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Kathy Marshack News

Jumping to Negative Conclusions Can Harm Your Brain

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


cynical thinking can harm your brainCan viewing others positively not only improve your relationships but also actually enable you to live a longer and healthier life? That question prompted a group of scientists and researchers from the University of Eastern Finland to study the affect of cynical distrust on health. They specifically researched people who doubt others, imputing selfish motives to everything’s that’s said and done. The CNN article, Cynicism linked to greater dementia risk, reports on some of their findings.

This study as well as others, have shown that cynical thinking may cause cancer-related deaths, dementia, cardiovascular disease and more. Why does a cynical attitude affect the body so detrimentally? This is a very complex question. The article mentioned a number of contributing factors:


  • People with a cynical attitude tend to make poor health decisions, such as smoking more, abusing alcohol, exercising less, and compulsively eating.
  • Poor health decisions lead to cardiovascular disease that damages the blood flow to the brain, which contributes to dementia.
  • Poor health habits and stress increase inflammation in the immune system, leading to many diseases.
  • Since cynical people doubt what they hear, they also doubt their health care professionals, which leads them to ignoring their advice.

If you recognize yourself in this, don’t despair. The good news is that attitudes can be changed. This can lead you to a much happier life with less stress, better physical health, and better relationships. It’s taken a lifetime to develop a cynical pattern of thinking, so it may require that you seek some professional guidance to help you cultivate a more positive way of thinking. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my office to schedule an appointment.

Join my on my Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D) and let’s talk about what you’ve found helpful in cultivating a positive outlook on life.

To learn more, read on my website: Mind & Body Health.

Do You Expect Everyone to Think and Act Like You Do?

Friday, June 06, 2014


why doesn't everyone think like I doA common expression we hear today is, “It’s my way or the highway.” Perhaps you’ve found yourself even saying that to a child or an employee. Sometimes, people unintentionally alienate others because they expect everyone else to think and act exactly like they do. It never occurs to them that there are many ways to be in the world, and they are all appropriate given the stage of development and personality of the individual involved.

Let me give you an example of one copreneur couple (names have been changed to protect their identities) that was helped to resolve their problems through using Dialectical Behavior Therapy to better understand this issue.

When Arthur turned forty-seven, he knew that his wife was unhappy, though what she was unhappy about remained a mystery. He loved his wife dearly and only wanted the best for her, but somehow he wasn’t succeeding at meeting her needs. Since this was his third marriage, he could hardly deny that he might have a few weaknesses in the relationship department, and he was finally willing to put his ego aside to find some answers.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) required numerous meetings during the week as the couple peeled back the layers to get to the core problem without having to explore the deeper introspection necessary in CBT. Arthur and Leslie examined their work and personal relationship and discovered that most of their conflicts emerged at work. He assumed that Leslie was just like himself, a visionary type of leader, when all Leslie wanted to do was be supportive and run an efficient office. Arthur would rush off with a new idea and leave a project dangling, assuming that Leslie would finish the project. He was happy to have her do it any way that suited her, because he was finished with it. Leslie, on the other hand, was frustrated and bewildered.

Eventually, the patience with which this couple approached their problems paid off. Arthur developed a new admiration for Leslie and allowed her the space to perform at work in just the way that fit her personality. He learned that there are other ways to do things in life besides his own, and that they all work well.

This opened his eyes to his previous relationships within his family and business. He questioned why he had taken the paths he had taken. He wondered if his selfish way of looking at people had alienated him unnecessarily from those he loved. He wondered if he had ignored certain opportunities and dismissed others simply because he wanted things done his way. All of this speculation depressed Arthur. He couldn’t go back in time and do things differently.

Working through the DBT exercises made it possible for Arthur to grow through this depression. He allowed himself the regrets. And he made apologies where he could. He came to recognize this key truth: At any moment in time, we are all making the best choice we know how to, given our level of skill and life experience. Arthur was able to pull himself out of his depression and build a quality life with Leslie because he began to see the possibilities for tomorrow.

How do you push past the regrets and stay positive? Connect with me on my Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D) and share how you focus on tomorrow’s possibilities.

