David Wilkinson

Banisher of fears, slayer of anxiety & developer of emotional resilience

David Wilkinson was orignally educated as a psychologist with degrees and higher degrees from the Open University and the University of Oxford. He lectures at the University of Oxford in the Medical Sciences Division and at Oxford Brookes University in the School of Business. He is the author of a number of books on emotional resilience and emotion regulation including the series of books and ebooks offered by the Fear Course. He also has coaching and counselling qualifications from the BAC and the University of Cambridge.

His wikipedia page can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Wilkinson_http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Wilkinson_(ambiguity_expert)(ambiguity_expert)

He has blogs here, here and herehere

The key role of emotion regulation in being adaptable

The key role of emotion regulation in being adaptable

This post comes from The Oxford Review - www.oxford-review.com.

Their blog of other research findings can be found here: http://www.oxford-review.com/blog

 

Being adaptable at work – its all about job satisfaction, performance and this…

I was in a local Chinese take-away last night and asked if a certain dish could be done without the chicken being in batter. The answer was “no”. So I asked if the next dish down contained chicken without batter. The answer was “yes”. So I then asked why, as they cooked everything fresh (it is actually cooked in front of you) I couldn’t have the chicken without the batter in the sauce from the first dish. The response was “No it’s not possible”. When I asked why that answer was, “Because this dish has chicken with batter. Chicken without the batter is not possible in this dish!”. One of the chefs then came over and asked what the problem was. When I told him he said “Yes that’s not a problem”.

Adaptability

Adaptability is the ability of an individual, team or organisation to adjust or change itself to best meet the needs of the situation or environment. So that if change occurs, an adaptable person or team will adjust and find how best to perform in the new situation themselves, as opposed to having to be retrained. Adaptable staff, particularly frontline staff can make all the difference to changing customer needs and the profitability of a company for instance.

A research paper due to be published in May (yes, we are that on top of the research!) in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services reports on a study that looks at what it is that helps create adaptability in employees, particularly frontline staff.

The researchers looked at a large sample of 711 frontline staff and measured their level of adaptability, their level of job satisfaction, performance and emotional intelligence.

Findings

What they discovered was:

  1. People with higher levels of emotional intelligence and emotional resilience are significantly more likely to be able to adapt to new and changing situations.
    1. It is thought this is because people with higher levels of emotional intelligence are more likely to be able to empathise (to show sensitivity to others’ perspective and feelings), and are more likely to be able to regulate their own emotions (emotional resilience) in the face of change and shifting requirements of the job.
    2. There is also a lot of evidence to show that people with better emotional resilience (emotion regulation skills) tend to be able to reappraise situations more quickly and change their view and appreciation of the situation as things change.
    3. Both emotional intelligence and emotion regulation skills have also been shown to help people deal better with conflict, both interpersonal conflict and things like conflicting demands.
    4. That people with better levels of emotional resilience (emotional intelligence) and emotion regulation skills tend to be better both verbal and non-verbal (body language) communicators.
  2. That people who are more adaptable tend to have greater job satisfaction. This confirms a number of other studies showing similar results.
  3. Lastly, that there is a link between job performance and adaptability over the long term. This they think is linked to role flexibility and the ability to understand the context the job sits in.

So if you want more flexible employees, developing emotional intelligence and emotional resilience (emotion regulation skills) is the way to go. And you will get happier workers who perform better.

Reference

Sony, M., & Mekoth, N. (2016). The relationship between emotional intelligence, frontline employee adaptability, job satisfaction and job performance. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 30, 20-32

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Dealing with anxiety - important new research

Dealing with anxiety - important new research

It has been known for a long time that people suffering from anxiety process information differently compared to people who don't have anxiety. People who suffer from anxiety are much more likely to appraise a situation, even a neutral situation as a threat than people without an anxiety disorder. In effect people with anxiety disorders are invariably hyper-sensitive to situations, and are frequently searching for threat or something to worry about compared to those who don't suffer from anxiety.

