Help For Insomnia: Tips From The CBT Playbook

By Margie Nichols, Ph.D. Some people have insomnia because they have medical sleep disorders like sleep apnea. But for the millions whose sleeplessness is primarily driven by anxiety, stress, racing thoughts, etc. the treatment of choice is cognitive behavioral therapy. It may take two to four weeks before the techniques start to work, and many of them focus on helping people develop better ‘sleep hygiene’, or habits around sleep. TIP NUMBER ONE: use your bed for only two things- sleep and sex. You are attempting to condition yourself so that the bed is associated with sleep. No reading or watching TV in bed. And if you try to go to sleep and can’t, after 20 minutes you get up and do something else. TIP NUMBER TWO:  it’s a little different for people whose problem is waking up too early.  The first thing you should do if this happens is to try a relaxation exercise, visualization, or meditation.  That may allow you to fall back to sleep.  If you don’t fall asleep,remain in bed and rest quietly- this is nearly as rejuvenating as sleep.  If you are too restless for that – get up and do something. TIP NUMBER THREE;  try to go to sleep… Read more »


Make each day a work of art; make a work of art of time.” McCrea Imbrie spoke those words to me quite casually one day, as we wrestled together, collaborating word by word, phrase by phrase, thought by thought, on our first play together, SOMEONE’S COMIN’ HUNGRY, which was produced a year later Off-Broadway. To discover works of art within ourselves, in words or any medium, and in the reconstruction of my own is-ness, often requires opening myself up to long-buried desires. Many of us were taught as kids, subtly or violently, to grab desire by the throat and choke it to death, whether it was a playful desire to make a design in a plate of mashed potatoes, or a serious desire to play soldier with a dead branch as a machine-gun, killing the enemy by the dozens, or maybe just a universal primate desire to cling to daddy long after Daddy thinks clinging is appropriate. I have been learning again and again, for decades, to throw my arms around my desires like grabbing a life-raft in the middle of a raging sea, and when the storm subsides to study how desires may lead me to new sources of… Read more »

The Flap About Flibanserin

By Margie Nichols, Ph.D. It seems a bit anti-climactic now, since the FDA Advisory Panel decided yesterday to advise against the approval of what was touted as the ‘female Viagra.’ The fact that they turned down approval because they found no convincing evidence that it worked better than placebo didn’t surprise anyone who studies female sexuality.  We know that female desire is a lot more complicated than the ‘plumbing problems’ involved in male erectile dysfunction.  But for a while, when it looked like the drug might actually work, the debates got pretty intense. On one side, there were feminists warning against the medicationalization of female sexuality and the consequent pressure on women to live up to a male standard. On the other, medical people were trying to prove there really is a ‘disease’ called Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder in women, and that this drug is a cure for it. I find myself in agreement with both sides. Yes, there are grave sociocultural implications to the classifying of a women as ‘diseased’ when for the most part what we are really describing is age taking its inevitable toll on body and mind. And these dangers are at least in part connected with the traditional sexual oppression… Read more »


Recognizing greatness in others can only occur because we have that greatness within ourselves. As a husband, father, uncle, friend, artist, psychotherapist and meditator, I need that greatness—we all need that greatness, we all possess that greatness– in order to create beauty and meaning and inspiration that can give peace and strength to those who may benefit from whatever we create of art, and whatever we create of ourselves. In my work and in my life, I try to be aware always of the three poisons—greed, ill will, delusion—because any one of the poisons can make it impossible to recognize and realize and use our greatness to create loving kindness and compassion and joy in our art and in our relationships.. Perhaps the most powerful antidote to the three poisons is what the buddha called “loving the world as a mother loves her only child.” Years ago, I worked as a clinician therapist with a charming, but extremely paranoid, substance-abusing, lawbreaking and possibly dangerous individual who had the walls of his apartment lined with empty fishtanks, and who purchased every book he could find about Buddhism, but never read any of his collection. One afternoon, as I was counseling him,… Read more »

The Problem with the ‘Problems’ with the Millennials

By Margie Nichols, PH.D. The Millennials (aka Generation Y) are the generation of people born between 1982 and 2002.  The oldest of them are in their late twenties, and for a while now there’s been a lot of bashing of these young folks as they have entered adulthood.  Dubbed “Generation Me,” they’ve been characterized as entitled whiners whose parents heaped on way too much praise for way too little, and who were ‘awarded’ far too many prizes for insufficient amounts of achievement.  As Judith Warner says in a piece in the Times called “The Why-Worry Generation” they’ve been assessed as psychological basket cases, narcissistic wimps.  Apparently, the latest piece of news about them is that they are “unreasonably” optimistic in the face of the recession, that they don’t second-guess themselves and they’re sure that bright days are ahead. This is a problem?  It’s called resiliency.  I’m glad Warner has taken on those who sneer at this generation’s more laid-back values (they are turning down jobs that require them to work more than 40 hours a week, even this year).  She points out that the young adult Millennials may be annoying to those of us raised on  Woody Allen-style anxiety about the future and… Read more »

