Tuesday, April 7, 2015

                                                               Overcoming Depression
                                                         Dr. David Coombs, Ed.D, MFT 

     Everyone experiences periods of depression. It goes with being mortal. In the October General Conference of 2013, Elder Jeffry R. Holland said major bouts of depression, be they short lived or chronic, seem to be the lot of most, if not all, people. He spoke of his own battle with a major depressive episode. 
     The title of his talk, “Like a Broken Vessel,” provided the metaphor that describes how people feel, at times, broken. And they fear they may never become whole again.
Speaking of his own experience, Elder Holland gave encouragement to others who are hit with these psychic blows.  He advised them to consider the following:  take time to rest and to “not run faster than they have strength” (Mosiah 4:27); to ask for priesthood blessings; to seek the aide of professional counselors and medical doctors; to hold on to their faith in the Living Christ; and to not lose hope. 
     All people, when experiencing difficulties and challenging times, may benefit from repeating to themselves an ancient proverb, “This too shall pass.” The dark night will eventually give way to the bright morning of another day.  When the prophet Joseph Smith was deep in despair, he received a revelation which is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 122:7: “All these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”
     Depressed people want to pull away from others, to isolate themselves, and to hide. This may be necessary for a time. They need the patience of non-judgmental, loving family members and dear friends who will not insist that they put on a false front and pretend all is well when it is not. 
However, after they have sufficient rest, have sessions with professional counselors, have the benefit of medications or a change in diets, after they have fasted, prayed, and given thanks to the Master Healer, if they have not yet done so, then they need to analyze the way their thinking has contributed to their depression. 
     In his book, Feeling Good, Dr. David Burns teaches the importance of trading depressive thought patterns for new ways of thinking that bring relief and hope. He emphasizes that we are the sum total of our thoughts ,and what we are feeling is often a result of what we are telling ourselves; our moods and our dark feelings are a result of our own poor self talk. Every action is preceded by a thought. People can interpret events so that they conclude that they are worthless; of course, that leads to depression. However, they can overcome their depression by choosing to think more rational thoughts that will lead to their feeling valued and worthwhile. To do this they need to identify how they think themselves into despair.
     Dr. Burns identifies ten ways people do their depression:
  1. Think in terms of all or nothing, black or white, success or failure with nothing   allowed in between. One student got a “B” in one class and “A”s in all the others. He was depressed because he wasn’t perfect. He had to have all “A”s to consider himself a successful student.
  2. Overgeneralize events, for example, a boy asked one girl for a date and she politely said no. The boy saw this as proof that all girls hate him; he will never marry; he might as well face the truth that he is worthless.
  3. Use a mental filter to pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that their thinking is distorted. A woman shamed herself for being ten pounds over-weight and refused to be comforted.
  4. Disqualify any positives by saying that the good things they have done don’t count. They say things like, “When friends try to give me assurance, they are just trying to be nice. If they knew all the dirty truth about me, they would reject me.”
  5. Jump to conclusions. Because one person doesn’t like them, that  proves that no one likes them. Some see themselves as mind readers who are absolutely sure that, while people are being nice, they have ulterior motives.
  6. Awfulize or take something that is unfortunate and make it much worse than it really is. A man found bird poop on his car and said, “This kind of thing happens to me all the time and it’s not fair.” 
  7. Exaggerate the importance of certain feelings; they may even say things that make them appear odd: “I feel the world is coming to an end; since that’s what I feel, then it is true.”
  8. Frequently use the words “should” and “ought” to create unnecessary guilt. They feel the only way out of their depression is to live a perfect life. But because people are not perfect and never will be, they see no way out of their depression.
  9. Use the negative power of labels to call themselves “Losers,” “Dead Beats,” or “Worthless.” For example, a woman may say, “I am a bad mother. If I were a good mother, my boy would be a better student.” 
  10. Grant themselves awesome powers by thinking if they had only said the right thing, at the right time, or had taken the right action, they could have prevented a catastrophe from happening. Some label themselves “Stupid” and hold on to the regret that their lack of action is the cause that others are in great pain. “If I had called or visited when I was prompted, my friend would not have committed suicide. It’s all my fault.”
     So what is the answer? How do people overcome their negative thinking that leads, in part, to their depression? The answer is simple, but it requires hard work that only they can do. They must identify how they use one or more of these methods to do their depression.  Anyone thinking irrational thoughts will be depressed. So the answer is for people to challenge illogical and destructive ways of thinking. One effective strategy is to keep a daily journal and to write out negative thought patterns; this shows clearly how they participate in creating their own depressions. 
     After identifying irrational thoughts, they write out how they wished they had thought and acted. In later similar situations, they will have the opportunity to do what they have planned. They vigorously challenge themselves to stop their inappropriate thinking and practice thinking more rationally. Be aware that many depressed people will not take this advice. They may fight it, resist it, and do nothing. They may find excuses to convince themselves that this will not work. People will say things like, “I don’t feel like doing this.” “This is too hard.” “I am helpless, powerless, and I simply don’t have the energy to do what it takes.” “How do you expect me to do this when I am feeling so depressed?” “Yes but...”
     The slightest efforts reap rewards. Just getting off the couch or out of bed and going for a walk brings blessings. Breakthroughs occur when depressed people say, “I think I can do this. I might as well try something. I hate being depressed. This advice just might work for me. What if I get Dr. Burns book, Feeling Good and read it and get more ideas on ways to think differently? It just may help me.”
     Some might say, “Do I have to write in a journal. Couldn’t I just process these ideas in my mind?”  No! There is power in writing out how depression is done. Whether on paper or on the computer screen, seeing their thoughts in black and white is powerful. Additionally, they can talk with others they trust who can help them recognize more rational ways to think. Right thinking begins with the words they say to themselves. If they don’t think they can do it, they are right. But if they think they can, then there is hope. As they act on the possibilities, people will continue to move forward till they have found relief by learning the language of faith both in themselves and in their Creator. 
     Abraham Lincoln is credited with this thought: “You are about as happy as you make up your mind to be.” This is true!
     Just as people can think themselves into a depressed state, they can also think the right thoughts that lead them to a life of increased confidence; they will know they are people of worth. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.” People are responsible for their own happiness. No one can make them happy. It really is their choice. 

