Dr. Pat's Psychology Blog

Dr. Pat’s Psychology Blog2019-05-09T09:50:47-07:00
  • Video: Strategies for Improving Self-Esteem

    In this episode of Dr. Pat's video tips, I discuss two categories of strategies to help you improve your self-esteem: 1. Cognitive strategies which help you to think more positively about yourself. 2. Behavioural strategies in which you engage in activities which help you to feel good about yourself.

  • Managing stress: Two approaches are better than one

    In this article, I discuss why using both problem-focused and self-focused approaches to manage stress is more effective than using only one of these approaches. One of the most basic concepts I try to convey to my clients is how to manage stress. Once you realize that effective stress management boils down to using two categories of approaches, what can seemingly be a daunting task becomes much easier...[more]

  • Video: How to Manage Stress

    Registered psychologist Dr. Patrick Keelan discusses two categories of strategies to help you manage stress: Taking action to address sources of stress in your life while using skills and activities to make it easier to handle them emotionally.

The Law of Attraction: How to use it to your benefit

Psychology|

In this article, I discuss how you can use the principles of ‘like attracts like’ and ‘matching vibrations’ to enhance your well-being and achieve your goals. The law of attraction is a concept featured in the best-selling books The Secret by Rhonda Byrne and The Law of Attraction by Michael Losier. In both books, the authors focus on how a person’s thoughts and emotions can play a major role in their enjoyment of life in general and in whether they achieve their goals in areas such as work and relationships. Because this law is based on psychological principles and has key elements of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as part of it, I find it fascinating. In particular, I enjoy the easily understandable ways people are told in both books how to apply the law to their benefit...[more}

How to avoid ruminating on self-righteous anger

Anger|

In this article, I discuss strategies you can use to avoid ruminating on self-righteous anger. In my last article, I compared the appeal of focusing on self-righteous anger to the lure of the sirens in Greek mythology. I then discussed the great costs of such ruminating: It takes an emotional and physical toll; it decreases ability to focus and perform well; it detracts from enjoyment of activities; it impairs social relationships; and it leads to a cycle of negativity. Because of these great costs, it is important to have strategies to avoid ruminating on self-righteous anger...[more]

The siren song of self-righteous anger

Anger|

In this article, I discuss the attractiveness of ruminating on self-righteous anger and the high price of doing so. The appeal of focusing on self-righteous anger reminds me of the lure of the sirens in Greek mythology. The seductive song of the sirens was so pleasurable to sailors that they were lured to their deaths. Like the sirens, self-righteous anger can be seductive and pleasurable. It feels good internally to express to others and to yourself that you are in the right and one or more others are wrong. Being able to ‘vent’ to supportive listeners in such circumstances feels good as we are validated for our views and opinions. Unfortunately, as with the sirens there is a cost to focusing on thoughts which fuel self-righteous anger..[more]

The importance of attributions: A political example

Psychology|

In this article, I discuss how Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent troubles illustrate the emotional and behavioural consequences of the attributions we make for our own and other people’s behaviours. The 2019 Canadian federal election campaign was rocked recently by online publication of photos and a video showing Liberal party leader and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appearing in brown-face and black-face. Some of the photos dated back to a 2001 ‘Arabian Nights’ costume party at a school where the then 29-year old was a teacher. Other photos and the video dated back to Mr. Trudeau’s high school days and shortly thereafter. Although reaction to the images from the public was understandably negative across the board (including from the apologetic Mr. Trudeau), the degree of negativity varied markedly ranging from those who were disappointed but forgiving to others who were irate and said that his actions would cost him their votes. How the same behaviour can generate different emotional and behavioural reactions from observers is the focus of attribution theory...[more}