Book Review: Women’s Anatomy Of Arousal: Secret Maps To Buried Pleasure

Reviewed by Liz Lipman-Stern, L.C.S.W., Certified Sex Therapist, IPG Staff Therapist Women’s Anatomy of Arousal: Secret Maps to Buried Pleasure by Sheri Winston, Mango Garden Press, 2010 You might think the discovery of the “G-Spot” and female ejaculation gave the world the most comprehensive information possible about female sexual anatomy. If so, you’d be wrong. Sheri Winston’s book recently won the 2010 Book of the Year award from the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT), the organization through which those of us at IPG who are certified Sex Therapists got our certification. And it richly deserves this honor. Winston’s book delivers important and generally unavailable (and unknown) information about female genital anatomy in a style that is entertaining and accessible to lay readers, thereby helping to pull back the curtain of cultural ignorance about female anatomy while also enabling women and their partners to enjoy more connected and orgasmic sex. In addition, in a society that tends to separate birth and sex, it makes the crucially important -and, again, often unknown- point that women have a single, elegant, integrated system for sexual pleasure and reproduction. The uterus, for example, often thought of as an organ ‘dedicated’ to gestation,… Read more »


Meditative Nurture for the Heart Here’s a bit of possible meditative nurture for the heart, which, as we learn so slowly, must break and break and break (could be the broken heart of a one year old when Mom takes five minutes to respond to the child’s cry of hunger or loneliness) before the limitless love for self and others hidden deep with every heart can pour freely forth. I don’t know if I don’t want to die, I don’t know if I do, How swell to know I do not know, and go on loving you. Every morning for many years I have practiced visualizing my own death, always hoping to die in a way that would be a gift to other people. I was inspired by the words spoken to my son Michael by Kim, my wife’s half-sister, in her 80’s, when she chose to have no medical intervention, and to die at home. He was about twenty, living with Dearing, his wife-to-be (they now have a 17 year-old daughter and a nine year old daughter, both of them strong and delightful). Michael lay his head on Kim’s lap and wept, and she tenderly stroked his head, and… Read more »

THE BRAIN KEEPS THE SCORE PART TWO (continued apologies to Bessel van der Kolk)

Let me start Part Two with a personal story that reflects how traumatic memories are stored differently than ‘regular’ memories and how they can be problematic. My story is more dramatic than many, but nevertheless an example of how all trauma works, whether it be chronic moderate abuse in childhood, or the loss of a loved one in a hurricane. I lost my daughter Jesse six years ago on June 2, 2004. She was born on June 6, 1994 and her memorial service was June 6, 2004. You don’t need to have lost a child to know that those anniversary dates are probably more painful than most other times of the year for me- we all intuitively understand the power of implicit, sensory memories. This year was the first year since Jesse died that the dates and days of the week coincide. I’ve found, somewhat to my surprise, that this congruence of date and day of the week lights the old limbic system memory circuits– and the emotional affect associated with them-with more intensity than they’ve been fired with in years. Some days I feel, in a small way, the same way I did back in 2004, when I was… Read more »


Editor’s Note: May is National Masturbation Month, but it also seems to be Meditation Month at “The Growing Mind.” Neil Selden has posted a couple of times on meditation recently, I’ve put up two posts, and now our ‘guest contributor’ Michael O. Selden writes an in-depth article for those who really want to get into this topic. Don’t be deceived by the title. Meditation is a stupid thing to do. It is mechanistic and unnatural. It would be far better for us simply TO dwell in this moment as it is… unaffected by our biological impulses, UNAFFECTED BY psychological tendencies CAUSED WHEN thoughts come unbidden into our minds and emotions arisE unnoticed. Far better to relate straightforwardly to the integrated interplay of our physical beings – the weight of our bodies… the feel of our skin… the smell of our surroundings… the tastes within our mouths… the colors and textures which dance before our eyes Far better to witness our ever-changing mental states – the subtle currents of joy and sadness which run within us and the quickness of our intellects to apprehend and analyze whatever we encounter. Far better for us to choose, with intention, skill and wisdom, our… Read more »

Recreational Meditation Part 2: How it Helps

By Margie Nichols, Ph.D. In Part 1 (posted 4/27), I described myths about meditation – that you have to do it for a pretty long time, that you should have a blank mind, and so on. Here’s why meditating – any form you want – helps you, and a little about which type helps with what issue: • Relaxation: Meditation is deeply relaxing, with a type of relaxation that often renews you afterwards. It slows down the chattering mind a bit as well as the body. It’s useful just for this. If your main purpose is relaxation, I recommend guided visualization audios, or even just lying down and focusing your attention on meditation music. It has also been shown that after even brief periods of meditation, the “relaxation response” tends to last for hours, fading gradually. This “inoculates” you against stress and emotional over-reaction. • Improving Concentration: most of the meditation being taught today is a variation of ‘one-pointed focus,’ it involves focusing your attention on a sensation – the sensation of the breath entering and leaving the body is classic, but it could be a visual point, a sound, tactile sensations, a mantra, a candle flame, or counting. You… Read more »