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Psychoanalysis • Psychotherapy • Counseling

David I. Brandt, LCSW, LLC

Montclair, NJ Area

Tools & Insights


Problem vs. Solution Focus

Posted on January 26, 2014 at 5:44 PM Comments comments (10)
Problem vs. Solution Focus

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Found this quote below. Sometimes, we really do need to focus in on, and deconstruct, issues, if only to raise our own consciousness of their essential components and/or of the issues themselves. There also comes a point where:

"If I focus on the problem, the problem gets bigger. If I focus on the solution, the solution gets bigger."

Thank you to Twitter @jonniqueen (whoever you may be!?) for this one.

Orienting and Partializing™

Posted on November 30, 2013 at 1:11 PM Comments comments (466)
Orienting and Partializing™

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Tend to procrastinate in the face of bigger, time-consuming tasks? Or in the face of stuff you just don't feel like doing?

Try doing five minutes of the task before lunch or dinner so that you ALREADY are in process/progress with it when you take a break. Now you are over the "unknown" aspect of it.  It is already now familiar and real (vs. built up and imagined) and you might have even started to gain momentum or get ideas about it. So it is easier, then, to get back to the task when your break is over since you are now “oriented" to it.

Partializing particularly larger or more daunting tasks is also a helpful technique. For example, if you have a 600-page novel to read or 400 photos to sift through, you might be hard-pressed to begin. If, instead, you set a REASONABLE amount of the task to do -- say 10 pages per night or 20 photos per day — then, within a week's time, you will have already read at least 70 of the 600 pages or sifted through 140 of the 400 photos. Some nights, you may even find yourself really into the book or enjoying the photos and getting a bit more than your set goal accomplished. Be careful, though, not to go  too  "all out" as you also want to avoid burn-out, which could potentially set you back to avoiding and procrastinating again.

If you find that you still cannot get yourself to undertake larger, more longer-term tasks, then perhaps having some help identifying and exploring possible obstacles might be necessary. Indeed, in some cases, ADD, anxiety, perfectionism, depression or another issue might well make it harder to focus in and/or sit still to get bigger jobs done.  Besides identifying any underlying issue(s), a professional helper can also serve as a coach who can cheer you on.  

Helpful Quotes to Keep in Your Back Pocket

Posted on November 24, 2013 at 8:23 PM Comments comments (0)
Helpful Quotes to Keep in Your Back Pocket

Trigger Bill:  The trouble with life is you're half way through it by the time you realize it's one of those 'do it yourself' deals.

Lao Tzu:  If you don't change the direction of where you're going, you'll get there.

Alcoholics Anonymous:  You cannot think your way into right acting, you have to act your way into right thinking.


Winston Churchill:  If you're going through hell, keep going.

Starting and Never Finishing: Patterns of Giving Up™

Posted on November 17, 2013 at 2:09 PM Comments comments (0)
Starting and Never Finishing: Patterns of Giving Up™
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If one finds that one has little patience for “process” and thus tends to give up prematurely on efforts and ideas, then one might need to look deeper into the causes of one's seeming impatience and flightiness.  Impatient and flighty patterns, over time, can easily accrue to depression, anxiety, stuckness and low self-esteem. One starts to feel that one is in some way “different” from others, defective in learning, and/or impulsive in deciding on ideas and direction.  One may begin to wonder if one has chronic ADD or ADHD or if one is depressed, perfectionistic or simply too proud. These and other possible root causes are not only possible, but can, unfortunately, serve to further boggle and confound, adding to one’s depression, anxiety, stuckness and already lowered self-esteem.
Often these patterns of giving up are based upon underlying negative assumptions.  These habituated assumptions take the form of "automatic negative tapes” (e.g., “I’m not good at stuff," "I can’t learn," "something’s wrong with me,” etc.) playing in the background,  pervasively undermining all that one attempts!  A good coach, counselor, therapist, group or other support might well be of help in, firstly, determining if underlying diagnoses are actually present and need to be concurrently addressed.  With respect to the habituated underlying negative assumptions, a therapist or other helper may also aid in uncovering/identifying the “automatic” (and often unconscious) messages one regularly sends to one’s self, and, in helping one connect to where those messages came from, ultimately help one begin to  catch  those automatic messages/assumptions so that they become conscious and, therefore, can be worked on and counteracted!
Bear in mind that NOT continuing in a particular direction or activity may actually, at times, be a  healthy decision  representing being genuinely in tune with one’s self.  It is repeated patterns of flitting about, impulsively changing and/or giving up on chosen paths or activities that may be cause for further investigation or exploration.

Unique Problems re: Being a Psychotherapist

Posted on November 9, 2013 at 9:58 PM Comments comments (0)
(Click on Cartoon to Enlarge)

Enlist Them in Your Bind™

Posted on October 26, 2013 at 9:55 PM Comments comments (2)
Enlist Them in Your Bind™

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When we want to tell someone something that is not so easy to tell - that might even be somewhat confrontational or “loaded" in nature - and we find ourselves in conflict, and equivocating, over how to tell them, there is a technique that may well be of some use!

A parent may have to set a limit for a child who he/she knows is not going to like it.  A husband, wife or partner may need to explain some behavior to his/her spouse.  An employee may wish for his/her boss to change a particular policy or assignment that is irksome.

