28 Dec 2013

A testimony of depression

A published author, Andrew Solomon has been suffering from severe depression and writing about it.

"The opposite of depression is not happiness but vitality"

25 Dec 2013

Empathy and sympathy

Empathy is a rare skill. It can be defined as the capability of understanding what the other person is thinking and feeling, without judging.
It's not easy. However, it can be learnt and developed. Why is it so important? Well, without empathy relationships become very difficult and dry. Also you need empathy to find your way through the maze that life in society is. I mean your love life, your friendships - and your job.
One may say that empathy is one of the most important things a person learns in psychotherapy.a.
This lovely cartoon aims at explaining what empathy is and distinguishing it from sympathy.
Enjoy! Have a Happy New Year!

16 Dec 2013

Pop music, viral videos and the 21st century

Viral videos are one of those concepts that was recently introduced in modern society and seems to have had such a profound effect. Even for those of us less technology-inclined, after the massive success of Psy and his Gangnam Style, the concept seems to have caught on. An enormous online movement was started to try and create the next big viral video. Some succeed, others not so much. What is the right formula? A comedic approach to life seems to be one of the implied traits. Such is the case of the next music video straight from Norway. With almost 290 million (!!!) views and rising, the music "The Fox" became an extraordinary online success. So what is the formula? The lyrics are almost nonsense, the rhymes are purposefully comical and poorly chosen. Is it the catchy rhythm of the song that captures attention? Or the implied criticism to 21st century pop music, where the lyrics seems to be less and less important? Will we ever find a way to use this phenomenon for positive purposes? Many advertising agencies have tried to create viral publicity, but with a fairly small success rate. Whatever moves such massive amount of people is still an unknown variable (more likely, a large set of variables). But if we could, what form of positive messages could be spread worldwide?


8 Dec 2013

Schizophrenia and Depression


The spiral of anxiety

Anxious, stressed, are words for a mental state where you feel you're loosing control. This feeling of loosing control both over things and ourselves is connected to most anxiety states.
However, some people are more prone to it, anxiety being part of their mental functioning since the beginning. Contact with anxious and stressed adults doesn't help because the child convinces herself that this is a normal way of functioning.
It's difficult to cope with this generalized anxiety. The biggest problem is that the person feels frustation and anger at not being able to handle it. And this brings guilt, more anxiety and sometimes depression.
One has to learn to cope with this terrible spiral that may escalate to a panic atack, which is no more than an acute state of extreme anxiety, bringing a terrible fear of death.
A panic atack may be an awful episode but has the merit of making the person realize that really needs professional help. The spiral of anxiety-frustration-anger-guilt has to be broken.
A good psychotherapist can help you understand this mechanism and start a process to break the spiral. It's not quick, since even a young person has been having this mechanism for long. But it sure helps.

(From The New Yorker)

16 Nov 2013

Trees and dreams

Between dream and reality or should I say different realities, please have a look at Daniel Barreto's photography here, a young man living and studying in Boston.


10 Nov 2013

The three elements of communication

We start communicating as soon as we are born. However, spontaneous as this drive may be, good and effective communication is hard to learn.

It's a life process and a never ending one. It's crucial to our professional lives but also to the way we deal with family and friends.

According to Scott Edinger, on the HBR blog, the three pillars of a good communication were devised by Aristotle more then two thousand years ago. They are: ethos, pathos and logos. Nowadays, says Scott, we should speak of integrity and credibility, emotional conexion and reason.

Do read Edinger's post interesting post here.


13 Oct 2013

Art as therapy

Art as been used for many years as a terapeutic technique. The link between mental health and creativity has been well established.

Philosopher Alain de Botton created a site in the same vein, based on the creativity of painters trough the centuries. It's not about your creativity but it helps. You can have a look here.

The idea is to choose the words that better describe your state of mind. I tried with "anxiety" and then "I worry about everything", a state I guess most people experience now and then.

The picture that came up is of one of my favourite painters ever, David Caspar Friedrich: "Rocky Reef on the seashore". Do try it. It's soothing and makes you think.


17 Sept 2013

Too much fusion becomes confusion


This is the last line of an interesting article by Esther Perel. She's a well know sexologist and a specialist in relationships.

