How To Shift Your Self-Judgement: A Technique To Overcome Your Inner Bully

I’d like to share with you something I’ve been practicing lately. Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT), as some of you may know, teaches us that we can practice challenging our negative thinking—including negative self-judgments—by pointing out to ourselves the irrationalities, over-generalizations, and incorrect assumptions in our minds that are creating and perpetuating the toxic negative thinking. Sometimes that approach works just fine. But in enough instances, I find it doesn’t work so well. For example, suppose you are mired in self-critical judgments like “I’m pretty stupid!” or “I’m fat and ugly!” or “I’m so undeserving of being loved!” These, what I call “inner bully,” harsh self-judgments can be pretty darn impenetrable to internal cognitive challenging, like what is practiced in CBT.

So, let me suggest an alternative strategy to getting control over negative self-judgments like these. The strategy involves switching the focus in your mind off of the distressing negative self-judgment you are caught up in, and onto what you are FEELING at that moment. I think it’s safe to say there are certain feelings that almost always create highly self-critical judgment—feelings like: sadness, anxiety, disappointment, frustration, hurt, or irritation.

The point is: what I’ve been preaching—and practicing—is mindfully shifting a negative self-judgment into one of those honest feelings. For example, suppose your inner bully has you saying to yourself something like “Jeez, you really are pretty stupid sometimes!” What you practice doing at those moments is switching immediately to telling yourself what you are really feeling, e.g., “I’m feeling sad right now” or “I’m feeling disappointed right now”—or anxious, or hurt, or pissed off, or jealous, or whatever. By doing this, you are replacing toxic negative self-judgment with a totally NON-judgmental, totally human feeling, one that exists in your emotional core because it belongs there at the moment.

Try it—and just see if like me, you feel like you are giving yourself a golden opportunity to bypass going cognitive with your negative self-judging; and instead, to cut right to non-judgmental honest feeling!

The Self-Worth Equation: Why The Little Things Make All The Difference

When I think of a way to describe the meaning of the term “emotional self-worth,” I go with the following equation: self-worth equals self-esteem plus self-respect. Let me take each of those two separately. On the self-esteem front , I look at self-esteem as having two parts: the “outer” (how you feel about how you look on the outside) and the “inner” (what you like about you personally on the inside).

As a little aside to that distinction, I truly wish that for true self-esteem, we could all make the “inner” part count a lot more than the “outer” part! But socialization and conditioning in our society being what they are, it makes it tough for that to happen, right? Oh well, and now to self-respect, which I’ll define here as anything you feel you’re accomplishing in your life, especially the “little things.”

Examples of “little things”— which as you’ll see in a moment really aren’t the least bit little at all—are things like pushing yourself and making the effort, exercising self-control over self-defeating habits, doing an act of kindness, taking care of your body and your health, reaching some goal you set, being creative and/or doing something really fun, and— last but certainly not least— engaging in act of courage.

These are the kinds of “little things” that we all could do ourselves a big favor by acknowledging even one of them that we may have done that day before we go to sleep at night! These days I’m thankfully feeling pretty good about myself on all three fronts (I assure you a lot of personal work has gone into making that happen)!

So next time you are judging yourself or worried about your value, remember the equation: Self-worth = Self-esteem + Self-respect!

Feel Like You Are Never Good Enough? Learn My Secrets To Challenging Your Inner Bully [Because I’ve Done It, Too]

Are you challenged by the belief that you are “never good enough?” Well, my friends, I guarantee you: been there, done that myself, for enough decades of my life!

Only in maybe the past 5 years have I become clear that my—I call it, and wrote a book on it—“inner bully” had kept me puffing away on a “never good enough” emotional treadmill. Meanwhile, in the process of trying so hard to see myself as “good enough”—better yet, good, much less very good—I was very successfully disregarding my actual successes in my life, be they, e.g., professionally, academically, or inter-personally.