Dr. Coombs is a professional marriage, family, and individual therapist in Washington, Utah. He and his wife, Marva, write articles together and offer free presentations on marriage and family. Call 435-705-3579 or email to drdavidcoombs@gmail.com or on the web at DrDavidCoombs.com.
                                       How Does Pride Effect Our Relationship With Others
                                                       Dr. David Coombs, Ed.D, MFT

     Why is it is easy for us to detect pride in others but fail to see it in ourselves? Possibly it is because it is difficult for us to look inward and evaluate ourselves. President Ezra Taft Benson delivered his classic discourse on pride in general conference April, 1989.  He explained that many are sinning in ignorance. But to be enlightened, we have only to ask ourselves a number of questions posed by President Benson, and the answers can be quite revealing. For example:
  1. Are there people who we hate, disdain, and simply cannot tolerate?
  2. Are we conceited and think ourselves as better than others?
  3. Are we arrogant, self-serving, and critical of others?
  4. Are we offended easily and do we hold grudges?
  5. Are we critical and judgmental?
  6. Do we chaff when people in authority tell us what to do?
  7. Do we resent counsel and advice from others?
  8. Are we envious of those with wealth, beauty, and\or fame?
  9. Are we content with being who we are and in our place in life?
  10. Are we argumentative and contentious?
  11. If we see others succeeding, do we then see ourselves as failures?
  12. De we rationalize our faults and failures?
     President Benson stated that “God will have a humble people.” We can either choose to be humble, or we can have experiences that will compel us to be humble. We can choose to be humble by doing the following:
  1. Accept counsel from the Lord, the prophets, and priesthood leaders.
  2. Forgive quickly.
  3. Be happy for others’ good fortune.
  4. Be quick to help others.
  5. Serve in the temple more frequently
  6. Confess and forsake our sins speedily.
  7. Submit our wills to God’s will and to His perfect timing.
  8. Yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.
  9. Agree quickly with others with empathy; show that you understand others’ points of view while they may not necessarily conform to yours.
  10. Turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, or in other words, allow yourself to be inconvenienced without resentment.
  11. Avoid unnecessary debt and live within your means.
  12. Freely pay tithes and offerings.
  13. Serve others without expecting rewards in return.
  14. Serve faithfully in church callings and  seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
  15. Continue to grow in charity, the pure love of Christ. 
     President Benson emphasized that those who are striving to have successful marriages, happy homes, those who are grateful people, kind employers, hard working employees, friendly neighbors are those who are humble followers of Christ seeking to establish Zion.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Adulation Is Poison
David and Marva Coombs

