On the Value of Discomfort

by Griffin Hansbury on February 4, 2018

“Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” Psychologist Susan David on the value of so-called “negative” emotions.


Trauma, Self Blame, Power, & Depression

by Griffin Hansbury on January 28, 2018

This conundrum is often the log jam that gets in the way of emotional healing:

“When you’re a child, you have very little power to change your environment. You can’t move away, or force somebody to stop hurting you. So, you have two choices. You can admit to yourself that you are powerless ― that at any moment, you could be badly hurt, and there’s simply nothing you can do about it. Or you can tell yourself it’s your fault. If you do that, you actually gain some power ― at least in your own mind. If it’s your fault, then there’s something you can do that might make it different. You aren’t a pinball being smacked around a pinball machine. You’re the person controlling the machine. You have your hands on the dangerous levers. In this way…blaming yourself for your childhood traumas protects you from seeing how vulnerable you were and are. You can become the powerful one. If it’s your fault, it’s ― at some strange level ― under your control.”

But that comes at a cost. If you were responsible for being hurt, then at some level, you have to think you deserved it. A person who thinks they deserved to be injured as a child isn’t going to think they deserve much as an adult, either. This is no way to live. But it’s a misfiring of the thing that made it possible for you to survive at an earlier point in your life.”

Read the whole article by Johann Hari here. The author will be speaking about his book “Lost Connections” on January 30 in New York City.


The Dark Side of Positivity

by Griffin Hansbury on March 5, 2017

In our culture of mandatory happiness, wise words from Svend Brinkmann, author of the Danish bestseller Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze:

“I believe our thoughts and emotions should mirror the world. When something bad happens, we should be allowed to have negative thoughts and feelings about it because that’s how we understand the world.”


“Life is wonderful from time to time, but it’s also tragic. People die in our lives, we lose them, if we have only been accustomed to being allowed to have positive thoughts, then these realities can strike us even more intensely when they happen—and they will happen.”

Click here to read the full article.

And here’s some advice from the author on how stand firm.


LGBTQ-Affirmative Therapy

by Griffin Hansbury on July 15, 2016

From the New York Times, on the importance of working with an LGBTQ-affirmative therapist:

“Having a gay-affirmative therapist really changed my life in a lot of ways,” said one student therapist. “I had always thought, ‘I’m just like my straight friends, only I’m attracted to men.’ But what I found out is that there’s a deeper level of experiencing what it means to be a gay person than just my sexual identity. So discovering that — and realizing there’s so much more to be discovered — I thought, I really want to do that for other people as well. I want to be an agent of change.”

Continue reading



Competent Therapists

by Griffin Hansbury on August 19, 2015

Here are 4 things that competent therapists do, according to Michael Karson at Psychology Today. I agree.

1. The therapist understands that a therapeutic relationship is very different from a social relationship. My view is that good therapy requires the patient to take off the social mask, and therapist behaviors that are social keep the mask on. Regardless, though, of the rationale for doing so, competent therapists promote a mode of relating that is very different from social relating, and from other forms of (non-therapy) professional relating. One particularly important defining aspect of a therapeutic relationship is the therapist’s acceptance of responsibility for its setbacks, potholes, and failures.

2. The therapist establishes a joint sense of purpose and a mutual understanding with the patient about what they are there to do together. This is captured in a clinical case formulation that is unique to the individual patient (versus a generic, off-the-rack formulation that could apply to nearly anyone). By “unique,” I mean unique.

3. The therapist interprets the patient’s speech as metaphorical or literary, not as merely literal. The therapist can never know what happened in childhood, and can’t even know what happened to the patient yesterday. The therapist understands that this is not a limitation on effectiveness, because the meaning that experiences hold for an individual patient are all important.

4. The therapist interprets the patient’s speech not only as a window into the patient’s narrative, constructed self and world, but also as a metaphorical response to the environment in which it occurs–a commentary on the therapy itself. This is the therapist’s primary source of feedback about what works and what doesn’t.


Read the whole article here.