Thursday, September 30, 2010

Being Positive vs. Being Pollyanna Part 2 by guest blogger Dani of Positively Present


"We looked for the good (in them), and we found it." ~Pollyanna

Today is Part 2 of a guest post written by Dani of Positively Present; in today's post, Dani takes a look at the difference between what many of us know as the positive thinking that often discounts our experiences and introduces us to the true inspiration behind that "Pollyanna attitude"...

By: Dani of Positively Present

Though it’s been awhile since I’ve seen the film, I believe that Pollyanna was a positive thinker. She didn’t ignore the negative, but instead chose not to dwell on it.

Considering her situation, I’m sure she was combating a great deal of negativity within herself, but she make the conscious choice to focus on what was good in her life.

However, media and culture has taken Pollyanna’s positive thinking and turned it into a negative. It’s convinced us that Pollyanna naively saw the good in the world around her without acknowledging the bad.

Whether or not this is the case is mostly irrelevant considering Pollyanna is a fictional character. What is relevant is what people in real life do.

Those who choose to take part in Pollyannaism, as it’s been named, will choose to ignore the negative and only focus on the positive. This can be extremely delusional and, in my opinion, is not at all the same as positive thinking.

To live a truly positive life, one must consider both the negative and positive aspects of life and then choose to focus on the good.

In addition, in order to live a positive life, one must begin by looking for the good in things.

While negative elements of life should not be ignored, it’s not helpful to seek them out either.

In the film version of Pollyanna, Pollyanna wears on a chain a quote from Abraham Lincoln: "When you look for the bad in men, expecting to find it, you surely will." I believe these words to be true.

When you search for the negative things in people (and in life), you will find them.

Conversely, when you search for the positive, what you find will be positive.

In my opinion, Pollyanna’s gotten a bad reputation for being overly optimistic and sickeningly positive, but I’m not entirely sure that’s accurate.

The character of Pollyanna did not strive to ignore reality or avoid the truth of what was happening in her life. Instead, she chose to face the negative situations head-on and look for the good in them, as any positive thinking person would.

She chooses the path in life that so few people walk down—a path on which positive thinking blooms and inspiration can be found in even the darkest of places.

When looking for inspiration, we should not look to the formulaic version of Pollyanna that has been perpetuated by the media.

We should not aspire to think that everything is happy and perfect and positive.

Instead, we should look to the true heart of Pollyanna’s tale and aspire to be like the little girl who, while coping with the negative in her life, continued to strive diligently to see the good in all that was around her.

Dani, a twenty-something striving to live positively in the present moment, wrote this post. Dani’s blog, Positively Present, embraces the idea of “living happily ever after now” by focusing on all things positive. Dani is also the creator and author of Hope Springs Internal, a blog focusing on the positive representations of women in the media. You also find Dani on Twitter @positivepresent.

I'd like to thank Dani for providing this insightful look into living a positive and insightful life! I hope you'll drop by Dani's blog and let her know that you found her via "A Journey"!

Q: How do you view making the choice to live positively in the present?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Social Media Makes a Difference: Will Hall and NEC have reached an agreement (Alternatives 2010)


A brief update on the issue from yesterdays post "Alternatives censures Will Halls message of choice" about  NEC/SAMHSA renaming Will Halls workshop:

Social Media has once again made a difference and the many voices that spoke up were heard. 

Following a last minute censure of the title and content of a workshop previously approved, NEC director Dan Fisher announced this evening that Will Hall's presentation is back on the agenda with no censuring. Will Hall has agreed and will be presenting his workshop: "Coming Off Medications: A Harm Reduction Approach".

More on this later...

Being Positive vs Being Pollyanna - Guest Post by Dani of Positively Present


In the past months I've heard from a variety of folks in comments and tweets about the “Pollyanna attitude” and the idea of “positive thinking” as a not so effective way of coping with and healing from trauma or dealing with life in general.

 This caused me to look at this a little deeper into both the “Pollyanna attitude” and the idea of “Positive thinking”.... today I wanted to introduce to you part 1 of a 2 part article by someone who has made a choice to live in positivity…I’d like to introduce you to Dani of “Positively Present”…

Being Positive vs. Being Pollyanna
By: Dani of Positively Present

"Just breathing isn't living!"