     Children want to be told they are loved, are valued, and are special.  When they work hard to achieve, to do their best, and to accomplish much good, their efforts need to be acknowledged.  However, adulation occurs when parents and others heap excessive praise and flattery on their children.  We see dramatic examples of adulation when fans literally worship athletes, movie stars, and rock stars.  
     One public example of adulation gone amiss was in 1986 when the Beatles bragged they had become “more popular than Jesus” (Wikipedia,”More popular than Jesus,” main page).  It backfired.  People were outraged. The Beatles popularity plummeted and tours had to be cancelled.  This gives credence to the famous adage, “Pride goeth before the fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
     Adulation is heady; recipients of all ages find it difficult to stay grounded and humble.  Most find it hard to maintain emotional balance when they are given exaggerated positive attention.  Those who are rich, famous, and/or beautiful struggle with pride and few escape untouched.  Too much praise and too many compliments actually harm all people on every level.  
     While excessive praise can damage children, some parents, unfortunately, go to the opposite extreme; they feel it is their responsibility to remind their children that, while they may have succeeded in something, they are still inferior, inadequate, or unattractive.  Parents do so thinking they are protecting their children from becoming conceited, from getting a big head.  
     In reality, the children may get the message that they can never measure up, can never do anything right.  Parents must find the balance between “You’re the best.” and “Don’t get a big head.”  Whatever is said, praise must be real and genuine.
     Consider these appropriate examples of praise: 1. “Congratulations on being crowned homecoming queen.  What makes you so lovely to us is not only your God-given gift of physical beauty but also your ability to be kind and thoughtful of others.”  2.  “We are proud of your working so hard on your school work.  We love seeing you discipline yourself in your studies and also appreciate your willingness to help others in your classes who are struggling.”   3. “Receiving the award for most valuable player is a real honor.  We are proud of you.  You worked hard for this and you deserve it.  What we also like is that you are a team player and inspire others to play their best.”  
These comments acknowledge children’s accomplishments and recognize their good behaviors without using comparatives like, “You’re the best.”  For most  good behavior, smiles or a simple “nice work” are all that’s needed.
     Some families display trophies, ribbons, diplomas, and certificates of achievements of their children’s accomplishments.  None of these things are necessarily examples of adulation gone awry.  Balance is evident when children are taught gratitude and give credit to supportive parents, friends, teachers, coaches, team mates--when they express gratitude for divine assistance that came in answer to urgent prayers.  
     The story is told that in ancient Rome, when the conquering hero rode through the streets basking in the wild cheers of the people, a companion rode along side him in the chariot and continuously whispered in his ear, “You are not a God, but only His servant.”
     When people think they are better than others, they make themselves exceptions to rules and cross boundaries of integrity and appropriate behavior.  No one is immune.  When praise is received, the safest response is to quietly and politely say thank you and then don’t believe it, knowing that adulation is poison.

