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What Acceptance is and is not?

I generally try to avoid using the word “acceptance” in my everyday clinical work. I found that people can become resistant when I say “accept it”, normally when I follow it with “allow it to be, let it be, without struggling”, they immediately get it, or at least become more “accepting” to the idea of acceptance.

Acceptance is not wanting or liking. You accept how things are going for you, doesn’t mean you like or want things that way. I accept that my cat has to be put down due to lymphoma, doesn’t mean I like or want him to be put down. I accept the sadness that comes with the loss, doesn’t mean I like or want to be sad.

Acceptance is also not tolerating. They are very different, do you want people to accept you, or tolerate you?

Acceptance is more about allowing things to be that way, accommodating it without struggling (so much) with it. Normally it applies to things that you can’t change directly (external events  which you have no control on, e.g. your cat has lymphoma; but also includes your internal thoughts and emotions, which you can’t simply chuck away like a piece of paper, e.g. sadness, fear, anxiety, thought of “I’m not good enough”).

The Evolution of Human Mind

Why does my mind keep thinking negatively?

Why is my mind always looking for problems and threats?

Why is my mind always warning me when I’m trying to step out of comfort zones, and making me worry a lot?

Why is my brain always predicting the worst?

Why am I always thinking about the painful memories?

Why am I so scared of rejection and not fitting in?

Why is my mind always comparing myself to others?

Why do I never feel enough or contented with what I already have, and wanting more more more?

Watch this cute animation by Dr Russ Harris that might answer your questions, from evolutionary terms:

Did you realise that what your mind does is completely normal and natural? It’s just trying to keep you safe!

Fear & Anxiety: Differences

Most researchers in the field agree that there are differences between fear and anxiety. Here are some of the key ones.

Fear:

  • Generally seen as a response to danger here and now.
  • E.g. the dog is right in front of me, I’m scared.
  • Orientation: Here and now
  • Higher sympathetic arousal, higher level of fight or flight.

Anxiety:

  • Generally seen as a response to a predicted/anticipated threat.
  • E.g. no actual dog here, but at the corner there might be a dog.
  • Future-focused
  • The degree of sympathetic arousal is lower

Of course nobody likes feeling fear or anxiety, we all don’t want to have them. However, both fear and anxiety are not dangerous. They are completely normal and everyone experiences them.

Think about this: Are there times in your life where fear and/or anxiety have been useful/helpful in some ways? Where fear and/or anxiety saved you? Protected you? Motivated you?

Perhaps it’s not about their study skills?

“I want my kids to study better… Ehmm… Or at least do some revision…”

The other day an anxious mother asked if I could help guiding her son to study better, to try harder for his upcoming exam.

And you know what, if you simply google it, there are so many websites out there telling you the best study habit, the top study skills, exam preparation tips, effective study methods, memory enhancing techniques, the essentials to pass exams, last minutes revision techniques etc etc.

Yes, sometimes they need some help and tips on how to stay focus and not get distracted, how to organise their time and notes perhaps. But quite often than not, they already know all of these, they just can’t make themselves doing it. They procrastinate, they avoid, they resist…

Why?

Have you ever asked them, “do you want to study?” “do you want to graduate from the college/school?” “do you want the certificate/diploma/degree?”

NO? Ok, how about quitting school now, if you have decided, and are quite sure that you will not regret? And, what’d you like to do?

YES? That’s great! So that’s what you want to do? For yourself? Not to please anyone else, not to fit in to the group/family/society. You recognise that it’s something you’re doing for yourself, your future? Not for your mum or dad or neighbour? Nobody forces you to study right?

Of course you can’t ask every student this directly, some might work, some you will have to adjust how you say it, skillfully. When done correctly, it almost always works, then it can be followed by motivation building and positive affirmation, and study techniques if needed. But it’s really important to guide them, to help them clarify that nobody ever forces them to study, they are free to decide. This initial step is crucial! And it’s especially true in teenagers and young adults, they become “resistant” when they feel they are being forced to do something.