This hyper sensitivity is associated with significantly increased activity in a couple of areas of the brain, particularly the older limbic parts in the centre of the brain and the prefrontal cortex, just behind our forehead. Additionally anxiety sufferers display higher and different heart rate functioning when they perceive a threat.

This new study by colleagues at my own university, the University of Oxford, and the University of Bristol, University College London (UCL) and Universitaire Vaudois in  Switzerland carried out a ground breaking series of experiments looking at the responses of a group of anxiety sufferers compared to an equal umber of non-sufferers.

What they did was present everyone (both anxiety and non-anxiety sufferer) with a set of images whilst they were in an fMRI scanner and whilst they were also monitoring their heart response.

They got the subjects to do two tasks whilst their brain activity and heart responses were being monitored and they were being presented with the images.

The first task was to do nothing but watch the images. A number of the images were considered to be threat images. In this condition they found what they expected. The anxiety sufferers responded with anxiety to each of the threat images faster and with a greater response than the non anxiety sufferers. The anxiety sufferers also frequently reacted to the non-threat images. No surprise there.

They then taught all of the people in the experiment an emotion regulation technique based on a couple of techniques we use on the Fear Breakthrough Course. These techniques, known as reappraisal techniques basically get people to see things differently.

This time, when anxiety sufferers used the emotion regulation techniques they saw the effect immediately both in the brain and with their heart responses. Not only did the techniques reduce the hyper-activity within the brain, it also had an immediate effect of reducing the heart response to the threat. What surprised the researchers was that in many cases the techniques actually reversed the effects of the anxiety induced hyper-activity.

In effect what this means is that the techniques we use not only reduce the level of anxiety at the time but have the power to reverse the effects of the anxiety and stop it happening altogether.

Reference

A Reinecke et al (2015) Effective emotion regulation strategies improve fMRI and ECG markers of psychopathology in panic disorder: implications for psychological treatment action. Translational Psychiatry (2015) 5, e673; doi:10.1038/tp.2015.160

 

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What is anxiety? New video

 

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Is the music you listen to increasing your anxiety?

Is the music you listen to increasing your anxiety?

A new study from scientists in Finland and Denmark looking at the effects of music on emotional states like anxiety, neuroticism and depression has found that a significant number of us use music (whether consciously or unconsciously) to regulate or deal with our emotions. Most people prefer happy upbeat music which has been shown in past experiments to help elevate our mood. Indeed we have been using music in one of our techniques for dealing with anxiety triggers for years with stunning success.


This study however shows that people who habitually listen to sad, ‘moody' or aggressive music are significantly more likely to suffer from anxiety and neuroticism than those that don’t.


Importantly the researchers also discovered during fMRI studies that such music suppresses part of the brain that helps us regulate or change our emotions. This effect was particularly prevalent in men.


This means that sad and aggressive music not only induces anxiety but can also prevent us from getting out of anxious and down moods.

Reference

Carlson E, Saarikallio S., Toiviainen P., Bogert B., Kliuchko M., and Brattico E. (2015) Maladaptive and adaptive emotion regulation through music: a behavioral and neuroimaging study of males and females. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 9:466. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00466

 

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Suffer from anxiety? Your reaction times could have predicted it...

Suffer from anxiety? Your reaction times could have predicted it...

A number of research studies over the years have shown that people suffering from anxiety and depression tend to take longer to react to situations, particularly new and unusual situations. This effect is made worse when there is a potential for loss or any form of perceived risk in the new situation or circumstances or the individual is under stress.

A new study from a team of researchers from University of Edinburgh, University of Southampton, University College London, Sackler Institute of Psychobiological Research, University of Glasgow, and The Rockefeller University, New York City has shed some important new light on this phenomenon.

The researchers followed a group of 705 people from their 16th birthday until they were 36 years old and measured, among other things, their anxiety levels and reaction times.

They found that not only do people with anxiety and depression tend to react slower to situations and make slower decisions but that people who have slower reaction times as adolescents tend to be at significantly more risk of developing anxiety and depression later in life. This direction of effect was not expected. There appears to be some mechanism that increases an individuals susceptibility to anxiety and depression that is connected to how fast they react and make decisions at an earlier age.