Dr. Coombs is a professional marriage, family, and individual counselor with a private practice in Washington City.  He and his wife Marva write articles together and offer free presentations on marriage and family life.  Contact them at 435-705-3579 or DrDavidCoombs@gmail.com or www.DrDavidCoombs.com.
Adulation is Poison-Don’t Believe it!
David and Marva Coombs

     Heaping praise upon others is dangerous both to those who bestow it but particularly is harmful to those who receive it. The best thing people can do is not to seek fame in the first place. If fame and glory does come, people should shrug it off, knowing it is most often the position that is praised, not them. Above all, they should not believe all the wonderful things that are said about them. When people start believing they are the best, the greatest, the finest and the most loved above all, they are on the crest of a wave of popularity which is temporary and  crashes on the beach and is gone. Those who are famous now will soon be forgotten; vanity will swamp others for a season.
     While the popular phrase,“Pride goeth before the fall” is true, the actual Biblical verse is even more powerful, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before the fall” (Proverbs 16:18). People who want to be famous really don’t understand the destructive forces that await them.
Of course, people should work hard, achieve and do wonderful things, but it is also vitally important that they maintain humility and that they remember they are terribly human. They must never forget that their gifts come from God; they must understand that they are not better, not more worthy, not more entitled to anything than other people. The Apostle Paul said, “For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself” (Galations 6:3).    
     Look what adulation has done to famous movie stars, models, athletes, rock stars and politicians. Many think they do whatever they want, can have whatever they want. But they do so at a high price; in fact, they often lose those things that are most valuable like their families. Those who are lifted up in pride are damaged spiritually. The Savior said, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). Many have have sold their souls for popularity.
     Note that the Ten Commandments begin with,“Thou shalt have no other Gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Fame is a god that many choose to worship. Additionally, it can be destructive for people to worship the famous. To do so is to worship gods with feet of clay.
     The scriptures document examples of the effects of adulation. King Saul enjoyed fame and good fortune and thought he could do no wrong. But his fame went to his head and when he disobeyed God, the Lord sent his prophet Samuel to Saul.  Samuel said, “For thou has rejected the word of the Lord and the Lord hath rejected thee” (I Samuel 15:26). 
     King David was chosen to take Saul’s place, but he too failed the test when he allowed his fame and power to affect his thinking. When he saw the beautiful Bathsheba, he lusted after her. As king, he felt he could take whatever he wanted. Because of his pride, he lost all. (See II Samuel 11-12).
     Few people can handle the intoxicating power, the headiness, that comes from fan’s heaping adulation upon them. They lose perspective and think they are above the law. The lack of humility causes them to think of themselves as better and more important than others. They become arrogant, thoughtless, inconsiderate, selfish, egotistical and self-centered.
     Wisdom teaches us not to seek adulation; it is poison. Rather than seeking other’s adoration, the worthier goal is to so live as to have God pleased with us. We may never be popular and may stand alone among our peers, but we will have peace of conscience and the approval of our Heavenly Father. Fame is temporary, but life with God is forever. The Savior said: ‘He that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:14).

Dr. Coombs is a professional marriage, family and individual counselor. He and his wife Marva write articles together and offer presentations on marriage and family life. Call 435-705-3579  or email to DrDavidCoombs@gmail.com or visit www.DrDavidCoombs.com. 
Many Divorces Are Unnecessary
by David and Marva Coombs

