Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Thursday, December 14, 2017
Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Most of the information we see online about psychologists comes from the EU, North America, Australia and New Zealand. That's a problem if you don't live there because it gives a very false impression of the field.
Psychologists deal with vulnerable people but in most of the world, the profession is totally unregulated.
Shocking, right? If you're in Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia and goodness knows how many other countries, you can simply announce, "I'm a psychologist!" and nobody will do a blessed thing to stop you messing about with people who are suicidal, struggling with learning issues and other serious problems.
There are con artists with no training whatsoever, not even a basic diploma in psychology, running companies that advertise in newspapers, setting up their own endorsement agencies, and even their own training centres. They 'diagnose' you and often charge the earth, too.
There is plenty of discussion about it in the field, but in my opinion, this will be an ongoing issue for some years to come. Even if you fix the problem with a quick bit of legislation, enforcement is difficult - especially as these people will simply rebrand themselves as "lifestyle gurus" or whatever other title sounds cool.
So when you need a psychologist, how do you avoid the cons? I had the look yesterday at the social media (Facebook and LinkedIn) of several leading lights in the community and then I compared it to some known crooks.
The legitimate people were posting cartoons of owls, photos of their lunch, moaning about their kids, giggling about silly things that happened to them, sharing jokes - and very occasionally commenting on a psychological issue.
The cons had a steady stream consisting of shares of journal articles, press articles, motivational quotes and their own evil advertising.
Also, you should know that cons make up fake associations.Yes, it doesn't take much to register an association, and as anyone can be a psychologist, nobody cares who's proper and who isn't.
Depressing, right? The cons looked so damn good that if I didn't know better, I'd consult them!
So what can you do?
Sourcing specialists, say those who work with eating disorders or autism, is best done through your national hospital network and your public universities.
If you're looking for a regular therapist to talk about relationships, divorce, abuse and so on, a safe bet is to work with someone who has a basic Bachelor’s degree in psychology as well as a Masters in a mental health field that includes several hundred hours of supervised practical clinical work. That way you have someone who's done all the academic work with a healthy dollop of practical work. (My Masters involved about 400 hours of practical work.)
When you see a therapist you think you want to work with, ask where they went to college and what their qualifications are. As a first step, make sure that the school exists and that they have the programme your contact says they have completed. (You can call the school but in my experience, they rarely know who's in class this week, never mind who's graduated.)
Then, do a little spying on their social media. One thing that stood out from my looking around is that professionals have connections to universities. They don't necessarily work in them but they'll have friends there.
So, see who their friends are. If you see their pals are from recognisable unis, you're probably okay.
You can also ask me. I may not know the people you want to consult myself, but I have a South East Asia network that I'm happy to draw on. Oh, and if you want to check me out on social media, have a look at my Facebook page.
Did you like this? Then you may enjoy this, “If it’s quackery, why is it working for me?”
Monday, August 28, 2017
|Sigmund Freud, Wikipedia|
Sunday, August 20, 2017
Does it seem to you that hate is becoming mainstream?
My brother called me this morning, worried about the terror attacks in Barcelona, Cambrills and Turku over the last few days, coming right on top of Charlottesville, Manchester and London. As he's in Saudi and I'm in Malaysia, we are also aware of the many hate crimes that don't hit main stream news media.
"I don't believe in profiling," he said, "but we have to do something about violent arseholes!"
In case you're confused which particular violent arseholes we were thinking about, the answer is all of them.
You see, if you take me, my brother and our partners and their sibs and partners, just us very close family, you will see a kind of United Nations effect.
We range from Nippon Paint's brilliant white to the finest dark chocolate in terms of skin, and we cover most of the major faith groups.
We're from Europe, North America and Africa and we live in all those places plus the Middle East and Far East Asia.
In other words: whenever someone blows up "the enemy" or mouths off about "the x problem" you're talking about one of us. It is very hard not to fall into hate. Especially when politicians and faith leaders make speeches about how you are Evil Incarnate.
