Day 223 in Beijing: DeHappy and BeHppy!

This place is happy 24 hours a day and 365 days a year!

This place is happy 24 hours a day and 365 days a year!

A friend of Jill’s has an app that is called BeHppy!

It is a stream of pictures, taken by anonymous people that have downloaded it, that then post pictures that make them happy.  The viewer can then click a smiley face to show the poster that their picture made them happy.

People have posted pictures all over the world and of many different things and events.

Jill and I have been posting pictures of our travels and people seem to enjoy them.

One of person that posts always finds pictures of things that are “smiling” even though they aren’t people or animals.  It is quite fun to see how people can interpret smiling and happiness in their own way.

Jill’s friend, Aline, is the owner and founder and a wonderful person.  Do her a favor and download it and start using it.  It is really fun and easy and just click the link below:


I like this app a lot since I’m a firm believer in behavioral interventions allowing people to change their thoughts and emotions.  There are studies that show that by simply looking in a mirror and smiling for 5 minutes, you can change a person’s emotion.  I’ve tried it before and actually prescribed this as a technique and I know that it works.  If you are interested in reading more about this, this is a good primer: One Smile (Only One) Can Lift A Mood.

It quotes Daniel Goleman and Paul Ekman.  Both are very noted researchers and scientists.  Dr. Ekman actually had a tv show called “Lie To Me” about his theory of the facial recognition of micro-emotions that was interesting and fun.   I’ve read a few of his books and taken his micro-emotion recognition tests.

Most people score about 3 out of 15.

I scored an average of 13 out of 15.

I think this is because I tend to focus on people’s faces and study their emotions as a behavioral therapist.  I want to know exactly when something changes and how that shows up.  I look for the tiniest trace of a change and then try to call my client’s attention to it so they can see that emotions can be changed in an instant and that nothing is permanent.  A large part of my behavioral therapy practice is using empathy constructively and helping people learn acceptance of themselves, their choices and of others.

As for happiness, I’ve often found that people want to be happy without really defining what that term means to them.  To me, happiness is finding contentment.

I’ve noticed that when I’m content, I’m happy.  I find it hard to find happiness first or believe that it is a constant.

Without happiness, how could we know sadness?

Without sadness, how could we know happiness?

Or any emotion in between.

As Jill and I have traveled, we’ve searched for pictures to post on BeHppy of words or images that have the word “Happy” in them.

Here are just a few.

I hope you enjoy them and find happiness, contentment or whatever emotion would benefit you in this moment.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 220 in Beijing: Ego Pharmacy.

Need some help with your ego?

Need some help with your ego?

So, Jill and I were walking around Georgetown, Malaysia today looking for temples to visit.

Trust me, that is not a hard job here as there are so many amazing temples from so many different cultures.

We’ve found churches, mosques, Buddhist temples from Burma (the only Burmese Buddhist temple outside of Burma/Myanmar at this time), one from Thailand, and temples from China.  We even found one a tower that combines Chinese, Thai and Burmese religions and houses a 90 foot tall Kuan Yin statue that is awe inspiring.

However, since I work as a behavioral therapist, I noticed this sign and started laughing at it.

I think, in many ways, that an “ego pharmacy” would be a wonderful addition to any practice.

In fact, I think of myself as an ego pharmacist since I help people become more content and able to deal with stress in their life as my job.

If someone is having a bad time, or overwhelmed or dealing with anxiety, among other things, I help them using empathy and then techniques and skills which are proven, scientifically, to relieve those issues and allow the person to figure out what is best for their life and what is their best choice at this time for them.

People are constantly figuring out what is best for them and, therefore, behavioral therapy allows them to learn the skills that I know and be able to use them on their own to figure out what is right for them each and every day.

It is a wonderful job since I get to see people grow, change, and decide out what is right for them every day.  I don’t know of many jobs that offer that kind of reward and allow for such a positive change in the world.