People come to me all the time with such dilemmas.  And though there is, of course, no one answer for all situations, quite often, the advice to “enlist them in your bind” or, in other words, ask them what  they  would do in your shoes - has served many quite well.

This strategy allows the person being confronted, who might otherwise become defensive, to stay (or, rather, feel more) in control and be the one to come up with the idea or co-write the solution!  It also serves to inspire empathy vs. immediate negativity and venom. 

If the answer the 'person being confronted' gives "the enlister" is somehow still not incorporating the view the enlister was hoping to hear, and this certainly may sometimes happen, then the enlistee may need to become more oriented to the idea that a dilemma even exists.  For example, a parent asking a child how he or she would handle consequences for breaking curfew, could, on the one hand, hear back that the child would be rougher on him or herself than the parent would ever be.  Or, on the other hand, a parent may find that the child just doesn’t see why ANY parent would set a curfew.  In this latter case, there is still probably a greater chance for dialogue, philosophy-sharing, negotiation, evolving mindsets and/or educating than if the situation starts out contentious and devolves into everyone digging in their heels out of urgent frustration!

This technique of enlisting another in one’s bind requires patience and openness.  If there is a shortage of these, then other help may be needed before this strategy is likely to pay off.

Showing Up™

Posted on October 1, 2013 at 9:23 AM Comments comments (5)
Showing Up

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I have heard it said that "showing up is half the battle".  One can hold onto this thought in one's back pocket to help them move in the face of anticipatory fears and negative assumptions that might otherwise impede movement and stir up avoidance.  Examples of these impeding thoughts might be: I'll be bored, or, no one will like me, or, they'll think I'm trying to prove something, I'll be all alone, I won't know what to say, I'm too fat, etc.

Many I know often end up feeling fairly pleased that they went to a pre-scheduled (or unscheduled) event, despite not feeling much like going at all just ahead of the event, as their anticipations started to really ramp up.  It turned out not to be as bad as they thought,  nor anything like  what they had built up in their heads!  Indeed  it was even good  that they bumped into this or that person, or dispelled a myth that they had been holding onto about another or even about themselves.  Perhaps they had an excellent laugh or made a valued connection.  Maybe they simply got themselves out and felt good just for that!

Of course, sometimes canceling out or trusting a foreboding feeling about some plan can pay off as well. We get some emotional refueling, alone time, or avoid some real (and perhaps not so imagined) problem encounter, etc.

There is another essential aspect of this 'showing up' business: and that is the 'leap of faith' that on some level is always involved!  In other words, it takes a certain amount of trust and openness, along with a certain level of motivation, to believe in and actually make use of the adage 'showing up is half the battle'.  It may take unwinding some old traumas or having an evolution of small successes or other factors to begin to become more accustomed to trusting these words as a motivator of movement.  This may require some found support along the way.

Approach, Tone and Attitude™

Posted on September 22, 2013 at 4:53 PM Comments comments (0)
Approach, Tone and Attitude™

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All too often we take the ones we are closest to the most for granted.  We feel that "they know us" or that they will love us unconditionally, and thus we can say whatever we want to say however we want to say it.  The assumption is usually that they will simply "understand what we mean".

First of all, what I have found from working with couples in couples therapy (and parents and children in family therapy) is that this is exactly NOT true!  We ought never lose sight of, nor forget the value of, mutual respect!  In truth, we probably want to be   particularly  mindful of those to whom we are closest. This doesn't mean we can never let our guard down nor feel 'in the pocket' with a loved one.  It does mean, however, that we should never take them for granted and assume that all is okay - that they will tolerate anything we dish out when we are on automatic.

So, in the end, becoming aware of, and being conscious of, our APPROACH is as much as  85% of the battle at times: so many couples' (or parent-child dyads') issues can be reduced, in the end, to approach patterns/styles.  It is often not so much about WHAT is being said (i.e., the thing being discussed) as much as it is about the TONE and ATTITUDE with which it is being said! 

We really can react in quite (often historically loaded) ways to another's approaches, tones and attitudes - even when we don't really mind what the other is actually saying.  It is so often about HOW something is being said.  There is, more often than not, a diplomatic or reasonable way to put something across!  These efforts may often take practice and more work at first, but I believe that they also lead to better outcomes over time.

If tweaking one's approach does not seem to bear better relationship fruit, then perhaps a stint in couples or family therapy or some other consciousness-raising activity together or individually might prove of some value - at least until both parties can operate more on the same page (the page of showing genuine interest in making these concepts of mutual respect and couples consciousness important)!

Rules and Codes™

Posted on September 7, 2013 at 8:32 PM Comments comments (0)
Rules and Codes™

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Many folks take a certain amount of pride in having a code of the road (or codes of the road).  There is a "should" or a "way to be".  Certainly some codes have their place.  Flexibility, however, is also probably very important. Obviously, not every rule applies rigidly in every circumstance. For many, it would do them some real good to also keep in mind the adage, "the only rule is that there are no rules"!!

(NOTE: No one idea is always the right solution for all people all of the time.  These tools are just a part of a picture when working on one's interactions in the world [or on oneself], not the whole picture.)