Whether or not you've seen the films or read the book, you're probably familiar with the concept behind the well-known little girl named Pollyanna.

The character of Pollyanna possesses a life philosophy based on "The Glad Game," a perpetual game played by young Pollyanna in which she searches for the good in every situation she encounters.

Pollyanna's optimistic look at life has been both acclaimed and criticized, but the film illustrates that her positive outlook had not only the power to transform her world, but also the power to transform the people around her and the entire town in which she lived.

Throughout the film, Pollyanna did her best to see not only the good in herself, but the good in others as well. To quote her, "Instead of always harping on a man's faults, tell him of his virtues. Try to pull him out of his rut of bad habits. Hold up to him his better self, his real self that can dare and do and win out!"

Most people reading that quote are either nodding in agreement or trying to avoid being sick from the excess of positivity.

Interestingly, most people have a very positive or very negative reaction to the concept of optimism that is filtered through everything Pollyanna does or says -- so much so that there's even been a term created for the idea that is Pollyanna, known as the "Pollyanna Principle."

According to Wikipedia, "The Pollyanna principle (also called Pollyannaism or positive bias) describes the tendency for people to agree with positive statements describing themselves.

Research indicates that, at the unconscious level, our minds have a tendency to focus on the optimistic while, at the conscious level, we have a tendency to focus on the negative. This unconscious bias towards the positive is often described as the “Pollyanna principle."

Not surprisingly, some view this principle as a negative thing, an overuse of positivity that doesn't allow for reality to be truly examined. Others view this principle as foolproof words to live by, a foundation on which all words and actions can be built.

Personally, I believe there is a difference between what people perceive as Pollyannaism and what it really means to be positive. 

By definition, Pollyannaism implies that you ignore or avoid dealing with negative events, looking only for the good and denying the bad.

However, this is not the foundation of positive thinking (despite what many might believe).

Positive thinking, unlike Pollyannaism, acknowledges both negative and positive events and chooses to focus on the positive aspects rather than the negative ones.

Positive thinking means dealing with a negative event, allowing the appropriate amount of time for negative emotions to surface, and then moving on from the negativity by focusing on the positive.

To be continued...

About Dani

Dani, a twenty-something striving to live positively in the present moment, wrote this post. Dani’s blog, Positively Present, embraces the idea of “living happily ever after now” by focusing on all things positive. Dani is also the creator and author of Hope Springs Internal, a blog focusing on the positive representations of women in the media. You also find Dani on Twitter @positivepresent.


Join us here next time as Dani ties up this series with finding balance in our lives as we incorporate both the good and not so good things that shape our lives each day:)

You can register for free email notifications at the top left of this page so you don't miss Part 2 of Dani's insightful post! 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Alternatives 2010 Censures Will Halls Message of Choice


I don't typically get on my soapbox here at "A Journey" but in this case, I am making an exception...

As a mental health advocate/activist and survivor of psychotropic prescription drug use my position around the issues of mental health care is that each person seeking mental health services or support be given enough professional information that a true, informed consent for services be made.

I do not advocate for or against "medication". 

do advocate for transparency and truth. 

A last minute decision has been made by the National Empowerment Center to Censure the content of a presentation by Will Hall who was originally approved to present at Alternatives 2010 this next week. 

Hall was scheduled to speak on the subject of a pro-treatment choice, harm-reduction philosophy. Hall was to share information about continuing, reducing, or coming off psychotropic medications from the perspective of both Therapist and Psychiatric Survivor. 

After the uproar from the "consumers" of mental health services, when Robert Whitaker was first scheduled then abruptly cancelled and then was reinstated as a key note speaker for this years Alternatives conference - this comes as a last minute surprise and clearly political manipulation IMHO.

The theme for this years conference is Promoting Wellness Through Social Justice. Yet after the effort to cancel Robert Whitaker (Anatomy of an Epidemic) and now this final hour censuring of a workshop that has been approved for the past nearly 4 months I am beginning to wonder just how valid this theme is. 