Lessons from an historic tennis match: Strategies you can use in your life

Psychology, Sport & Performance|

In this article, I discuss psychological skills used in the 2019 US Women’s Open tennis final which can help you succeed in many endeavours. I was riveted watching the historic 2019 US Women’s Open tennis final between Canadian Bianca Andreescu and American Serena Williams. Ms. Andreescu was seeking to make history by becoming the first Canadian of either gender to win a Grand Slam tennis tournament while Ms. Williams was vying to win her 24th Grand Slam title to tie the all-time women’s record. As much as I respect Ms. Williams for her talent and accomplishments, I proudly admit that I was cheering for my fellow Canadian to beat her. The 19 year old did so in impressive fashion, toppling in her first US Open a tennis legend who had the home-court advantage with the crowds squarely behind her. Although Ms. Andreescu won in straight sets 6-3, 7-5, the match was very entertaining and full of dramatic twists. As a psychologist, I found the match particularly intriguing because...[more]

How to address your child’s behaviour issues in a separation or divorce situation

Relationships|

In this article, I discuss how to identify the cause of these issues which points to steps you can take to address them. I sometimes work with parents who are separated or divorced and who have children with behaviour issues. These issues typically manifest themselves at home, at school and/or daycare, during recreational activities and in other settings. Addressing these concerns is best done by taking a two-step approach. First, use strategies to identify the source of the child’s behaviour issues...[more]

Happiness: To pursue it or not to pursue it—that is the question

Depression, Psychology|

In this article, I discuss whether it is reasonable to pursue happiness as a goal. The title of this article may raise some Spockian eyebrows, to borrow a phrase from one of my favourite sports commentators. That is, it may seem obvious that pursuing happiness as a goal is both a worthwhile and reasonable endeavour. After all, doesn’t almost everyone want to be happy or happier? And are there not many steps people can take to make it more likely they will be happy or happier? Despite evidence pointing to an affirmative answer to these questions, it is not a foregone conclusion that people should pursue happiness as a goal...[more]

How to manage your moods behaviourally while waiting for cognitive skills to take effect

Anger, Anxiety, Depression|

In this article, I discuss how you can use behavioural skills to manage your moods while waiting for your efforts with cognitive skills to pay off. My work with clients typically entails helping them learn cognitive and behavioural strategies to address their issues. Many of these issues involve managing moods such as depression, anxiety, anger and frustration. One challenge in using this dual-pronged approach is that behavioural strategies generally show more immediate benefits compared with cognitive strategies. This occurs because behavioural strategies usually involve taking some action in a straightforward manner whereas cognitive strategies entail learning and applying skills to change your interpretation of situations in order to experience emotional relief...[more]

How to manage your emotions while driving: A double-barreled approach

Anger, Stress|

In this article, I discuss how to manage your stress and anger behind the wheel. As someone who drives to and from work several days a week, I have experienced many challenges in managing stress and anger. Dealing with gridlock when you need to be somewhere by a certain time, encountering drivers who behave in an inconsiderate manner and experiencing car problems are just some of the events which can tax a person’s ability to manage their stress and anger behind the wheel. Being subjected to these events each day can wear on a person to the point of burnout. Fortunately, there are strategies to manage one’s emotions which can be applied to driving challenges including those I’ve mentioned...[more]

Nothing is certain except death and taxes…and relationships?

Relationships|

In this article, I discuss how to cope with uncertainty about the future of your relationships. I once had a session with a couple in relationship counselling in which the focus was the negative impact of one partner’s individual issues on the relationship. The issue was one that the partner had been dealing with throughout her life. Not surprisingly, the issue had manifest itself in their relationship. In exploring ways to help the couple get their relationship back on track, we discussed steps that the partner could take to address her issue including meeting with a therapist in individual counselling. Near the end of the session, the second partner asked me what assurance I could give him that his partner would not slip back into having difficulty as result of her individual issue. He expressed concern about committing to a relationship and a partner for which the possibility existed that the struggles they were facing as a result of her issue may reemerge. The best way I found to respond to him was with the adage, “Nothing is certain in life except death and taxes.”...[more]