Clearly some anxieties are created from increased levels of analysis (worry about possible outcomes etc.), and also that an individuals ability to process information is connected to the level of stress they are under (known as allostatic load). However it would appear that reaction and decision making time can be a predictor of anxiety and depression.

Reference

Gale, C. R., Batty, G. D., Cooper, S. A., Deary, I. J., Der, G., McEwen, B. S., & Cavanagh, J. (2015). Reaction Time in Adolescence, Cumulative Allostatic Load, and Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression in Adulthood: The West of Scotland Twenty-07 Study. Psychosomatic medicine.

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The 1 Thing That Predicts If You Will Get General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

The 1 Thing That Predicts If You Will Get General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

It is now generally accepted by professionals that people who suffer from GAD (General Anxiety Disorder or Generalized Anxiety Disorder) tend to get into such a situation because they have been unwittingly engaging in what are termed 'maladaptive coping strategies'.

In other words people with GAD tend to have been using coping techniques to life in general and anxiety in particular, which actually end up making their situation worse. I have reported in previous blogs for example the role avoidance has in strengthening anxiety. It has been found for example that distraction and avoidance techniques used by some therapists can at first mask and then later exacerbate GAD.

A study just published by colleagues at the Department of Psychology, Ryerson University, in Canada has added considerably to our understanding of GAD and what contributes to the onset or creation of this disorder.

The researchers looked at the extent to which 217 people were able to tolerate distress, particularly distress emanating from what are considered to be the 6 prime trigger experiences for distress in humans:

  1. Uncertainty
  2. Negative emotions
  3. Ambiguity
  4. Frustration
  5. Physical discomfort, and
  6. The perceived consequences of anxiety

They then measured the subjects for symptoms of GAD and found that GAD sufferers were significantly less likely to be able to tolerate distress from each of the six prime trigger experiences than other people, including people with depression. In effect what they found was that a lack of tolerance for distress is a prime indicator for the development of GAD. This is not the case for depression.

Further they discovered that the level of tolerance an individual has for physical discomfort can be used as a sole predictor for whether or not an individual is likely to end up with GAD.

Whilst the study in itself is interesting, it does provide further insight into therapeutic interventions which can most effectively help GAD sufferers. Building emotional resilience is a key part of the process of recovery from GAD.

 

 

Reference

MacDonald, E.M. etal (2014) An Examination of Distress Intolerance in Undergraduate Students High in Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Journal of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. Oct 2014 DOI: 10.1080/16506073.2014.964303

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Can you catch anxiety from your family?

Can you catch anxiety from your family?

Can you catch anxiety from your family?

Have your parents contributed to your anxiety and fear without even knowing about it?

If you can catch anxiety from your parents and it is genetic - can you do anything about it or are you just stuck with it?

FREE Live Online Seminar

Wednesday 1st October 2014

19.00 (7pm) UK - 20.00 (8pm) CET - 14.00 (2pm) EDT - 11.00 (11am) PDT - 04.00 (4am) AEST

On the 1st October 2014 I will be holding a free live online seminar looking at what the latest research, much of it only published this year, has to tell us about whether or not anxiety is hereditary and what you can do about it.

There are only 100 places available worldwide on this free, live 'no jargon' seminar. Click Here to Book Your Place

Book your free place now

 

 

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Is Anxiety Hereditary?

Is Anxiety Hereditary?

Is Anxiety Hereditary?

FREE Live Online Seminar

Wednesday 1st October 2014

19.00 (7pm) UK - 20.00 (8pm) CET - 14.00 (2pm) EDT - 11.00 (11am) PDT - 04.00 (4am) AEST

 

On the 1st October 2014 I will be holding a free live online seminar looking at what the latest research, much of it only published this year, has to tell us about whether or not anxiety is hereditary.

There are only 200 places available worldwide on this free, live 'no jargon' seminar. Book your place now before it fills up.

