Thriving: What Kind of Psychotherapy Naturally Produces It?

Just because you’re not sick, doesn’t mean you’re healthy.

We are used to that idea in physical health. Being cancer free is not the same as being fit—you have to take the steps needed to develop your physical strength, endurance, and flexibility. Not having the flu is great, but vigor depends on eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep. Physical health, we know, goes far beyond the absence of illness.

The clarity we have with physical health, however, vanishes once we get to our own emotional, psychological, and social life. For most of us it’s not even clear what prospering means in these areas, never mind how to produce it. If we aren’t depressed, or anxious, or addicted, we’re doing okay, right? If we have a good job, and people respect us, that’s about it, isn’t it?

Ah, no. It isn’t. Read more

Is Self-Compassion More Important Than Self-Esteem?

Is it important to love yourself?

It seems that depends on how you do it.

Few concepts in popular psychology have gotten more attention over the last few decades than self-esteem and its importance in life success and long-term mental health. Of course, much of this discussion has focused on young people, and how families, parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors can provide the proper psychological environment to help them grow into functional, mature, mentally stable adults.

Research shows that low self-esteem correlates with poorer mental health outcomes across the board1, increased likelihood of suicide attempts2, and difficulty developing supportive social relationships.3 Research also shows that trying to raise low self-esteem artificially comes with its own set of problems, including tendencies toward narcissism, antisocial behavior4, and avoiding challenging activities that may threaten one’s self-concept.5

This division in the research has led to a division amongst psychologists about how important self-esteem is, whether or not it’s useful to help people improve their self-esteem, and what the best practices are for accomplishing that.

In one camp, you have people who believe improving self-esteem is of paramount importance. On the other side of the fence are those who feel the whole concept of self-esteem is overrated and that it’s more critical to develop realistic perceptions about oneself.

But what if we’ve been asking the wrong questions all along? What if the self-esteem discussion is like the proverbial finger pointing at the moon? Read more

The MWS Podcast 39: Steven C. Hayes on Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT)

I recently chatted with Barry Daniel of The Middle Way Society, an organization whose aim is to develop an integrated approach to living a more ethical life avoiding dogma or any appeal to authority. During our interview we discussed how ACT might fit into the middle way. Our talk turned into a great ACT primer for those not yet familiar with the practice. Enjoy!

Visit the MiddleWaySociety.org for a downloadable podcast and additional comments from Steve.

Perpetrators are People Too

Why Our National Conversation is Wrong and What to Do about It

In the wake of the NFL domestic violence scandal the media has exploded with questions about what we need to do governmentally, institutionally, and politically to better manage partner abuse. Some have called the current rash of stories a “national teaching moment”—an opportunity for us to wake up to the prevalence and horror of domestic violence and take effective action against this crime.

I couldn’t agree more. A new way forward is desperately needed. Read more

Behavioral Science and Local Empowerment Are Needed to Help Solve the Ebola Crisis

The West African Ebola crisis is holding up a mirror to the world, and what it is reflecting back is worrisome. I was listening to the news reporting yesterday with a mixture of interest and horror. The horror was not just about what is going on in these West African countries. It was the horror of hearing “How did we let him in?” when the new case in Texas was discussed—as if a virus respects national borders. I wondered if those making their strained comments and asking their anxious questions were ready to follow their own logic to its conclusion. Are we in the modern world ready to quarantine an entire continent out of fear? Read more