My writings

When I was much younger and was sitting around playing guitar and singing with people, I used to think “I wonder what’s the harmony for that”. Sometimes I’d bravely add a note or two.

What I have learned from composing and arranging music is that there are 10,000 harmony lines. There are some I like, some I don’t. Some I like while *others* don’t. Some that are easy to write or to sing and come so naturally it is like a stream of incense floating across the room. Others that are so challenging that it takes months to figure them out.

And it’s not just like this in composing, it’s like this in life. No two melodies alike, no two lives, and the number of ways they can go together – or don’t – are endless.

Mr. Kevin Falcon
Minster of Health
337 Parliament Building
Victoria, BC V8V 1X4

28 Feb 2010

Dear Mr. Falcon,

I am writing out of concern for the recent funding cuts from VIHA to the Greater Victoria Citizens’ Counseling Center. VIHA contributed $80,000 annually to the center, which is run largely on the labour of hundreds of volunteer counselors and a very small number of paid staff. In return for the funding, which represents about a third of the center’s budget, VIHA was able to refer patients with a range of mental health issues, of which anxiety and depression are the most common. In one year, the center provides services to about 1000 people, or in the range of 10,000 hours of service. Because the counseling is done by trained volunteers and by professionals like myself who volunteer their time, this is an incredible deal for the health system, and for the community. At $50 an hour, this would cost $500,000. At $100 plus – we’re looking at a value here of millions. Talk about leveraging.

I’m concerned about the funding cut for a few reasons. First, it just doesn’t make sense financially as outlined above.

The second reason is that the health system is already overloaded, and problems to do with mental health are rampant. And as more and more research is telling us, mental health problems translate into physical health problems down the road, not to mention problems with housing, policing, divorce, child welfare issues, unemployment, and other social costs to the system. Citizens’ Counseling Center is part of the solution to all this, and has been so for 40 years.

A third reason is that as a psychologist in private practice, I am frequently approached by people who are seeking low-cost mental health services, and I will have nowhere to refer them to if their problems are serious but not catastrophic. VIHA is not providing the kind of 1:1 counseling services that Citizens’ does.

I’m asking that you direct VIHA to reinstate the funding. This is a common sense decision that is easy to support for the above reasons, and shows that you and your ministry are taking effective action to deal with health and mental health issues that are so much on the minds of British Columbians.

Yours sincerely,

Brian Grady, Ph.D.
Registered psychologist.

Caution and passtion live on opposite ends of block, and live very different lives. One can’t fault either of them, because they come by their lifestyles honestly, and there is a lot to be said for both. And since our human bodies and beings are wired for both caution and passion, we should be respectful. But which end of the block do we want to live on at this point in our finite lives?

Caution tells us: stay put. Things aren’t too bad now. It’s OK. But if you take a risk, who knows what will come out and bite you? Passion says: check things out, go exploring. Things could be even better.  Who knows what opportunities lie around the next corner? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Caution says: If you express yourself brightly, vocally, people might not like you. You might get rejected. You don’t know what you really think anyway; maybe you’ll say something stupid. How awful. Passion says: you have a voice, use it. You feel strongly about something, say so, act on it. Who cares in the end what other people think… what do you think?  If they don’t like it, let them deal with it. There is room for lots of voices in the world, including yours.

Caution says: If you let go of what you have, you might never get it back. You will be worse off than you are now. It says: we live in a world where there is not enough to go around. It is better to have half a meal than none. You can make this job work. You can make this relationship work. You can make this living situation work, you guess. You have to anyway. Things can get pretty chaotic, and at least you know where you are now, you have figured out how to live with it. Who says there is anything better around that corner?  Passion says: what do you really want? Is this your heart’s true desire?  If you listened to yourself, truly, what would you be doing, who would you be doing it with?  It wonders, is this how you want to be spending your precious minutes?  Passion says: life is opportunities, and if you fall and scrape your knee, well, that was to be expected; now pick yourself up and go play some more.

Caution tells us to look at what we actually need, and counsels conservation. Passion tells us that what we want and feel matter too, and it says hopefully that there is lots out there for us, if we go find it. And we can.

Which end of the block are you living on?  How did you get there?

Brian Grady, Ph.D. R. Psych.

We are all so different…but so similar in some of our patterns. Especially the limiting  or negative ones.

Psychiatric personality diagnosis tries to provide some order, but sometimes alienates people. Who wants to have a “disorder”?  Must be something deeply wrong with me. But it’s easy to  think of our personality ‘issues’ (in olden days: “neuroses”) with much more compassion and understanding.

