapses: New Finding Opens Window For Disorder Treatment

New research (htp:// the Brain Mind Institute at École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL),



The Bridge That Could Not was originally published on


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A Miraculous Life

A Miraculous Life



Miraculous Life




As I prepared to for my day, I was listening to a presentation on ‘ Life Lessons’, a recording from Jim Rohn, (a well-known Author and motivational speaker.  He was speaking on a topic, “the measure of one’s life”.

He stated,

“Life is not about the length of time but the collection of experiences”.

He went on to say,

“..  not just the collection of any experience but the variety of experiences with both magnitude and frequency.  A man can die in his 40’s and still could have lived many (full) lifetimes”.

This made me ponder on how we can understand the quality of living our lives.  Certainly, jumping from a plane, skiing down a steep powdered slope, climbing a rocky wall of a very tall cliff are vastly different than wasting hours in front of a television set or spending a life as a recluse, removed from family and friends.  I am not saying that all mundane experiences rob the quality of life.  In fact, these subtle times are just a small part in the vast variety of experiences that life has to offer us.  However, if the mundane is where the boundary of one’s life remains, it would certainly not provide the full range of color in our experiences and can leave us lacking all that our brief existence can yield.

The takeaway here suggests that it may be best to not dismiss unfamiliar opportunities never experienced, but consider every different event as a new hue in life’s color.  Just as shades of grey can bring detail to a black and white image, the range of experience can offer vibrancy to our life.

As I considered this topic, I thought about a discussion I once had with some friends at my church. We were talking about “Miracles” and the question came up on how we would define a Miracle.



Often when we discuss Miracles in the Bible, a good example would be the story where our Lord raised Lazarus from the dead.  Clearly, to all who believe this account, this would qualify as a Miracle.  There seem to be many examples of ‘Miracles’ offered in the scripture. But what about today?  Most, if not all people have heard of remarkable personal stories from people.  We hear of those who were facing a life-threatening disease, restored to health, or someone troubled by a business loss that somehow leads to a new direction, blessed with riches, or a barren spouse, despite complications eventually was able to conceive.  How about a less epic situation,  like having a flat tire on an unsafe roadside that received aid at the hands of an unexpected stranger?  Do not these also constitute “miracles”?

Reflexively, we tend to consider miracles as supernatural events.  We expect some desired need was fulfilled by something supernatural, or that it was somehow  ‘beyond what is considered a “natural event”, outside of what occurs in the known physical world.  But could we be diminishing activities that are just as wondrous, just less dramatic in our everyday lives?


Maybe a miracle is not as exclusive and separate from natural occurrence as we tend to believe.  It is true that Christ had performed many miracles. Even by historical records, Josephus, the Greek historian of the time wrote about this Christ who was a man well known to many, “performed countless miracles”.


The very first public Miracle of Christ that recorded was where Christ turned water into wine.  If we attempt to isolate which part of ‘changing water into wine’ was a miracle and what part was not a miracle, we will run into some problems.  We can say the water poured out as wine is the ‘supernatural’ part but then we are compelled to say the other activities (mother making the request, having servants to assist, filling pitchers with water, giving the first cup to the wine taster, etc) were not supernatural.  We then must understand that all that occurred in this activity and the items employed in this miracle were necessary to define the miracle.  If items and actions were necessary for this miracle to occur, then the actions and items around the “miracle” also had a role in the miraculous.


If we take a very limited view of what we define as a miracle, we would leave many aspects of the miraculous out of the story.   It was not a single cup like a parlor trick.  These were jar containers which had a large volume of water, which was changed to wine in composition in its molecular form.

We must forget to consider how time played a part of the miracle.  The story tells of a “wine taster” present at the feast whose role was to evaluate the quality of the drink, which was deemed of the highest quality.


Quality wine takes time and careful management to assure it is of the highest quality.  This allows us to see yet another part of the miracle.  The necessary time and care required to age the wine was completed at that moment.