Photo by Inzmam Khan on

Ever wonder how the “never good enough” (NGE) bully takes control of your thinking? Or in other words, are you clear where this bully get its strength from? Maybe this is obvious, but just in case it isn’t: it gets its strength mainly from two things: 1) being negatively compared a lot to, e.g., your siblings or your friends; and 2) getting either lots of “yes/but” pseudo-compliments (e.g., “Yes you did well, BUT if you had worked harder you could’ve done better!”) or almost no compliments or praise at all. And as a little P.S. here, all it takes to feel NGE is to have had one parent be like this, even if the other parent did exactly the opposite, and gave you steady doses of praise, compliments, and encouragement!

Photo by Pixabay on

So what do I recommend you practice doing to stand up to your NGE bully? First, in case you get caught up in this a lot (like I so often did), you need to stop comparing yourself to other people! Then (as I have posted previously) do something I make myself do and encourage my clients to do: just before bedtime, take a couple of moments to list at least one thing you did that day that falls in any of the following categories:

🔸an act of kindness;

🔸a goal met;

🔸worked hard at something important;

🔸something creative and/or fun;

🔸an act of courage.

Because as long as you are doing these kinds of things in your life, you are always better than “good enough”. In fact, you are actually a quite GOOD person, even a VERY good person. Time to stand up to your inner bully and start believing that, once and for all!

For more on standing up to your Inner Bully, join me for a FREE Expert Panel Discussion on March 12th at 2 pm; simply click below to register a spot and be a part of the conversation!

Post-Traumatic Stress Injury: Why You Should Be Using PTSI To Describe Your Trauma (instead of PTSD)!

Most people are familiar with the psychological condition called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  As you may be aware from anything you have read or heard—or more unfortunately, from what you may personally suffer from—PTSD can be a quite debilitating psychological condition.  The main symptoms of PTSD typically include severe anxiety or panic attacks, flashbacks, depression, somatic symptoms (e.g., loss of appetite, sleep disturbance, or headaches), and loss of self-confidence and self-esteem.  Problems with addiction are also not uncommon when PTSD has taken hold. All of these symptoms ongoingly create and perpetuate marked distress in the person suffering from PTSD, and can continue to be present for many years or more, if not much of a lifetime.

When someone is formally diagnosed with PTSD, it is understood that by definition, the trauma triggering the PTSD involved a life or death event. War, a plane or car crash, or a natural disaster are all prime examples of life and death events that can of course traumatize someone involved in any of these events.  I should add that the formal diagnosis of PTSD can also include directly witnessing a life or death event, of the types just listed, without being a direct victim of it.

There is however another category of trauma that may not involve formally diagnosable events, but can trigger psychological trauma anyway. I’m referring here to psychological events which while not life and death, nevertheless in the extreme certainly can be traumatizing by themselves.  These especially include painful rejection, severe abuse, or a blind-siding major betrayal (e.g., an unsuspected infidelity). All of these psychologically devastating events have the potential to create most if not all of the same clinical symptoms listed above for traumas involving life and death events. Plus, need I add: unlike the first category of trauma which thankfully most people will never experience, chances are most people will go through their life experiencing at least one situation involving the second category of trauma.  

Now it’s time to tell you about Dr. Peter Levine’s work related to PTSD.  First we have his absolutely marvelous book, entitled In An Unspoken Voice: How The Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness (2010). Then we have the incredibly valuable conference of his I attended several years ago on the subject of his book and related writings.  Dr. Levine is clearly a brilliant man. But better yet, he is also a deeply compassionate man—especially when it comes to people plagued by the debilitating symptoms of PTSD.

Let me tell you what I mainly mean by that statement of compassion—by quoting something from his book.  On page 34, Dr. Levine writes:

 “Recently, a young Iraq veteran took issue with calling his combat anguish PTSD.  Instead, he poignantly referred to his pain and suffering as PTSI. With the “I” designating “injury.”  What he wisely discerned is that trauma is an injury, and not a disorder like diabetes, which can be managed but not healed.  In contrast, post-traumatic stress INJURY is an emotional wound, amenable to healing attention and transformation.”