One of the beautiful parts of behavioral therapy is that my beliefs are not part of the issue for the client.  They decide what is right for them and then figure out what choice they want to make and how they want to live their life.  It will be their life and therefore it is up to them to take the responsibility and see what is right for them.

Interestingly, when people decide they don’t want to change and then they realize that this is still a choice to stay the same, and therefore, by taking responsibility for “not changing” they have made a choice and a change.  It becomes a paradoxical intervention that by not changing, you are changing, and that allows people to change more quickly.  It is also solely based on their own choice so they feel more in control and empowered to make, or not make, the change that they feel is needed at that moment.

So, if you want to change, or don’t and can’t figure out why it is so hard to be content, step on into the Ego Pharmacy and see what happens!



Day 195 in Beijing: In Memoriam: Marjorie Kewley.

Hannah and Marjorie at Sam's in Tiburon

Hannah and Marjorie at Sam’s in Tiburon

Marjorie Kewley was my coworker.

Marjorie Kewley was my supervisor.

Marjorie Kewley was my friend.

Marjorie Kewley has passed from the world.

I write this to honor the person that was Marjorie Kewley.

She died 2 days ago and she passing makes the universe just a bit more dim.

I worked with Marjorie for 5 years at Family Service Agency in San Francisco.

We worked as social workers in the geriatric division in the Richmond District of San Francisco.

Our clients were the poorest of the poor.

All were over age 60 and medicare, medical or no insurance at all.

Many didn’t have families anymore or anyone else to take care of them.

We became their family.

Marjorie did this for 17 years was an inspiration to me and to everyone in our office.

She had more empathy than anyone I have ever met and yet was never afraid to speak truth to power.  This has become a trite and overused term but it was the heart of everything Marjorie stood for and believed in.

The Family Service Agency gang at Sam's of Tiburon.  Marjorie was, and will forever be, at the head of the table.

The Family Service Agency gang at Sam’s of Tiburon. Marjorie was, and will forever be, at the head of the table.

I can not think of how many people she helped, realities she changed and people she saved during her time on this Earth.

I can honestly state that I would not be the therapist I am today, nor the person I am today, if I had not met Marjorie and learned from her.

I remember one particular time, about two weeks before she retired, where she called me out.  She gave me a ride home from a seminar at work and said, “I think your ideas are fine about therapy, I just don’t like that you are so dogmatic about it.”

I looked at her, laughed because she was so honest and upfront, and said, “You are right.  I am dogmatic.  But it what I believe works best and evidence proves it.”

She looked back at me, smiled and said, “Yeah, well I still don’t like it.”

We both smiled, laughed and gave each other a hug because we were more alike than different.  We could disagree and were able to let it go immediately because we both knew we were fighting for the same common good and for the people that others didn’t seem to care about or want to be around most of the time.

She battled cancer twice and this time the cancer won.

I can’t believe it as she is someone that I thought would live forever, and the twinkle in her eye and slightly sideways smile-smirk that shows she knows a little more than you can guess she does, will always be with me.

I wish everyone has a person like Marjorie in their life at some point.



Day 193 in Beijing: Waiting To Talk.

“There are two types of people in this world: those that listen and those that are waiting to talk.  Which one are you?”

This is a quote from a deleted scene in which Uma Thurman questions John Travolta in Pulp Fiction.  I can’t say I enjoyed this movie.  The violence, the anger and the almost comical way people died or were killed struck a very wrong chord with me.  I don’t know if movies can truly affect people’s behaviors.  But, I imagine people watching this and becoming inoculated to violence.  I heard a report on NPR that there were 854 acts of torture on prime time tv this year.  Last year, 100.  Torture has become more accepted.  They reasoned that torture is spoken about so much, and used so often, that people no longer care if they see it on tv.  This is not a trend that I want to be a part of.

When I heard Uma Thurman’s question, it moved me to think about my own actions and my inability to be present.  I often find that I’m not truly listening to someone else but waiting to find a place to jump in, state my point, and have it be heard.  It is an uncomfortable way to exist. I would prefer to be present for others, listen to what they are saying without forethought about what they may be thinking, and not feel pressured to state my own opinion.