     A woman in an imperfect 20-year-old marriage counseled with me as her therapist as she struggled with the decision to divorce.  She was sad and lonely.  She had made valiant efforts to re-vitalize her marriage, but nothing worked.  She felt rebuffed, rejected, and angry for her husband’s lack of response.
     Yet, her husband was not terribly mean or cruel.  He took passive delight in their four children, but he left the parenting up to her.  He had a very successful career which was his life. He was a good provider, and they lived comfortably. 
     She wanted an emotional and spiritual connection.  She wanted romance and excitement, but he wasn’t interested.  
     The wife wanted them both to be actively involved in church activities, to attend plays and musicals, and to get together with old friends.  Again, he wasn’t interested, but he encouraged her to do all these things if they were important to her. 
I acknowledged her marriage lacked sparkle but was not convinced that divorce would be in her best interest.  I asked, “How many wives are given financial freedom and time to do whatever they like?”  I reasoned with her as follows:   
  1. She was free to raise her children with all the time and love she wished to give them.
  2. She was free to bond with other women and enjoy cultural and social events.  She could pursue educational dreams or a career.  She could be as active as she wanted in her church and in community service. 
  3. She could release herself from trying to change a husband who didn’t want to change.  This would lift a big burden from her and would allow her to be more content and grateful for her life and to make the best of what she had.
On the other hand, if she divorced, she could expect:
  1. A nasty court battle.  Divorces are painful, emotionally devastating, and expensive. 
  2. He would likely become angry and think she was ungrateful for all he had provided for her; he might hide money and assets to prevent her from getting her fair share.
  3. She would probably have to work to support herself and her children.
  4. She would have little time to enjoy educational, cultural, or social pursuits.
  5. She would not be free to be as active as she would like in church and community service. 
  6. The divorce would devastate the children and would have a negative impact upon them.  While he was a passive dad, he was still their Dad and they loved him. 
  7. There is no guarantee she would marry again, and no promise a second marriage would turn out to be what she wanted.
     As she continued in counseling, she learned she had to be responsible for her own happiness.  Instead of looking at the things missing in her marriage, she became grateful for the freedom her husband afforded her.   He was not that abusive or controlling.  Her circumstances could have been much worse.  While hers wasn’t a super marriage, it wasn’t that awful either.   Many unhappy wives would be willing to trade places with her. 
     She originally sought counseling for approval to divorce, but in the process of her therapy, she came to the conclusion that her divorce was unnecessary.  In fact, professional literature confirms that most divorces are unnecessary and that the pain of divorce is greater than the pain of the marriage.  In fact, studies reveal that couples contemplating divorce who re-commit to their marriages often become very happy.

Dr Coombs is in private practice as marriage, family and individual therapist in Washington City. He and his wife Marva wife articles together and offer free presentations on marriage and family. Call 435-705-3579 or email DrDavidCoombs@gmail.com or go to www.DrDavidCoombs.com. 
Considering a divorce? Stop! Wait!
David and Marva Coombs

     Obviously, those considering divorce are hurting. No shield protects them from the pain of being rejected by someone whom they trusted would love them forever. In their hurt, they strike out and say and do things they may later regret. In their pain, they think they would be happier if they were single again. However, research shows that most people who divorce will remain unhappy, depressed and lonely long after the divorce. Wars with ex-spouses continue: financial problems increase and conflicts intensify.
     A number of years ago, we talked with folks who were dear to us. They had both divorced their first companions and had been married to one another about six years. They had a good marriage, but both expressed their regrets for the costs of their divorces, particularly the emotional cost to their children.  Both also said they had divorced too fast with little thought of the consequences. Then they said, “We needn’t have divorced.”  
     Many people have mixed feelings about their divorces and express regrets. They wish they had been more patient, more forgiving and more willing to work things out.Three out of four divorced couples eventually remarry. However, second marriages have even higher divorce rates than first ones.
     It’s hard to work through difficult marriages, but it is also hard to work through divorces. Many couples that seriously considered divorce are now happy after taking classes on strengthening marriage to learn what it takes to have successful marriages. 
Research has shown that those couples in unhappy marriages who recommitted to their partners reported they were happy within five years. Some--often those with the worst problems--reported being very happy. They were glad they didn’t divorce. They had conquered even serious problems such as infidelity, addictions, and emotional neglect. (The Case for Marriage, 148.)
     One myth about divorce is that children will be better off without having parents in constant conflict. Research does not bear this out. Most of the time, children are shocked and devastated when  parents announce their desire to divorce. These children would be better off if their parents sought counseling, resolved their differences and stayed married. Of course, in a few situations including sustained physical and emotional abuse, divorces may be necessary.
     Unfortunately, few married couples take classes to improve their marriages. Few read books to enhance their relationships. Few seek the help of trained marriage counselors even when they are available at little or no expense. Even if couples spent several hundred dollars on counseling, it is still very cost effective compared to the expense of divorce. 
     Utah State University extension services has an office in St. George and offer free classes on “How Not to Marry a Jerk or Jerkette” and also offer marriage improvement courses. Free dinners and baby sitting are provided. (Call 435-634-2692 for more information.) 
     Also. local churches offer free classes on Strengthening Marriage and Family. These classes are not just for those having problems, but also for those who simply want to have the best marriages possible.
     Those who are considering divorce should stop, wait and reconsider before they proceed into what may be a very big mistake that will have serious emotional, spiritual and financial consequences for themselves and for their children. The fact is that most divorces are not necessary.