In An Unspoken Voice: How The Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness
Peter A. Levine
North Atlantic Books, 2010

To say I am indebted to Dr. Levine for introducing the term “injury” into the mix is putting it mildly.  That’s because virtually all of my current and past patients whom I have treated have found the term post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI) a term that strips the stigmatizing judgment out of the diagnosis of a disorder or mental illness.  Knowing that in this framework someone who has been traumatized will instead be seen as having a painful deep-seated injury can provide a badly needed sense of “normalcy” for that traumatized person. After all, who doesn’t sooner or later have to contend with a painful PHYSICAL injury, which can—as with a painful psychological injury—last a long time, take quite a while to treat, and quite possibly never fully go away?  No one in good conscience could possibly think of suffering from a painful physical injury as having anything but normalcy to it under the circumstances, right?

So to me the overall moral of the story is this.  If you are an individual who suffers from PTSD, strongly consider from now on calling it PTSI (and leave the PTSD thing to, say, professional diagnosing for insurance purposes).  Same recommendation I want to give to psychotherapists, counselors, coaches, and healers working with people diagnosed with PTSD: tell your patients/clients you will be using the term PTSI for their condition.  Then, as so sensitively encouraged by Dr. Levine, let’s help these suffering souls attempt to heal from their deep, complicated injury. And let’s make sure they get plenty of doses of healing-oriented kindness and compassion along the way—from people around them and of course from us—and not just in-office, diagnosis-based treatment options.

PTSI rather than PTSD—thank you Dr. Levine!

Want to learn more about this subject? Subscribe below to get an exclusive invitation to my upcoming webinar on Post-Traumatic Stress Injury.


In the near future, I will be offering a webinar on one of my favorite, complicated subjects: manhood. This feels timely to me to do, particularly in light of the recent highly viewed, highly controversial Gillette commercial.

I plan to begin by making the I believe crucial distinction between the stereotypical definition of a real man–Mr. “macho man”—vs. a non-macho definition that I will get to shortly. I think we all know the stereotype of a macho man, e.g., chiseled physique, strong as an ox, fixer-handy as hell, cocky in his (over)confidence, extols his sexual prowess, has a lot of money (or at least feels compelled to act like he does), lives life adventurously, and: makes sure to hide his vulnerability and always appear “strong”. Well, goodness knows on a personal note, to quote Bob Dylan (showing my age a bit here), “that ain’t me babe; no no no, it ain’t me babe….” So what do I view a “real man” as being? Let me preface my answer to this by saying I have given this subject a great deal of thought over the years. And the conclusion I have come to is to propose a list of qualities that I invite anyone reading this— and anyone you care to share it with—to please comment on. Okay, here goes. One totally non-macho man’s definition of a real man:

🔹 is hard-working, but not a workaholic
🔹 keeps in good shape physically and mentally
🔹 prioritizes accountability, integrity, reliability, and trustworthiness
🔹 financially, prioritizes a sensible balancing of spending versus saving, consistent with his level of earned income
🔹 sexually, prioritizes making sex as pleasurable and loving as possible for both himself and his partner
🔹 can show emotional vulnerability on occasion, without judging himself as “weak” or “unmanly” for it
🔹 prioritizes earning other peoples’ respect rather than demanding it; and makes sure to show it to others when it clearly is warranted to do so
🔹 is courageous and assertive most of the time, without resorting to aggressive intimidation
🔹 has a good sense of humor–in a playful, connecting, at times self-deprecating way, rather than being overly sarcastic and/or belittling of others
🔹 gives something back to his community
🔹 will do what he can within reason to protect and support important people around him
🔹 is affectionate in a non-sexual way
and last but not least
🔹 prioritizes moderation in indulgences; yet enjoys making allowance for extra indulging on special occasions

Moral of the story? I know I will never fully be this man, since it obviously sets the bar awfully high. But I also know this: this is so much more of a real man than a macho man can ever be. So I will spend the rest of my life striving to stay as much of the non-macho type as I can be, while hoping to get as good at it as I can get!

