Archive for August, 2013

02 aug

When Negative = Positive

MaricleHow Negative Thoughts Can Lead to Success

You wish you could make a change, but feel stuck. How do you move forward? One way is to tune into your doubts and negative thoughts. We don’t do this very often. Most of us get stuck in a cycle of criticism, “What an idiot. I did it again,” or we make excuses: “I’m just not that kind of person.” Periodically that inner voice that believes in us might speak up and say, “Wow, you could do that!” but once we hear that inner doubt, we get discouraged, and give up.

Rather than begrudging these negative thoughts, why not invite them to say more? Find out what’s driving all this negativity. When you say you “meant to eat better,” one part of you is on board, but another is not. (Hence the empty box of donut holes on your desk.) So what do those negative thoughts have to say?

Write it out:
Sit down with paper and pen (or computer if that’s your style). To get yourself internally focused and centered, close your eyes, take a few moments to breathe deeply, and focus on your breath.

1. In one sentence, write down the change you want to make. If there were no boundaries, and anything was possible, what would you do?
2. Now write down all the negative thoughts that come up in response to that idea on the left side of your paper. (i.e. You don’t have time. You won’t do a good job. You aren’t attractive enough.)
3. On the right side of your paper: Each statement conveys a belief about yourself and the world? What is it? Can you challenge these beliefs?
4. Looking at the right column, do you see any valid roadblocks? How can you address them? Start brainstorming and researching how others do it.
5. If you have concluded that the negative voice is just speaking out of fear of failure, rejection, or not being good enough: What would it look like if you asked this part to take a back seat and let the positive part(s) take action?

How I Used Negativity to My Advantage
For years I had fantasized about having a private therapy practice – a large art studio where folks could come to explore the contents of their hearts with humor and grace. However, as someone who thrived working as part of a team, I was anxious about a solo practice. I vacillated between visions of feeling fulfilled, independent, and effective with clients, and seeing myself feeling dazed and overwhelmed. This was my problem: part of me saw myself as the “type of person” to have a private practice, and part of me did not.

When I began to entertain the idea of starting my own business, I knew that in order to move forward, I needed to explore my doubts and negative thoughts. Using the questions above, I defined some key roadblocks and came up with creative ways to clear the path to success.

I realized that feeling “alone” was my biggest concern. A key part of my research into building a private practice was identifying how to build contact with other professionals. I joined two local clubs, subscribed to professional blogs, signed up for weekly clinical supervision, set up regular peer supervision meetings, and began inviting other professionals to networking lunches. I have been surprised by how satisfying all this is, and how much I enjoy the time I am working “alone.” Without having tuned into those negative voices, I would not have cleared these obstacles and would never have had the courage to pursue my dream.

Have you surprised yourself recently by reaching a goal you never thought you would? Has tuning into a doubting voice helped you get un-stuck? Tell us about it in the comments section.

Amy Johnson Maricle, LMHC, ATR-BC is a psychotherapist and art therapist in Foxboro, MA. She loves helping teens and adults find ways to live happier, healthier, and smarter. You can find out more at:

DISCLAIMER: This information is not a substitute for professional psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content provided by Maricle Counseling and Amy Maricle, LMHC, ATR-BC is intended for general information purposes only. Never disregard professional medical or psychological advice or delay seeking treatment because of something you read here.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Amy Maricle on August 2nd, 2013 in New Directions | No comments Read related posts in , , ,

02 aug

Be Specific to Be Happier

Jope2My formative years were happy ones, yet I was still an anxious kid. But, it was this healthy amount of anxiety that also gave me the drive to succeed. I had my eye on whichever prize was relevant at the time (finish college, attend graduate school, stop listening to Lilith Fair artists – talk about depressing). I eventually graduated, got a job and then everything sort of stopped. I spent so many years working at record pace that I just wanted to relax. Except now I had nothing to shoot for and succeed at.

I remember my mother saying, “Not every day can be out-of-this-world exciting,” when I lamented I had the blahs. She was right, but it turns out there may have been more to it.