If you haven’t done so yet, grab your hardcopy or kindle edition of Entrepreneurial Couples – Making it Work at Work and at Home.

Balance Worry with Hope to Come Up With the Best Solutions

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Balance Worry wit Hope for best solutionsDo you worry? I worry. It’s natural to worry about all kinds of things. Not that all of this worrying accomplishes much. However it can serve a useful purpose if it directs your attention to problem solving. I think worriers, more than most take a hard cold look at reality. The problem is you can scare yourself to death if you’re worrying about things you can’t control.

A better approach is to use your worries as incentive to search for solutions. You can do this by balancing your worry with hopefulness. This doesn’t mean that you’re looking only on the bright side of everything, like the proverbial ostrich with his or her head stuck in the sand. You need to realistically account for the negative side of things, so you can plan and live your life fully.

This reminds me of a profound statement by Albert Einstein, “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” If we want something to change, we need to create that change. What are some practical steps to raising your consciousness or level of thinking? Here are seven ways this can be done…

  • Solutions come when we tear ourselves away from our negativity. (Hope tells us there’s a better way to live.
  • Solutions come from focusing on what is right, good, pure, and loving. (Hope tells us that we’ll receive back what we put out to the world.)
  • Solutions come when we first take care of your own mental, physical and spiritual health. (Hope tells us that this will give us the strength and energy needed.)
  • Solutions come when we give ourselves to others. (Hope tells us that we can make the world a better place.)
  • Solutions come when we are grateful. (Hope tells us that every day there will be something wonderful.)
  • Solutions come when we believe that the challenges we are facing are a gift. (Hope tells us that we will see our weakness and strengths and we can grow.)
  • Solutions come when your goals are realistic. (Hope tells you that you can do it.)

If you have faith and hope you will not only come through hardship but you will be better for it. Like me you may still worry, but let those worries guide you to the kind of solutions that can only come from your indomitable human spirit. If you’re struggling in a dark place of hopelessness, get help immediately from a mental health care professional. Life is too wonderful to waste. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA, contact my office and set up an appointment.

Does Stress Make Your Allergies Worse?

Thursday, May 22, 2014


Allergy symptoms worsen with stressWhy is it that, while your allergies don’t normally hit you so hard, today of all days it’s much worse? Why does this have to happen right before your big presentation at work? Or the week of your wedding? Your eyes water uncontrollably, you sneeze and wheeze, and your skin rash itches like crazy. Are you just imagining it? Or could there be a correlation between stressful situations and increased allergies reactions? According to a recent study by Ohio State University researchers, stress can indeed be a factor in allergy flare-ups.

The author of the study, allergist Amber Patterson makes this interesting comment, “We know there's a connection between our neurology and our immunology. What we ultimately found is that some people with allergies have a more sensitive neuro-immunologic trigger.”

Knowing this connection, allergy sufferers can alleviate stress by:


A free resource you might want to try is WildDivine’s Schedule of Recent Experience. It’s a tool to help you understand how recent events in your life can be contributing toward your stress levels. Once you gain this awareness, you can take appropriate actions to solve the underlining stressors.

If you can’t get your allergies under control by yourself, consult a certified allergist and ask if stress is a contributing factor. He or she can recommend a trained psychologist who can help you manage that stress. Or you can contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver,WA office and schedule an appointment As a NET practitioner, my clients have found Neuro Emotional Technique and hypnosis to be very effective in treating allergic reactions due to stress.


Please join me on my Facebook page, (https://www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D) and share how stress has affected your allergies.

Learn more on my website – Managing Stress.

Get Off the Roller Coaster of Food Addiction by Retraining Your Genes

Monday, May 19, 2014


Get off the Food Addiction Roller CoasterNow that warmer weather is coming, many people are desperate to shed the unwanted pounds that have crept on during the winter. You see all kinds of crash diets being promoted and many try them. Does this cycle sound familiar?

For many, every year it’s the same roller coaster – lose weight – develop cravings – eat compulsively – gain weight – diet again. We all know this is harmful behavior, but knowing that isn’t enough to fix the problem.

The answer lies in our genes.