Care-Givers Versus Care-Takers

The other day, I was thinking about the distinction between being a care-giver vs. a care-taker. So I went to the “God of Google” for some non-cosmic insight on the matter. In several places that came up, the distinction made between the two essentially boiled down to this: care-GIVING involves giving in a deeply caring and personal way to a loved one, while care-TAKING refers more to a paid position, involving a person or situation as the object of the care-taking.

This distinction didn’t work very well for me I decided. So I went ahead and created a personally-preferred distinction. I’m sticking with care-giving as the personal giving of care to a loved one. But I’m switching care-TAKING to: the personal act of RECEIVING care from someone, be it a loved one, friend, or otherwise. I went with this distinction because I think it’s important to recognize that wonderfully care-giving people by nature can struggle with being on the receiving end—i.e., the taking in—of care-giving. Irrational guilt often is the underlying culprit here: essentially, feeling they don’t really deserve or have the right to receive care-giving—even when it’s clearly needed. So in enough instances, a care-giver by nature who at least temporarily needs care-giving given to them needs to be assured and reassured that it is perfectly ok to receive it, as it is a HUMAN NEED at times for everyone!

One more piece though. Care-givers do not always do a very good job of taking care of—or should I say giving care to—THEMSELVES. So to all you care-givers out there, I say: give yourself permission to receive care when you need it—but also make sure to take care of yourself too. After all, how can you really sustain being the best care-giver you expect yourself to be if you don’t balance it out at least some with taking or giving the best care you can to you?!

-Dr. Sid


The purpose of this article is to distinguish between anxiety and panic attacks.

In thinking about how I wanted to present it though, I decided to add a third piece into the mix: fear. Let’s, in fact, start with fear versus anxiety. As with anxiety, fear is a feeling that every human being experiences, at one time or another. When fear or anxiety takes hold, we are all likely to experience symptoms like nervousness/jitteriness, racing and/or obsessive negative thoughts. Especially, “what-if” and worst-case-scenario thinking, impaired concentration, and to varying degrees, physical/bodily sensations like heart racing, shallow breathing, palms sweating, and tightness in the chest.

The key factor distinguishing fear from anxiety can be summed up as the likely rationality versus the likely irrationality of these sets of symptoms.
On the fear front, the symptoms listed above are triggered by the anticipation of what could be an actual danger or threat to physical or emotional safety. Examples include undergoing tests for a possibly cancerous lump in your breast, walking down a dark street and seeing a suspicious stranger walking toward you, being somewhere where you suddenly hear gunshots, or finding out that there are going to be a significant number of job layoffs at your place of employment in the very near future. All of these situations involve an anticipated worrisome event that has a real possibility of actually occurring, and therefore, the symptoms are rational.

In contrast, when the symptoms surround anticipation of an event that is not likely to happen (not an impossibility, but an unlikelihood), in this framework we are talking the irrationality of anxiety rather than the rationality of fear. Examples include: worrying that you are going to do poorly on an important exam when you are in fact an intelligent person who studied hard for the exam, feeling mild turbulence while on a plane yet worrying deeply that the plane nonetheless is going to crash at any moment, convincing yourself that your significant other is about to reject you in spite of all of your evidence to the contrary, and worrying that you are going to lose your job when you have been repeatedly reassured that you are performing very well and are important to the company you work for.

Now we move to panic attacks.

