Insomnia and the Role of Thoughts

In previous posts concerning insomnia, I’ve alluded to how our perceptions can color the effects of insomnia on daily life. Such perceptions may have all the marks of a common thought distortion known as catastrophizing  in which we play the fortune-teller who sees in her crystal ball only doom or gloom. Unfortunately, thoughts such as “I’ll never get any sleep” or “I just don’t see it getting any better” are rarely recognized as examples of catastrophizing thoughts, but are accepted as brutal facts and unfailing oracles that we see fulfilled day after day and, even worse, night after night. … [Read more...]

Acceptance as an Intervention for Chronic Pain

In reflecting upon the importance of acceptance in the context of dealing with chronic pain, some may mistakenly believe that acceptance means giving up or giving in to the pain and to negative thoughts such as “I can’t do anything” or “My life is over.” Real acceptance, however, doesn’t mean giving up. On the contrary, acceptance means living in the present moment and experiencing the present moment, instead of reacting to it and being controlled by it. From this non-reactive stance, it becomes easier to determine which factors concerning chronic pain are within your sphere of control and … [Read more...]

Virtue: The Ultimate Remedy for the Problem and the Passion of Anger

In the past blog posts on anger, we have seen the way in which modern approaches to managing anger can be used by Christians in a way that is consistent with the teachings of earlier ascetics. Consistency with Christianity and the message of Christianity, however, are not the same. The ultimate cure for the problem of anger is not to be found solely in techniques such as relaxation, reframing the situation, taking a time out, thought stopping , or assertiveness training, as valuable as these techniques may be. No, the ultimate cure can only be found in acquiring the virtues inherent in the … [Read more...]

How to Respond to Conflicts- Choices that Determine our Lives

As unpleasant as conflict is, it seems to be an inevitable part of life.  There are many reasons for this, but such are not the subject of this post.  I would rather like to focus our attention on the three main options available to us in responding to a person who wrongs us, namely: aggression, passivity or assertiveness.  It should be clear from the previous posts on anger that aggression against another is an unchristian and decidedly unhealthy manner in which to respond to conflict.  An aggressive response will likely lead to an escalation of grievances rife with negative consequences that … [Read more...]

Thought Stopping or Saying “Get Thee Behind Me Satan”

Disputing thoughts that make us angry require some reflection and composure that is sometimes hard to find when anger flares. There is another method proposed by the manual authors called “thought stopping,” which incidentally is not the same as thought suppression that is not really possible or even advisable. In a therapy setting, the person would be instructed to think about something that makes him or her angry and then suddenly and unexpectedly, the therapist shouts “STOP.” Eventually, the patient learns to shout “STOP” when engaged in such thoughts and even to shout “STOP” mentally. … [Read more...]

Anger-It’s a Matter of Perspective

The ABCD strategy for dealing with anger suggests that we become a bit more realistic and rational in dealing with life’s frustrations and setbacks by disputing with those thoughts that make us angrier by the minute. The fathers would also suggest being realistic and logical, but with the real being defined first of all by reference to God the source of all being and the logical (λογικό) being defined by the Eternal Logos (λόγος) that is the ultimate reason for all that was, is, and ever will be. So on the one hand, we can accept that life is not fair and get along the best we can. On the … [Read more...]

Irritating Situations or Anger-Provoking Interpretations: It Matters Whom We Blame

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts concerning anger, there is a certain concordance between cognitive therapeutic and patristic approaches to this problem.  This harmony is particularly evident in the observations by ascetic fathers and cognitive theorists about one’s perceptions of an anger-provoking event.  The Anger Management Manual authors employ Albert Ellis’s straightforward A-B-C-D model in order to explain not only the relationship between events, interpretations, and consequences, but also the importance of countering one’s interpretation in order to modify the cycle of anger. … [Read more...]

Anger and Incompatible States: Attending to the Body and Attending to the Spirit

In addition to the time-out, there are other beneficial anger management strategies that cognitive therapists recommend.  One such strategy concerns relaxation through a deep breathing exercise.  The authors of the Anger Management manual correctly note, “An interesting aspect of the nervous system is that everyone has a relaxation response that counteracts the stress response. It is physically impossible to be both agitated and relaxed at the same time. If you can relax successfully, you can counteract the stress or anger response.” The deep breathing technique offered by these therapists is … [Read more...]

A Time-out from Anger, a Time-in for God

In the last blog post on anger, I wrote about seeking out its causes or roots.  In the next several posts I would like to explore the various therapeutic interventions concerning anger from the perspective of the fathers and cognitive therapy. In their Anger Management Manual, the cognitive therapists note, “Theoretically, the more techniques and interventions an individual has on his or her anger control plan, the better equipped he or she will be to manage anger in response to anger-provoking events.” The same could be said from the perspective of the fathers, although they would not seek to … [Read more...]

Getting to the Cause

In my last blog post, I noted the vast difference between the theological/spiritual approach to anger seen in the fathers and the biological/naturalistic approach observed in cognitive therapists. Still as healers and helpers for the suffering, they both home in on an important principle: the necessity of identifying the source of the underlying anger before recommending a specific therapeutic intervention. In a particularly rich passage on the pathology of anger, Saint John Climacus notes that, “As bodily fever is one thing, but the causes of this are not one but many, so also the boiling up … [Read more...]