I’ve taken meditation classes and have noticed that is is possible to achieve.  When I’m calm, I experience much less forward thinking or planning.  I notice that the sentence itself was not the point, but to hear each word as an individual piece that would tie into something greater is what seemed to matter.  I think I’m much more able to do this when I’m at my job working as a therapist.  I try to pay attention to each word the client mentions and this allows me to be more present with them and more patient with what needs to be said or attended to according to each client.  It is their space and time, which, in effect, gives me space and time to work with them.

The usual belief is that therapy sessions should be 50 minutes long.  I disagree with this.  There is no scientific evidence stating that a 50 minute session is more useful than any other time limit.  It is a constraint built on ideas and insurance.  I have learned that longer sessions are more useful and tend to have the desired outcome much more quickly, and with less pain.

Think of it this way:  If you had surgery for cancer, would you want a little bit removed each time, with the very real possibility of it growing back as you waited, or would you want it removed all at once and then follow ups every once in a while to make sure it is gone?  I know my answer.

By the way, John Travolta’s character responds with, “I have to admit, I am always waiting to talk, but I’m trying real hard to learn how to listen.”

I have to admit, I am quite happy I was able to hear the message and be present.

Day 110 in Beijing: Gay Straight Alliance.

"That's so Straight!"

“That’s so Straight!”

I was at a local school a few weeks back and saw this banner.

As someone that believes in equal rights for all people, irregardless of color, creed, race, religion, gender, or any other reason, I was quite touched by this sign.

I work as a therapist for a reason: I think everyone deserves contentment and joy in their lives and I’ve learned skills and techinques to help people reach both those goals if they want to work hard enough and make changes in their lives.

Nothing is guaranteed but I’m pretty sure that this method can work for most people and seems to work with different cultures and belief systems since there is a large amount of cognitive and behavioral work emphasized, which I would say is primarily Western culture, and then that is balanced out with acceptance, which is an Eastern perspective.

This banner made me proud to be human because I’ve actually talked to kids on the street, back in San Francisco, who would say, “That is so gay!” and mean it as a put down or a negative comment and explained to them why that is hurtful to others and not acceptable.

One would think in the bastion of liberal San Francisco, this would not be accepted.  Sadly, it still is and I hear it much too often for my comfort.

However, my hope is that more people will stand up, explain to others why exclusionary statements such as these are wrong, and the change will happen more quickly.

All I know is I’ll keep doing my part and I’m incredibly proud of these students for doing theirs.

Day 97 in Beijing: River Walk, Part 2

As I contemplated my life and walked on, I decided to take a different route than usual.

Thinking of change, acceptance and how I live my life made me think of exploring the world and the people that choose to stay home compared to the people that choose to move on and live outside the box.

This is in no way judging or saying one choice is better than another; it is simply the choice I made that makes the most sense to me.

And that choice was to move on.

I loved my life back in the United States of America and did not have to leave it.

I was just offered a new experience, both in ways of work and living, and decided to take it.

At age 44, I felt it was time for a change.

This wasn’t a mid-life crisis as much as it was a constant life belief: I love to travel.

I love to learn, to experience new ideas, and to figure out new ways to deal with events that I never would have dealt with if I was sitting at home, doing my same old routine day after day.

As I was pondering these thoughts, I happened to run into this amazing sculpture depicting many famous explorers from all over the world.

I don’t really believe in synchronicity because I’ve studied cognitive distortions and how the human mind can make connections seem to be causational when they aren’t.  Correlation does not mean causation.

I’ve noticed that the mind happens to notice when things seem to align and ignore when they don’t.  I just take things as they come and keep working towards my goal.  Sometime things turn out as I imagined, most times not, and yet I always end up somewhere.

I ended up in this wonderful set of sculptures named Da Dua Ding Sheng.  It is the largest outdoor sculpture in Beijing and very impressive.

I will post a few pictures each day.

The park is so beautiful that I don’t want them to be rushed through and ignored.