Simply stated, panic is the extreme of what can be either fear or anxiety. During a panic attack, all of the symptoms listed above can become so overwhelming that you can feel immobilized and frozen in place. Accompanying this can be the extremely disconcerting thought that you are “going crazy” or having a heart attack. A panic attack can vary in terms of its duration: it might subside in less than 30 seconds, or unfortunately, it may continue for many minutes or longer. The longer it lasts, the longer it will take to return to a normal level of functioning. In a state of anxiety or fear in contrast, as distressing as these feelings may be, chances are you will still be able to function sufficiently enough to not become overwhelmed and immobilized.

Last but not least, I want to emphasize that whether we are talking about fear, anxiety, or panic, what all of these feelings share in common is that they should never be judged as signs of abnormality or weakness. Instead, they all reflect a state of being HUMAN. They’re disturbing and very stressful feelings yes, but human nonetheless.

You can read further about how self-sabotage can actually trigger anxiety if not panic at times in my book, “Your Self-Sabotaging Inner Bully: Standing Up to It Once and For All!”

I look forward to connecting with you!

– Sid

On Addiction

Back in the 80’s, Nancy Reagan declared the semi-immortalized words “Just say no to drugs!” While Mrs. Reagan specified drugs as primarily the addictive substance to say no to, she presumably could have been referring to any other substance or activity which can become a form of addiction. What has always struck me most though–professionally and personally–about these words is that injecting the word “just” into the declaration implies it really shouldn’t take that much effort and self-control to not become addicted to something. Which of course in reality couldn’t be farther from the truth, i.e., for enough people it can take a great deal of effort and self-control to resist addiction in the first place, much less sustain it to conquer an addiction already in place!

In the sections below, I will cover four main topics related to addiction. First, I will offer a definition of addiction which allows for a wider range of behaviors to be defined as potentially addictive than just substances like drugs and alcohol. Then I list what that range of addictive behaviors can include. Next comes a summary of the reasons why it in fact is so difficult to stop an addiction, followed by a section addressed to the significant downsides to addiction. Finally, I will discuss the challenging process of controlling addiction so it no longer controls you.


As noted above, the definition of addiction I use allows for a number of behaviors to become possible types of addiction above and beyond substances. That definition has two main parts: 1) any behavior basically in control of you rather you being in control of the behavior; and 2) as a result, the behavior causes you some type of harm, be it psychological, physical, financial, or relationship harm–or some combination of these. Clearly this definition typically fits for substance addiction. It also can apply though to addictions like, e.g., food, gambling, shopping, lying, sexual encounters, and electronics (especially video games, texting, and excessive use of social media).

On the psychological harm front, any type of addiction can especially take a toll on an addict’s self-respect and overall self-worth. Yet because someone with an addiction will typically deny having any addiction problem, they will also deny these two negative effects on their psychological well-being. Therefore the “benefits” of maintaining an addiction–to be presented below–will remain the conscious or subconscious reasons to continue with the addiction, while ignoring the various negative consequences of doing so–and for as long as possible.


This section is mainly addressed to the reasons why it is so hard for so many people to “just say no” to commencing an addictive behavior, much less control it once it has taken control of you. Some of these reasons–i.e., “benefits”–may sound obvious, like excitement, relaxation, escape, and disinhibition. But let me propose a less obvious reason for keeping an addiction in place: “anesthesia.” Medicinally speaking, an anesthetic is of course something used to numb physical pain. Yet as we all know, human beings experience psychological/emotional pain as well, like depression, an anxiety disorder, deep grief, lonliness, or post-traumatic stress. And just as with physical pain, the worse this type of pain is, the more the emotionally suffering person may feel a need to numb it–at least temporarily anyway, just as with a medicinal anesthetic. Especially given the “benefits” just listed, you can see how an addiction of any type can therefore feel like–again, consciously or subconsciously–an anesthetic against painful emotions.


