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The debate on gun control – or gun safety – depending on which side of the political spectrum you prefer, provides the opportunity for some  pretty significant insights into elements of social psychology.  Now, the debate, by its nature, is highly political.  It falls under the interpretation of Second Amendment Rights, which was settled in law by the Supreme Court.  Whether you agree with the Court’s interpretation that the Amendment applies to individual rights rather than to the rights of a “well-ordered militia” at this point, is only relevant to the extent of the position you might hold.  But I would like to stay clear of political arguments as much as possible here, and try to focus on the underlying psychological effects of answering this debate.

Acceptable risk is defined as “any risk that is currently tolerated is considered to be acceptable.”  As a nation and as individuals we calculate acceptable risk on a daily basis.  The CIA’s administration of the “drone program”,  in theory, tries to minimize the risk of injuries and fatalities to civilians in order to kill enemy combatants.  Each time we get into our automobiles and drive down a two-way street we calculate the likelihood that the oncoming driver will stay in their own lane so that we can get to our destination unharmed.  We weigh the likelihood of contracting an STD when we engage in unprotected sex.

It seems to me at this point in the gun debate, we are calculating how much risk we will tolerate for our individual and collective safety in order to embody our Second Amendment Rights.  Are we, as a society, willing to continue tolerating over 30,000 gun deaths a year.  Are we willing to tolerate 20 children being obliterated in Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Are we willing to tolerate 13 teenage students being massacred as they attended classes at Columbine High.  How many  assassination attempts on our public officials and religious leaders is the acceptable amount before we, as a nation, decide to come to some conclusion as to what, if anything, could we do.Gun-Control31-550x384

Notwithstanding the arguments in the public forum, from the NRAs paid protagonists who reap the financial benefits every time a gun or bullet is purchased, to Congress’ beligerence in the face of 92% of Americans who want universal background checks – unless our collective psychology shifts, and we recalculate what we are willing to accept as Americans – we will continue to endure exactly what we have chosen to tolerate.

There are many choices we can make to control, limit or expand gun ownership and gun use.  But something I learned many years ago in Sunday school – “if you live by the sword, you die by the sword.”  And of course, this is not only accepted as a  literal interpretation, but it also exemplifies a spiritual or psychological principle.  What we hold in our consciousness becomes our reality.  If we have an individual or collective consciousness of an unsafe world that has to be defended against, we are much more likely to create and maintain that world on some level.  If the marketplace is flooded with all types of firearms and ammunition and there is no sensible regulation, we in effect stimulate and reinforce a fear-based consciousness which permeates all levels of society.

If everyone were armed, like in the old Wild West, everyone is potentially in danger.  If armed teachers and personnel have to walk the halls of elementary schools as some are suggesting, it tells our children from a very early age that the world is unsafe – and so begins the development of a consciousness of fear rather than trust.  And so, a consciousness of “living by the sword” is born.childsword

If we continue to accept a lack of adequate and sensible controls or limitations on gun accessibility, those who are mentally vulnerable will continue to use these available weapons as a means of acting out their disordered self- or world-view.  Criminals will continue to have much more access to weapons than if limitations were a barrier to their illegal activities.  Suicides could be diminished if safety were a priority.

Every right comes with a responsibility.  Since we as a nation have the right to bear arms, we also have the responsibility to protect ourselves to the best of our ability from the misuse of that right.  Obviously, there are those in our society who do not engage in this right responsibly.  We are a nation of laws – of rules which are meant to guide, promote, and protect freedoms.  These laws are meant to help our nation function, develop, and prosper.  Just as we maintain our families with rules and expectations – we cannot develop a healthy society without them.

The lack of willingness to protect ourselves from ourselves does not reflect a healthy society.  No matter which side of the gun safety issue one is on, the risks we are willing to accept to uphold the rights of our Second Amendment will determine if we are worthy of this right or not.  colddeadhands

I’m just curious.  How many deaths and injuries are we willing to live with before we collectively come up with a solution to reduce the risks.  Or shall we just accept them – the “cost of doing business”, as they say.  Well here’s something else they say – “you get what you pay for.”

Kevin Michael Ross, M.S., LMFT

In my last post, I left off with the question: “How do you recover from a situational, or a reactive depression. If disappointment or dissatisfaction are the root causes, what is the root cure?”

Sometimes this question can be so challenging that an objective and collaborative partnership is called for to unearth the answers. A skilled therapist can be what is needed to help forge this collaborative relationship, out of which the goal is to explore and guide toward insights and solutions that can bring about an increase in self-efficacy. In otherwords, inevitably we are all responsible for finding our own answers to life’s difficulties. But sometimes we need help.

Sometimes we cannot always change our situation to meet our needs; at least not right away. What might be called for then, is an increase in our ability to cope and tolerate, until we can change it. Alternatively, it might be necessary to begin looking at steps which will move us forward toward the desired goal. Once a path can be determined, hope is born. hope  And sometimes all we need is a little hope that things will eventually be better, in order to start feeling better.  You can start feeling better by giving yourself something to feel better about.  One of the most potent antidotes to a depressed mood is to find something to be grateful for.  I firmly believe, that you cannot be grateful and depressed at the same time.

