Collective Trauma and Four Coping Mechanisms for COVID-19

Learn what does and what does not work.

Originally posted in Psychology Today

A long time ago, probably from age 14 on, I asked myself if people like me can be happy. I had my doubts. Too much was missing in my life; too little under my control. Nothing could stop the threat to which I was subjected daily.

Time stood still. I could not conceive of a better future, even though the thought was offered to me on occasion. It was as if the ocean floor of my mind was too deep to (more…)


According to Leo Tolstoy, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” As a clinician I find the same goes for depression, which may be what Tolstoy meant in the first place. We know depression hurts. It’s not good for us to try to function with a low mood as our effectivity is greatly diminished, not to mention our subjective well-being, overall health, and longevity. But what triggers a depression differs very much from person to person. Loss of a loved one, trauma, stress, childbirth, the feeling of not belonging to a social group or to this world, failure, drugs, a medical condition are just some of the causes. And the way depression unfolds also differs very much from person to person, that is how long and intense our depression is, whether or not it goes hand in hand with anxiety, feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, loneliness, sleeplessness, rumination, lack of focus and fulfillment, et cetera. (more…)


What to do when you are being ignored or excluded.

Originally posted in Psychology Today

Ostracism, “the act of ignoring and exclusion,”1 hurts just as loneliness kills, which explains why we guard against it with great sensitivity (see blog “Overcoming Loneliness” under the rubric “Loneliness”). Surely there are inter-individual differences of how sensitive we are, but hardly anybody is exempt from feeling any sadness or anger when given the silent treatment by a spouse or no invitation to a family gathering. Often people hide their painful feelings in shame because coming out seems to make everything worse. (more…)

4 Benefits of Hugs, for Mind and Body

Research finds surprising power in even casual embraces.

I had the honor of introducing Zen Psychology Therapy (ZPT)* at the World Congress for Psychotherapy in Shanghai in May 2014 [1]. What an experience! In retrospect, two impressions struck me the most, the first being was the openness and intellectual vibrancy with which Zen Psychology and other hybrid approaches were received. Instead of being offended by a Western psychologist speaking about Zen Buddhism and mindfulness in psychotherapy, I was welcomed as (more…)