In this article she analyses what she calls the perversions of intimacy: "There is sometimes a coercive element to intimacy that wants to force the adhesiveness of transparency. You want to force yourself onto someone else. Sometimes discursive elements as a disguised control. “I need to be able to tell you everything.” “If your conscience is clear, there’s nothing you can’t tell me.” Jacques Salome calls it a form of “intimate terrorism.” You have to listen to me. You have to take care of me. If you don’t, then you don’t love me".

This terrorism of intimacy may well take place under the disguise of love. That's what makes it dangerous and perverted.

You may find this article by Esther Perel here:






18 Aug 2013

Humans are creative creatures

Cave paintings are fascinating. The one above is from Chad and the other from Altamira (Spain).

What made these men who were dealing with surviving 24/24 to indulge for hours painting ceilings and walls? Was it about religion? The effects of alucinogenic drugs? You may want to read the book by Davd Whitley "Cave Paintings and the Human Spirit: The Origin of Creativity and Belief".

Who painted? Men? Women? Children? Who made those wonderful inks and pigments that lasted for centuries? I like to think that everybody could paint. Not only priests of some kind but anybody.

And why did they paint? I believe for two reasons: because they were human and because it was therapeutic. I mean, art is an intrinsic part of our mental set. Many of us just forget it and think that art is for kids or artists. We're all artists, we're all creative human beings.

Only sometimes we just don't know. Depressive people have often a tendency for not even trying. They give absurd reasons, like: "I was told when a child I was not artistic".

Who says so? Some long forgotten teacher in elementary school?

We're to blame. Nobody has the right to deprive you of this most basic human right: to express yourself. To create.

There are so many forms of artistic expression today. Painting, composing, writing, acting, sculpting, dancing, crafs, singing, playing. And also those allowed by the new technologies, which are countless: video, photo, music, etc. Try for yourself, pick up something that gives you pleasure, don't let anyone tell you what you should do or not. It's therapeutic, makes you better, improves communication, fights isolation. As the cave people had already found out.

If in doubt, look in the net for what Martha Beck has to say about art, therapy and depression. She wrote some good piece of advice.

The bottom line is: We're human, therefore we create.



12 Aug 2013

Communication can be a powerful tool

In this small video Dr. Dan Seigel, psychiatryst, suggests we can use our hand to explain how the mot primitive brain, the lymbic system, evolves to our thinking brains.

Simple and effective from the communicational point of view!



9 Aug 2013

Children's creativity is decreasing in the US and in Europe?

(Photo: Psychology Today)

Americans prize themselves, and rightly so, for being great innovators, capable of figuring out new ways of doing things and new things to do.

Quoting from Peter Gray of Psychology Today:

"Perhaps this derives from our frontier beginnings, or from our unique form of democracy with its emphasis on individual freedom and respect for nonconformity. In the business world as well as in academia and the arts and elsewhere, creativity is our number one asset".

It seems things are changing for the worse. According to new reasearch, "the scores on these tests [Torrance tests of creative thinking apllied to schoolchildren] at all grade levels began to decline somewhere between 1984 and 1990 and have continued to decline ever since".

The explanation? Maybe the following, according to Peter Gray: "more and more we are subjecting children to an educational system that assumes one right answer to every question and one correct solution to every problem, a system that punishes children (and their teachers too) for daring to try different routes. We are also (...) increasingly depriving children of free time outside of school to play, explore, be bored, overcome boredom, fail, overcome failure—that is, to do all that they must do in order to develop their full creative potential".

Are we over-protecting our children and getting the results of this? I'm quite sure this is not a problem exclusive to Americans. Although I don't know of any research in Europe, I believe conclusions would point in the same direction.

If the subject interests you, you may want to have a look at the following link in Psychology Today:



30 Jun 2013

Do your homework

Job interviews are always stressful. You never know they'll ask. How to behave is the issue.
Now, it's not only about how to behave during the interview but before. Be thoroughly, prepare yourself in advance.
The most important thing is to communicate motivation, intelligence, curiosity and initiative apart from a solid backgroung. Be your own market researcher and do your homework about the company and its competitors.
Below you'll find the link to Melissa Martin's excellent post in Carreerlism. She gives pratical suggestions as to do your own market research before encountering your prospective employer.
Hard work, no doubt. But a sure way to outstand in a crowd of job seekers.
Photo: Carreerlism



9 Jun 2013

Vertigo and fear of heights

Fear of heights is quite common and often comes with other types of phobias. Psychoanalysis considers phobias as an excessive ansiety in particular situations but also a kind of defense against more primitive kinds of anguish. It may seem pradoxical, but fear of heights often goes along with attraction for dangerous situations.