In my next posts, I would like to comment on some pressing social issues which seem to be rising in the consciousness of our country; gun rights, and marriage equality.

“The consciousness of the individual is the law unto every condition.” – Joel S. Goldsmith

Kevin Michael Ross, M.S., LMFT

There’s a difference between what most of us think of as “clinical depression” and feeling depressed. So let’s make some sense of it for a practical understanding.

Clinical depression or Major Depressive Disorder for example, is a more pervasive, entrenched kind of emotional experience than a depressed mood. Typically, symptoms are more severe and long-lasting. Of course, the medical and mental health communities have ways of talking about these things so that we understand among ourselves as to what kind of emotional experience our clients may be having.

Major Depressive Disorder, Dysthymic Disorder, and Adjustment Disorder differ from each other – most notably characterized by timeframes (onset and duration), impact on social and occupational functioning, and origins of the symptoms, such as triggering events or circumstances, or medical or biochemical causes.

depressionblogWhat I am talking about here today is what we call a “situational” or “reactive” depression.  But forgoing the psychiatric labels, this is the kind of emotional experience that is characterized by sadness and all its other potentially-related feelings, that arise out of a profound disappointment or loss.

Simply, it stems from a desire for life to go the way we want it to go – and when it doesn’t we are saddened and have difficulty recovering emotionally.  We feel “bad”.  I mentioned that sadness is for most, a prime emotional experience in feeling depressed, but can include other feelings like anger, anxiety, loneliness, resentment, or betrayal. Feelings of depression can come both from negative and positive experiences.

How do you recover from a situational, or a reactive depression. If disappointment or dissatisfaction are the root causes, what is the root cure? Let’s talk about that in my next post. Until then,

– “Thoughts become things . . . choose the good ones.”

Kevin Michael Ross, M.S., LMFT

A predominant theme working with clients is how our thoughts  play such a significant role in how we feel about our experiences.  For some, this seems quite obvious.  But it can be a difficult concept to grasp, and often it is because thoughts and feelings are so inextricably linked that their distinction can become muddled.  It’s common for us to explain our reactions to something by saying,  “Well, I just feel what I feel and I can’t change my feelings.”  In a manner of speaking, that’s true.  But it’s not completely accurate.

For example, I ask a client how they feel about working in a hostile work environment, and they answer, “I feel like no matter what I do, my boss criticizes me and doesn’t appreciate a thing.”   Actually, that statement reflects a thought, rather than  a feeling. Any time you can replace the word “feel” with a “think” word, you’re expressing a thought.

A more accurate statement would be this: “I think that no matter what I do, my boss criticizes me and, I believe he doesn’t appreciate a thing.  Therefore, I feel sad, angry and abused.”  The way we think about, or perceive a situation – this creates how we feel about it.  And in order to feel differently, we must think differently about it or do something to change the situation.

Why is this important?  Because each person is responsible for their own thinking.  When you are responsible for what you think, you are much more likely to act in your own best interest.  And if the way you are  thinking about something causes you to feel uncomfortable feelings, you are more likely to either change your thinking or change your situation  – or both.  If you become overwhelmed by the way you are feeling and believe that the feelings you are having are due to what someone else is doing, you’re more likely to want THEM to change so that you feel better.

Knowing that  what you think informs what you feel, allows you to ACT.  Because we have the ability to think whatever we want, we can have more control over our own feelings, and therefore our own actions.

So, what do YOU think?

– Kevin M. Ross, M.S., LMFT

This is my first attempt at a professional blog.  By that I mean, my maiden launch of a voyage to all things psychological.  My goal is to  enlighten,  stimulate, provoke, and occasionally upset on subjects related to how we see the world, experience our lives, create our relationships, and live our dreams.

On a daily basis, my work as a psychotherapist exposes me to many views of how people negotiate their lives successfully and more often; not so successfully.  But through these various challenges, traumas, joys, and sorrows, I find that people are remarkably resilient – when they can finally access the one,  true source of all healing and strength – the human soul.

Soul means different things to different people.  To me, Soul, is the very essence of who we are, and this is the Source of all energy.  This energy may also be called The Self, God, The Universe, Divine Wisdom – the name is irrelevant.  But it is the animating force of all being.  And when it is felt – it is understood.  When it is felt – it makes all things right.

There are many theories and practices utilized in psychotherapeutic work.  The goal of all therapies is to find a path to correction; to healing.  Sometimes it is symptom that finds relief, and that is sometimes enough.  In fact, sometimes relieving symptom is the most important achievement for the moment.  Ultimately, I  believe that healing is the highest goal for the therapist to assist in achieving, and which is the desire of the each person seeking help.  And healing is the condition met when we realize the essence of who we really are as conscious, soulful, human beings capable of transcending our difficulties.

I invite you to join me and hopefully others,  in a healthy, ongoing dialogue here, where we can share our thoughts and stimulate a conversation that leads to some insights and promotes psychological and spiritual healing.

I may not be able to enter into each conversation, but when I am able may make some comments or encouragements.  I will be providing some topics for conversation or information and I hope you all enjoy and will feel free to participate.

Thank you all for stopping by.  Let’s talk.

— Kevin M. Ross, M.S., LMFT