There were jars, there was a volume of water equivalent to the volume of wine transformed and cups which brought the aged drink to the lips of the guests. Were these not also a part of this miracle?  Yet were these not a natural aspect of the of this particular miracle?




Let us consider another miracle presented in scripture about the “feeding of the five thousand “, with five loaves and two fish.  Here, a young boy donated his meal which was blessed by Christ before he broke it to disperse to a hungry crowd that gave Christ audience.  After everyone finished eating to their satisfaction, the scraps of food were collected and found to be over 12 baskets of leftover food.  Was this a miracle?  Yes, it was.  But it was not just the incredible volume of food that occurred from such a small-donated meal.  Every bite of food was a miracle.  The donated fish and loaves were a miracle. The faith of a child was a miracle.  The joyful collection of remaining food was a miracle.  Every part of this event was a miracle and resulted in praise to God from all who were there.


Sometimes, people report having some miraculous event and later discover a natural process behind the situation, which may also explain the “miracle”.  However, it does not mean the special experience would be any less a miracle.  Consider the following account also from scriptures.


The Bible shares the account of the pool at Bethesda.  There were many diseased, lame, blind and paralyzed people gathering at this pool. They had a belief that angels would stir the water at infrequent times and the first one to descend into the water is healed from their illness.

The story tells how Jesus was passing by this pool and observed a lame man who was alone near the pool.   Jesus was moved with compassion and approached the man and asked, “Why are you here?”.   The man answered, “Sir, each time the angels stir the water I have no one to help me into the pool first”.

Jesus then asked, “Do you want to be healed?”. The man said “yes” and Christ said, “Your faith has made you whole, take up your bed and walk”.  . The man picked up his bed and walked, immediately healed. Was this a miracle?

Yes. A lame man walked after his encounter with Christ.  What was the miracle? All of it; the water, the stirring of the water, and the faith of a lame man.


I learned some years ago that this same pool was excavated by an archaeologist. They found that this pool had a crack in its base where an underground spring caused the water to occasional stir. Does this information change the miracle? Even though it was discovered to be a natural event that stirred the waters and not the stirring of angels, it was still a miracle. Did Christ condemn the belief in angels stirring the water or the belief that the first one to descend the waters would be healed? No. But he did ask a direct question, “would you like to be healed?” and followed it by, “Your faith has made you whole..”.



I bring this particular story to emphasize a point. Just because we are able to explain an event in natural ways at the time, it does not take away from the miracle. Natural events are often a part of the miracle, a significant part, connected intimately to the very miracle itself.


I would offer that even though we may regard a miracle is “supernatural” activity, it is likely to still be a natural activity, that is not understood and grasped immediately by the limitations of known natural laws. Furthermore, I tend to believe that If we understood all the laws whereby Christ healed the sick, it would not pale as a miracle. It remains a miracle even when we consider the background of the event as less miraculous, or a common phenomenon based on our present understanding.

The factors that promote an event to the status of a miracle, introduces the background by comparison, of what is natural and presently known into the scene. Water is not routinely changed to wine, lame people do not naturally walk. Through our journey, we have considered some factors that help define a miraculous event. There is the deviation of the naturally evolving (timing), the scope of the event (intensity) and the frequency (a rarity).  These are the factors which help stage the miracle, separate from commonplace events.

Now, if we really apply these factors to our everyday events, we need to concede that we are surrounded by miracles often. It may be a kind word at the right time(timing), or an act of generosity from a neighbor(intensity), or a warm meal on a cold day(a rarity). Under the same lens, all such events are equally considered as miracles or connected to the miraculous.



I challenge you, my readers, to live miraculously by seeking the new experiences of adventure, to broaden your investment in the lives of others and add to your life the adventure of the miraculous. If we really observe the events that occur in our day and grasp the wonder of how unique each event is in our meaningful life, we will recognize the miraculous.  Recognize that when we participate in the miraculous, just by association, we can be miracles in the lives of others.

Thanks for sharing the miraculous with me.







