Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Be more positive! Ugh!! (Part 1)

Gosh, I have such difficulty with the expressions “positive thinking” and “Be more positive!” When I share this with people, they are often surprised: “What!? Dr. Miwa, you are a psychologist. How come you say such a thing!? It’s so important to have positive thinking, isn’t it?” …Well, sorry, but I don’t like this positive thinking thingy at all. I will discuss why today.

We often hear something like, “It’s not good to feel that way, be more positive!” “Have more positive thinking!” “Feel more positive!” …Yuck! If I am sad and/or depressed for whatever reasons (which may be considered “negative” in this context) and if someone tells me to be more positive, I would not appreciate that at all. I may even curse the person in my mind: “If it were that easy, I wouldn’t be suffering!! Shut the xxxx up!”

As I wrote in the past about emotions, we can’t deny our emotions. If they’re there, they’re there. But if we are pressured by others or force ourselves to feel in a particular way, in this case, “more positive,” it requires us to make unnecessary or extra efforts to do so. You are already feeling bad, right? Why would you want to exhaust yourself even more or end up feeling worse because you fail in your efforts to be more positive?

Often, the encouragement to feel positive is not even for the benefit of the individual who is suffering, but rather for those who are encouraging them to be positive. Because it is not pleasant to be with or witness someone who is not feeling “positive,” they want you to get over it. Ironically, the individual who is told to be positive may end up feeling worse, because his or her feelings are not validated or accepted. What we usually appreciate most is that your loved-ones allow you to be you, meaning if you are feeling sad, upset, and/or angry, then they just let you feel so. Once you fully feel “negative,” while at the same time are accepted by your friends and loved-ones in that state, then you can eventually feel better. In this case, because there is no forced effort to feel something that you really can’t feel at the time it’s a much better outcome.

Don’t get me wrong; I have no doubt that feeling positive is much better than feeling negative. We all wish to feel positive. However, if we are forced to feel that way by others or ourselves, additional judgment and forced energy come into the picture and it doesn’t help.

When we stop trying to force ourselves to feel “positive” we can actually end up feeling more “positive” naturally. I like that way better.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The power of forgiveness

Today I want to talk to you in a unique way about the power of forgiveness and teach you a trick that I hope you will find interesting and useful and which you will try.

Forgiveness is powerful behavior. Not because it’s a good thing to do out of any moral or religious belief, but because it is just so beneficial for your own psychological well-being. When we have anger, hatred, bear a grudge, or carry bitterness, etc., we cannot just ignore such feelings or get rid of them simply by just willing them away. They eat us up gradually, as if it is a toxin in our bodies and minds. These feelings are harmful to us. I’m sure all of us have had this kind of experience in the past.

I am a strong believer in the acceptance of emotions and I would never encourage you to forcefully ignore, change, or modify your emotions. Our emotions are a part of us and they’re precious. But at the same time, harboring these negative feelings is really damaging. So here is one strategy for you to playfully exercise the power of forgiveness when you have a relatively small grudge, such as against some driver who was rude to you or a coworker who snapped at you. So I’m not talking about some really big issue but still something that results in toxic feelings.

When you have such feelings, you can say out loud, “I forgive you because I’m cute.” Believe me, this odd strategy really works. The point is to say “because I’m…” and then add something positive about yourself but not something that is directly related to forgiveness or virtue. This means that you cannot say “because I am a forgiving person, nice, kind, religious, sweet,” and so on. These qualities are too directly related to forgiveness and virtue, therefore, if you use these virtuous qualities, it’s as if you are obligated to forgive. Using some virtue as the reason would be forced and it would harm your spirit.

The trick here is to tell yourself you are forgiving them because of some arbitrary physical characteristic or something unrelated to virtue. It’s not that we need to be a good boy or girl to forgive; instead, we are forgiving that fuxxer because we are cute, beautiful, sexy, macho, great in bed, a good baseball player, or some “stupid” reason like that. These qualities have nothing to do with a forgiving attitude or virtue, and somehow this playful and fun approach just works. It’s as if you are playing the king or queen in a play who dispenses justice to their subjects depending on their vanity and mood of the day.

