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Psychological Balance

Psychology is a serious academic and clinical discipline. It is also a term that has become part of the contemporary thought and conversation of our culture. As such, the idea of psychological balance is confusing and often meaningless to people. The effort to understand and create a psychological balance is ongoing throughout a lifetime and through the changes that come with the arrival at and the passage through different life stages. This process is an individual one. Each person must create a process that fits their unique background personality characteristics and the particular time in their life. What then is common to applying the concept of psychological balance in the process of health and healing?

Perhaps the first concept to consider is that of balance. Extremes of emotion can be wonderful. Peak experiences such as graduation from school, marriage, childbirth, job promotion and other accomplishments that denote arrival and or success are an important part of a fulfilled life. On the other hand we will inevitably experience bitter disappointments and the painful loss in our lifetimes. A balanced life is not disrupted by the extremes but rather enriched by them. One neither seeks the extremes nor avoids them. Our culture is all about having “peak” experiences. We are sold on the idea that seeking these experiences is the key to a good life. There is no end to the advertising of new popular psychologies, new medications, new technologies, and special events that will lead us to the peak experiences and a fulfilling life. The goal is to see through the hype that attempts to develop a craving for the peak experience and thus create a market for the products that will lead to the experience. Peak experiences are certainly an important part of the fabric of life. They create richness to our lives. However, to experience the pleasure and value in the background events that forms the warp and weave of the fabric of our lives, without succumbing to the seduction of peak experience, is a key component of psychological balance.

Flexibility and resilience are valuable to any system whether it is a structure such as a bridge or a living system. The issue of balance emphasizes the value of constancy and equanimity. Flexibility is the ability to adapt to changing demands from within us, (aging, illness, internal stressors) and demands from outside ourselves, (job stress, illness in family members, new social obligations). Some small part of our ability to adapt is inherited, (wired into our genetic material). The larger part of our adaptability is acquired. We learn adaptive behaviors from our family, our community and the society at large. Unfortunately, we also learn maladaptive behaviors. Achieving optimal health and maintaining it requires a willingness to adapt to change. At times this is difficult to achieve.  I see good professional counseling as a valuable way to gain insight into our behavior: our strengths and weaknesses. From insight we can make constructive change.

Resilience and flexibility allow us to develop a sense of confidence in responding to change. This creates self-esteem, the ability to trust our own instincts and the ability to create trusting and nurturing relationships with others.

These behavioral characteristics are important to psychological health. They are also important to physical health. The field of psychoneuroimmunology describes the relationship between the way we process our experience, (psychological reaction), to immunologic balance and hormonal balance. Simply stated, our attitude towards life has a profound effect on our health. While there are many sophisticated testing methods to assess psychological health, I have a simple question that is effective.

Ask yourself the question: Is my cup half empty or half full? You have the choice. Often the world is how you see it. Your choice of how you see it affects your sense of self-esteem, your relationships and your perception of success in life. If your cup is often half empty consider counseling. Learn the ability to change the way you perceive your world. The benefits that you will receive are incalculable.

There is growing evidence in our scientific literature that self-regulation practices can improve health and play an important part in the treatment of illness. Self-regulation practices include relaxation practice, meditation, and group and individual counseling to work on unresolved issues. There have been excellent studies of patients with cardiovascular disease and cancer suggesting that self-regulation practices improve disease outcomes and sense of well-being. Patients who practice these techniques live longer lives and better, more fulfilling, lives.

There are two strategies, which have proven very effective that are available at our office.

NeurOptimial: This is an EEG Biofeedback Therapy administered at our office. Its specific effect is to improve Resilience and Flexibility of the nervous system. It has been beneficial in a variety of problems including Anxiety, ADD, Mood Disturbance, Sleep Disturbance, Chronic Pain and Cognitive Dysfunction.

NeurOptimal training helps to achieve a dynamic balance, (Resilience and Flexibility) in the Autonomic Nervous System. This is the background nervous system that works as a combination of the hard drive and operating system of a computer. It is involved with sleep wake cycles, quality of sleep, level of arousal, hormonal balance, immunologic function, healthy response to stress and function of the cardiovascular, pulmonary, gastrointestinal and musculoskeletal systems.

Attentional Flexibility Training and Brain Synchrony Training: This is a training process that allows the individual to learn the skills necessary to focus their attention in a way that will improve physical and emotional well-being. It has been shown effective in managing stress related symptoms, the reduction of anxiety and depressive symptoms and the reduction of chronic pain, as well as the improvement in sleep problems.

I have found these services invaluable in helping people attain and keep good health.

Warren M. Ross, M.D.

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