A Miraculous Life was originally published on


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What Lies Beneath

What Lies Beneath


What “LIES” Beneath…


The most fundamental principle in Psychiatry for self-development is discovering the content of our “self-talk”.  It is what we tell ourselves about who we are that determines how we behave in situations and with others in our sphere of life.




Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), introduced by Dr. Aaron Beck, has been established as a very useful therapeutic strategy for those who are suering from a wide range of emotional problems.  The eective application of this therapy has been a powerful tool not only for troubled individuals but also for anyone who desires some sort of compass to navigate through the rocky terrain of everyday life.



The principles behind Cognitive Therapy(CBT) is based on uncovering the lies behind our maladaptive coping strategies that we have learned early in our lives and how this “map” is used to navigate our lives in the way we deal with situations and relationships.  We all face obstacles in our life journeys.  This is a necessary part of our growth.  When we were young we learned that certain behaviors would bring about changes in order to have our needs met.  However, as we matured throughout our adolescent and toward our adult years, the “old way”, (aka, our maps) required changes in order for needs to be addressed.  This learning model has much to offer especially since there are no perfect parents, no perfect relationships and there is no such thing as stress-free situations in life.  Yet, without obstacles, life would not offer us opportunities to develop the required skills for our personal growth and mastery.


Here some examples of Lies we tell ourselves.


I am not as smart as other people.

People at work think I am lazy

I am a failure as a parent

I will never be happy


 We are creatures of habit and tend to repeat particular patterns that appeared to best meet our needs.  This is true for our practiced patterns of behavior and the way we learn to interpret our situations.  Over time, our unique interpretations find a quiet place in a mental seat that precedes life scenarios.  This is what Cognitive therapists call. “Automatic thoughts”. 



What if you learned that the family was having coffee and one the kids told a funny story that made them laugh?


Personalizing the reason for the family laughing without knowing the facts is based on what I brought into the situation.  The false interpretation that I automatically believed resulted in me lashing out angrily and left me with a conclusion that only robbed my freedom.



Our automatic thoughts are a set of many conclusions tagged to other similar experiences we have had in our life.  Yet, these are more than just distinct memories.  Our automatic thoughts are about “me” in the situation.  They precede every situation we face and define who we are in those situations. We carry these interpretations about ourselves with us, unaware of their influence.  As we experience repeating themes in our life that seem to be consistent, we begin to embrace our interpretations as “truth”.  These “truths” continue to define us and provide scripts that we believe in our experiences throughout our life.  All too often, we solidify our personal interpretations from our past about ourselves as “truths”, when they are in fact, “lies”.


The real Struggle is about Fear


We are living creatures, designed to assure our survival.  Every part of our body, from our cells to whole body systems always promote our quality of life and well-being.  To stay alive, our body must be postured on the offensive and defensive.  When we plan to take on an adventure, we will need assurance of our safety and we will avoid any dangers that may threaten our survival. That is where the emotion of fear plays a vital role.  Courage, for example, is a virtue that can only occur in the presence of fear.  Without fear, no courage is possible.  The role of our fears is to keep our behavior in check.  But when the fear is unrealistic or false, our fears can actually enslave us. Unfortunately, fears do not always have a healthy role, especially when the fears are not based on accurate interpretations.  Inappropriate fears can hinder instead of promoting growth.  Fears help us gauge our risks more carefully because the priority of survival is vital for us to thrive.  The sense of danger is not just physical.  Often it can be relationship based and will direct us to avoid the likelihood of social threats as well.


In order to know if our fears are based on realistic or unrealistic interpretations, we need to evaluate the statements our automatic thoughts are telling us.  If our acts of avoidance are not “truth-based”, they will not lead to our growth, but to our enslavement. 