I personally usually choose “cute” because I am from Japan which is all about “kawaii (cute)” and it works for me. If you find cute difficult to use for some reason, just try one of the other examples I listed above. It may become a magical experience for you. Believe me, I’m sure you will experience the toxic feelings leaving your system.

Sometime in the future, I will talk about a different strategy for situations that are a little harder and not suited to this strategy. For now, just try this and enjoy the power of forgiveness!

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Power of appreciation

I know, I know… I DO know that it is a cliché and I hate writing about what everyone already knows. But this time, I would like to write about the power of appreciation. Well, it’s Thanksgiving weekend, so it may be good timing.

Seriously speaking, your life can instantly become much better once you start to consciously appreciate what you have got in your daily life. It may sound cheesy, and I know it does, however, it is just really true. People who disbelieve what I am writing about here are unlikely to have tried it yet. Therefore, I would say just try it for 3 days, then complain to me if it didn’t do anything for you.

What to do? It’s super-simple. Intentionally try to find anything you can feel grateful for in your daily life. Any tiny thing you can find. Just pay attention to such minute stuff and experience genuine gratitude toward it for a few moments. We are naturally so inclined to think of and complain about what we don’t have or small things that irritate us, that it actually requires a little conscious effort to think of the good things we do have.

For example, you had a sound sleep, the sun is shining in your window, a bird is visiting your yard, breakfast was tasty, your spouse kissed you, traffic was better, a coworker greeted you with a nice smile, you were able to concentrate on your work in the morning, a waiter was nice to you, the toilet smelled nicer, etc. etc…Anything! Just focus on things you can appreciate, and be grateful. So simple, but we usually don’t do as much as we could.

One warning is that I am not encouraging you to force yourself to feel grateful for something when in fact you don’t actually feel that way. As I wrote before, we don’t want to fake or force our emotions in any way. If you hate your customer who unreasonably complained about your service, for example, you don’t want to appreciate her or the experience at all. That’s not what I am talking about. At the same time, however, you can still thank your colleague who supported you and/or your patience which helped you handle the situation professionally. That’s genuine gratitude and that works.

Again, I am talking about such a very simple concept today but I do feel you can get a lot of benefit from it, and I just cannot help talking about it today. Seriously, just give it a shot, as if it’s a game even if that what it takes to get you going. Let’s see what you experience after this.

Have fun!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Holidays: Are they a tough time for you?

It’s kinda unbelievable but it is already Halloween, almost the end of the year! How are you guys feeling about it? For me even, it’s feeling somewhat scary how quickly time flies. I still remember our fun New Year’s Eve Party, and now this year is almost over… Really!?!?

Well, around this time of year, there’s no way we ignore the fact that…"The Holidays” are right around the corner. Do you like the holiday season? If so, you are one of the lucky ones. As a psychologist, unfortunately, I am more concerned about people’s well-being around this time. Why is that? Because the holidays are quite a depressing time of the year for many, believe it or not. I want to talk about it today.

Many people actually feel worse around this time of the year. When you think about it, it is not so surprising. There are probably only a few lucky people who genuinely love this time, while many others have a tough time of it. Let’s see… If you are single with no family around, you may not have anything to do or anyone to be with on the holidays. Friends or coworkers may invite you to join their families for their holiday celebrations, but some may feel bad about that. You may feel pitied, or it’s just a reminder of your not having your own family, and then you may feel lonely after saying good night to them.  On top of it all, to spend the holidays with a nice enough family, you may end up spending a lot of time in a car or airport traveling at the busiest time of the year.

If you have your own family, you may have things to do, which is good, but then you may have to worry about some family drama, such as dealing with your mean auntie Mary or drunk uncle Joe who always makes your family feel uncomfortable. Perhaps you don’t even feel that close to your family, but succumb to the pressure of obligations. As the host, you may need to spend a lot of time and energy cooking and cleaning while your guests relax, on top of it all also spending a good amount of money. There always can be some family drama, but you are pretending everything is alright and everyone is having fun...

Even if you spend the time alone just with your partner or spouse with less demands, you may still feel too detached or isolated. You wonder why you are not with more family members and/or friends, feeling lonely and isolated from society/community.

Others are facing the first holiday season since a loved-one passed away, reminding them of their loss all over again, trying to cope with the empty seat at the dinner table.