There might also be time when they said they don’t want to study, but they want to graduate and get the certificate…. Yes of course, who don’t? I want my salary but I don’t want to wake up at 6am every day to go to work. I want to travel the world but I don’t want to get a job. I want to live long but don’t want to look after my health. I want to retire early but don’t want to save money ……….. Show them everyone in this world is doing the same, we are often working for delayed gratification. But still, if the ultimate purpose is what you are targeting for, you want to start working on it now. It’s for yourself, for your future, not anyone else.

When the motivation is there, also try getting the student to say out loud;

I want to study!

VS

I must study!

See if they feel any difference…

 

“How to study better? How to motivate my child to study? How to stop procrastination from studying? How to help my child study better?”

So dear parents, you may try this out, or contact me if you need any help. And of course students, you may clarify this for yourselves too!

How to ground yourself during an emotional storm?

Here are some short Dropping Anchor recordings, suitable to be used when you’re feeling intense emotions and wanting to ground yourself to the here and now, and make the most of the situation you are in. (Ideally you’d have done more extensive version of it with me in sessions. )

Dropping Anchor recording 3.5mins

Dropping Anchor recording 2.5mins

Essentially it’s about these steps:

  1. Notice and acknowledge your painful thoughts. What is your mind telling you? (“I notice that my mind is having the thought of I’m not good enough, I’m a failure”)
  2. Notice and acknowledge your feelings and emotions. What are you feeling in your body? (heavy chest? tensed shoulders? headache? numbness? etc)
  3. Come back into your body, straighten your back, put your finger tips together, have a stretch, take a couple of breaths.
  4. Using your senses, connect with the external environment. What can you see? What can you hear? What can you touch/taste/smell?
  5. Action: Now that you’re grounded in this situation, what are you going to do to make the full of this situation?

Please note that it’s not necessary to follow these steps, when I do it I tend to move around. Sometimes you can quickly do this, or even repeat a few times within 30 seconds or so.

It’s important to notice that the pain hasn’t gone away, but despite what the mind is saying and how you’re feeling, you can still notice so many things else going on and take effective actions moving towards a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

中文版:5分钟固定船锚录音

Addiction to Pornography (and masturbation in Muslims)

Disclaimer: I’m writing this post with a lot of compassion (i.e. acknowledging the suffering of certain group of people and hoping to help them to reduce their suffering). In no way I intend to belittle or criticize any person or religion. If you’d like this post to be removed, please be in touch hello@huibee.com

I previously came across a 20 year young man who wrote to me asking about therapy for addiction to pornography. When we first met for an assessment, this is his “addiction” – he watched porn and masturbates for about 1 to 1.5 hours a day, almost every day, other than that he has been functioning pretty normally with his work and sports activities. He doesn’t experience any urges or problems in the day. When I was attempting to validate his experience, saying that many people of his age have much stronger urges and if it isn’t affecting his life, perhaps he shouldn’t see it as an addiction. Then he revealed his guilt as in his religion, masturbation is not allowed, at all. (I’m sorry to have been so insensitive, not knowing that masturbation is prohibited in Islam). He also understands that some of his friends did this when they were younger, not so sure about now.

He never talks to anyone about it, even to his religious mentor or his father. But he has been suffering in pain for few years, trying various ways including throwing all his gadgets away so that he has no access to porn. But normally it came back much stronger when he managed to suppress it for few days. So he fell into this vicious cycle of urge → reacting to the urge → guilt → suppress → stronger urge → reacting → more guilt → trying harder to suppress → even stronger urge……….. I believe it must have been so much pain that he finally made up his mind to seek help from a Chinese therapist. In the beginning, there was some “conflicts” regarding the client’s goal, as he’s looking for “complete termination”, whereas I see it as something natural and normal so a reduction will be more appropriate (yes I subsequently realised my mistake. Therapy is about the client, not about the therapist).

In the end we have come into a conclusion of the goals and some tasks. I’m now working with him on self-compassion, and we are using techniques from aversive therapy for the “addiction”. For the past few months it has been going well.

If you’re also a Muslim who’s suffering from similar issues (porn watching & masturbation, compulsive or not), and if you’re willing, please get in touch, I can connect you guys virtually (online, without meeting each other) to support each other to go through this together.