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Read more about Raising an Optimistic Child

Raising an Optimistic Child: A Proven Plan for Depresion-Proofing Young Children--for Life
(McGraw-Hill, 2006) by Bob Murray and Alicia Fortinberry

Read more about Creating Optimism

Creating Optimism:
A Proven Seven-Step Program for Overcoming Depression

(McGraw-Hill, 2004) by Bob Murray and Alicia Fortinberry

Tips for Managing Your Mood

By Bob Murray, PhD and Alicia Fortinberry, MS

Excerpt from article published in New Times Naturally

Most mood disorders have their origin in childhood experience. While genetic makeup may partially explain moods, recent studies have shown that the genes that influence emotions lie dormant unless triggered by some outside stressor, such as abuse or childhood trauma.

Whatever the cause, the good news about all mood disorders is that they can be managed and, for the most part, controlled without drugs.

Here are a few tips for coping with depressive and anxious moods.

  1. Realize that your moods are not your fault. You can't help being depressed or anxious (or both since the one is merely the neurochemical flip-side of the other and sometime they rotate). You did not choose to be depressed and you can't turn the mood off just because other people find it inconvenient to be around you when you're down.
  2. Discover the root cause of the problem. (You may need some help either from a professional therapist or from a friend that you really trust.) The child within is angry, anxious or depressed about something. Almost all ongoing mood disorders have their origins in childhood stresses. Some of the most common are: parental divorce, fear of abandonment, parental alcoholism, criticism and, of course, verbal, physical and sexual abuse. The incidence of childhood abuse in the US has increased 70% over the last thirty years.
  3. Discovering the source of your problems is not a blame game. Parents mostly do their best under difficult circumstances. Nor is it an attempt to get at “hidden” memories that can be “recovered.” You can usually deduce what happened in your childhood from the pattern of your relationships in later life. If you gravitate toward people who don't praise you or who criticize you, then you can be fairly sure that criticism or lack of praise was a feature of your childhood home, even if you've forgotten the actual incidents. There's an old saying that we “only marry our mother, our father or both.” There's a lot of truth to that -- especially if you broaden it to include all the significant adults in your early life, bearing in mind that to a four-year-old, a five-year-old is an adult.
  4. Identify the triggers in the present situation that are provoking the inner child to become anxious, depressed or angry. We often act out patterns from childhood in our current relationships, and feelings of anger, fear, shame and guilt from the past may be being triggered by the actions, behaviors and feelings of people around us. Ask yourself: “What about this situation reminds me of the past?” (You may want to do this with your friend or therapist.) Sometimes the trigger can be very small: a tone of voice, the clothes someone wears, an implied criticism, a raised hand, an unexpected touch or a demand for sexual intimacy when you're not ready.
  5. Work out how you can avoid these triggers. Of course, you can't ask somebody to change his or her mood. You can, however, tell others what you need them to do in order to avoid situations that provoke or trigger you. These “needs” must be very specific and describe actions rather than feelings or thoughts. Otherwise, people won't be sure what you want them to do. Examples for communicating your needs may be: “I need you to praise me when you think I've done something right” and “I need you to tell me what is bothering you and talk to me about it.” Relationships are all about sharing our needs. They go astray when we're forced to second-guess what is required of us.
  6. The important thing to remember is that you can't change yourself, by yourself. Despite what pop-psychology and many self-help books tell you, there's no mechanism in our brain for self-improvement. Human beings are social animals; we learn by observing and reacting to others. We can't always control our moods. But we can begin to change our moods and our behaviors by changing the basis of our relationships in all aspects of our lives. By basing our relationships on our concrete, doable and action-oriented needs, we undo the “programming” of the past and become the people we were meant to be.

Read the full article in New Times Naturally (May-June 2004).

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About the Authors

Dr Bob Murray is a widely published psychologist and expert on emotional health and optimal relationships. Alicia Fortinberry is a psychotherapist, health writer and executive coach. Together they are the founders of the highly successful Uplift Program, and authors of Raising an Optimistic Child (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and Creating Optimism (McGraw-Hill, 2004).

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 Disclaimer: The information presented on this website is based on the research, clinical experience and opinions of Dr Bob Murray and Alicia Fortinberry. It is designed to support, not replace a relationship with a qualified healthcare professional.