Yes, some are predisposed to be more sensitive to food than others, just as some are predisposed to the effects of alcohol. However, there’s so much more than our inherited genetics going on in this equation. Our genes have our unique information encoded in them. When our bodies are healthy, the genes easily and accurately transmit their information throughout the body. But if something detrimental is introduced, the genes lose their ability to communicate accurately.

Neuroscience is proving that the types of foods we eat, such as, excessively fatty, sugary, and salty foods alter the brain chemistry at a genetic level. But that’s not all. Other research shows that overeating any food can alter the brain chemistry. When a person dumps all of these excesses into the system, the genes release great quantities of dopamine so that a person gets a feel-good high comparable to what’s felt by those who use cocaine. This becomes addictive, especially if your life is stressful or you have unresolved emotional problems. So you begin a cycle of overdoing it regularly in order to feel good. This pattern of behavior interferes with how the genes communicate.

Once a person has become addicted to food and has rewritten their genetic makeup, can it be reversed? Most definitely yes, you can make it easier for your genes to communicate once again. Each time you choose to engage in a healthy behavior, you are rewriting your genetic makeup.

What are some healthy behaviors that support good genetic function?


Our bodies are amazing machines. Knowing that you can change how your genes function by the choices you make is empowering. You can change who you are from the inside out. Yes, it does take time and effort, but it’s worth it. Would you like to improve the quality of your life by getting off the dieting roller coaster forever? Take the first step and get a physical from your doctor, then consult a mental health professional who can help you stay on track. Contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office and schedule an appointment today.

For more information, read my website – Weight Control and Holistic Health.

Understanding the Science of Asperger Behavior

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Out of Mind Out of sight Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome ASDWhy do those with Asperger’s Syndrome act the way that they do? Why can’t they connect with the feelings of others? Science is unlocking the key to understanding these questions about Asperger behavior.

Our brains have an amazing intricate and complicated connection of circuits. If one part doesn’t work correctly, the system it’s connected with malfunctions. Take for example, just a few of the connections that needs to be made for the empathy circuits to work.

One area of your brain, the medial prefrontal cortex compares your perspective to another person’s. Another area, the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex, helps you understand your own thoughts and feelings. Yet, it’s the ventral medial prefrontal cortex that registers how strongly you feel about something. Still another area, the inferior frontal gyrus helps you recognize emotions. Stick with me here, we’re not even half way through the list of connections that must be made to complete the empathy circuits.

Next, we have the area of the brain that is activated by the pain you feel or that you observe in others. That’s the caudal anterior cingulate cortex. But the tricky part is that it doesn’t tell us how to respond to that pain.

Add to the empathy circuits the anterior insula, which is involved in bodily self-awareness, and the right temporoparietal junction that governs judgment of someone’s intentions and beliefs.

And we can’t forget the amygdala because, when prompted by the fear response, we look at someone’s eyes to discern that person’s emotions and intentions. Are you seeing why people with Asperger’s Syndrome struggle. Don’t they generally avoid eye contact? Think of all the information that is lost by not looking someone in the eyes. 

And the list goes on, including the parts of the brain that make the connections and attach meanings to our emotional responses. If a part of your brain isn’t telling you why and how to react, you’ll lack empathy.

If you’ve been putting off getting a copy of Out of Mind – Out of Sight: Parenting with a Partner with Asperger Syndrome (ASD) because you thought it was just for parents with young children, don’t wait another moment. The above information is just a sampling of the science behind Asperger that is explored in the book. If you want to understand your Aspie better, this is a must read.

In a Bad Mood? It Could Be Coming from Reading Social Media

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


social media influences our moodThe brain/body connection is truly amazing. Your brain has the power to influence your body in either a negative or positive way. Studies have proven that maintaining an optimistic mood improves health. And our mood is greatly influenced by the people we let into our lives. Does this also apply to the short little tweets or posts we daily read on Social Media?

According to a fascinating new study, the answer is “YES”. An article written by Mike Bundrant, a retired psychotherapist and regular contributor to PsychCentral, discusses how the study was conducted and the discoveries it made.