As young people growing up in the world of our family, our schools, neighbourhoods, with all their challenges, we face certain common, human problems. Like: how will I be accepted? How can I get recognition and love? How can I get attention for what I need? How can I belong? How can I assert my independence? What do I have to do to feel safe? Where can I express myself?

Depending on the world we are in, along with the basic temperament and body we’re born with, it can be pretty tough, but not solving these problems is not an option. So we do the best we can with our little bodies and developing minds. And it is not surprising that we come up with some similar solutions to these similar problems. We try out lots of things. We’ll be good –  OK, that didn’t work, we’ll be bad. Hmm, that didn’t work, we’ll be cute. No? Beautiful? How about smart?  Stoned? Funny? Needy? Withdrawn? Strong? Tough? Aha! Recognition. Success.  Partial solution to an otherwise insolvable problem. Now I can get the love/recognition/safety/freedom etc I need.

We try the solution out over and over. Eventually, we become it, we live it. It’s gone beyond being a strategy, now it’s a way of life, of thinking, perceiving things, of feeling. Who we are. We’ve figured out to go down a path others have followed too. So it starts to look like, even though we are unique, we share personality traits in common with others. It’s not too surprising that we came up with similar solutions to similar kinds of problems.

As we grow up, we may gradually, dimly realize that we pay a price for the early solutions. As a Nobel laureate commented (I forget the source), “what I really wanted was love, but I accepted a Nobel prize”. Work…worked. But it was only a partial solution. Or, in the case of addiction, Dr. Gabor Mate suggests addicts try to fill “a God-shaped hole in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing” (Blaise Pascal) with a substance. Leaving it unfilled is not an option, even at a huge price.

Our partial solutions were absolutely the best we could come up with at the time to solve an otherwise unsolvable set of problems.  Some would call this pathology, neurosis, personality disorder, “issues”. I prefer to see the glass half full. Let’s recognize what a challenge it is to grow up and be someone, and appreciate the struggles, and acknowledge the efforts made along the way to solve these crucial and otherwise unsolvable  problems.  Then we can gently and therapeutically begin to find more creative, fulfilling (and adult) alternatives.

Brian Grady, Ph.D. R.Psych

Take some time today, and another day, and another.

Take some time today to find yourself.  Sit quietly. Do nothing. Turn your attention to yourself, inward. Just be. Feel what you feel. Think what you think. Receive the sensations of your body. Drift away, and come back to yourself. Feel into your worries and preoccupations. Feel into your body into those places that get tight with excitement or dread. Feel into your body where sadness condenses like November rain clouds. Hear the voices of your fears and judgments. Feel the release and the peace if that comes. Be with it all. Your fullness and emptiness. Your wisdom or confusion.

Don’t try too hard. Being with yourself has no specific goal. Don’t worry about trying to do something right.  For now, no need to figure it out. Just be.

Take some time today to be quiet and to discover who you are beneath the plans you have woven and the busyness you have committed to.  Beneath the person you want yourself to be. Or that others want you to be. Be yourself for a little while.

Take some time today with yourself. To be.

Brian Grady 25 Mar 09

When do you stop going to therapy?  An x-ray can tell you that a broken bone is mended and that you can walk on it. But you aren’t a bone.  Here are some ideas to help you decide when you are done with therapy.

All of this assumes that you are working with a therapist who is a good fit for you. You feel you can trust them, you are in agreement on how to address your issues, and on what you are basically doing there. If you are there to understand your marriage and your therapist thinks you are there to feel less anxious, you have a mismatch and need to sort this out right away.  If you want to learn better coping skills and your therapist thinks you are there to understand your dreams… get on the same page.  If you can’t, find someone else.

Ideally you will leave therapy when you’ve accomplished the goals you’ve set for yourself.  When you started, you should have had some sense how you wanted things (you)  to be different when therapy is complete.   You can and should check in from time to time with your therapist about how you are doing and where therapy is going.  I like it when my clients do this.  I like looking for signs of progress, and sharing our insights. You should see signs of progress within one to three months. It might take longer to resolve, but you should not be waiting years to see something happen.

Some issues resolve pretty quickly, others can take a long time. Part of this depends on what level of work you are doing.  If  you are trying to find strategies to deal with  a specific life problem or make a decision, you probably won’t need to go for long.  Changing a specific behaviour might not take that long either,  depending on what it is. If  you are trying to change a part of your personality, this can take quite a while – minimum six months, and it could be years.  Trauma work generally takes a while, and the earlier it began and the longer it lasted, the more time it will usually take. Generally, short-term issues lead to short-term therapy. Long term issues, especially those that began in childhood, generally mean longer therapy to be resolved.

