Shattered Dreams Have The Power To Change Our Lives For Good

“Everyone needs wishes and dreams, because the bridge you build between them and reality is your life.” – Marilyn Bagel

Many people are afraid to dream, either they simply don’t know how to, or more often because they are mired in only knowing how to color within their comfortable world-view box. So many of us are afraid to color outside our limited lines. Sometimes the fear of failure and imagined pain keeps an individual from reaching higher. So, many people don’t dare to dream!

Many walking wounded have walked through my psychotherapy doors in pain, hopeless, and hurt. Often, life has dealt them a harsh blow and their ache from something they wanted that went awry has resulted in a sense of helpless defeat. Then there are others who have reached too high without laying the necessary groundwork and planning the requisite steps to get where they want to go. They come bringing shattered dreams with little sense that a better outcome is possible.

One dream may die, only to be replaced with different dreams holding deeper appreciation and greater joy. The journey, though, is not without times of despair, eventually to be replaced with hope.

A less threatening and often more realistic way to follow your dream is something I call “The Three Bears Rule.” Finding the right balance between too little, too much, and one that is just right is a process that entails the ability to be both focused and flexible. Focus keeps your eye on the goal. Flexibility allows you to let in new potentially useful information, to try new ways of being, and to let go of emotional and pragmatic tools that simply don’t work. It also allows that magical “aha” moment when an idea suddenly takes a new shape and answers seem to appear from out of the blue. This is rarely an easy balance, and few are prepared for it without flips, flops, and failures along the way.

Those in creative fields tend to be our most imaginative and frequently leading-edge dreamers. They do dare where others fear to tread. The most productive of these dreamers are often born with and/or given the opportunity to create without being stifled. Not only do they have talent, but also they usually score high on a measurable scale with a quality known as Emotional Intelligence, what we loosely term intuition or a sixth sense. More pragmatic types such as scientists can also dream big. However, they tend to follow their dreams in a more logical, systematic, and goal-oriented fashion.

Whatever type or combination you may be, it’s always a mix of luck, timing, ability, and the discipline to practice as a great athlete, dancer or musician must to achieve one’s dream.

Ah, but, as Shakespeare might say, “There’s the rub.” Life is not linear and neither is the achievement of dreams. Anyone who has tried to dream beyond their current status knows they risk physical and emotional injuries. Frequently one feels like a small sailboat tossed by turbulent waves. Yes, we often get “seasick” when we follow our dreams. Shattered dreams happen every day in everyone’s real world. At the end I will list some ways to go beyond enduring pain, growing, and, in fact, learning to thrive.

A few exceptional people are akin to Cervantes’ Don Quixote or Voltaire’s Candide who live for their dreams and, a sin the latter’s case, are carried by an eternal optimism that whatever happens “this is the best of all possible worlds.” We humans embrace this sense of a hopeful dream. That’s why the varied, eternal productions of Man of La Mancha are sure to be available in a play, ballet, opera, or some other creative art form in a theater near you at several points in your life.

What is a shattered dream? It isn’t always not flying to the moon or not winning a Nobel Prize. In the world of the mundane, most of us fall short of expectations daily. Our positive attitude, how we “roll with the punches,” makes all the difference.

  1. Perhaps we didn’t get the “A” we anticipated.
  2. Or, we didn’t get selected to be on the baseball team we always dreamed of playing for.
  3. Or, the marriage we anticipated holding for “better or worse” forever didn’t last.
  4. Possibly we became a caregiver and gave up our own desires for someone we loved, as illness took over our life.
  5. Our child became a drug addict, not the star we raised her to be.

The list is endless. Yet, we can reframe our expectations and a cathartic change can occur. In that change we may find greater joy in small accomplishments or in a transformational love that we never dreamed possible.

Shattered dreams are never fun and always require time to heal and the ability to morph into what will be. In fact, many believe the very act of dreaming during sleep is one way we stay balanced and heal. Old dreams may die. New ones can always emerge. One only needs to believe they can succeed.