In cinema, "Vertigo", the movie by Alfred Hitchcock, is a particularly disturbing illustration of this kind of psychic phenomenon. Vertigo was recently voted the best film ever made and those who saw it know why.

No the movie, James Stewart is an ex-cop who has a paralysing fear of heights. He suffers from vertigo but also from a particular attraction for dangerous situations - and dangerous women.

The photos below come from a BuzzFeed link and don't have anything to do with the movie, except for one. They are of specially beautiful and vertiginous stairs. Hold on to the handrail!



17 May 2013

An interesting post from Moodscope

A very interesting post about (un)hapinness from the Moodscope team.

When you look back, how do you remember yourself? Memories ann moods does't always coincide.

Read more:



14 May 2013

Avoid or dive in? The decision can determine your level of anxiety

How do you deal with emotions or painful situations?


From Time:

"When faced with a challenge, whether you deny the problems it poses or dive in to solve them in a positive way may determine how much anxiety you feel overall"

Read more:



12 May 2013

Sunrise over the South Pacific Ocean

Have a look at this awesome photo taken from the orbital station.




11 May 2013

Learning and curiosity

Listen to this wonderful TED talk by Kenneth Robinson


13 Apr 2013

Expressive writing


According to James Pennebaker, writing about our feelings and emotions or about what's upsetting us, can help not only mental health but also pshysical health.

Prof. James Pennebaker, from the University of Texas, has been conducting experiments for decades and found that writing 15 min a day for, say, 4 days in a row, can be truly helpful.

I have been listening to his interview to BBC 4 and was specially struck to the benefits in general health felt by women with breast cancer who followed Pennebaker's instructions.

The procedure is quite simple. I'll quote from Prof. Pennebaker's site:

Promise yourself that you will write for a minimum of 15 minutes a day for at least 3 or 4 consecutive days.

Once you begin writing, write continuously. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar. If you run out of things to write about, just repeat what you have already written.

You can write longhand or you can type on a computer. If you are unable to write, you can also talk into a tape recorder.

You can write about the same thing on all 3-4 days of writing or you can write about something different each day. It is entirely up to you.

What to Write About

Something that you are thinking or worrying about too much
Something that you are dreaming about
Something that you feel is affecting your life in an unhealthy way
Something that you have been avoiding for days, weeks, or years.



5 Apr 2013

Stop smoking

These are only some of the chemicals smokers inhale from a cigarette:

The good news is, according to NHS and ASH Report on the benefits of stop smoking for life,

After 20 minutes, blood pressure drops to a level close to that before the last cigarette. Temperature on hands and feet increases to normal.

After 8 hours, the carbon monoxide level in the body drops to normal.

After 24 hours, the risk of a heart attack decreases.

Within 3 months, the circulation improves and lung function increases by up to 30 per cent.

After 120 days, a new supply of healthy blood cells have developed.

After 1 year, the excess risk of (coronary) heart disease is half that of a smoker.

After 5 years, stroke risk is reduced to that of someone who has never smoked.

After 10 years, the lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker’s. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas decreases.

After 15 years, the risk of coronary heart disease is that of someone who has never smoked.
(this text was written by Helena Meadows)

3 Apr 2013

Quote by Neil deGrasse Tyson

“The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you".

- Neil deGrasse Tyson's response on Reddit when asked "What can you tell a young man looking for motivation in life itself?"



31 Mar 2013

Photography by Jean-François Rauzier

Amazing pictures by Jean-François Rauzier, a French artist.

See more at



30 Mar 2013

Brene Brown - The power of vulnerability

On a world that seems to spin faster and faster and always more agressively, where perfection seems to become a mandatory trait, from time to time someone shows up with such a simple and yet viral idea that they can change the lives of millions of people. In this extraordinary talk, Brene Brown speaks about her work and the importance of vulnerability in our everyday lives.

It never ceases to amaze me how we can change our lives for the better, sometimes by simply allowing ourselves to see our own beauty... So true of psychotherapy as well!