"Social Justice" would seem to include the right for those seeking assistance for mental health issues to be given all possible available options - including how to safely withdraw from these drugs that are connected to a lifespan cut short by 25 years over the average person. 

By waiting until the last minute, the NEP/Powers-that-be has effectively minimized any possible reconsideration of this decision by eliminating any opportunity for the constituency to be heard. 

 Perhaps this was actually a last minute decision rather than a political ploy but this last minute censure is looking strangely like an effort at implementing some damage control by keeping this quiet until 3 days before the conference is scheduled to start.  

The message is clear - maintain the status quo of dependence on these drugs that are often as effective as placebo's (STAR*D Scandal), that often lead to an early death and the favorable research proven to be skewed in favor of the entities that benefit from this industry vs empowering the people to have a clear choice and options in their health care. 

If the powers-that-be didn't feel that this was a valid message to begin with - why was Hall's workshop approved in the first place? And why did they wait until the week of the conference to let this cat out of the bag?

So with this new information my excitement to be a part of this national organization as an advocate is dampened - but my determination to be a voice and a force for change is multiplied a hundred-fold. 

Below is the Press Release distributed by Will Hall. You can visit his website here.

Coming Off Medications Workshop Censored at 'Alternatives 2010' Mental Health Conference
Alternatives, the mental health consumer/survivor conference with more than 1,000 participants annually, has withdrawn its previous approval for a workshop on coming off psychiatric medications.
The workshop, based in a pro-treatment choice, harm-reduction philosophy, was to share information about continuing, reducing, or coming off medications. After approving the workshop in June, the National Empowerment Center, which organizes the conference to be held in Anaheim California, made a last-minute decision to change the title and description to remove any reference to coming off medications.
Will Hall, an internationally-recognized schizophrenia survivor and radio host who was set to lead the workshop, decided that he could not go along with the decision and will not be attending the conference. "Coming off medications is a topic vital to wellness and recovery, and should not be censored," he said.
The controversial move by the National Empowerment Center comes in the wake of a recent similar decision to bar Robert Whitaker, a Pulitzer finalist investigative journalist whose work spotlights medication dangers and growing evidence that non-drug alternatives work better for some patients. Whitaker was restored as a conference keynote speaker only after mental health advocates mobilized quickly on the internet to challenge the decision.
The annual Alternatives conference is organized by consumer/survivor groups and federally funded. With workshops ranging from wellness, youth, housing, employment, advocacy and diversity issues, Alternatives is the country's most prominent gathering for mental health consumers, who attend from all US states and as far away as Guam. Medication issues, however, have consistently been excluded from the program.
Hall, who works as a therapist, says he educates individuals, families, and health care providers to make more informed choices, and is not anti-medication and does not give medical advice. "People are caught between pro-drug marketing by pharmaceutical companies and the anti-drug message of some activists. We need honest and unbiased information about psychiatric medications, including assessing drug risks and discussing how to come off drugs safely when they aren't right for you. Many people find medications helpful, but there are huge dangers involved, and sometimes it's better to reduce medication or slowly go off." 

After several hospitalizations and a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder schizophrenia, Hall has been medication-free for more than 17 years. He says a combination of holistic health, support groups, and spiritual practice nurtured his recovery from mental illness, but believes that "each person's path to recovery is different. My work fills a great need for information, and it's a shame this topic is censored at a national conference that claims to be dedicated to wellness and calls itself 'Alternatives.'"
Hall is the author of the Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Medications, published by mental health peer groups The Icarus Project and Freedom Center. The guide, available freely on the internet, has been distributed to more than 15,000 people and is available in Spanish and German translations. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

To Thine Own Self be True


You can read up on Seeking and Living our own "Truth" here and Am I living my own truth? here; this series stemmed from this quote from twitter friend @SarahEOlsen2009 and her recent post...

"Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it." ~ Andre Gide

Sometimes we can get caught up in living the truth of another - someone who firmly believes that they have found "the truth"...the "way" and "THE light".