 The most valuable aspect of CBT is that it can instruct us on healthy coping strategies without the requirement of having lifelong counseling.  Unlike Psychoanalysis, where the therapy structure depends on unraveling unconscious motivations or defenses over many appointment sessions, in Cognitive therapy, the pace of therapy depends on learning the skills that will keep the mental dialogue in check.  When we learn how the lies we tell ourselves are compromising our growth, we can be equipped to replace our interpretations with the truth.  By applying a litmus test to our self-talk, we will able to break free from the anxiety and fear that threaten the freedom we have to live life fully as intended.



Below, you will notice six basic rules that we help reveal the lies we often tell ourselves.  Learning how to identify the lies we tell ourselves and learning how to correct our self-talk is central to the making life changes.  With practice, you will be well on your way to your journey of freedom.






How to apply Cognitive Therapy to your life



Let us use the coffee shop scene above as an example



Scene: Coffee Shop


I spilled some coffee on the table     


(A family started laughing in the corner)                   [People are always laughing at me]


I became angry and yelled at the family                   [They are so rude-how dare they?]


I left the coffee Shop and I refuse to back                [I hate stores that serve such people]






Let us correct the interpretation with another possible explanation




SITUATION                                             AUTOMATIC THOUGHT                                          FEELING



A family started laughing                     They may be laughing at a family joke                                                unchanged

in the corner




This is just a rough guide to begin your journey in Cognitive Therapy techniques.  I have used these principles frequently in my life and they have been the most useful guide for dealing with many challenges I encounter.


I hope you will find this post useful for you as well.  Now, let us go reclaim freedom! 







What Lies Beneath was originally published on Braindoctr’s Blog


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Teenage Stranger

Today I am writing about a topic which is on the hearts and minds of many parents, myself included. It is probably one of the most challenging and frustrating periods that all parents will face at one time or another; in some form or another. The day will come when you will be sitting at your dinner table with your family and become suddenly aware that your son or daughter has been replaced by a stranger. Even though it would seem that little has changed in the day to day activities with the same familiar faces of your family, it will descend on you without warning.

For some parents, the changes may seem gradual. But for others, it may appear as if the only remaining evidence of your dear child are features that federal agents could use to identify through their physical remains. However, what is important to understand is that as your growing child moves through common stages toward adulthood, their behaviors are the sum of their particular environment, both outside and inside their skin.









Between these environmental forces, the least understood and yet most influential by far is the climate within (or under) our skin. It is very complex and beautifully synchronous team of biochemical and molecularly organized structures that operate independently, yet together for the whole body. Everything within the internal environment is there for a reason. Every part from the greatest to the smallest, mobile to fixed, weaved or fragmented has a role and would not be there without serving some purpose. One role which is often a focus of behavioral sciences is that of communication, that is how the parts “talk” to each other. This is where you may have heard the term, “chemical messengers”. This refers to the wide array of signaling methods used to communicate top-down instructions on what to do and when to do it.

One way in which communication is carried out is through a type of “public broadcast message” via hormone influence. Hormones are much like the common cell to cell interactions, but hormones target a very wide population of cell sets and stir various role-specific groups to fulfill a particular job for a particular need. As a system-wide message has many important targets, the announcement must be loud, clear and lasting. In other words, unlike a neurotransmitter that makes you move your arm, the message must be loud enough, specific and last long enough to assure every player is on board for the same objective. You could say that it is much like the horns and sirens alerting the city of an oncoming tornado, where emergency crews, support teams, and families make the necessary preparations in order to secure well-being. The article I will be introducing is about two such hormone messengers, testosterone, and cortisol.

Since stress is such a profound issue in adolescence, let us just mention this first. As children develop toward independent and responsible adults, they will have to pass through a very difficult transition where their world is completely reframed. They understand their environment through the eyes of their parents. They emerge into a large society of many other individuals where they lack significance and meaningfulness beyond “who they are” as children of their parents. It is through their groups and select friends that they become unique as a separate entity, therefore more meaningful and significant. But these associations are not without bruises and bumps to their sprouting young ego. This is often where kids become more abrasive with others especially those in authority and challenge the important values they were taught from youth. It is important to understand that attitudes and actions are not motivated by a hurtful intention. It is a desperate attempt to become unique in a world of others; to be an individual and therefore to be special and meaningful. Sometimes, this may even mean having to reject everything and everyone they know close to them just to see what remains, which helps define “who they are”.