If you haven't had the opportunity yet, I deeply advise you to invest your free time listening to this amazing speaker:


9 Mar 2013

Your personality, skills and competences make a brand

Fifteen years ago management guru Tom Peters wrote about personal branding. People as brands. He asked: what makes you different from anyone else?
Your education? Hundreds, thousands of people have the same formal education you do. Experience? Of course, but there will always be someone who has more.
It's your value that makes your brand. And what is that? What you are makes an unique and invaluable combination provided you're able to demonstrate how your value can add to the value of others.
So, what is personal branding about? It's about your personality, your skills, your experience. Look at your self as a product with value that you have to sell and try to customize it. You may call it your self, Peters chose to call it your personal brand.
There are several ways to build a brand and sell it. More of it next time.
Surprised with the concept of people as brands? Look around you and you'll find a few notable examples.
Barack Obama, for instance: smart, handsome, lean, energetic, well spoken, appealing to minorities, ex-layer, a shrewd politician that does't look like one of them. On top of it: a wonderful smile. Obama brand is in fact the most powerfull brand in the world.

24 Feb 2013

Keep learning! But how?

I read this interesting article in Big Think about the techniques for learning. New studies have lead to different conclusions from what was previously believed.

Being a lifetime learner I was drawn to some of these conclusions. The most striking one seems to be about the time period you should re-study taking into consideration the time you want to remember the suject.

Quoting: "Research has found that the optimal level of distribution of sessions for learning is 10-20% of the length of time that something needs to be remembered. So if you want to remember something for a year you should study at least every month, if you want to remember something for five years you should space your learning every six to twelve months. If you want to remember something for a week you should space your learning 12-24 hours apart."

Interesting, uhu?

I believe most people know by now that things have changed and we have to keep studying for all our lives. The pace of change is such that you really cannot avoid to freshen up what you know and if need be to learn again.

if you want to know more go to



11 Feb 2013

What a beautiful name for a star

(photo credit: NASA)


LL Ori is the name of a star in the Orion nebula. This young star produces a stellar wind that is much powerful than our sun's, who is not so young anymore. In this beautifull photo you can see it on the left, burning like fire.

One can see the nebula and some of its stars with a naked eye if the night is clear.

We shoud tell our chidren more about what's happening in the skyes above. Going to an observatory shoud be a good start. NASA has wonderful pictures of the universe that children can see on the screen. However, knowing that they can see them for themselves if they know where to look is another kind of experience.




27 Jan 2013

Learn or live? Both

We're living uncertain times. The more the need to invest in ourselves. Us as people and us as professionals.

In the old times you got a degree for the rest of your life and you'de be living on that. Not now. Now we have to keep up constantly with change. We have to keep fit mentally and physically. We have to learn or improve different skills and capabilities. The boundaries between private life and profession become fuzzier and that's also a cause for rising anxiety. We have to keep improving some aspects of our personalities and behavior and learning new skills. Knowledge is very precious and no one will do it for you. It takes self-motivation and will power.

Flexibility, adaptation, communication, empathy, assertiveness, resilience - these are the keywords. These capabilities are part of knowledge in the broad sense. How to improve or acquire them?

Many people don't know what goes between a psychotherapist and his (her) client. In fact, it's a process of learning for both parts. The important thing is that the client is able to improve communication, empathy, awareness, self-perception. He's supposed to acquire skills that will be useful for the rest of his life.

Private life and work being so entangled nowadays, the more important it is to know yourself, your limits and your strenghs and make use of them.



12 Jan 2013

More energy or more time?

Work demands more and more from us. Most people respond to that by working longer hours. But we may have a better and more productive way. It's about energy.

Schwartz and McCarthy in a paper for Harvard Business Review ("Manage your energy, not your time") argue that the capacity for work can be re-energized with greater and bettter output than by working more hours.

How can we achieve that? According to the authors, our energy comes from body, emotions, mind and spirit. Those forms of energy come from:

Physical energy: comes from nutrition (for example light snacks every three hours), exercise, sleep and rest (regular breaks respecting ultradian cicles every 90 min or 120 min)

Emotional energy: awareness of whar triggers negative emotions, expressing appreciation to others.

Mental energy: fully focusing from 90 to 120 min, establishing priorities for next day.

Spiritual energy: sense of meaning and purpose, establishing a few rituals (gratification, living one's core values).

Re-energizing seems to be hard work but feasible. Our quality of life certainly deserves we dedicate time to it.



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