Dr. Dorree Lynn

Used by permission from Life’s Journey Magazine

Dr. Dorree Lynn is a well-respected psychotherapist, mentor, consultant, life coach, author, educator and workshop presenter. Her lectures are peppered with humor and salted with wisdom. She is available for presentations. Dr. Dorree can be contacted at: DrDorree.com

 

 

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SERENITY

Serenity

 

Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.  It is the result of long and patient effort in self-control.  Its presence is an indication of ripened experience, and of a more than ordinary knowledge of the laws and operations of thought.

A man becomes calm in the measure that he understands himself as a thought-evolved being, for such knowledge necessitates the understanding of others as the result of thought, and as he develops a right understanding, and sees more and more clearly the internal relations of things by the action of cause and effect, he ceases to fuss and fume and worry and grieve, and remains poised, steadfast, serene.

The calm man, having learned how to govern himself, knows how to adapt himself to others; and they, in turn, reverence his spiritual strength, and feel that they can learn from him and rely upon him.  The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good.  Even the ordinary trader will find his business prosperity increase as he develops a greater self-control and equanimity, for people will always prefer to deal with a man whose demeanor is equable.

The strong, calm man is always loved and revered.  He is like a shade-giving tree in a thirsty land, or a sheltering rock in a storm.  “Who does not love a tranquil heart, a sweet-tempered, balanced life?  It does not matter whether it rains or shines, or what changes come to those possessing these blessings, for they are always sweet, serene, and calm.  That exquisite poise of character which we call serenity is the last lesson of culture; it is the flowering of life, the fruitage of the soul.  It is precious as wisdom, more to be desired than gold—yea, than even fine gold.  How insignificant mere money-seeking looks in comparison with a serene life—a life that dwells in the ocean of Truth, beneath the waves, beyond the reach of the tempests, in the Eternal Calm!”

“How many people we know who sour their lives, who ruin all that is sweet and beautiful by explosive tempers, who destroy their poise of character, and make bad blood!  It is a question whether the great majority of people do not ruin their lives and mar their happiness by lack of self-control.  How few people we meet in life who are well balanced, who have that exquisite poise which is characteristic of the finished character!”

Yes, humanity surges with uncontrolled passion, is tumultuous with ungoverned grief, is blown about by anxiety and doubt.  Only the wise man, only he whose thoughts are controlled and purified, makes the winds and the storms of the soul obey him.

Tempest-tossed souls, wherever you may be, under whatsoever conditions ye may live, know this—in the ocean of life the isles of Blessedness are smiling, and the sunny shore of your ideal awaits your coming.  Keep your hands firmly upon the helm of thought.  In the barque of your soul reclines the commanding Master; He does but sleep; wake Him. Self-control is strength; Right Thought is mastery; Calmness is power.  Say unto your heart, “Peace be still!”

Teens active in the evenings prone to insomnia, depression

Teens who are active in the evenings are more likely to suffer depression and insomnia, a new study has found.

The study of high school students sheds new light on the links between insomnia-related mental health conditions among teens.

“People with insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep for as long as they need to. This is a widespread sleep disorder among the general public, and in most countries about 11 per cent of teens aged 13-16 years experience insomnia at some stage,” researchers said.

Adelaide University School of Psychology PhD student Pasquale Alvaro surveyed more than 300 Australian high school students aged 12-18 to better understand their sleep habits, mental health condition and the time of day they were most active (known as their “chronotype”).

The results, published in the journal Sleep Medicine, may have implications for the clinical treatment of teens experiencing sleep and mental health issues.

“People with insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep for as long as they need to. This is a widespread sleep disorder among the general public, and in most countries about 11 per cent of teens aged 13-16 years experience insomnia at some stage,” Alvaro said.

“There is a growing awareness among the scientific community that insomnia, depression and anxiety disorders are linked with each other, and these disorders contain overlapping neurobiological, psychological, and social risk factors.

“Having insomnia in addition to anxiety or depression can further intensify the problems being experienced with each individual disorder. It can lead to such problems as alcohol and drug misuse during adolescence,” he said.

Alvaro’s study found that the presence of insomnia was independently linked with depression, generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder among teens.

Teens who were more active in the evenings were more likely to have depression and/or insomnia. This group was also more likely to have obsessive-compulsive disorder, separation anxiety, and social phobia, although these disorders were often not independently linked with insomnia.