The thing is that sometimes those of us who come from backgrounds where we may have been discouraged from developing a clear sense of "self" we can easily find ourselves living the truth of someone else without even knowing it simply because we have never had the experiences of knowing what our own truth was. We may then find ourselves defending someone else's "truth" when we have adopted it as our own, closing off any opportunity to even discover what our own truth really is.

I'd left this note on the post Am I living my own truth in response to a readers comment:

"This post stemmed from the understanding I've found as I struggled with making that shift from dependence on others to define and guide my life to learning to be that independent and autonomous human being that I'd always heard about - but had no idea what that "looked liked"."

And I've found that imbalance doesn’t take place in only “domestic” or intimate relationships but also can occur in other venues and relationships from the neighbor next door to our local church as well as our health care.

For anyone who comes from a background where independence and development of a clear sense of self was discouraged rather than encouraged, where we were devalued or invalidated rather than held in high esteem and encouraged to become our best – we can find ourselves vulnerable as we turn to our intimate or even our professional relationships to be “taken care of”.

Sometimes in relationships where we find that we have been enmeshed in living the truth of another, there may be some resistance as we attempt to search for and learn to create and live that of our own truth.

Sometimes this resistance to our creating positive change in our lives may include reminding us that we “need” them, that we “can’t do it without them” or “after all I’ve done for you….”.
Any relationship that attempts to make us feel guilty or shame us into compliance is often a relationship that needs us to not grow, change or seek our own truth because to do so invalidates their truth and belief that their truth is the one and only truth.

Understanding that we have done nothing wrong is vital to being able to break free of the control or influence of those who for some reason resist or discourage our finding our own way and truth.

The solution is not to try to change others or convince them to accept me in my journey of seeking my own truth, but to seek my own truth through seeking the knowledge that would enable me to use wisdom to set personal boundaries and choose supportive relationships that value my personal journey to discover, create and live my own best life.

To be “true to yourself” is to live our own truth and we can find this truth by looking within ourselves instead of searching for it in others.

We can check to see if we are living our own truth vs that of another by asking ourselves one key question:

Does this relationship leave me feeling encouraged or discouraged?

To Thine own Self be true. ~ Shakespeare

Seek knowledge. Find Wisdom. Live your Truth. ~Susan:)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Susan's Story: Guest Post at Emerging From Broken "Turning Points and Emotional Healing"

Nice to meet you!


Today I've been honored to share part of my story with the readers of Darlene Ouimets blog Emerging From Broken.  Here is an excerpt of today's post  "Turning Points and Emotional Healing"...

"When I finally was able to make peace with the past I could write a new ending to the story and claim what was rightfully mine - me." ~ Susan Smith August 26, 2010

Darlene Ouimet is also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and invited me to share part of my journey and how I was able to find my way through the darkness of childhood trauma and learn to live beyond PTSd, depression and dissociation. 

I'd like to invite you to drop by to Darlene's Blog, Emerging From Broken to read today's post.

In the next post here at A Journey we'll finish up our series about learning to live our own truth with the post "To Thine Own Self Be True" can find parts 1 and 2 in this link.

Thank you for choosing to share your journey with me today! 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Am I Living My Own Truth?


This post is a continuation of this post "Seeking and Living our own "truth" that stemmed from this quote:

"Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it." ~ Andre Gide

In learning to recognize when and if I am living my own truth or if I am trying to live up to the truth of another, there are many indicators that I’ve learned to pay attention to. Today I wanted to share a few of them here….

Sharing: in living my own truth, I am free to share the parts of my life that I choose to share; my experiences are respected as my own, my feelings about my experiences are validated, I feel heard and safe.

In relationships that are based on the truth of another, it feels more like I have been questioned or am undergoing an interrogation. If I attempt to not be fully disclosing about something in my life I may be demeaned or criticized as though it is a personal affront or somehow inappropriate to have this personal boundary.

Relationships supportive of my seeking my own truth are supportive and respectful of my thoughts, feelings and choices without asking for or expecting justification.

In relationships where I may be following someone else’s truth I may feel as though I am supposed to explain my thoughts, feelings and experiences in order to make them valid or that someone else is giving them value for them to even have any value or be legitimate.