I can't fix the world but I can help manage my feelings.
What helps me is engaging with people who are cheerfully accepting of differences. The kind who just respect that we're all different and celebrate it.
When I'm having an anti-X moment, I pick up the phone, and go for a coffee with a friend who isn't like me, and we just hang and have a good time. It can be a Malaysian Christian Mala or a Cambodian Muslim May or a Thai Hindu Myriam - it doesn't matter. Just reminding myself that friendships cross divides cheers me up.
Good random experiences are a tonic too. Like when me and my friend Emanar were in Central Market a week or two ago, talking to two Malay girls running a clothing stall.
(For non-SEA readers, most Malay people are Muslim. These two definitely were because they wore tudungs, traditional local Muslim headscarves. Although some Muslims drink alcohol, Malaysian Muslims usually believe their religion forbids them to drink and the law prohibits them from buying alcohol. )
"I need a party shirt for my husband," I said to them.
They hauled out a lovely batik, perfect for a posh event.
"I love it," I said. "But I'm thinking more of a party at the pub."
"He can wear this there too," the sisters giggled. "And he'll look so handsome!"
"He's dressed nicely all week at work. Do you have something more relaxed?"
The sisters thought for a second, and then dived into their stock, producing the best beach party shirt I'd seen in years and asking, "Will tuna fish be suitable for the pub?"
"The tuna fish," I said seriously, "will be the talk of the regulars for weeks!"
"Tell them where you bought it!" the girls chorused instantly.
Such a simple story, right? An everyday occurrence. But when I hear hate speech urging us into "Us & Them" remembering that little scene gives me hope.
Hate isn't universal. And when we reach out and remind ourselves of the ordinary people who are quite happy to accept differences, the world looks a little better.
PS the sisters have the stall on the first floor, on the balcony, directly facing the main door. Their batik shirts are awesome, and they had several more tuna shirts! You should go and take a look.
Saturday, August 12, 2017
Saturday, July 29, 2017
"Shame: A Brief History by Peter Stearns is a well researched beautifully written thought-provoking book! A must read for psychologists, leaders, teachers, parents, managers and anyone interested in human nature." Ellen Whyte, upcoming Amazon review
I love this book! Peter Stearns did a brilliant job of presenting shaming uses and norms in societies past and present, and I love the way he examines the resurgence of shame 's use as a force in today 's social media.
Thursday, June 22, 2017
What is Self Determination Theory?
- Autonomy - having control over your own life.
- Competence - developing skills you are proud of and having them recognised
- Relatedness - being part of a team, or at least feeling connected to the people around you
How do I use Self Determination Theory?
If you want more
Sunday, June 4, 2017
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
When you’re in a sticky situation, facts, assumptions and emotions all swirl together, blending into each other.
Being upset blinds us to facts. And when we are overwhelmed, we tend to jump to conclusions rather than see what is truly happening.
This means we’re
likely to make mistakes.
There is an old saying, count to ten. Taking a time out can help.
But in complex emotional situations,
assumptions and biases can obscure issues. You can count to 10 as many
times as you like and you still feel frustrated!
Suppose you are in this situation:
You and your husband had a nice dinner with his sister and her husband. The next morning you get a call from your mum-in-law. “You didn’t invite me!” She calls you insensitive, accuses you of trying to cut her out, and has a complete meltdown.
If this happened, you’d probably feel as if you were a monster. Selfish, unthinking. You might quickly promise never to do it again just to keep the peace. Or you might feel so angry and annoyed that you vow never to see her again.
Neither will make life happier for you.
You can gain perspective by retelling the story impersonally. Like this:
Jack and Jan invite Rob and Jasmine for dinner. The next day, their friend Sam calls up, screaming that he feels left out. What do you feel now?
If you take away the factors of age and family, you’ll see that this situation isn’t about you or about dinner. Sam clearly has issues he’s trying to push onto jack. Your mum-in-law has issues of her own that she’s pushing on to you.
