Category Archives: Emotions

From the Global Financial Crisis Down To You

This movie is so good I watched it twice.

It just has a funny title – I Am <FishHead( – yes, really.

It’s partly good because it has Philip Zimbardo in it. I remember before the age of the internet, watching Phillip on his PBS Discovering Psychology series, and was delighted to discover useful psychology training available for free!

But more than that this movie is good because it hits on the core issues of the financial crisis we live in, and yet still comes down to daily realities and practical steps we can take.

All starting with the core concept of the “corporate psychopath”.

Coming from the Chinese proverb that says “a fish rots from the head”, let me invite you to watch – I am <FishHead(


Working Through A Problem

What the **** does that mean really?

What does it mean to “get over” something?

What about “sort it out”?

And as for “deal with it”, are our lives some variation on Blackjack that we just need the right hand to show up?

It’s one of the questions I pondered when I made the “Self Help Me Over” online video product. People had come to me over the years in my counselling practice requesting exactly these things, and so I decided to record the consultation I would give people to help fulfill this request.

But I didn’t cover how to “work through” something.

Well I’ve just been sent some information that appeals to my sense of absurdity about the English Language.

If you have an emotion you need to “work through” then this is from and it is for you…

The Tunnel Technique

1. Notice where in your body you feel the emotion. With your hands, remove it from yourself and put it front of you. Expand the image until it’s the size and shape of a doorway.

2. On the other side of the doorway is a tunnel of the emotion. In a moment, you will enter the tunnel and walk through it to find out what is on the other side. But there is a rule: once entering the tunnel you must keep walking.

3. Having agreed to keep moving your feet, step into the tunnel, close the door behind you, and feel the emotion surrounding you as you keep moving until you discover the exit on the other side. (This has never taken more than 30 seconds.)

4. Going through the emotion and out the other side typically moves a person into a very different place emotionally. Going through guilt can lead to freedom, going through rage can lead to compassion, but … sometimes it goes to other strong emotions which have been suppressed or masked. When that happens, go through that emotion as well until you’ve reached a place which feels healthy and whole.

You may consider doing this with someone around, even a counsellor, but for the 60-120 seconds the whole thing takes it’s worth giving this a go.

The morning after I read about this I was thinking about an emotion of disgust from my medical school days. I could handle dead bodies, but mucus and phlegm and spit was always a choking and gagging revulsion for me. I used The Tunnel Technique on it and now it’s unpleasant still (I do NOT want to drink a spittoon) but without the gagging or turning away.

One method of self-help is to be aware of your language, and do what it suggests literally.

With the appropriate techniques you can even turn “working through”, into “playing through”.

Golf anyone?

-Dr Martin Russell

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Doctors And Empathy

Have you heard the joke?

When is the time to get empathy from a doctor?

Before they’ve gone to medical school.

Boom. Boom.

Well actually it’s not a joke at all. It’s a researched fact, and not a very funny fact either.

Evidence has been building that shows a steady decline in empathy in doctors as they go through their medical training. The latest one came out just last month…

It is quite staggering.

Empathy is the ability to feel and respond to what someone else is experiencing.

Doctors are most empathic when they have first been chosen for medical school.

From this point on their ability to be empathic declines. Even once they become registrars it continues to fall away.

I’m not yet aware of research that shows when this trend stops, or begins to reverse. Perhaps at some point it does.

Not surprisingly females on average have more empathy than males, but it makes little difference in medical school.

The proportional drop during training is the same.

Except for alcoholism, some prescription drug addictions, and completed suicide (presumably they have better knowledge about how to succeed if they attempt it) doctors are generally healthier than the average population.

So for self help, empathy may not be very necessary.

But if you want empathy from a doctor you might have to hunt a bit more than you would expect. No joke.

-Dr Martin Russell

The Strange Behavior Of Anorexia – Part 1

Many years ago now I went to a meeting of a local self-help group for people with eating disorders.

They didn’t usually allow outsiders to come along but because I am a medical doctor they were willing to make an exception. It seems that medical doctors don’t often ask to go along to self-help groups. At least that’s what various groups have told me when I have gone along.

That evening one of the topics for discussion was a recent tour that some of the volunteers, staff and members had done to the outlying communities around the state.

They were discussing how ignorant people were of anorexia and how badly education was needed.

One of the staff related a story from one of presenting a meeting to a group in a small town.

As they started up the meeting they asked for any questions or comments, and apparently a fat woman spoke up in a loud voice and said “Oh yeah, I would like a week of anorexia.”

The presenter was totally insulted, and outraged by this comment.

I had to agree with her. However I also had to agree with the woman who spoke up in the meeting.

I’m sure many people have wanted to lose weight by a week of anorexia, and I’m sure that many people with anorexia would be delighted to have a switch to turn it off after a week. Just try it for a while, if you don’t like it, turn it off and move on.

In fact the real problem with anorexia is that there is no such magic on/off switch, or at least that’s how it seems.

Anorexia, ie not eating enough to maintain a “healthy” weight, is a seemingly strange behavior for a human being. But nevertheless people do it.

Whenever you come across a strange behavior you can ask the same question as you would with your emotions as I described in a previous post, “Under what circumstances would this behavior actually be entirely appropriate?”

Have a think about it, even leave a comment with your opinion, and in Part 2 I’ll tell you what I came up with when I first asked this question myself.

Find Part 2 here. 

-Dr Martin Russell

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Do You Have A Healthy Relationship With Your Emotions?

When people come to me with problems often they think of their problems as “irrational”.

The really interesting part is that their emotional response is always the bit that is irrational.

It doesn’t enter their minds that perhaps the most irrational part of what is going on is that they are they are believing their logical thinking.

Human beings are remarkable poor at using logic, despite all our efforts. We are incredibly self-deluding, and disturbingly unaware of most of what goes on in our lives.

So give your emotions a break.

Here is a first step to making sure you have a health relationship with your emotions.

Check for any emotional reactions that you think are “irrational”, or that you are “battling”.

I’m not going to try to convince you that your emotions are correct or that you should give in to them. I don’t know you or your emotions, and yes emotions aren’t always the most accurate guide either.

But here is the question.

Can you think of a time when that emotional reaction WOULD be exactly what you want to have happen in your life?

Emotions are part of the range of being human, so where do they fit appropriately into your life, even if only in rare circumstances.

If you are doing this as an academic exercise and don’t have a personal example, then let me set a few challenges for you.

Where would you like to have a phobia in your life?

Where would you like to hesitate more, or be confused?

Where would it be appropriate to have a craving in your life?

Where would you like to be more stubborn?

All these emotions have a place in a healthy human being. Rather than avoid them, how about figuring out where they fit for you?

-Dr Martin Russell