In order to better understand the magnitude of stress that a teenager faces, we must consider that they are experiencing significant changes in their own physical development and these changes impact their evolving self-regard through family, school, and social group dynamics.

When stress is experienced we are wired to prepare for some form of adaptive action. This means our minds and body need to fall back on a base level program in our DNA that is designed for survival in the face of potential threats. Through “perceived” dangers, our brain relates a message that the pituitary gland must amplify for “full alert” to the entire body. It releases a hormone trigger (ACTH) that quickly stirs the adrenal cortex (along the top of our kidneys) to send out the alert through cortisol.

High levels of cortisol produce a hyperactive sense of “fight or escape”. The body becomes completely dedicated at that point to return to a comfort balance, either through confrontation or avoidance.


Now we shift our spotlight to Testosterone. Yes, ladies, you have some of this stuff too. However, it usually is fed forward toward modification as an estrogen precursor. However, this topic is relevant to both genders.

Testosterone fuels our “stress prepared” body toward a direct action. It is aligned and in complete agreement with the cortisol signal, that is to return to a state of comfort. Therefore if there is an action which we may believe to be effective to restore comfort, then such an action is then presented to our “judgment command center” for consideration.
If the level of stress is high, the tentative action regardless of consequence is more likely to be chosen. If the choice leads to undesired consequences or punishment, then testosterone is postured to remove some of the stings from the hard consequences.

Now for the sake of clarity, consider the following example.

Let us say you were not responsible enough to prepare for a school final exam which was to be administered in class the next day. You were talking with one of your peers and discovered that it was going to be over half of your class grade. You were already fighting to keep your grades up in other classes and knew that a failing grade on the exam would mean you would fail the year. The cortisol would be broadcasting an alert throughout your body. You are feeling a sense of desperation and then think about ANY action to achieve a passing grade.

You believe you are honest and would never consider cheating. Then judgment gets an option which can likely restore balance. Testosterone sends a message. I do not believe in cheating…But..the stakes are high…it is only one time…what if…

Now, let’s look at how this all plays a part in behavior. Consider the following example:




Let us say a youngster was not responsible enough to prepare for a school final exam which was to be administered in class the next day.  While playing a game with one of his friends after school, he was reminded of the test and how the test counted over half of his class grade. He was an average student already, struggling to keep his grades up in his other classes. He began to dread, knowing that a failing grade on the exam would mean you would a fail for the year. Alarms begin to scream through his body. The cortisol would be broadcasting an alert throughout his entire system. A sense of desperation sets in and his mind begins to explore ANY action to achieve a passing grade.

He has good family values and knows the importance of honesty. He would never consider a decision to cheat on any test.  But his judgment center receives a telegram and it provides an option which can likely restore the balance. Testosterone responds to soldier another telegram.

I do not believe in cheating…BUT..the stakes are very high…it is only one time…what if…

This is the mechanism. See how it played out?

In this example, the scenario did not result in an ethical choice when the cortisol was off the charts. However, if it were effectively minimized, it may have made an honest choice more likely. Translated in biological terms, preparing the child effectively for the challenge meant the child is less likely to perceive the task as highly stressful. Adequate preparation is likely to promote choices which are more ethically aligned and more responsible.

In terms of adolescence, it would be better to understand the stressors behind a child’s experience and provide the needed help to meet their challenges instead of addressing poor choices and coping behaviors. By aligning with their struggles, we can shoulder them and guide them more effectively. If we only pass judgment on their choices, we add to their wagon of stressors and then become part of the problem and not part of the solution. Ideal parenting is not just pointing out the right decisions in life, but helping kids steer away from poor choices through better coping skills.




Teenage Stranger was originally published on

Teenage Stranger was originally published on


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