These issues might include control, loneliness, competition, and more.
Whatever is at the root of their
behaviour, perspective can help you make better decisions. Like
in this example, common sense suggests that if you give in, you run the
risk of having to live your life according to their rules – which they
will change to suit them. That is going to be very stressful.
A sensible approach is to acknowledge their feelings, without being drawn into discussing who’s right or wrong. For example, “I’m sorry you feel left out.”
You don’t need to promise never to do it again. It’s tempting sometimes – just to keep the peace – but it’s reasonable for you to see your friends.
in future, when you’re in a sticky emotional situation, take a breath,
step back and recast events in the third person. Tell yourself a story
stripped of emotion. Then examine it again.
It can help you gain perspective – and in turn that can help you come up with better ways of coping that keep the peace with even the trickiest mother-in-law, without turning you into a doormat.
I wrote this originally for Malaysia Womens Weekly. Check it out, and enjoy!
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Depression can show itself in many different ways: feeling sad or blank for days at a time, being dead tired and not taking joy from favourite pastimes are classic signs. But depression can also reveal itself in unusual ways.
These are clues to watch for in the people you love – and in yourself. If you spot these symptoms, approach the subject gently, and talk to a professional therapist or doctor about getting a diagnosis and formulating solutions that work for you.
#1 Ragged nails and messy hair
Uncombed hair, smelly skin, ragged fingernails – it might look like a person is just being careless or disrespectful, but depression can also cause self-neglect.
So if someone
used to be clean and tidy but now they live in unhygienic surroundings
or don’t eat properly it can be a clue that they’re clinically
#2 Sudden Anger
We often assume a depressed person is withdrawn and quiet. But sadness can sometimes surface as rage.
Typically, it’s a rapid angry reaction that’s unreasonable and out of
proportion. It’s happens when feelings of guilt, rejection and loss get
so bottled up that they erupt as sudden anger – watch for it especially
if stress as well as depression are involved.
#3 Working Way Too Much
Faced with intense dark feelings, some people try to avoid emotions. They might sleep too much, take drugs, or drink too much, but some bury themselves in work.
The problem with this symptom is that we often perceive working long hours as being ambitious or trying to provide for a family.
So look for other clues:
does this behaviour typically seem more like a compulsion? Perhaps he’s
clearly exhausted yet he’s up every night trying to finish that report?
Or she escapes into her email inbox the second you try to talk to her
about her worries.
#4 Forgetting Ordinary Tasks
Depression can make it very hard to concentrate – depressed people tend to forget all kinds of weird things, from leaving their keys in the fridge to leaving the milk out in the hall again. Or they may often forget appointments or constantly be late.
Forgetting things is a tricky depression symptom to spot because stress
can also make people forgetful – it’s like the brain is just too “full”
with worry to remember much. So look for other clues as well, like….
#5 Not being able to make even small decisions
Depression can go hand-in-hand with hopelessness. People get the idea that no matter what they do, it will all go wrong.
Victims of depression get wrapped up in thoughts of the bad things to come, that they become unable to make even a tiny decision. Shall I get out of bed? What to have for breakfast? What shall I wear?… it’s all too much.
They become apathetic and almost paralysed
by indecision. You can go out to work and come back hours later… and
they’re still in bed.
#6 Too Much Partying
Dancing on the tables can just be high spirits, but it can also be a form of distraction.
If you don’t want to face your dark feelings or you’re frightened of feeling “numb”, it’s tempting to distract yourself by drinking too much or burying yourself in frantic activity.
But instead of going out feeling like fun, it feels
like desperation, and there’s an undercurrent of hopelessness.
This article written by me, Ellen Whyte, originally appeared on Malaysia Womens Weekly.