Gosh, then who is really happy over the holidays!?!? Is it only some Pollyannaish kind of people or a lucky few? Well, actually almost everyone can be rather happy over the holiday season, but it requires a little shift in your mind.

One of the possible reasons why it is so tough is that we are in a way pressured to feel happy over the holidays and pressured to spend them in a certain way. “It’s a holiday, everyone MUST have somewhere to go and something to do, and be a happy family TOGETHER. That’s how it is SUPPOSED to be and it should be a happy time!” This almost mantra-like curse imposes a lot of pressure on people to meet unrealistic expectations! When we are pressured to feel and behave in a certain way, it becomes just that much harder to feel happy about it. So, this pressure makes it very difficult.

Another possible reason is that we tend to pay attention to what we lack, and ignore the privileges we have. If you are single and alone, you can actually enjoy the time off work having a nice relaxing time with no drama, which is not bad at all. You are free and you can enjoy NetFlix or barhopping or both! If you have a family, you can appreciate having someone to share some time together with, even if it includes some drama. It’s only a few times of the year anyway. If you have only your spouse or partner, it can be so nice to simply share your time off with your loved one with no distractions. It can be romantic, if you wish so. As long as we are alive, have a roof over our heads and food, and can take extra days-off work, that’s already a big “YAY!”

So first, just let go of the pressure to feel happy. You may feel it bothersome, annoying, time-consuming, and/or expensive, then just accept it as it is and bitch about it as needed. Once you are okay with not forcing yourself to feel happy or behave happily, you can appreciate what you really have, while not comparing yourself with others unnecessarily. Now you may feel calmer and more content. Then you can finally relax and enjoy your own special holidays in your own way!

*Have you thought about the people who have to work on holidays? Yes, it sucks (I have and still do as needed to take care of my patients, by the way), but you can always use the same principles. You can let go of the pressure about the holiday, and just appreciate that you have work and income. Also, hopefully you have some extra pay around this time, as well. That’s so nice and you can take some time off sooner or later, too. That’s enough, isn’t it? Why not!? Holidays are just one of the ordinary days which have just got some names!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Yes…, BUT…

What I am talking about here today is a communication strategy that most of us experience and/or use. We frequently acknowledge, conform with, and/or appreciate something that we hear, but then in reply we say "Yes, but..." to assert a different opinion, sometimes completely contradicting what we acknowledged with our "Yes. I'm sure you have experienced this kind of communication from others, or you do it to others, or both. I think this is a very common communication strategy many people use on a regular base. Yes, there is some benefit to it, BUT there are potential downsides of this strategies (<- Did you notice that I just used it!?).

We feel this “Yes…, BUT…” approach has a positive effect by making our opinion sound a little softer. It usually goes, for example, "I understand your point, BUT…" or, "Thank you very much for this, BUT…." or something like that. In this manner, we don’t sound like jerks who just make complaints or oppose everything. Basically, we don't want to just disagree with our loved ones or coworkers, so we show our understanding first. After that, we then want to voice our contradictory opinions... A very considerate and nice strategy, isn’t it?

The potential problem with this approach, however, is that this may no longer work as much as it used to, if it ever did. Personally, I try to not to use "Yes..., But..." because I don't like it when people do it to me. I find myself just paying attention to whatever comes after the “BUT” and it sometimes even makes me feel upset to have heard those sugarcoated but insincere words that came before it. It may be just meant to please me or not to upset me, but that annoys me…do you feel this way too?

Actually, people frequently pay attention only to what comes after the "But" part. We know that whatever we heard before the "But" means nothing, even when both sides of the argument are supposedly being acknowledged. More sadly, people sometimes just automatically expect to hear the "But…" part. In my personal experience, when I have complimented my supervisees on something they did that impressed me, I sometimes feel that they are waiting for  the “But” part to follow.

So what can we do to get around this communication technique? How can we handle it better?

First, I want to emphasize that nothing is wrong if you continue using this verbal technique. It may be, however, more helpful if you are more aware that people may be so used to it that they discard what you say in acknowledging their opinion and just hear the “But…” part. With a conscious effort you can intentionally modify your tone or emphasis so that you can communicate more effectively without saying "But..."