As powerful as any “benefit” of any type of addiction may feel, there typically is a major price to pay for ongoing addictive behavior. That price–as noted above in terms of the possible types of harm that ongoing addiction can trigger–can be physical, psychological, financial, or in relationships. Physical harm to health can especially result from prolonged heavy use of addictive substances like alcohol or drugs. Psychological harm is manifested in that person’s significant loss of self-respect, for allowing their self-sabotaging addiction to possibly rule their life. Financial harm can result from uncontrolled spending, especially related to addictions like substance use and excessive gambling. Finally, addiction can sabotage important personal relationships, especially when the addiction is accompanied by significant irresponsibility, like law-breaking actions, unleashing of abusive behavior, or excessive withdrawal or isolation.


If we return for the moment to the simplistic “just say no” pitch, then you know–to put it mildly–how much easier said than done it is to prevent addiction from the start, much less control it once it is in full force. But if addiction is in fact to be eliminated, several things must come together to increase the odds of success and reduce the odds of failure or relapse. It starts with full acknowledgment by the addict of the reality of their problem, rather than continuing in the mode of denial. There also must come a clear conscious recognition of the psychological and/or physical and/or financial and/or relationship-sabotaging pain caused by prolonged addiction. Next, there needs to be a clear acknowledgment too of what is going wrong or badly in their life, be it, e.g., specific fears, loneliness, frequent agitation, deep sadness, boredom, excessive stress, or a sense of personal failure or shame. There also needs to be a commitment by the addict to do whatever it takes in their day-to-day lives to rebuild their self-sabotaged self-respect, especially in terms of behavioral self-control, goal-oriented productivity, and–where relevant and advisable–making amends to any significant other harmed by the in some way due to their addiction. Last but certainly not least, someone in the throes of some type of addiction must make–and keep–a commitment to themselves to actively and ongoingly pursue a combination of professional help plus involvement in a supportive community like 12-step.


Is addiction a sickness or a disease, as many people define it? From my perspective anyway, it depends how you define those two related but not necessarily identical terms. If the addiction does not cause the person any significant degree of any of the four types of harm listed above, then for all the people out there who I know will disagree with me, I say it is NOT a sickness or disease, but more a very challenging personal problem to try and control. If on the other hand some type of significant harm to the addict does occur, then in my view those two categorizations apply.

But here’s another piece of thought on addiction I’m putting out there to the universe. In my experience, many people judge addicts–especially substance abuse addicts–as essentially “low-lifes” or second-class citizens. Many parents for example will in fact sound smug in their announcing that regardless of anything else their child may not do well in life–e.g., receiving relatively poor grades based on lack of effort, or being a bully–“at least my kid isn’t an addict!” Well, to the innumerable negative judgers out there in the world, I ask you to make a distinction on the judgment front. Specifically, I invite you to muster up as much compassion and as little negative judgment as you can for any addict who is mainly SELF-sabotaging, i.e., has a sickness or disease. In contrast, I totally get negatively judging someone whose addiction leads them to, e.g., often hurt significant others, and/or engage in physically harmful violence. THOSE are the addicts who can be a menace and a “low-life”–until and if they sincerely acknowledge their wrongdoing and seek professional help. But in the absence of these inexcusable behaviors, and on behalf of again primarily the SELF-sabotaging addicts out there in the world, I encourage you to make a distinction, and feel vs. judge accordingly!

On Anxiety Disorder


Many millions of people suffer from clinical anxiety. Sometimes the anxiety occurs in an extremely intense form–called a panic attack, and sometimes in an ongoing intermittent manner–called generalized anxiety. What these share in common is the personal and emotional distress they can cause you, in the short run and very possibly in the long run as well.

Suffering from either of these two types of anxiety disorder can make life less fun. You can end up worrying if not virtually obsessing about when your next episode may occur. This is especially true if during the time the anxiety hits you, it becomes much tougher to concentrate clearly, feel socially at ease, make good decisions, and generally feel free enough to laugh and enjoy yourself. Or to put this a bit differently, when you are in the throes of some significant if not overwhelming amount of anxiety, you can feel temporarily powerless at best, and outright paralyzed at worst!

What I will do now is expand upon the two categories presented above, and then add two more: phobias and post-traumatic-stress induced.


