open horizon at sea

A Never-Ending Family Story Has to End

My never-ending family story has always been a hard scene in which I am very young and small and terrified. I’m staring at my parents and brother locked in combat. There may be no action, it usually flashes at me in tableau form, but there is plenty of rage, fear and hurt. There is a pause between shouts, threats, perhaps punches, hands at a throat, something grabbed and about to [...] Read the rest»


Conversations with Myself: Accepting the Past

There are times when I try to shut out a part of the past that makes me uncomfortable. I guess it’s the opposite of the tendency to obsess about everything I ever did wrong. (For example – reliving that humiliating interview 43 years ago, or that meeting I mishandled in 1995, or a hundred others.) Whether I’m trying to forget or can’t stop reliving those long-gone episodes, the effect is [...] Read the rest»

Forest fire lighting sky

Changing Core Beliefs of Depression

Getting well depends in part on changing core beliefs of depression that often begin to develop early in life. According to recent neuroscience findings, putting together a narrative about who you are is one of the most important parts of mental life. The narrative integrates many dimensions of mind: memory, emotion, thinking, sense perception, awareness, every signal that flows from the farthest reaches of the nervous system into the brain. [...] Read the rest»

Autumn Leaf on Snow

How Do We Change in Psychotherapy?

The first session I ever had with a psychiatrist proved to me that I could achieve a real change in psychotherapy. While in college, I had been immobilized by panic attacks and was desperate to get help. I spent three hours with a psychiatrist deeply engaged in the confusing mass of experience I needed to unravel. After listening for a while with great empathy and attentiveness, he interrupted and suggested [...] Read the rest»

Smoke from Wild Fire

Compassion for a Burned Man

I wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary that evening, but I wound up in the hospital with a burned hand and, at least in retrospect, a little insight about compassion. It started after work one day when I had just sat down at the kitchen table with a glass of water to stare at the mail. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my 5 year-old son [...] Read the rest»

Mr Jones by-vonSchnauzer 300

The Delusions of Depression

I’ve had several moments in recovery when I realized that things I assumed to be true were really delusions of depression. Some were long-held beliefs about myself, others were briefly held convictions that were too far from reality to maintain for long. I know that psychiatrists wouldn’t call these delusions of the sort linked to psychosis, but when I recall how often they dominated my mind, I need a strong [...] Read the rest»

Backlit flower

Finding Self-Compassion through Focusing

Focusing is one of the few methods that has helped me understand depression as I experience it, well beyond the scope of clinical descriptions. It has also given me an approach to self-compassion that is more effective than the various meditations I have tried. As Eugene Gendlin acknowledges in Focusing, his self-help version of the method he developed, some people feel they must suffer the full feelings of their problems, [...] Read the rest»

Red and yellow lilies in vase

Fighting Self-Compassion

Strange as it may seem, I find myself fighting therapeutic approaches based on self-compassion. The reasons run deep and reveal a lot about the difficulty of trying to get depression completely out of my life. In a recent newsletter, I summarized Kristin Neff’s idea of self-compassion as a way of relating to ourselves that is more helpful than the commonly used idea of self-esteem. Instead of focusing on self-worth as [...] Read the rest»