Second, you can change the expression a little so as to avoid using, “BUT.” I sometimes say, "Yes…at the same time..."  "I get it… hmm...What about...?" "I see your point. By the way…” and so on.

Once we eliminate “BUT” from the sentence, the nuance can sound better, although “but” may be more logically or grammatically correct. As I discussed in my article about the purpose of communication, being accurate is not the point of human communication: delivering what you want to convey is the most important thing. Thus, if avoiding “BUT” works better in terms of effective communication, we can and should avoid it. Why not?

Today, I talked about a very commonly used communication strategy and its drawbacks. The more awareness you have about how you are communicating, the better your communication becomes! Let’s be curious and sensitive to what we say and hear in our daily lives so as to become better communicators!

*This is a "BUTT"

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Emotions... Stop dismissing them

Emotions… Not only we psychotherapists, but also many people emphasize their importance. Yes, they are very important and they are actually one of the main focuses of psychotherapy. But why are they considered that important? Surprisingly, a good number of people, even therapists, have difficulty answering that question. Today, I would like to talk about emotions.

Actually, emotions are one of the most fundamental elements of human beings and human life. When we were born, all we had were “comfortable” or “uncomfortable,” “happy” or “unhappy,” or something like that. That was about it, right? And once we leave infancy behind, emotions become a more primary part of our lives, and an essential part of our brain that influences us a lot, even more than what we would wish for sometimes.

We also usually feel “alive” when we have emotions: Think about the many things you like to do, the pieces of art or entertainments you enjoy. Even roller coasters and horror movies! They invoke some kind of emotion in us, and that’s why we care about them. If we had to lead lives where we experienced no emotions, that would be a really dry and empty existence.

Yes, emotions are vital for our lives and a very important part of them. At the same time, however, emotions are considered problematic in many situations. A lot of people are afraid of expressing emotions or try to avoid them because they are so powerful that you cannot control them in a manner you wish. They can be overwhelming, heart-breaking, or something that drives you crazy, and so on.

Because of emotions, people feel “hurt,” “depressed,” “angry,” “lonely,” “anxious,” and much more, often leaving us feeling powerless. However, we cannot just “turn it off,” leaving us feeling embarrassed by them, or losing control because of them…    

The important thing about emotions to know is that there are no “right” or “wrong” emotions. We often think this is a good/bad emotion to have. For example, it is not uncommon to hear that “It is wrong to feel this way,” “This emotion is inappropriate,” “It is bad to feel angry/sad/jealous,” or “I should feel happy about such a thing.” It’s totally understandable, but there is actually no good or bad about our emotions.

When it comes to emotions, however, once they’re there, they’re there. That’s the nature of emotions, and you cannot do anything about it other than to just acknowledge and accept it. This is a fundamental truth. Once you feel a certain way about something, then nobody or nothing (including yourself!) can deny or remove those feelings. It is very common for people not to approve their feelings: “Oh, she is saying this for my benefit, so I should not feel angry about it,” “I should not feel sad because others will be disappointed,” “It is inappropriate if I feel jealous of him,” or “I have a good family, so I should not feel depressed.” But again, once it’s there, it is there. If you deny your feelings, that means you are denying yourself, your being, your existence, actually, and it will get back to you eventually.

Most of us are trained not to acknowledge, accept, or express our emotions as we get older. In order to cope with social requirements, we may sometimes regulate our emotional expressions or behaviors. However, this does not mean we cannot feel them or make some feelings to be wrong. This is really crucial and I hope all of you can embrace your own emotions, because they are precious!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Good Eye Contact

Having good eye contact is considered very important in the culture of the West. Although there are some situations where eye contact is not required much, in other situations, such as job interviews, it is very critical to have good eye contact. The problem is that not everyone is comfortable with making  and maintaining eye contact. So, let's talk about eye contact today and I will give some tips for those of you who might benefit from this advice.

Eye contact is actually cultural behavior. In some cultures, such as Japan where I am from, having strong eye contact may be considered too much or even "rude." No surprise that people have much less eye contact in these cultures. Naturally, for people from such backgrounds, making good eye contact may be difficult.

In the United States, people are expected to make good eye contact out of courtesy and/or professionalism. This doesn’t mean, however, that all of Americans, even those born and raised here, find eye contact easy.