Researches from the University of California, Yale and Facebook examined Facebook posts created between January 2009 and March 2012. They especially focused on how the weather influenced the posts. They found that the mood reflected in the post generated similar postings. For example, negative comments generated negative posts. However, they found that the positive comments generated more positive posting. Either way, the study shows that the mood has the capability of going viral around the globe.

That’s a lot of power! People have, at times, exploited this power to generate political and social unrest. Since Facebook has 1.23 billion users as of January 2014 and Twitter has 243 million active users, it’s very likely that you are using one of these or a similar Social Media site to stay connected with your friends, family and community. So how can you protect yourself from being infected by the negative posts? Here are some suggestions:

  • Consciously monitor your own mood, before logging onto your Social Media.
  • Be proactive and share your happy mood.
  • Before you get agitated over a comment, make sure you have all the facts. Check the source and verify “facts”.
  • Feeling down? Re-read your post, and make it more positive before you hit the send button. You’ll be helping yourself and others.
  • If someone consistently posts things that alter your mood in a negative way, don’t hesitate to unfollow them.
  • Start your day with positive thoughts, rather than reading Social Media first thing every morning.
  • Increase your face-to-face contact with people who help you stay positive.
  • Log off and go do something you really enjoy – walking, playing with your pet, gardening, and so forth.

This study’s findings are hardly surprising since we’ve known that journaling and reading positive affirmations can empower the subconscious to believe the stated affirmation. It only makes sense that what you read in Social Media will affect your mind and body, too.

Do you have any experiences with this that you’d like to share? Join me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/Kathy.Marshack.Ph.D ). Yes, I’m on Facebook. It’s one way of reaching and helping more people through support and education. But let’s keep it helpful and positive!

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Heals the Psychological AND Biological Damage from PTSD

Friday, March 28, 2014


Cognitive behavioral therapy heals the psychological and biological damage from post traumatic stress disorderPost-traumatic stress disorder may result from a person experiencing a life threatening experience or witnessing one. Examples of things that can trigger it include being involved in a traffic accident, suffering abuse as a child, experiencing combat, surviving a natural disaster, being a victim of crime or even being a first responder in an emergency situation. It manifests itself with symptoms such as depression and anxiety. And it creates actual physical changes to the body, specifically the brain.


One way the body is altered by PTSD is that the gene that regulates our stress response, identified as FKBP5, is altered. Its function is reduced, causing the stress hormones (cortisol response) to become activated for a longer period of time. This makes a person more susceptible to stress related mental disorders.

Another way the body is altered by PTSD is that different areas of the brain are changed. The Hippocampus, the part of the brain that stores long-term memory, becomes smaller. The Medial Orbitofrontal Cortex, the part of the brain that’s involved in fear conditioning, also becomes smaller. Dr. Daniel Amen, a brain-imaging expert who I deeply respect, writes in greater detail on this topic.

Can a person’s mental and biological health be improved even at the genetic level? Most definitely yes. A recent study published in Biological Psychiatry found that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) not only helps to reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but also heals the damage done at the genetic level.

After being treated by CBT, the people in the study experience increased Hippocampus volume and the gene FKBP5 functioned better (called higher gene expression). There wasn’t any significant change to the Medial Orbitofrontal Cortex.

The results of this study are thrilling. Its proof that the brain can be healed physically and psychologically. While medication and surgery have their places, it’s eye opening to see that psychotherapy is a very effective alternative for healing the mind and body. This holistic approach is key to how NET Practitioners help their patients manage PTSD. They teach their patients how to conquer the feeling of helplessness by taking control of their thoughts and emotions. They also teach techniques for relaxation. If you’re ready to get relief from the crippling effects of PTSD and achieve your optimum wellness, please contact my Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA office to set up an appointment.

Do you have general questions about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, or N.E.T.? Join me on Facebook and we can discuss it.

Stressed? Take a Break and Let Your Brain Do Its Job

Monday, March 24, 2014


when stressed, take a break and let your brain workYou’ve got a deadline and you’re starting to sweat. The project you’re working on just isn’t coming together as you’d hoped. It’s like your brain has shut down, but now is when you need it the most. What can you do?