Other clues that you might be done are:

  • When you have made or resolved the life transition that brought you to therapy and you are getting on with life.
  • When you feel that you know how to deal with your feelings and relationships, and the problems life throws at you.
  • When you feel confident in who you are, what you feel, and what you want and you can stand up for these.
  • When you are able to make free, smart, and responsible choices for  yourself out of love and not fear.
  • When you are able to love as freely as you would like, and let others love you.
  • When you have good boundaries with others. You can let them in… or not. You can go along with them… or not.
  • When you are able to feel your feelings and you don’t take your feelings out on others.
  • When you are not in the power of an addiction.
  • When you are not haunted by past events any more.
  • When you have some sense what you want from life and are able to go for your dreams.
  • When you are able to work effectively, but also to have fun, play and relax.
  • When you feel that you now thoroughly know yourself.  You understand the sources of your happiness and unhappiness and know what to do about these.
  • When the problem that brought you to therapy is solved and you have worked through the other issues that came up along the way.

It’s usually not a good idea to stop just because you start to touch uncomfortably strong feelings or issues. Or you get scared of your feelings or impulses that are coming up.   It can be tempting at this point to think that therapy is not working or just making you worse. Strong feelings, including those about the therapy, are actually a great reason to continue. You are now getting ready to do some of the real work, discovery and healing.  The deeper problems are now within reach and are available to be explored.

However, if you are not learning any more, this is a clue that you  could either end therapy or else increase the heat. If you are just chatting session after session, there is something missing. Maybe you are not going deep enough, or maybe you are done and don’t realize it.  Discuss this with therapist. It’s not criticism. Even if it were, the therapist should be able to take it.

I appreciate it when I know we are near the end, and the client doesn’t just stop coming without telling me.  When I know we have just a session or two to go, I have a different focus, and use the sessions accordingly.  There might be a specific piece of work I want to suggest or a skill I’d still like to teach, and if I don’t have warning, this gets lost. An end date might be next week, it might be in 5 months. Some of my long-term clients like to taper off – checking in less often and spreading out the appointments.

If you feel that you’ve accomplished what you wanted to, but your therapist hasn’t said anything, it’s up to you to tell him or her that you are ready to leave therapy.  Then you can discuss it. The therapist may agree and be really pleased for you.  Remember that the therapist’s job is to make him or herself unncessary. Or he or she might be able to point out a possible next step that you overlooked. Then you discuss whether you want to do that piece of work or not.

If you are a bit scared about leaving therapy, remember that you can always go back if you need to.  And it can be nice and affirming to check in some time later, even if it is no longer a necessity.  Because you now know it is not a necessity!

Brian Grady, Ph.D. Registered Psychologist

23 Marchh 2009

A recent dream:

I am with a homeless man. I take pity on him, and I buy a lottery ticket for him, thinking that if it wins, I’ll give him the winnings. It turns out that the ticket wins $1 million. I give it all to him, but it comes in the form of water. I pour this into a mixing bowl of his. He lets it all slowly run away out of the bowl until there is nothing left. I can’t believe that he’s just let $1 million of water go away.

He tells me, “But it is flowing freely from the sky at all times, in all places, on all people.”  And I am shown an image of rain.

He has no need for me to give this water to him.

Brian Grady, Ph.D.

I was recently asked for input by someone trying to make a difficult relationship decision.  My oracle being on holiday at the moment, I could only reply by referring the person back to their values.  Some of these questions are useful for other kinds of decisions also.


Ask yourself where you are coming from in making your decision.  Is it about pride, or your reputation, or a sense of possessiveness, or about your values, or about difference in values between the two of you, or trust, or fear, or what?

What is at stake for you personally?  What do you really want?  What are you willing to give up to have it?

Given that we don’t know the future and can’t control other people, what risks are  you willing and unwilling to take?

This means also: what is most important to you?  When you look back on your life, what would you like people to have said about you and the kinds of choices you made?  What kind of person do you most want to be?  What kinds of choices would THAT person make?

When you think about the possible consequences of your choices, think about – what do I go through in the short term, and what do I gain in the long term by doing this?  Would it be worth it?

Brian Grady

The ability to be mindful in a close relationship, is like the difference between two lumbering freight trains on rusty old tracks, and the free-flowing flight of hummingbirds dancing from one flower to the next.

When we are being mindful, we are noticing and making sense of our own experience and that of the other person in ‘real time’; that is, now. We are aware of what we are thinking, how we are looking at things, what we are feeling, (this means emotions, but also information the body is giving us through sensations like tension, energy or heaviness), what we want, and why. And we have some sense of these in the other person as well. We have a sense, a guess, (or at least some interest!) in what the other person is thinking, how he or she is looking at things, what is important to him or her, what he or she is feeling, what he or she wants, and possibly why.