For any of you who suffer from–or in the past suffered from–panic attacks, you know how terribly upsetting it is to be in its clutches. Your heart pounds, your hands sweat, your stomach churns, your breathing gets shallow, and you can feel frozen to the spot. As for your mind: it in all likelihood will go heavily into obsessing that you are having a heart attack, or going crazy, or both. If you are lucky–relatively speaking–the attack will subside quickly. But if you are not so lucky, it can last for minutes, if not many minutes. Which can actually feel like it’s hours more than minutes!


Diagnostically speaking, generalized anxiety disorder is the clinical condition in which you can best be described colloquially as a “real worrier.” Often enough feeling jittery and nervous, you may nonetheless be able to overall go about your life in a reasonably well-functioning manner. But you still can expect to experience some very anxiety-filled moments on a good day, and many of those moments on a bad day, when all you can think about is any person or situation that has you worried and filled with anxiety.


As you may know, a phobia is an anxiety condition in which your often intense anxiety is connected to a specific object or situation. Examples of phobias you may be personally familiar with or have heard about include public speaking, small spaces, flying, snakes or spiders, needle injections, large dogs, or heights. The key piece about phobias is that the anxiety they trigger can be as intense as in a panic attack. Yet the trigger for these attacks may not be as clear as in the case of a phobia, and therefore cannot be outright avoided as is the case with phobic objects or situations.


In distinguishing PTS-induced intense anxiety from phobias and panic attacks, the resulting anxiety in the former case reflects the fact that sufferer has already experienced a major life trauma. Examples of these include being in war, or being the victim of any of the following: a natural disaster, a violent crime, an animal bite, a car or plane crash, or a significant medical mistake. In the case of phobias in contrast, the sufferer typically develops strong anxiety in ANTICIPATION of having a distressing experience in the presence of the phobic object, but in most instances without actually HAVING HAD that experience. In the case of panic attacks, these typically do not involve a previous major life trauma–although paradoxically it can sure feel like having one of these attacks is a trauma itself!


Managing or controlling any of these categories of anxiety disorders can be–as you may well know–a whole lot easier said than done. I therefore recommend you pursue both self-help tools as well as professional interventions in your efforts to tackle your particular type of anxiety problem. On the self-help front, you should consider, e.g., mindful meditation of some type, physical exercise, reassuring self-talk, diversionary/distracting activity, and prayer. On the professional intervention front, you can pursue counseling or psychotherapy, and possibly medication.

One last point. Many years ago, I published an article in a national magazine, entitled “Anxiety Attacks Can Be Guilt Attacks.” Especially if your anxiety problem is mainly of the generalized/worrying type, and whether it’s obvious to you or not, you can figure at least part of your problem is significant unresolved GUILT. So I highly recommend you face that likelihood, and get that guilt resolved to the best of your ability as part of your anxiety-reduction plan.

On Grief and Loss


What do all of the following share in common: 1) the death of a loved; 2) a relationship breakup; 3) a job layoff or termination; 4) a home being destroyed by fire or tornado; and 5) significant physical limitations resulting from a serious illness or injury?  Maybe it’s obvious, but they all involve a major personal loss, any one of which can be psychologically and emotionally painful.  The loss does not have to be a total one to be difficult to cope with.  What matters most is when the loss, whatever it may be, leaves you often feeling a mix of very sad and anxious, total loss or not.  The sadness connects with grief; the anxiety connects with fear of loss of security and/or self-confidence.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying,” postulated 5 stages of grief connected specifically to the coping with the loss of a loved one via death.  Kubler-Ross named these stages denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  However, in my over 30 years as a practicing psychologist, it has been my professional experience that in enough instances, the grieving process is not as etched in stone regarding these stages as Kubler-Ross postulated.  In addition, so-called stages of grieving can occur every bit as much with the other four types of significant losses spelled out above as with the death of a loved one.