“These findings suggest that the ‘eveningness’ chronotype – being more active in the evenings – is an independent risk factor for insomnia and depression. This is important because adolescents tend to develop a preference for evenings, which sometimes becomes a syndrome whereby they keep delaying going to sleep,” Alvaro said.

“Based on our evidence, we believe that prevention and treatment efforts for insomnia and depression should consider this combination of mental health,sleep, and the eveningness chronotype, in addition to current mainstream behavioural approaches. Prevention and treatment efforts for anxiety subtypes should also consider focusing on insomnia and depression,” Alvaro said.

PTI | Melbourne | Published: Jul 31 2014, 18:32 IST

 

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Yet Another Harrowing Tale of White Collar Addiction

Yesterday, Alan Schwarz, reporting for the Sunday edition of The New York Times, published an alarmist piece on Adderall abuse. The story chronicles the short life of Richard Fee, a popular young pre-med who, after dabbling in fast-acting stimulants in college, faked his way into an ADHD diagnosis and, within months of filling his first prescription, began heavily abusing the drug, leading to severe addiction and psychosis, and ultimately to his suicide, two years ago, at the age of twenty-four.

Ring the Alarm

The story of Richard Fee is a tragic one, and one that highlights both the dangers of prescribing ADHD drugs to neurotypical adults and some of the problems endemic in psychiatric diagnosis. Regrettably, the reporter seems to believe that these problems are somehow specific to amphetamines, signaling “widespread failings in the system through which five million Americans take medication for ADHD”, and that Richard’s harrowing case, while undoubtedly rare, “underscores aspects of ADHD treatment that are mishandled every day with countless patients”.

Schwarz is a Pulitzer-prize nominated journalist, renowned for exposing the danger of concussive head injuries in football. More recently, he has cast that same critical eye on how attention-deficit disorder is diagnosed. The question is – to what end? Presumably – in the case of this story – to tighten the restrictions on how amphetamines are prescribed to adults, and to ward against the kind of negligence and lack of oversight that characterized Richard’s case. But there is a delicate balance to be struck here between serving the needs of the ADHD population, many of whom benefit tremendously from the regulated use of stimulants, and potential drug addicts, like Richard. It is also far from clear, given the nature of psychiatric nosology, that there are any surefire ways of stopping con-artists and addicts from gaming the system.

Let me give an example. At the Big Ten school I attend in the Midwest, regulative policies are in full effect, and it is notoriously hard to obtain an attention-deficit diagnosis, regardless of diagnostic history. To be seen for an intake interview with a psychiatrist, a student must first complete a half-hour standard battery that tests for a range of possible maladies. If the results point towards some brand of attention-deficit, the student is then seen by a psychologist, who opens a case history. If the psychologist also suspects ADD, the student must then requisition her grade school records from K-12, to be submitted alongside her current transcript, the results of previous psychiatric evaluations, and an extensive parent questionnaire. All this to get penciled in for an initial psychiatric consult. Given the limited number of available appointments, the process can take months. The joke is that the kids who have the wherewithal to make it through to a prescription couldn’t possibly have the problem to begin with.

ADHD: It’s (Probably) Not What You Think It Is

Which raises another point: Who are these kids left to slip through the cracks? In grade school, ADHD is a catch-all for children who don’t behave in class and don’t play well with others. You know, the ”kids who drop their pants in the schoolyard instead of playing hopscotch” (or so goes that persistent stereotype). But the actual disorder, clinically, is probably not what you think it is.

I’ll save you the laundry-list of symptoms that get bandied about. But for starters, there is no one way that the disorder manifests, no easy one-size-fits-all prototype. Given the complex interplay of neural development with personality and environment, the human category is a diverse one, counting charismatic entrepreneurs, famous artists, and a healthy number of criminals among its ranks.When ADD is understood as a problem of directing and controlling attention, rather than as a ‘deficit’ in attention, per se, the reason for this heterogeneity becomes clear: The ‘affliction’ produces a mind that is highly idiosyncratic in the way it attends to the world, unbound by social norms or parental pressures. But how this ‘unbridled’ attention ultimately gets spent varies by individual. Some teenagers with ADHD play video games for ten hours a day. Others, like my high school boyfriend, expend that focus mastering dozens of languages, or obsessively annotating their music collections. Brilliance and achievement do not preclude having ADHD, or vice versa. A person that is ill-equipped to sit through classes, keep track of dates and appointments, and conform to staid social situations, may, nonetheless, be astonishingly creative and resourceful in other domains. Or not – depending on the circumstances, and the outlets.