 

Is Anxiety Hereditary - Free Seminar

What people have said about previous seminars:

"Brilliant seminar - Thank you"

"David has a way of putting things over that make it really interesting and understandable"

"I can't believe you provided this for free"

"I really enjoyed the webinar. Thank you"

"Wow. That was really, really interesting"

"Fascinating"

"It's amazing to have a world class university lecturer live and available to answer your questions and for free! Thank you so much"

"I just wish I could be one of your students in Oxford. They are very lucky"

"I wish my teachers had taught with such humanity, clarity and passion as David does"

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Is it better to have a high EQ or a high IQ? New research.

Is it better to have a high EQ or a high IQ? New research.

Is it better to have a high EQ or a high IQ?

Transcript

An intriguing study from Switzerland has just been published looking at the effects of IQ (Intelligence) and EI (Emotional Intelligence) on how others perceive and evaluate us. Just because you have a high IQ does not mean you will have a high EI and vice versa.


Anyway the study from the University of Lucerne looked at whether people would evaluate people with high IQ better than people with a high EI during a presentation task.
What the study found was that when doing presentations individuals low in IQ but high in EI performed as well (were evaluated by strangers as highly) as the high IQ individuals. In effect people with high EI tend to be able to compensate and level the playing field, during initial evaluation of their performance compared with people with higher IQ's.

 

SeminarOct14

 

Reference
Fiori, M (2014) Emotional intelligence compensates for low IQ and boosts low emotionality individuals in a self-presentation task. Personality and Individual Differences. Sept.2014. DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2014.08.013

 

 

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What Causes Social Anxiety? New Research

What Causes Social Anxiety? New Research

Social anxiety is one of the most frequent and debilitating anxieties around. The effects range from mild discomfort in social situations to full scale avoidance of and panic attacks during social events and even phobic responses such as agoraphobia. A series of research studies examining this common series of anxieties have found that people who have at some stage in their life been a victim of bullying, criticism and or rejection in any situation are significantly more likely to develop a social anxiety compared to the rest of the population.
Indeed the definition of a social anxiety centres around the fear of scrutiny or negative evaluation/judgement by others. This usually results in people having the feeling that they are not good enough for other people, and/or the assumption that others will automatically reject them and includes often intense feelings of insecurity in a wide range of situations.

It is estimated that about 1 in 5 or 20% of the population suffer from some form of social anxiety. This can be a severely debilitating and distressing disorder for the sufferer which can have massive negative effects on the quality of life of the sufferer and as a result I pay particular attention to research in this area. A student at University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Klint Fung has just gained his Masters this month with an interesting series of experiments which helps us to understand a bit more about social anxiety.

What Fung did was get a group of 88 people and initially test them for their level of social anxiety. He then subjected them to an experimental social event where they would be either rejected (rarely interacted with) or included (frequently positively interacted with) in the activity of the event. All the participants were then invited to a second social event.
The research found that rejection or inclusion from just one event had a significant effect on the anxiety the individuals felt towards and during the second event. Importantly it was discovered that virtually all of the anxiety experienced stemmed from the hurt feelings induced during the first event.

It would appear and is backed up by other research that how hurt we feel following an incident can then predict how sensitive we are likely to be to the possibility of future exclusion especially when this is interpreted as rejection by the individual.

What this and other pieces of research shows is that treatment which helps to reduce sensitivity to exclusion and helps the individual to regulate their own emotions (prevent the hurt feelings) is likely to be most effective. Certainly from my experience the development of emotion regulation techniques coupled with cognitive reappraisal (both strategies I teach) have a significant impact on social anxiety disorders.
Indeed one client I finished with this week went from agoraphobic (unable to leave the house due to social anxiety) to returning to work in 16 days.

On Wednesday 3rd September I will be running a live online seminar about 'How We Catch Fear and Anxiety'. Click here for more details.

Free Live Seminar - How we catch Fear and anxiety - September 3rd

References
Fung, K. (2014) How does rejection induce social anxiety? A test of hurt feelings as a mechanism. University of British Columbia - Masters Thesis August 2014.

Levinson, C. A., Langer, J. K., & Rodebaugh, T. L. (2013). Reactivity to exclusion prospectively predicts social anxiety symptoms in young adults. Behavior Therapy, 44(3), 470-478.