Photo credit: thanks to RyanMcGuire @ Pixabay
Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Normally we associate stress with bad stuff happening, like losing a job or having too many deadlines. But stress is simply a reaction. You can be stressed by being promoted, getting a raise, and even by going on holiday.
#1 Flatulence. When you’re stressed, your body goes into flight or fight mode. This includes making changes to your digestive system.
When you’re stressed continuously, this can cause an upset tummy, diarrhea, constipation and gas.
#2 Weird dreams. There are a lot of theories about why we dream, and if they have an impact on our health, but studies suggest we all dream at various points in the night, whether we remember them or not.
While nothing can be done about dreams, some people find they dream more – and more vividly – when they’re stressed.
So strange wild dreams can be a useful clue that you’re taking on too much in your life.
#3 Skin rashes, spots and pimples. When sweat glands are blocked, trapped moisture leads to inflammation such as spots and rashes.
Sweating is normal in hot tropical countries like Singapore and Malaysia, but when you’re stressed, you tend to perspire even more.
At the same time, being over-stressed can affect your immune system, which can also inflame skin issues like acne.
If you have skin conditions like allergies, eczema or psoriasis, these are also more likely to flare up if you’re stressed.
#4 Muscle cramps. When you’re stressed, you may tense your muscles. After prolonged tension, this can lead to all kinds of cramps.
Although you might have tummy cramps one day and foot cramp the next, a lot of people find that they are affected in a particular way. I get back pain and tension headaches when I’m stressed.
#5 Menstrual problems. Stress can make your periods arrive early, late or disappear altogether. Most annoyingly, it can increase period pain. In the long-term, stress can affect fertility for both men and women.
If you’re worried about this, keep a diary that includes stress level notes for auditing and talk to your gynae.
Note: I have two jobs, author and counsellor. This article first appeared on Malaysia Women's Weekly on 22 December 2016. Go over and check out the free articles, and buy the magazine copy for even more goodies! Update: 23 November 2022, MWW web site is no longer up, sorry!
Monday, January 9, 2017
I wrenched my back rescuing a tiny kitten from a storm drain some years ago, and every now and again it goes out of whack. No biggie.
I tend to avoid medical information online because I'm not a doctor and so I
can't critically evaluate information. I just do what my family doctor advises and hope for the best.
Two weeks ago when my back went I followed the usual routine: muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatories and I lay flat for a day or two. Then I went out and about, but slowly. I also took my back for a swim, because it's a good easy way to stretch.
This time I hurt my back on Monday but by Wednesday I was okay again, swimming for thirty minutes, no problem. So on Friday I went out. I walked a mile or two, and ended up in a mall, looking for cat treats.
While there, a wildly running child ran into my back, full tilt.
Luckily I was too hurt to swear at the brat. I simply limped off, took a breather on a bench, and then went on to meet up with my friends as usual.
Three hours later I was home and lying flat again. The next morning I couldn't move. Any movement provoked screaming pain. And I mean, screaming.
About Pain And Mind
Pain is subjective, and so are reactions, but this is my experience:
Insight #1: Extreme pain is frightening. I didn't want to be touched, and it freaked me out if anything or anyone came near me.
Insight #2: The fear messes with your mind. When pain is extreme, there's just one message you can focus on: avoid it. Everything else becomes completely unimportant.
Insight #3: Real pain causes tears - lots of them. I was okay if I kept flat and totally still, but moving was agony. Sitting made me weep. Lying down after sitting made me cry too.
Insight #4: Pain is humiliating because it makes you helpless. I was completely aware of what pain was doing to me, but even so it made me feel dreadful that I was in floods, that I couldn't move, and that I was totally useless. Embarrassing.
Insight #5: Despite the pain, certain essentials are inevitable. When pain comes and goes, it takes a certain frame of mind to move through it. With my back, I found I could lie still and be okay. It was just moving that hurt. Ideally I was going to lie totally still until my back stopped screaming at me. However, one must pee.