(Many concepts for this article was gleaned from a publication produced by the State of Utah entitled “Should I keep Trying to Work it out?” For additional help go to www.utahmarriage.org.)

Dr. Coombs is a professional marriage, family, and individual counselor. He and his wife Marva give free presentations on marriage and family life. Call 435-705-3579 or email to DrDavidCoombs@gmail.com or on the web at www.DrDavidCoombs.com
Seeking Job Security In Marriage
David and Marva Coombs

What if marriages were compared to employment? Those wanting job security do everything morally possible to win the confidence of their employers and work hard to be indispensable to the success of their businesses. Shouldn’t the same principle apply to our marriages? If so, we would do everything we could to please our spouses, so they would see us as indispensable to the success of our marriages and their happiness.
If workers are habitually late to work, take more time for lunch than allotted, and leave work early, they will most likely lose their jobs. And how would husbands and wives feel if their spouses were thoughtlessly and habitually late and did not honor their appointments with each other.
How long would workers keep their jobs if they had to be told again and again how to do their work. Bosses and spouses appreciate workers and companions who diligently and creatively do their part without being told or reminded.
Company loyalty is appreciated and so is loyalty in marriage. Wise employees want to make their employers look good to others. The same is true in marriage. Successful partners do not complain, criticize, or embarrass their companions; they do all they can to protect their sweethearts’ feelings and to build their esteem.
Workers who respect the company’s assets and work to maximize profits are rewarded. Couples are rewarded when family resources are used wisely and money is spent following mutually agreed upon budgets. Serious strains are put upon marriages when one partner spends money independently without the approval of the other. Would workers last long if they spent their employers’ money without prior approval?
Employers appreciate workers who work well with others and build an atmosphere of cooperation, courtesy, and good will.  Employees would not keep their jobs if they got angry at their employers, argued with them, called them names, were rude, insensitive, and contentious. These same considerations apply to couples. Anger is destructive and corrosive at work and at home.
Marriages work best when partners are committed to the success of their relationships and do as much for each other as they would for their employers. Spouses who are honest and open with each other create an atmosphere of trust and confidence. While the “I Love Lucy” TV series of the 1950s was comical, it was also troublesome because nearly every episode featured Lucy or Ricky being deceitful and dishonest. Dishonesty doesn’t win friends at work or at home.
What if husbands hid golf clubs in the trunks of their cars and used them to play golf on company time? What if they lied about these extended breaks not only to their bosses but also to their wives?  What if stay-at-home wives frivolously spent hours reading novels, watching TV or playing games on the internet when they should be maintaining their homes? Bosses, husbands and wives are disappointed and disgusted by deception.
What if washing machines need repairs but husbands refuse to either repair them or to call repairmen? What if wives are slow to respond to husbands’ requests for mending?  If these lapses in consideration were common in the workplace, how long would they keep their jobs?
How do wives feel when they find pornography hidden in the home or see pornographic sites in their computers’ history? Unemployment usually follows if this happens at work. Wives may also consider ending their marriages if the practice does not stop. 
Employees who work hard for the success of their companies secure their jobs. Husbands and wives who work hard to please one another secure their marriages. And both husbands and wives are happy and proud of their good relationships.

Dr. Coombs is a professional marriage, family and individual counselor. He and his wife Marva give free presentations on marriage and family. Call 435-705-3579 or email to DrDavidCoombs@gmail.com or visit www.DrDavidCoombs.com.