Whatever the stigma attached to ADHD, it is hard to deny its prevalence, which has been pegged at between 5-10% of the population in the US. Given what this implies for genetic selection – that the genes underpinning ADHD must have conferred some adaptive benefit over our recent evolutionary past – there is some thought that ADHD has only become a ‘disordered’ category of being in the context of modern life.

–Which is not to say that medication shouldn’t be prescribed to the individuals tasked with facing a world that was, perhaps, not designed with them in mind.

How can stimulants help with ADHD?

Maybe you have a friend, like I do, who took Adderall expecting to get work done and instead fell asleep. Anecdotally, that’s classic ADD, kind of like recurrent ear infections when you’re five. Many of the twenty-somethings I know who are prescribed stimulants complain that taking them actually diminishes their powers of single-minded concentration. What it allows them to do is much more mundane: Make it to work on time. Run three different errands all in one day. Remember to pay the water bill before it gets shut off. To borrow Jonah Lehrer’s metaphor, “The drugs haven’t suddenly turned on the spotlight of attention. The spotlight was always there. Instead, they have made it easier [to] point the spotlight in the right direction.” Of course, this is the exact opposite of the popular perception of what these drugs are used for. Unfortunately, the popular perception may be influencing the medical one.

A few weeks after Richard Fee received a prescription for Vyvanse from a nurse practioner, he returned to her reporting “excellent concentration: “reading books — read 10!” her notes indicate.” Of all the red flags that Richard raised, this one was the Jolly Roger. Drugs like Vyvanse are not designed to make ADHD kids super-human; they’re designed to help them approximate normal function.

There are a number of competing theories on how amphetamines interact with executive brain function, but the short story is that they work their magic by increasing circulating levels of dopamine in the central nervous system. PET brain imaging of never-medicated ADHD patients has uncovered abnormalities in the dopamine reward pathway, marked by strikingly low levels of dopamine receptors in the midbrain and accumbens. Dopaminergic drugs are prescribed to help restore the balance. The difficulty, and the danger, is that these drugs are being unleashed on a fragile eco-system that can easily be tipped out of balance.

You can think of the problem by analogy to another delicate process: making a proper English toffee. Take the batch off the heat too soon and you’ll get a candy with a sickly-sweet taste and a chalky consistency. But leave it on too long, and the sugar burns, imparting a brittle, smoky character to the confection. Hitting the sweet spot, which yields that rich, buttery flavor that you find in shops, takes practice and patience; with almond toffees, the difference can be a matter of seconds. Dialing up to the right amphetamine dosage for a particular ADHD patient presents a similar tight walk. At too low a dose, the therapeutic effects of the drug are attenuated. But go too high, and your patient might as well be snorting lines off their prescription bottle. The end goal is not to have them polishing off Finnegans Wake in an afternoon; it’s to get them up near a normal baseline.

Because patients can respond differently to the same dose, finding that target often takes some trial-and-error, and requires honest, forthright communication between doctor and patient. Unfortunately, that reserve of trust is precisely what fakers and addicts exploit.

Drowning Innocents, Burning Witches

“[Richard] was smart and he was quick and he had A’s and B’s and wanted to go to medical school — and he had all the deportment of a guy that had the potential to do that,” Dr. Parker said. “He didn’t seem like he was a drug person at all, but rather a person that was misunderstood, really desirous of becoming a physician. He was very slick and smooth. He convinced me there was a benefit.”

Re-reading the story of Richard Fee, I am struck by how Schwarz plays the apologist for his subject – that tragic young man with his becoming prospects and his athletic build. Again and again, Schwarz emphasizes that “[Richard] had it in his mind that because it came from a doctor, it was O.K.” But this is nonsense: Richard was neither ingenuous nor uneducated. He was a pre-medical student who likely “faked or at least exaggerated his symptoms to get his diagnosis” and artfully scammed careless doctors and drugstores to support his growing addiction. That we are supposed to accept these excuses at face value beggars belief. White-collar addicts are not immune to self-delusion.