Anxiety in social situations, known as “Social Anxiety,” is pretty common for many people. Even if some people may have little anxiety in general, it may still be quite challenging in more serious, anxiety-provoking situations such as job interviews or presentation.

So what can you do for it? Well, you can practice eye contact with your friends and/or life coach or someone you trust to help you get used to making eye contact. Or, you can see a psychologist to understand what makes it so difficult for you and practice to overcome your difficulties. If you don’t like those options, let me share a couple of tips here with you.

1) Try eyeglasses. This is really interesting but very helpful, actually. If you wear eyeglasses, you can feel like you have a shield between you and the other person. If you already wear glasses, or if this trick didn’t seem to work for you, try ones with some small amount of tint on them. They still look appropriate and you feel less anxious. You may be surprised how much more at ease you feel once you put them on!

2) If eyeglasses did not work, or if you don't like the idea of hiding your lovely face or something like that, here is another strategy. Try to look at the person's mouth or philtrum, the area between mouth and nose, instead of the eyes; you can look at this area with it not being noticeable that you are doing so. You can try taking a look at the eyes of the person you are talking to at times when you can to gradually get used to maintaining actual eye contact. Even though it may not be perfect eye contact, people won’t notice. It’s much better than talking to somewhere without any apparent eye contact, and your anxiety will be much less.

Once you are used to doing the above, eventually you are likely to feel okay with having more and more direct eye contact. Eye contact has a strong power, and may even feel too much for some people at time. But once you can utilize it, you can take advantage of this power for your benefit, such as making a better impression, demonstrating a stronger presence, being more confident and persuasive, and even appearing more attractive! Keep practicing it until you feel comfortable. The more you do, the less difficult it is. Have fun and every success!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Communication as a Means to an End

We often talk about “communication,” and everyone would agree that communication is important. Yes, I also agree with that. Totally. However, many people appear to have some misunderstanding about communication. Let’s talk about that today.

A lot of people believe that communication in itself is the purpose. However,communication is just a means to achieve a purpose. Once you fully understand how communication works as the means to this end, rather than the end itself, your communication skills instantly become more effective and better, and so do your relationships.

What do I mean by this? Well, when you say something to someone else, you may want to be aware what you are trying to deliver to the person. In another words, what do you want the person to do as a result of this communication? To understand your feelings? To answer your questions? To give you a hand? To hurt the person’s feelings? To give a compliment? Or what?

Let me give you a very typical example. A wife feels neglected by her husband because he comes home late and does not talk with her much recently. So, she says to him, “You don’t care about us anymore. You are selfish and immature, and this is not the marriage I wanted to have!” You can imagine this kind of interaction, can’t you? It’s very typical and understandable. The problem here is that she failed to deliver the message that she really wanted to convey to her husband.

Let’s think about the purpose of her communication in this example. Yes, she wanted to hurt his feelings in retaliation and that part was successful. However, it was not the main purpose. The main message she really wanted to convey was to have him understand that she was missing him and that she wanted him to come home early to have more time together, right? Unless she has already decided to dump him, there was no rationale to make her marriage worse. Then how could she deliver what she wanted to convey more effectively? Can you think of any? Well, how about this for example? “Honey, we really appreciate that you work so hard for us and you are such a great husband. Just…when you are late, I miss you so much and feel lonely. If you can come home earlier sometimes, that would make me so much happier.”

Well, of course we don’t know if the husband can actually come home early or not. But at least he understands her feelings and he would be more motivated to have more time with his family than would be so from the previous accusatory version.

If on a regular basis you can try to be more aware of the “purpose” of your communication, and come up with a thoughtful manner to deliver it, you will have better communication with your friends and family as a result. It costs you nothing to do this and the outcome is great! Try to utilize communication as a skill set, and see what happens in your life!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Be More Self-Centered - Part III

We have discussed the importance of being self-centered. I hope you are now feeling like trying it more. But then you may wonder HOW CAN I? If you are so used not to thinking of your own needs over others’, you may have difficulty realizing your own voice. It’s quite common. So let me give you some tips.

