John's Blog

The Blog of John Gibson, PhD

You are not alone

In the United states, it is estimated that 15 million people struggle with depression. For anxiety problems, the number is 40 million.

If this is you, in other words, you are not alone.

Joining Forces

Many people avoid going to therapy because they're afraid to reveal a personal problem. They fear being judged, diagnosed, or possibly looked down upon. In a Facebook culture, where everybody is always taking selfies to prove what a great time they’re having, who wants to admit they are depressed, anxious, or struggling to cope with life?

Nah. No thanks, doc. I'll keep my private life to myself.

But before you dismiss therapy outright, let me tell you this. What I do is join forces with people. I do not judge, moralize, criticize, or condemn. I understand that human beings are flawed, vulnerable, irrational, and occasional conflicted.

There are no perfect human beings. Everyone struggles, sooner or later. Life is hard.

I cannot make life less hard for you — no one can. Nor can I change your past, your history, the things that have happened to you. What I can do, however, is join forces with you as you try to make progress towards some goal.


Today is Thanksgiving.

Sadly, many of us only think about gratitude one day out of the year. But I think it's a good practice for your every day life. Every now and then, you might ask, "What are you grateful for?"

Life is hard and sometimes it's just so easy to focus on darkness, pain, suffering, bad behavior, and struggle. But let us not forget the light, the good, the joy, the love, the gifts we are given…

What are you grateful for? For me, more often than not it's about people. But every now and then, the perfect cup of coffee, lunch out with my beloved, a delightful discussion with my daughter, the pleasure of good piece of chocolate…

Not to mention a good piece of turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Pointing out the beauty of autumn –- could I be any more cliche?

And yet how can we fail to notice the transformation that will be happening over the next few weeks? It’s as if the season was made to remind us to use our senses. The red and yellow leaves, the slanted light. The sound of leaves crunching under foot. The scent of burning leaves in the distance.

Autumn is a season to be savored.

When we are depressed or anxious, we ruminate, brood, or worry. We are way up in our heads. But when we are mindful, we are right here, right now. We are present to the moment. We are open to the information our senses are giving us.

Think about the last time you felt fully alive or energized. I’ll bet you weren’t caught up in your head then. If were fully engaged in something –– fully alive –– you were completely in the now. Full engagement leaves little room for brooding about the past or worrying about the future. Full engagement keeps us right where we happen to be.

Do you know what mindfulness is? Here's a simple definition: "Awareness of the present moment –- with acceptance." Sometimes we need to be aware of our internal environment, our thoughts and feelings and dreams. But other times we need to be aware of the world around us. Autumn is a built-in opportunity to be more mindful, is it not?

So take that color tour. Or that long drive on a weekend afternoon. Or take a walk outdoors.

Think less, sense more. That maybe just the vacation your over-worked mind needs.


Anger gets a bad rapt. We do not like it when someone is angry with us, and often as not we do not like being angry ourselves because it makes us feel out-of-control.

And yet without anger we would never assert ourselves. We feel angry when we believe some kind of violation has occurred. Someone did something they should not have done, or vice versa, they did not do something they should have done. Either way, a standard or rule has been broken. Anger is the emotion that prompts us to assert our rights. Do not tread on us, our anger wants us to say. You may not hurt me, abuse me, or take advantage of me. These are all good things, no?

Then again, why do we fear anger so much?

The obvious answer is that not everyone expresses their anger well. It's one thing to be so angry at your boss you throw a brick through her car's windshield. It's another thing to walk down to her office after a cooling off period and calmly express your grievance. Both scenarios have anger at their base. But the latter is vastly more adaptive.

If anger is to be expressed well, if must be governed by some measure of thought. Emotion prompts action; thought governs it. We can be angry without being aggressive or violent. We can be angry without raising our voice, making threatening gestures, or using profane language. We can be angry without making empty threats.

Anger is there to help you watch out for yourself. Where would you be be without it?