Creating change: Relationships that support me in seeking my own truth support and accept the natural changes that occur in me and my life as I grow.

When I've found myself trying to conform to or live the truth of another I've consistantly found that these relationships often discourage my growth and often send me “change back” messages that discourage change.

This can become confusing because sometimes these relationships would profess support for the positive changes in my life and choices I was making but then they would remind me that I was really incapable of doing life on my own terms by cautioning me and reminding me of my previous attempts to fly on my own and how I had failed before.

Obligation: When I am seeking my own truth my relationships support me as capable of asking for what I need whereas in the truth of another I was often told what I needed.

If I didn’t agree or adopt this truth of another I might experience some sort of criticism intended to shape my chosen truth to compliance. Guilting or shaming is often used to shape resistance into compliance.

I often felt obligated to accept the "help" that was offered, even though it was not the help or support I had asked for and that would have made the biggest difference in my own quest for my own truth.

I was often reminded that I was incapable of deciding for myself what it was that I needed or wanted; that someone else knew better and was acting in my "best interest". Sometimes this was blatent, other times more subtle; but the message was always "if you did what I told you to do this problem would go away".

In summary – when I was living the truth of another, I felt incapable and often insignificant.

I doubted my own ability to seek, discover and live my own truth because I was so invested in living up to the expectations of the truth of another. I felt powerless and ultimately hopeless that I even had my own “truth” let alone that it was ok for me to want it and seek it out.

The best way I have found to determine today if I am living my own truth vs being invested in living the truth of another?

I learned to trust that deep knowing and understanding that I truly am my own best resource; that I don't need anyone or anything to give me or my life value.

I understand the difference between seeking feedback and seeking permission.

I let go of the idea that I was somehow not "good enough" and that I am somehow broken by rejecting those thoughts and choosing thoughts that supported the idea that I am capable.

I focus on the idea and thoughts that each day I have done my best and tomorrow is another opportunity to continue to learn, grow and change as I continue to seek the knowledge that will offer me the wisdom that I truly am capable of creating and living my own best life, my own “truth”.

I remind myself daily that I am - and that is the only justification that I need.

I over-ride the old messages and shame from the past and tell myself consistently that..

my best IS good enough... and that "I am"

and that is enough.

I'd like to invite you to register for the free email notification on the top left of this page so you don't miss out on the next post in this series "To Thine Own Self Be True" and what a possible solution is if you think you may be living the truth of another.

Q: Are you living your own truth today?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Psychology Today: Lennard Davis and SSRI's


Here's an interesting article from Psychology Today written by author Lennard Davis from January 2010 that offers some food for thought as the discussion about if psychotropic drugs are any better than placebo's continues to ramp up....

The introduction to this article...

For the past five years, and in my recent book OBSESSION: A HISTORY, I have been questioning the effectiveness of Prozac-like drugs known as SSRIs. I've pointed out that when the drugs first came out in the early 1990's there was a wildly enthusiastic uptake in the prescribing of such drugs. Doctors were jubilantly claiming that the drugs were 80-90 per cent effective in treating depression and related conditions likeOCD. In the last few years those success rates have been going down, with the NY Times pointing out that the initial numbers had been inflated by drug companies supressing the studies that were less encouraging. But few if any doctors or patients were willing to hear anything disparaging said about these "wonder" drugs.

And the conclusion....

If each person takes a stand, is willing to engage in therapies beyond drug-taking, we might actually have a responsible and informed public confronting an increasingly powerful medical-pharmalogical establishment. Drugs may not be the answer for you, and now it turns out that some drugs may not be the answer for almost anyone.

My note: While I agree on Lennards assumption in this final paragraph - I want to point out that the mental health system around long term chronic "mental health" issues seems to not be based on insightful work but that of a "therapeutic relationship" where little insightful work takes place.

And - while I agree with his assumption and proposed solution....after 15 years in the mental health system I can speak from experience that my efforts to "learn" how to change my life were more often discouraged and labeled as "intellectualizing" and being "resistant" in the "therapeutic relationship".