Schwarz whitewashes Richard’s narrative in part because he wants to fault the system. But again, the question comes back to: What would tightening the reins on amphetamine actually do, in practice? It might prevent a “worst-case scenario” like Richard Fee, but at the expense of many actual sufferers going unmedicated.While I agree with Schwarz that talk therapy is a critical component in any treatment program, for many adult ADHD patients, medication can be instrumental in helping them get their lives organized enough to actually attend therapy. The system cannot be organized around rooting out false positives.

Moreover, the problems that Schwarz notes with ADHD diagnosis are not, in fact, particular to it, but are rather endemic to the diagnosis of mental disorders more generally. For instance, it is hardly surprising that standard batteries for ADHD cannot distinguish college students with the disorder from those instructed to fake the symptoms. Given how the diagnostic process works, this should be true of any mental illness, save those with glaring physical manifestations, like anorexia. After all, unlike in other branches of medicine, there are no certain tests; no X-rays or blood work-ups that can safely eliminate doubt. In many cases of first diagnosis, the psychiatrist has two things to go on: what the patient tells them and how the patient behaves at intake. This is the state of the art. And it relies on, among other things, genuine self-report. You don’t need to be good Will Hunting to defeat a system like that.

Psychiatry is still in its infancy. So long as mental disorders are seen as illnesses that can be diagnosed in a quick check-up, and medications are doled out on the basis of checklists and questionnaires (absent better diagnostic tests), there will be serious potential not only for abuse, but for patient harm. This is no less the case with drugs that target anxiety, depression, and psychosis, than it is for amphetamines. All are powerful psychotropic drugs with unwanted side effects. That not all of these drugs have addictive potential does not lessen their prospect for harm: just try pairing search terms for “suicide” and “SSRIs”, ”benzo” and “withdrawal”, or “bipolar” and “diabetes”. The problem is that there is, as yet, little alternative. The science needs to improve before the medicine can.

I should note in closing that while I have said nothing here about the diagnostic practices for childhood ADHD, like Schwarz, I find the widespread practice of medicating children under eighteen for these disorders to be ethically fraught. To my mind, the stories of children who are forced to medicate against their wishes – and of the doctors who willingly endorse this brand of Orwellian medicine – are far more compelling and worthy of being told than those of reckless adults exploiting loopholes. Haven’t we heard enough of those stories already?

How to Let Go of Materialism

Enhance your well-being by focusing on deeper goals

Money can’t buy happiness, but placing less value on the things it can buy may improve your mental health. The longest ever study on this topic finds that becoming less materialistic leads to more contentment in life—and suggests ways to get to that happy place.

Four related experiments investigated how changes in materialism affect well-being. The first three studies surveyed natural changes in materialistic values over six months, two years and 12 years in adults in the U.S. and Iceland. At all three junctures, a decreasing focus on acquiring money and things led to more joy and contentment in life.

Fortunately, materialism can be purposefully altered, as the team discovered in the fourth study—the first ever to use a randomized, controlled design to try to change materialistic beliefs. A group of adolescents from the U.S. joined a program designed to lessen the value they place on materialistic goals, whereas a control group did not receive the intervention. In three sessions lasting three hours each, participants were taught about consumer culture. They were also encouraged to clarify their intrinsic values (such as self-growth, closeness with friends and family, and contributing to the community) and to make financial decisions based on those values.

Adolescents who were in the course—but not in the control group—became less materialistic and had higher self-esteem over the next several months. “Intrinsic goals tend to be ones that promote greater well-being and act as a kind of ‘antidote’ to materialistic values,” says Tim Kasser, one of the study’s authors and a psychology professor at Knox College.

An important component of the program was that participants went through it with their parents and other adolescents, so they had a lot of social support in changing their values. “It is important to find some like-minded folks who want to join you in shifting away from materialism—they are out there, I promise,” Kasser says.

Inspired by Professor , Tim Kasser

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