Take 58 year old David.  David was recently was laid off from his job of 27 years.  For several months, David and several of his co-workers had seen the writing on the wall of an impending “unavoidable” layoff.  So there was no room for denial here, nor for bargaining, over this job loss.  In addition, the layoff did not outright depress David, nor could he accept it.  But one thing the layoff sure did make him feel was: angry!  Anger centering mainly on the fact that David had been a loyal, hard-working, productive company employee for more than 2-plus decades.  As a result, no matter how much he knew the company was justifying the layoffs as “unavoidable,” David felt convinced in his heart that he in no way DESERVED to be laid off.  So anger reigned supreme for David as a result of this loss; as did anxiety I might add, given the likely challenge now facing him of finding another job at his age.

Now take Jennifer.  Married for 7 years, she was by nature a trusting soul, and very much in love with her husband Ira.  Yet in the past year, Jennifer had been dealing with certain behaviors on Ira’s part that were increasingly causing her more and more angst.  These especially involved Ira claiming he was now required to work late a couple of nights a week (something he had never done before), and excessive unexplained phone texting.  Jennifer was upset by these behaviors yes, but she refused to believe what her mother and best friend were telling her: that they suspected Ira was having an affair.  Alas, one night Jennifer decided uncharacteristically to “snoop” into Ira’s computer.  And there in the trash she found an ongoing exchange of deleted emails between Ira and another woman, lurid and loving in detailed nature.

No longer able to remain in denial of the obvious truth, Jennifer did not go into anger mode, as her sadness simply overwhelmed her.  When she finally confronted Ira, he not only acknowledged the truth of his affair, but even more devastatingly to Jennifer, he informed her of his intent to divorce her.  Begging (bargaining) for even some marital counseling got her nowhere.  And then for many years after the actual divorce, Jennifer remained so sad and anxious at the core that acceptance of her marital loss remained extremely difficult for her to do.

The moral of the story regarding these two significant personal, non-death losses is that they are examples of how Kubler-Ross’ five postulated stages of grief by no means universally occur, nor do they necessarily occur in the chronological order she elucidated.  What does consistently occur though in the case of significant personal loss is any of a range of painful emotions, some of which go beyond those presented by Kubler-Ross.  These can include for example guilt, jealousy, abandonment, embarrassment, and as noted above anxiety/fear.  Keep in mind too that any of these emotions can realistically and humanly have no “statute of limitations” regarding the duration of their intensity and presence, consciously or subconsciously.


Moving to the clinical aspect of grief and loss, there are a variety of possible psychological problems that intense grief can trigger, in the short run and possibly in the long run.  These include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, addiction, and eating disorders.  As with the  loss-triggered emotions listed above, there is no statue of limitations on the potential duration or intensity of any of these symptoms.


Safe to say we all grew up hearing the expression “time heals all wounds.”  Well, now that most of us are grown up, I will at least speak for myself when I say I have learned that the idea that time heals all wounds–especially grief/loss wounds–is far from guaranteed.  Some important losses can leave us with long-lasting if not permanent feelings of any one or more of the powerful emotions listed above, from sadness, to guilt, to loneliness, to anger, to fear.  So to help yourself heal from these emotional wounds of grief and loss, you will need to DO some things over time to increase your healing potential.  Options here especially include becoming involved in a grief/loss support group, disregarding anyone who tells you to “move on!” or “get over it already!”, staying as busy and distracted as possible, tapping into religious or personally spiritual pursuit, or–if the clinical symptom piece does not subside–seeking professional counseling and/or psychiatric medication.

In closing, I encourage you to keep in mind that any significant loss–again, be it the death of a loved one, a relationship breakup, a change or loss of a job/school/residence, or suffering a physically debilitating injury or illness–can trigger a range of painful emotions, which can vary per person in intensity, duration, and chronological order.  Therefore, let me underscore, any of these emotions is called HUMAN, and not what too many people judge them as being: “weak!”