Lissek, S., Levenson, J., Biggs, A. L., Johnson, L. L., Ameli, R., Pine, D. S., & Grillon, C. (2008). Elevated fear conditioning to socially relevant unconditioned stimuli in social anxiety disorder. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 165(1), 124-132.

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A simple way to help with exam nerves - new research

A simple way to help with exam nerves - new research

Researchers from Universities in the Netherlands and Australia have just published an interesting paper reporting on a series of experiments they conducted on school children taking exams.

One of the big problems that anxiety causes during exams is that it degrades performance significantly. In particular it it uses up valuable processing power in the brain, particularly in the areas used for working memory, which is a vital component especially during tests. We use the working memory to store short term information whilst we are working things out during an exam.

The researchers tested the hypothesis that if the students simply read through all of the questions before starting to answer anything, this would in effect reduce some of the anticipatory anxiety and as a consequence lower the loading on the working memory. The result of this should be more 'space' for problem solving and therefore better results.

The researchers showed the method of reading through all of the questions before putting pen to paper to 50% of a group of 117 students, chosen at random before a real exam. Those students that did read through the exam paper first performed significantly better than those that didn't. Additionally the students who carried out the tactic reported lower levels of anxiety during the exam compared to those that didn't.
Interestingly this tactic worked regardless of the level of anxiety the student was experiencing before the exam.

I have a free live webinar you can join next Wednesday all about the latest research on How We Catch Fear and Anxiety. Click here to find out more and book a free place.

 

Free Online Seminar - How We Catch Fear And Anxiety

 

Reference

Mavilidi, M., & Hoogerheide, V (2014) A Quick and Easy Strategy to Reduce Test Anxiety and Enhance Test Performance. Applied Cognitive Psychology. 1099-0720 August 2014 DOI: 10.1002/acp.3058

 

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Ever Have a Fear or Anxiety and Not Known How You Got It?

Ever Have a Fear or Anxiety and Not Known How You Got It?

Do you have, or have ever had a fear or anxiety and not known how you ended up with it?

On Wednesday 3rd September 2014 I will be running a free live online seminar at:

19.00 / 7pm BST - UK time (20.00/8pm CET (Paris) - 14.00/2pm EDT (New York) - 11.00/11am PDT (Los Angeles))

entitled:

How We Catch Fear And Anxiety And What To Do About It

I will be sharing the very latest research with you on how we catch fear and anxiety and what you can do to deal with it.

There will also be time for questions and answers after the seminar.

As many of you know I lecture at a number of universities including Oxford, however don't worry; The seminar will be 100% jargon free and easily understandable.

I can only fit 200 people on this live seminar and once its full, I'm afraid that's it.

So if you want to book a place Click Here. It's totally free.

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How To Forgive And Let Go

How To Forgive And Let Go

I have heard over the years lots of people say how important forgiveness is and I never ever really understood what they meant. I didn't know how to do it and I certainly had no appreciation of what it was. In fact forgiveness became a word I would end up squinting at sideways, with suspicion.

"Forgiveness became a word I would end up squinting at sideways, with suspicion"

I have heard religious people talk at length about forgiveness and therapists (yes I've had a few) talk about forgiving myself to the extent that it had become a sort of non-word for me. I kept hearing the word but no-one told me how to do it.

It was only in the last few years that I think I have started to understand what it is and how to do it.

Most of us carry around hurts and anger about things other people have done or said and embarrassment, shame or even horror at things we ourselves have done or said.

It wasn't until I realised that at any particular time, everyone is doing the best that they can, with the thoughts, emotions and beliefs that they have - at that moment. At any moment in time they make the decisions they make believing them to be the best response right then. Even if the outcome has dire consequences.

I was a police officer for 18 years and over that time met many many criminals and people who had done terrible things including murder. When I look back on the long line of people I dealt with, every single one of them (even the odd socio and psychopath) were doing what they believed was a reasonable response given the way they saw, felt and believed the world to be at that moment.

When I think back to the hurts I have carried, inflicted by loved ones and others and perpetrated myself...