Rather than sitting there and becoming more anxious and stressed, we’re commonly advised to get up and do something not associated with the problem, such as taking a short walk, do some cleaning, or listen to your favorite music. Does this advice really work? And if so, why?

If you’ve tried it, you know that it does work. And here’s why:

Your prefrontal cortex (your forehead area) works to concentrate on the task in front of you but it’s also supposed to retrieve stored information from your memory. Then it combines these two elements so you can solve the problem. The problem that’s described above arises because you keep your prefrontal cortex too focused on the task. It can’t do the search and retrieval from your memory. When you get up and get involved in a different activity, it gives your brain a break. Now your prefrontal cortex has the freedom to search through your memory unhindered. It can then put together pieces of stored information in completely new ways.

For your brain to come up with creative solutions for your problems, you need to allow your brain to go through these four phases.

Put the knowledge into your brain’s memory banks. Your brain can’t retrieve what’s not in your memory. By reading extensively, conversing with experts, and attending workshops, you can gather a great deal of useful information. This exploration gives a variety of perspectives that you can apply to the problem.

Give your brain a break. Engage in activities totally unrelated to the subject. If you can, take the sage advice: "Why don't you sleep on it?” Getting away from a problem and letting the subconscious mind work on it often allows creativity to spring forth.

Let the brain combine the present task with the retrieved knowledge. This phase of the creative process is the most exciting because it’s at this time that you discover the idea or solution that you’re seeking. Don’t simply dismiss your ideas because they seem too far-fetched. Instead, jot them down. You can refine them later. And, who knows, they may be the beginning of a great solution.

Have the courage and self-discipline to train your brain to evaluate and Implement. Identify the ideas that are workable and that you have skills to implement. If you encounter temporary obstacles, don’t give up. Failure will lead to better ideas.

If you find that you’re prone to jumping from one project to the next, take a look at my website – Personal Growth/Gifted Adults - for why this might be happening and how you can develop your abilities more fully.

Need help unleashing your creativity? Consider setting up an appointment with a psychologist. You don’t have to be suffering to get help, especially if you want to optimize your mental health. If you live in the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area, please contact my office for an in depth consultation.

One Woman’s Inspiring Journey to Wellness

Thursday, March 20, 2014


hope of mental and physical wellness through holistic health approachIf you heard of a woman who struggled with debilitating anxiety, panic attacks and depression, who sought treatment through many medications, ongoing psychotherapy, electro-convulsive therapy, hospitalizations, and yet attempted suicide multiple times, would you hold out much hope that she would get better?

It may sound hopeless, yet her inspiring journey proves that we can change. Gayathri Ramprasad is a mother and homemaker. Her story on CNN proves that where we are right now can be changed to where we want to be. While recovering in the hospital from her last suicide attempt, she made up her mind to take charge of her life and create a life of wellness. She was tired of being chronically mentally ill and wanted to be well.

Despite the fears of many, she weaned herself off all medications under the supervision of her psychiatrist and turned to a holistic health approach as a way to achieve wellness.

First, she explored transcendental meditation. In the beginning, she couldn’t sit still or be calm. In time, however, she acquired those skills. She learned how to become aware of her thoughts and emotions. Instead of letting them control her, she began to control them and to live more purposefully.

Secondly, she joined a health club and started aerobics, free weights, and yoga classes three times a week. She found that exercise energized her and elevated her mood. It also helped her create a social network outside of her family.

Lastly, she learned how cognitive behavioral therapy could transform her life. Her therapist proved to her that thoughts, feelings, moods and behavior are interconnected. To change her world she needed to identify negative, faulty thoughts and replace them with positive, life-affirming thoughts.

While this approach may not work for everyone, I believe you have all the resources within you to make changes that are as dramatic as these. My role as a therapist is to assist you in discovering these inner resources and drawing them out so you can fully utilize them. If you want to achieve your optimum health and wellness, please contact my Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, WA office to schedule an appointment. Do you have non-confidential questions about how cognitive behavioral therapy works? Join me on Facebook and let’s discuss it.

Learn more about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.



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