A recent study out of The University of Liverpool found a link between depression and making generalized personal goals. Although the study looks specifically at people already dealing with depression and subsequent goal-setting, I tend to think this might be a chicken-and-egg scenario. Looking back on my own situation, I didn’t have much on the docket when I began to feel noticeable sadness. Sure, I wanted to get married one day, but that wasn’t in the game plan immediately. Yes, I wanted to travel, but I didn’t have a destination in mind. I hadn’t set specific, actionable goals. I had no timeline for anything. I felt aimless. Hello, depression.

After all, when I did have a carrot dangling in front of me in years past, I generally felt okay. Yet, setting goals never dawned on me.

The research from this study brings up a crucial point: Vague goals are much harder to achieve and leave someone feeling like they failed. Not exactly a great ingredient for helping depression. It goes without saying that anyone with clinical depression has one giant goal: To be happy. Stop and ask yourself how you are going to get there. Setting up short, medium and long-term goals can help. And hey, it’s ok if your short-term goal is “leaving the house today.”

Depression does a number on our thought process and it becomes normal to generalize just about anything (Everyone hates me, I’m not good at my job, etc.). Instead, take any one of those thoughts and work toward changing it. Feel like everyone hates you? Call your best friend. There’s one guaranteed person who will assure you that you’re loveable. There’s your jumping off point, now go from there.

Jennifer Jope is the author of, where she documents her own struggles with depression, including what she learned in a behavioral health program. Her health writing has appeared in Dr. Andrew Weil’s Self Healing Newsletter and

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Jen Jope on August 2nd, 2013 in Health | No comments

01 aug

How to Stop the Self-conscious Strikeout and Hit a Career Home Run

Kerrigan2As many of my readers know, I recently started filming a local TV series called Workplace Confidence.

It’s been quite a learning curve and a test of confidence, with a few self-conscious fast balls thrown in.

First, there’s having to open the show on cue, and trying to sound relaxed. Hearing “30 seconds to go” and then seeing the silent cue “5, 4, 3, 2, 1” and a finger pointing straight at me (with a red light flashing) signaled my first time up at bat. Talk about anticipatory anxiety?! I did OK, but was so scared of forgetting my lines, that it felt forced and uncomfortable.

Strike one.

Then, there’s me, seeing and hearing myself on the playback, and thinking, “God—my nose is huge (and too shiny),” “I sound so nasal and New Yawk-y,” and “Thank heavens this show is only on local public TV.” My fear of my next show was already growing.

Strike two.

Next, there’s the criticism and the comments. My mom: “Gee—you’re dressed in all black. It looks so harsh.” My studio manager: “You have to watch those crutch words, like ‘you know’.” And, my close friend: “Well, you’re better than Honey Boo Boo.”

Strike three! I can’t do this show. I’m out!

It’s at times like these that, if we’re not careful, our overly-conscious selves can throw us off—and possibly out—of our game. It’s good to be aware, but when we overdo it, we’re aiming our bat at our self esteem and not at the ball that’s coming straight at us.

In other words, we’re so focused on the fear that we lose the moment. And, that’s where we really need to be.

I’m reminded of the late, great, sports psychologist, Harvey Dorfman, who helped baseball legends address fear by being and doing more in the present and talking and thinking less about the past or future.

He understood how self consciousness could really screw up performance, and even had to help baseball pros dress in the locker room when they were frozen in anticipatory fear.

Dorfman felt the vast majority of issues players had to face came from getting ahead of themselves in game situations, causing feeling to interfere with function. His mantra was “see the ball, hit the ball.”

He said that the tendency of the eyes to move ahead of objects they are tracking could lead to an over swing by the batter, as he over thinks, gets ahead of himself, and loses focus on where the ball actually is.

This doesn’t just happen to professional baseball players. This happens to all of us as well.

If we allow ourselves to be too self conscious, we’re too busy feeling instead of doing. We get ahead of ourselves with too much anticipatory anxiety and miss the moment.