The most helpful strategy is to have another you in your mind when thinking of others’ needs. For example, let’s talk about Michael. When Michael hangs out with his two friends, he tends to think of their needs first, while ignoring or not even noticing his own. What Michael can do here is that he can create “Mike” in his mind and wonder what “Mike” would appreciate the most first. So, when his two friends wanted to go another bar, but “Mike” felt tired and wanted to rest, Michael pays attention to “Mike’s wish” first, and just said, “Sorry guys, I am tired and I will go home tonight,” instead of “sure, let’s go.”

Having another you in your mind and respecting him/her first really helps for many people, because they can see their desires more clearly. Until you get used to accessing your own feelings and needs, this strategy helps you realize yourself more. It may sound too simple, but it really works. Give it a shot, if you are interested.

Another strategy is to just decide to trust in the people you associate with, and experiment with different approaches. We are more fearful than bold, and we want to avoid taking risks in general. That’s normal. But if you just decide to trust your friends, and “just do it”, you force yourself to overcome your fear. Usually, once you try it, you find that it was not a big deal at all and you are surprised by how easy it was and how well it turned out. The issue is often not your friends, but your own fear.

Are you still afraid that you will become a selfish diva or jerk whom everybody hates? Being self-centered in this context and “selfish” are different things. Finally for today, let me explain that briefly.

Unless you are pathologically narcissistic or psychopathic, you most likely want for those you love and like to be happy as well, because that makes you happy, too. You don’t feel great when your they are miserable and suffering. Am I right? So, caring about your needs first actually includes your friends’ happiness as well. Therefore, being self-centered doesn’t mean that you no longer care for them. Being self-centered really means that you understand that it is simply part of your needs, necessary to maintain a better balance in your life. It’s not about overly sacrificing yourself for others only to regret it later. You take care of them to the degree you don’t sacrifice yourself unnecessarily. Does this make sense?

The irony is that if you are “self-centered,” you can enjoy the company of your friends and family more and you have better relationships. If you are “others-centered,” you may be able to maintain harmony, but you will not enjoy their company and may stop hanging out with them eventually. You care for others so much, but then ironically, you won’t like being with them in the end… Isn’t it tragic?

So how are you feeling now? Do you feel like you want to try to be more self-centered now? Be more self-centered - you are the center of your own universe!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Be More Self-Centered - Part II

Last time, I wrote that many people care for others more than themselves. I asked you why you would do that. What do you think? I will share my thoughts below.

One of the most common reasons could be that you are supposed to be “nice” to people. Culturally, religiously, or because of the parenting you received, you may feel you are “supposed” to be this way. It’s like an absolute fact of life that you have never doubted. Another reason could be that you are afraid of being disliked or excluded by those people; if you voice your opinions, they may not like you anymore. Or, you may say to yourself, “it’s not a big deal. Why bother?” So you just let it be. You may have other reasons but these appear to be quite common.

So what’s the fundamental problem with it? I can think of two major problems.

One problem is that you tend to overestimate the risk of hurting others’ feelings, and try to avoid it even when you don’t need to. This means that even if they are totally cool with voicing your opinions or needs, you just don’t think to do so or you are afraid that it may “upset” them. As a result, you stay this way unnecessarily. But wait, would you want the ones you love to sacrifice themselves unnecessarily this way so as not to “hurt” your feelings? You probably want them to be open and honest with you, don’t you? If so, don’t you want both sides to genuinely enjoy each other’s company?

In short, if you don’t want them to be that way towards you, your loved ones most-likely don’t want you do the same either.

Then you may say, “But Cathy would not like me doing this way. She wasn’t happy when I expressed myself honestly.” Yes, that can happen. Even if you respectfully express yourself, some people never like it. The fact is that this kind of person may not want you to be yourself, because that won’t be convenient for them. In this case, here is my question for you: “So what’s the point of being with people like that?” I am not talking about your boss at work. I am talking about your personal relationships. You don’t need to be with someone who needs you to just be a “doormat”. They are your relationships and you can choose whom you want to be with.

Another problem of being this way is that if you care for others first, you don’t take care for yourself, including your feelings, your needs, your body, your health, your schedule, your preferences, your wishes, and so on. What makes you believe that you are that worthless? You care about them so much that you treat yourself like nobody and ignore yourself. This tendency keeps hurting your “being.” You may feel scared, fearful, reluctant, unhappy, unmotivated, sad, unconfident, and so. There is nothing more important than yourself, since you are the only being you will stay with until the end of your life.