In this "therapeutic relationship" the focus was on changing my behavior through compliance - rather than guiding me to life changing insight that would enable me to resolve these issues and empower me to create my own change in behaviors - because the maladaptive coping would no longer be needed once my distress was resolved. (Read The Pied Piper here)

So yes and "here here" for the idea that we can learn to change our thoughts, feelings/moods and thus shift from avoidant and dependent behaviors to become more independent and interdependant participants in society.

But - the reality is that the system that tells us these "miracle drugs" are the solution has no clue how to go about educating us to the insight required to create the necessary change in our thoughts that are the source of creating change from within.

This is what I heard from my psychologist when I told him I wanted to do this kind of insightful work ...

"Susan, I don't know how to take you there and bring you back".

While I love and respect this man, who by the way is an instructor at the local University, how is it that he, who teaches the next generation of psychologists and influences psychiatry this way does not know how to help me heal from trauma and develop the insight that I might live free of the cognitive and emotional distress that - up to this point in our relationship (2007) I had believed was a "chemical imbalance" in my brain that would require these (numerous) psychotropic drugs and the weekly therapy sessions ("lifetime subscription" no less) to manage?

(comment: "Trauma informed therapy" is making it's way into the mainstream and I'd like to point out that it is being integrated by the same industry that continues to direct us to pharmaceuticals as our solution and the authortarian therapeutic relationships that are very influential to trauma survivors who are vulnerable to their suggestions and directions - IMHO and experience anyway)

As in any post here on A Journey, my intention is not to convince anyone of anything but to provide food for thought that you may begin to ask your own questions and thus find your own answers that will in the end support your best life ie: the life that you choose for yourself each day.

You can read the entire article at Psychology Today here.

Please note: While I appreciate the content of this particular article, I can not speak for this authors work in general.

As always...your comments, questions and suggestions are invited:)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Seeking and living our own "truth"

This quote came to me via @SarahEOlsen2009 and her Favorite Tweet Stuff email...

"Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it." ~ Andre Gide

And this caused me to remember a post I did awhile back about learning to recognize oppressive abuse in the dance of "Power and Control" and how we as survivors are sometimes easily groomed into compliance and can find ourselves following someone else's "truth" instead of that of our own....

From the archives - "Abuse Disguised...." an article that stemmed from recognizing power and control in religious and other professional venues and interpersonal relationships...

"Abuse is not selective and is in all life arena's and all about telling another what to do, how to do it and when to do it


"you are wrong if you believe differently than I do or try to do it in any other way"...."

In understanding how to recognize and make different choices about the relationships we choose in our lives and the emotional boundaries we establish, it is helpful to understand what both a supportive relationship that encourages one to live their own "truth" might look like - as well as what a relationship looks like that is perhaps more about following and adhering to someone else's truth.

So for the next few post's I wanted to take a look at the idea of recognizing the difference between learning to seek for, find and live our own truth and if we might be falling into the subtle trap of believing someone else's truth over our own.

Today then....

In seeking my own "truth" and finding relationships that supported my quest to discover how to go about creating and living my own "best life" each day I found one consistant factor that I could trust.

That if I was involved in relationships that supported my search for healing, wellness and my own "truth" - I saw progress in my quest.

I began to find peace, hope and happiness.

I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel

I had an overwhelming sense of "life is good" and "I am ok".


the nagging sense of "something is wrong....

and it must be me"

and an overwhelming sense of hoplessness, helplessness and

..."life sucks"

...I'll never be able to do this "right" or be "good enough"

...that came when I was following someone else's "truth" instead of seeking my own.

And that brings us back to today's quote...

"Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it." ~ Andre Gide

I began to recognize that when I was seeking my own truth, supportive relationships supported this and encouraged me, told me that I had the wisdom and the ability to find my answers and live MY truth vs the relationships that were criticizing, questioning and telling me that my answers were somehow wrong...and the answers they were providing were the "right" answers. That somehow their "truth" was the only truth and if I didn't agree...well, then...something was of course wrong with me.

Join us here next time as we continue to look at this idea of the difference between truth "seeking" and being a follower of someone else's "truth".