I remembered this the next time I entered the TV studio, and as I opened the show, I got in the moment. I didn’t get ahead of myself. I focused on what I was doing and nothing else. No comments, no criticism, no fear.

The studio manager told me afterwards that he was shocked at how strong I sounded as I came up to the plate.

I saw the ball and hit the ball. I stopped being too self conscious. And no matter what anyone else thinks—including me—it was a home run.

Copyright 2013 Michelle Kerrigan

Michelle Kerrigan is an expert in workplace success who helps corporate and private clients develop the practical skills and confidence they need to improve their performance and productivity. Based on her 25 years’ leadership experience, Michelle provides an invaluable road map for conquering fear and doubt, navigating change and solving day-to-day challenges. Michelle also writes and speaks on the impact self esteem has on success, and produces a series for public TV, entitled Workplace Confidence. More at and

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on August 1st, 2013 in Career | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , ,

01 aug

Staying Clean and Sober -5 Ways to Help Reduce Drug and Alcohol Abuse

RobertCordrayWith the demand for whiskey booming and the legal prescribing of opiate pain pills at an all-time high, drug and alcohol abuse in American society is an ever-growing problem. In light of this fact, taking positive steps to help ourselves and others steer clear of substance abuse is more important than ever. Although we can’t prevent everyone from using drugs and alcohol, there are things we can do to make a difference. With that goal in mind, here’s a look at 5 ways to help reduce the risk of drug and alcohol abuse.

1. Seek friends with healthy habits: Drug abuse doesn’t just happen. More often than not it’s the result of peer pressure from friends. But people who pressure others to “fit in” by taking drugs and alcohol aren’t really friends at all. If you’re being steered toward substance abuse by those you hang out with, it’s time to seek out new friendships with people who share the same values, are achievement oriented, and are motivated to work hard in pursuit of worthwhile goals. Finding new friends doesn’t happen overnight, but making the decision to say “no” to current friends while seeking out healthier friendships is a choice you can make right now. You can also actively support and encourage others to avoid temptations and peer pressure by being a good friend yourself.

2. Learn ways to deal with everyday pressures: The challenges that life brings can at times seem overwhelming. Many people feel overworked and are looking for ways to relieve stress and improve their moods. Although taking drugs may seem like a good way to chill out and escape from stress for a while, any so-called “feel-good” effects are fleeting. The cold reality is that becoming dependent upon drugs and alcohol only leads to more stress and unhappiness. Finding other ways to combat stress, such as exercising regularly, or reading or taking up a hobby can reduce the desire for a “quick fix” through alcohol or drugs.

3. Recognize your risk factors: While no one is totally immune to drug and alcohol abuse, there are certain biological, environmental and physical risk factors that can make substance abuse more likely. Acknowledging and taking ownership of the risk factors that exist in your life, such as a family history of substance abuse, associating with others who encourage recreational drug use, or living with family members who use or abuse drugs or alcohol, can be a powerful motivating force for resisting the temptation to do so yourself.

4. Seek help and support: Resisting drug and alcohol addiction requires the help of others, especially for those who are suffering from emotional distress. Mental disorders such as anxiety and depression can often lead to drug and alcohol abuse in an attempt to ease the pain. Those who recognize anxiety and depressive symptoms in themselves or others should seek professional help before drug abuse and addiction develops. Some people may get discouraged thinking there isn’t the “right” kind of help out there for them. Many options are out there, however, including non 12 step drug rehab.

5. Find a healthy balance: When things are not working in our lives, when we’re unhappy with how things are going with work and relationships, the odds of turning to drugs or alcohol increase. Finding a balance by reevaluating priorities, setting new goals, exercising and eating healthier are all good ways to reduce the risk of using drugs or alcohol. Meditation is also a good outlet for relieving stress and anxiety. The healthier your body is, the greater your abilities will be to reduce the risk of drug and alcohol abuse.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Robert Cordray on August 1st, 2013 in Health | No comments