Therefore, if you don’t respect yourself, your life sucks.

Then someone may say, “I don’t want to be selfish!” or “I don’t want to be a monster who doesn’t care for other people!” That’s very fair. Actually, however, sharing your opinions does not mean others are expected to automatically agree with you. Let’s use the examples above. If your friend wants to go eat cheeseburger and you wanted to eat something lighter, you voice your preference, you both talk about the options, and you may end up going to some restaurants which have both kinds of food, instead of just going to a burger stand. If you tell your mom about your situation and give her 10 minutes, she may be able to keep it short for you so you can go back to your work (if she won’t, that’s another issue between a child and parent. I may discuss it in future). In short, this is not selfishness. You just respect both your friends and loved-ones and yourself, instead of leaving yourself out of the picture.

I hope you now feel somewhat motivated to be a little more self-centered. In the next post, I will share some ideas how to be more self-centered.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Be More Self-Centered

I strongly encourage you to be more self-centered - Part I

“What?! What’s wrong with this guy?” If you felt this way when you read my opening sentence, then yes, trying to be more “self-centered” could be particularly beneficial for you. Most of us worry about other people’s feelings too much. And that can be a problem for us.

It is really important to be considerate and avoid unnecessarily hurting other people. I don’t disagree with that at all. If you don’t care about this basic part on human interaction, you are probably considered rude, unlikable, immature, or something like that, and people don’t want to hang out with you.

The problem, however, is that you may tend to care about others’ needs more than your own, and end up sacrificing yourself for them. For example, you want to avoid greasy food because your stomach is uncomfortable. But when your friend says, “Let’s get a chili cheeseburger and fries at the burger stand,” you may just respond, “Okay.” Or, you have some project to submit tomorrow, and your mom calls you to talk for a long time about non-urgent matters. You want to but can’t hang up and end up staying up until late. Another example could be that you are hanging out in a small group. You are listening to them chatting while smiling, although you are not enjoying it at all…

Very sweet and kind of you, but you are not sweet or kind to yourself. Why do you have to take care of others’ needs more than your own? Have you ever really thought about it? It appears that lots of people have never questioned such behavior. What makes you do that? Why would you ignore yourself? Why do you have to be so “nice?” Let’s think about it.

In the next post, I will share my thoughts about this tendency.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Read Me First

Hello. Welcome to my Blog, “Enjoy a Simpler & Happier Life by Dr. Riichiro Miwa.”

I am a Psychologist and I provide not only psychotherapy, but also life-coaching, lectures, and clinical supervision. When I am working with my students and supervisees, they often love what I say and want me to talk more about my “twisted” thoughts about a variety of things. It appears that my personality, experience, and multi-cultural background bring to me a unique perspective on things, and they appreciate it. Their response inspired me as well, so I finally decided to document what I have in my mind here.

In this blog I am sharing my personal beliefs about how to simplify your life to become happier. You won’t find me writing about a number of research findings or theories from books – I’ll leave that to others. Here, what you’ll find are just my thoughts based on my own observations and experiences as an individual who has always been curious about formulas for a quality life.

I will try to explain my points as easy as possible: I will use some examples utilizing real-life experiences to illustrate my point. I will also express myself in a more casual and “rough” manner, instead of in professional way, but that’s intentional. I would like to deliver my message in as simple and understandable way as possible.

That being said, please understand that this blog isn’t intended to be and cannot be a substitute for psychological treatment. Please seek the advice of a mental health professional if necessary. Likewise, I am unable to provide any answers to any of your questions or give advice about your particular diagnoses and/or specific situations. I am not working as a clinician here, so please keep that in mind. Of course, if/when you have any general questions or thoughts to share that may inspire me, please feel free to leave your comments. If that stimulates my thought process, I would really appreciate it and I may write about the topic in future. I just do not guarantee to respond to all of the comments, and I reserve the right to delete any for whatever reason. Last, I am not writing this blog to prove how absolutely correct my beliefs are. Some of you may find it helpful, and others may not. That’s totally fine. Just take whatever is useful to you from it, and disregard the rest.

My hope is you will find it beneficial and make yourselves happier. Hope you enjoy it!