Doing this changes how we show up in the relationship. First of all, if we are being mindful of ourselves, we are not going to be just reacting. When we know what we are thinking, feeling etc., we have choices in how to respond. So our reaction is not just a knee-jerk response. We hear what the other person says to us or does, and we can consider how this affects us, what it means to us, and then we can choose a response. Maybe a better one than the first impulse to comply, retaliate, withdraw, defend, or whatever our automatic pattern is.

Second of all, if we are being somewhat mindfully aware of the other person, we are much more likely to have empathy for him or her. Empathy prevents us from hurting the other person. When we feel attuned to another person, we don’t want them to hurt. This prevents downward spirals of conflict where the other person hurts us because of being hurt first. In addition, empathy connects us to the other person. This brings us closer, and helps us to work together, towards shared goals or solutions. It brings us into a sense of “We” rather than “you and me”, or worse, “you versus me”.

Third, if we are able to be mindfully aware of and tuned to the other person’s world, feelings, experience, and views, we are going to be more able to act in ways that help them with their distress, and make them feel more satisfied. We will more easily know what they want or need, and what will help. This will make us feel less frustrated and helpless, and we feel more effective. We generally like people better when we can understand them, and can affect them in positive ways. We will also be less confused by the other person, and so not so disconnected. We will also be less inclined to take things personally, when we are taking in the other person’s point of view. We’ll usually find out that it not all about “me”.

Fourth, when we have a good sense of our own experience and some idea about the other person’s beliefs, feelings, and their reasons, this transforms how we can interact. We can have conversations about what is going on, rather than just struggles. We can notice the patterns of interaction, and we can talk about them. We have the ability to say “When you get quiet, I start thinking that you are mad at me, and I want to withdraw”. This is the other person a chance to provide a reality check. He or she can say “well actually, when I get quiet, I am just not sure how to react, because I don’t want conflict.” What a difference to just going off in your different directions, neither person feeling understood or satisfied with what happened!

When we become mindful of ourselves, and of the other person, when we bring curiosity and good-will to our struggles, we get off the rusty tracks that go to the same old places. Instead, we have the chance to become closer, working together on solutions that bring us what we both need. This brings us hope and new energy for the relationship, as the nectar in flowers brings energy to the hummingbirds flying in the garden.

Brian Grady, Ph.D.
25 June 2008

There are two basic kinds of meditation: those that have a theme or focus (like breathing or a visualization), and those that do not (theme-less). This describes the basics of theme-less meditation.

Where possible, the environment should be physically comfortable and not distracting. A clean, quiet place without too much visual distraction is good. Try to arrange not to be interrupted.

10 to 30 minutes once or twice a day, done regularly, can be enough. Regular practice is what helps, more than rare marathon sessions.

Sit in a chair, with the back relaxed but upright, and the head balanced on the neck. If you can, don’t use the backrest, but sit upright on your own. Keep the eyes gently open. You can face a wall or look at the floor. The important thing is not to be too distracted by what you see. Breath naturally, without effort.

You are going to just hang out with your experience as it happens. You don’t have to DO anything. Feel what you actually feel. Think what you happen to think. Have the body experiences that you seem to be having. Notice and be aware of yourself as you are, in the present. Just sit. Just BE. Now.

Don’t try to achieve anything. Don’t try to be relaxed or calm. Don’t try to get to any particular mental, spiritual, or physical state. Don’t set yourself a goal of what your meditation experience should be like.

Also, don’t attempt to push away any experience. Don’t try to avoid any feelings. If you start to feel something, feel it. Don’t block out physical sensations. Don’t try to keep your thoughts off any particular subject.

Your mind will wander. When you get distracted – you go off on some train of thought or inner conversation, or you get into planning, or reviewing some past experience, notice that this has happened, and come back to the present experience, right now. Added commentary on what happened is not necessary. Telling yourself what experience you are having is not necessary.

None of this sounds all that exciting or glamourous. It generally isn’t. But there are benefits of this. You learn to be awake to your own life. You learn how to be present. You gradually find out how you can ‘show up’ with others in your life and create genuine intimacy. You gradually find out what you feel and how you think more and more clearly and honestly. You notice your preoccupations and mental habits. As you become more aware of your conscience, your driving forces and your automatic reactions, you start to have more choices.

And when you meditate, you are consistently, quietly knocking at the door of your spiritual self. You don’t get to choose when, but if you practice, one day you will get an answer and your gratitude will be overflowing.

Brian Grady, Ph.D.

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