I lay in bed, thinking that I should simply stop drinking water just to avoid the agony of making myself sit up and shuffle to the bathroom. Although it's ten feet away from the bed, it was taking me a full 20 minutes to get up and shuffle there. And I'm talking one way.
What helped me!
Helpful #1: Knowing what the issues were. Yes it was scary, humiliating and horrible all round, but understanding the connection between the physical and the mental helped me manage both.
Helpful #2: Putting the pain aside from me. This is a little harder to explain but what I find useful is to think of my painful back as not being part of the essential me.
I am the person, the pain is just a nasty thing that's messing up the body that carries me. It's a way of distancing myself from the pain.
I talk about it that way too, by saying, "I take my back for a swim" and "I'm going to see how my back will take to doing this".
Helpful #3: A walking stick. I found that a stick gave me certainty. Having a solid foundation to lean on made it easier to push through the pain when getting up and sitting down. I could also use the handle to pick stuff up.
Helpful #4: Shaping my environment. I rearranged my bedside table so that I had my ipad and connections all next to me. I moved all the loo paper so I didn't have to twist or reach. And once I got out of my bed, I moved everything in the kitchen and fridge to the top shelves so I didn't have to bend.
Helpful #5: Telling my husband what I needed. The people who love you want to help, but they're not clairvoyant. This is common sense but it's amazing what we don't do "because we don't want to be a bother".
I realised that what I really, really missed was my early morning coffee. But the machine is downstairs, which was about an hour's travel. So I asked Tom if he could bring me coffee in bed. What a difference!
Helpful #6: Socialising! I couldn't go anywhere and I certainly didn't want people coming round, but thanks to the Net I was able to Skype and chat with friends. Very cheering!
Helpful #7: Serious drugs. If I'd been home in Spain, I would have gone straight to the doctor. It's not my first option now because I have had some very mixed results in Malaysia.
To be clear, I've met lots of excellent ones. However, there was the man who poked me with his pen because his religion forbade him to touch women who weren't related to him, and the woman who sold me "special" medicine that I later found in the chemist and supermarket - at ten times less than she charged me.
We've also had media reports of bogus medical practitioners (like this one, and this one) and problems about faked results. As such, I only see doctors who have been recommended personally by friends. I was too scared to go to hospital and trust in an unknown doctor.
I went to see my GP who is a rock of common sense. She told me this was sciatica. She gave me advice on when to go to emergency (e.g., if my leg went numb). She also told me which hospital to go to.
I wanted to give it 24 hours so she gave me a shot of something. I'm sorry, but I can't remember the name, I think it was Olfen but it may have been a painkiller.
She also gave me Neurorubine Forte, a combo of vitamins B1, B6, and B12 that give your nervous system a kick and OLFEN 100, an anti-rheumatic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic.
After seeing my GP I was back in bed, exhausted with the pain and possibly the drugs too. I slept 14 hours and when I woke up, I felt a million times better.
I made a point of shuffling about the house every hour on the hour. The day after that I woke up feeling another million times better. Actually, I felt fine.
WEIRD And that's the other thing about this kind of back pain: it's full on for days and then it disappears as quickly as it turned up.
I'm told that nerves get pinched causing super pain and then unpinch just as suddenly. Maybe it's true, maybe it's not, but it does describe exactly how I felt.
On the third day I felt bruised and a bit shaky, also nervous in case it came back, but I was okay. Really.
Now I'm back to work, but being very careful. I lie down as often as I sit and I'm making a point this week of going for a swim every day.
If you have sudden severe pain, expect to be frightened. Understand it may confuse you, so do have someone you trust to help you when you seek medical advice.
Your trusted person needs to make sure all the questions are asked, and to keep track of what you need to do to get better.
Seeing pain comes with a lot of emotional upheaval, you may want to talk to someone like me. This is especially true if your pain is long term because pain and depression can go hand in hand. So if you're suffering, for goodness sake reach out!
Courtesy Marcelabr Pixabay