When I think back to the hurts I have carried, inflicted by loved ones and others and perpetrated myself, they were each and every one, responses to how they (and I) saw the situation at that moment. They (and I) were doing the best they could in that moment with everything they felt, understood and believed.

Now that's not to say they (and I) couldn't do better. It is only after the fact that we may (or may not) reflect on what happened and hopefully learn.

This realisation has helped me to 'forgive', let go of things and find peace.

This understanding is also the basis of another thing I never understood. Be gentle with/on yourself. For me, now being gentle requires forgiveness which in turn requires understanding the nature of the way we often decide to do and say things.

"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." ~Mahatma Gandhi

The problem is if we don't forgive and let go, we become prisoners, locked in the cells of our own making - with only our hurt, anger or shame as cell mates.

 

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Does it matter if your friends are online or face-to-face? How to be happy.

Does it matter if your friends are online or face-to-face? How to be happy.

There are a lot of assumptions about the value of online friends versus face-to-face friends (in the flesh as it were) and the impact of these on our general level of happiness and well-being, what is known as Subjective Well-Being or SWB by researchers. Usually it is assumed that face-to-face contact is superior to online contact, but is it true?

A student researcher, Lena Holmberg at the Örebro University in Sweden looked at this very question and the answer may surprise you.

In her thesis, published yesterday, Holmberg examined the levels of social connectedness of 293 young adults aged between 18 and 48 and their levels of happiness. Social connectedness refers to three things:

  1. the desire people have to create and maintain relationships
  2. the social bonds you have with others, and
  3. the feeling of belongingness that results from these bonds

What she found was that there is no difference in terms of the amount of happiness that online or offline friends brought to the people in the study. She did however find that often the most happy people had what they would term as more genuine online friends than the others.

It would appear from this study that the the more genuine friends you have have happier you will be. It would also appear that it is easier to maintain relationships, build deeper social bonds and get a greater feeling of belonging through online social networking.

If anyone wants to connect with me on Linked-in my profile is here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/centrei

 

References

Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497

Grieve, R., Indian, M., Witteveen, K., Tolan, G., & Marrington, J. (2013). Face-to-face or Facebook: Can social connectedness be derived online? Computers In Human Behavior,29(3), 604-609. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2012.11.017

Holmberg, L. (2014) Seeking Social Connectedness Online and Offline: Does Happiness Require Real Contact?. Thesis. Örebro University. Available at http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:736737/FULLTEXT01.pdf.

 

 

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Robin Williams 1951 - 2014

Robin Williams 1951 - 2014

As I was posting my last blog about the problems Experiential Avoidance can escalate into, including suicide and addictions, a heart-breaking drama was playing itself out in the Californian home of the Oscar winning actor and comedian Robin Williams who was 63.

Robin had long been diagnosed with severe depression and had battles with drink and cocaine addiction for which he had famously received treatment for at a rehab centre.

Reporting the death of Robin in the early hours of this morning (UK time) the Marin County sheriff's office stated they suspected suicide by asphyxiation.

Robin's wife Susan Schneider said this morning "This morning I lost my husband and best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken,"

Robin openly talked about his battles with alcohol and cocaine in the early 1980s, and his relapse in 2006. He appeared to have recovered however last month he returned to rehab in Minnesota.

Suicide is often seen as a selfish act, however as one who had in the past seriously considered such action whilst suffering from depression myself, having dealt with depression and anxiety in many other people therapeutically and having attended suicides and prevented a number of suicides as a police officer, all the individual often wants is relief from the symptoms of the crushing depression.

In an interview in 2010, asked about his depression and had he felt happier, Robin replied : "I think so. And not afraid to be unhappy. That's OK too. And then you can be like, all is good. And that is the thing, that is the gift."

This comes back to the heart of the dangers of Experiential Avoidance.

My heart goes out to Robin's family and friends. We have lost a true talent and extraordinary fellow human being in very sad circumstances.

If you recognise and think you too may be avoiding feelings, thoughts, memories, physical sensations and other internal experiences please get help.

 

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