Category Archives: Treatment Approaches

Possible Selves

I stumbled upon this article by the New York Times a couple weeks ago, and have been thinking about it. I do want to apologise for not updating my blog as regularly as I used to, I will probably write a personal piece to share why and what has been happening in my private life. 

So a brief summary of the short article:


Screenshot 2023-05-04 at 10.26.44 AM.png

Summary of content:

  • The “possible selves” describes how people envision their futures: what they may become, or want to become, or even fear becoming.
  • These possible selves, both positive (A violin student who wants to become a musician) and negative (A person whose feared possible self is an alcoholic may become a teetotaler.), are closely related to motivation.
  • Conjuring positive possible selves can improve well-being and alleviate symptoms of depression by holding out the potential for a better future.
  • So how do we construct that positive self and do what we envision?
    • Take action: Making the transition “requires you to say now, today, this week, these are the steps I can actually take” to attain that goal.
    • Find an expert companion: A supportive person who knows your strengths and weaknesses — and opens your eyes to potential selves you hadn’t considered.
    • Share your goal: Doing so makes you more likely to achieve it
    • Reach out to your weak ties: Whether you’re job hunting or seeking breakthrough advice, people in your larger network are more likely to help surface fresh ideas than those closest to you are.

So you might know that I’m trained in Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy and have been practising since 2013. One of the first exercises that students learn in the diploma course is a script writing exercise, asking your client or volunteer to envision how things will be like after they have achieved their goal. So say you have a goal to become a hypnotherapist (or working out every day, a dancer, a confident and eloquent public speaker, a calm mother etc), you will then ask about a specific situation once you have achieved that, where are you, what are you doing, what are you thinking, how are you feeling, what are your body sensations like, what are your facial expression and body gestures, what are the social and financial and other impacts etc. 

Doing so often motivates people to work towards their goal. It most likely increases the feel good hormones (like dopamine etc) when you see your goal achieved, and then these hormones keep you going. Of course, during the process if there’s any obstacles or any skills needed, we can use imagination or hypnosis to facilitate that too.

Documentary: Take your pills: Xanax (2022)

Watch Take Your Pills: Xanax | Netflix Official Site
Netflix Documentary: Take your pills: Xanax

Xanax, an anti-anxiety that I’m very familiar with from the 7 year working in a psychiatric clinic. I was excited to see this title showing up in the list of recommended shows as I was trying to find something to watch over the weekend, after waking up really late from watching the World Cup (Qatar 2022).

It consists of most things I already know, and many things that I’ve explained to many laypersons over the years, I definitely recommend this to everyone who experiences anxiety, who knows someone who’s taking anti-anxiety to watch this (essentially everyone), and think about it… Unfortunately it’s not the most “interesting” documentary with a twisting story-line, but it’s important to learn how we are often fed certain drugs (and nicely called medicine) when there are many things else we can do to cope with it, might be harder and sometimes more costly, but without any side effects, dependence, tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.

My stance is clear, I don’t mean to not take any pills for anxiety, because sometimes the anxiety can be so strong that it’s almost impossible for anyone to deal with, leave alone function, so this is when pills like Xanax can play a role, but when you’re feeling better, definitely do not just believe that you can just keep popping the pill into your mouth the next time when it happens, instead, learn about anxiety, your triggers, how you can cope with it the next time it happens, and practise those coping techniques. It takes a while, but you can ultimately depend on yourself and nothing else…

Feel free to read about my older writings on medication.

Counselling for Toads (1997)

It must have been last year when a non-psychology-field friend asked me whether I knew about this book, and I didn’t and went to google about it. Few months later I decided to start listening to it on the Libby app (yes, another audio book!), and I tell you what, it’s such a popular book that the people who want to hold it was more than 50 and the waiting for quite a few months.

Counselling for Toads: a psychological adventure, by Robert de Board. Audio book narrated by Charles Hunt

I really never heard about it prior to this. I don’t know what I was doing before this.

As a psychologist, I can’t help listening to the book and thought “what? We don’t do that!” “What? this is not evidence-based” “Err that’s misleading!” etc.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s interesting. It most likely provides you with some insight and what happens in a counselling session. You might learn a skill or two, or gain some more rational and healthy beliefs reading it too.

But I’d say some of the stuff in there are dated, and it’s more of a story, for entertaining purpose, than for therapeutic or educational purposes – doesn’t mean that you won’t learn anything or “get healed” reading it, because I’m sure I did learn something and many people did too!

It’s available in Chinese too.

More than a body (2021)

I haven’t recommended any book to do with eating disorders so far. I wonder why because I do read quite a few though not usually cover to cover. But I came across this book published last year, written by both PhD twin sisters, and found it pretty relevant. 

More than a body: Your body is an instrument, not an ornament, by Linsay Kite PhD and Lexie Kite PhD

There are six chapters covering:

  • Rising with Body Image Resilience
  • Critiquing and Creating your Media Environment
  • From Self-Objectification to Self-Actualisation
  • From Divided to United as Women
  • Reclaiming Health and Fitness for yourself
  • A Resilient Reunion

It’s less so a workbook (unlike “The Inside Scoop on Eating Disorder Recovery”), but more of a journey of gaining perspectives, awareness and insights. However, in the beginning of each chapter there are usually some questions asked, for reflection purposes and it’d be good to do so before you begin reading the chapter. 

So what??

What is your first reaction when I say a “So what?” attitude?

Was your reaction quite negative or positive? (Assuming that it can’t be totally neutral)

What if I say, it’s an attitude the grandfather of cognitive therapy, Albert Ellis, said we shall all adopt? Yes, he said we shall all live with a “So What?” attitude.

What do you think?

(I started all 4 paragraphs with the letter “W”, so what?)

I can’t do this, so what?

I look so anxious, so what?

I can’t sleep, so what?

I failed my exam, so what?

Nobody likes me, so what?

What do you think? How would you benefit from adopting such an attitude?

I might not benefit from it, so what?

Seeing clients and students in the west (including those Asians who have lived in the west) vs those who live in Asia (mainly Chinese, Malaysians, South East Asians), I noticed that the first receipt of such an attitude can be quite different, although eventually all accept it and see and experience how much they benefit from having such a “I don’t care” attitude.

But for many Chinese and Asians, their first reaction is almost like, “this is rude”, “this is not what I would do”, “this is wrong”, “this is not part of our cultures/values” etc

Of course we are not talking about people should not care about their life, their studies, their family, their hygiene, their job etc. But it’s when you care too much and it doesn’t help (and often this care makes things worse). This is especially so in social situation and interaction. We worry too much about what others might think, how we look like, we stop being in our experience and connecting with the environment and the world because we focus internally worrying too much.

Try to apply the lens of “so what” in your social interaction and see how it goes?

Book: Stuff that Sucks (2015)

This is my 300th post!!!!

I’ve been attending an online course and came across this book by Ben Sedley:

Stuff that Sucks: A teen’s guide to accepting what you can’t change and committing to what you can

It’s a small, easy to read book, based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). I’d recommend this to any younger teenagers especially. Of course it isn’t and can’t replace therapy, but generally many parents and adolescents have found it helpful for general teens related struggles.

One criticism it receives is that there isn’t much of “practical application”, they said it tells you what stuff sucks, but didn’t tell you what you do about these stuff that sucks. I would disagree on that one, and would suggest those people to read again, because the answer/approach is in there… perhaps not obvious enough though!