Why We Like To Be Scared!

Photo courtesy of Pedro J Ferreira via Flickr


Editor’s Note: This article was written by Dylan Broggio, LCSW, EWN therapist.

Happy Halloween!! … wait a second… why does it make us happy to be scared out of our gourd? As thousands flock this time of year to haunted houses to be chased by masked men with chain saws…many of us are left scratching our heads asking… um, WHY? What is it about us that we love to be scared?

There are a gazillion theories on this, however what they seem to agree on is that it taps into your bodies release of adrenalin!! We see or hear something scary, our brains go into hyper alert mode (aka the fight-or-flight response). We are intensely aware, and with that intense awareness comes that lovely chemical called adrenalin flooding into our veins, making us feel more alive!

Why do some people seek this out while others can’t handle it? At the biological level – we all have a baseline arousal (how jazzed up we are when we’re just hanging out). Higher baseline aroused people steer clear of this scary stuff and head for the hot apple cider and donuts :-)  Lower baseline aroused people are motivated by the thrill seeking and adrenalin. Note: I definitely fall in high baseline arousal category. Cider anyone?

Why do men tend to gravitate more often to scary stuff than women? Men tend to have lower baseline arousal and women have higher. Hence, men typically enjoy scary movies and such more. It also varies by age, the younger you are the lower your baseline arousal, therefore young men are the biggest audience.

All I know is that it’s not for me. I’ll be spending this evening with a cup of hot cider next to the fairies and infants with monkey suits on ;-)

Happy Halloween everyone!

~ Dylan Broggio, LSCW-R

Why I Can’t Eat as Much as My Sister

Damn, as if losing weight wasn’t hard enough!

“When you begin to lose pounds, levels of the hormone leptin, which is produced by fat cells, begin to drop. That sends a message to the brain that the body’s “fat storage” is shrinking. The brain perceives starvation is on the way and, in response, sends out messages to conserve energy and preserve calories. So, metabolism drops.

And then other brain signals tell the body it’s “hungry,” and it sends out hormones to stimulate the appetite. The combination of lowered metabolism and stimulated appetite equals a “double whammy,” says Ryan. And that means the person who’s lost weight can’t consume as much food as the person who hasn’t lost weight.”

Read more or listen to the story broadcast this morning on NPR: Losing Weight: A Battle Against Fat and Biology

Looking for a Good Therapist? Call Dylan Broggio, LCSW


Do you have a child you are worried about but don’t know how to help her? Are you a young adult overwhelmed with the sudden pressure of grown up responsibilities? Maybe you’re in a relationship that doesn’t feel right but you wonder if you should give up and settle?

It is hard to find good therapist. You don’t have a lot of time to ‘shop around.’ And when it comes to your vulnerable self-esteem, or the well-being of your child and family, the importance of finding just the right person to work with is especially important.

If you haven’t met her yet I am very proud to introduce you to Dylan Broggio, LCSW! Dylan came to Explore What’s Next with over ten years of experience helping kids, teens, adults and families cope with stressful events in their lives that provoke anxiety and depression.

Dylan is approachable and smart. She brings an enthusiastic energy to her practice. Her clients appreciate her great sense of humor, genuine understanding and empathy.

For your convenience, Dylan has open hours in the evenings, after five, and on Saturdays. This will be especially helpful for students during the school year or individuals and families in need of greater scheduling flexibility. Dylan is adept at using Skype for long distance consultation as well.

Among the many things I admire about Dylan is her genuine love of this work while keeping high professional standards. Dylan truly lives up to the requisites of an Explore What’s Next therapist: Qualified, kind and easy to talk to.

Dylan is taking new clients now and offers a free initial 30 minute consultation!

Contact Dylan directly at 734.474.6987 or email her at dylan@explorewhatsnext.com.

Being a Guest Blogger is So Cool!

Yay! I was asked to be a guest blogger on this website, I.G. Living and my first post was published today! It’s an oldie but a goody, Five Tips for Living Well with Chronic Illness. I.G. stands for immune globulin, a promising area of medical research for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Scleroderma, the disease I was diagnosed with over twenty years ago now, is one of those that might be helped with this science. I am honored to be asked to contribute to their blog which helps support thousands of people with information, support and guidance. More of my articles dealing with living with chronic illness will be published on I.G. Living in the next weeks. Enjoy and please comment!

Where the Pursuit of Happiness is Taken Seriously

Courtesy of Joseph A Ferris III


Here is something I learned today.

Bhutan is a tiny Himalayan country nestled just to the right of Nepal, South of Tibet and North of India. This amazing country has a government sanctioned Gross National Happiness Commission! Their objective is to nurture and support

i.    Developing a dynamic economy as the foundation for a vibrant democracy;

ii.   Harmonious Living – in harmony with tradition and nature;

iii.  Effective and good governance; and

iv.  Our people: investing in the nation’s greatest asset.

Plus they have the cutest royal couple since William and Kate!

24 Character Traits You Want To Be Happy

Here’s something interesting.

Positive Psychology gurus Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson, consulted works from Aristotle to Confucius, from the Upanishads to the Torah, from the Boy Scout Handbook to profiles of Pokémon characters and settled on 24 desirable character strengths common to all cultures and eras. ALL OF THEM! We’re talking global.

The list included some we think of as traditionally noble traits, like:

  • bravery
  • citizenship
  • fairness
  • wisdom
  • integrity

others that veer into the emotional realm, like:

  • love
  • humor
  • zest
  • appreciation of beauty

and still others that are more concerned with day-to-day human interactions:

  • social intelligence (the ability to recognize interpersonal dynamics and adapt quickly to different social situations)
  • kindness
  • self-regulation
  • gratitude
To learn more you can go to Seligman’s website. If you register you can even take a questionnaire that I assume tells you what your character strengths are so that you can go there and use them to be as happy, productive and positive as you can be! Mostly I like the rundown on all the traits as “Make the Change for Wellbeing and Happiness” lays them out. So if you want to be as brave and wise as Pikachu you’ll want to study up. For now it’s time to go to bed to re-charge my zest!

If Your Gut Told You to Jump off a Cliff Would You Do It?

My gut is telling me to get away from the computer and get out to play where the sun is shining. Should I listen to it even though I have ‘homework’ to do? My gut also wants me to eat that brownie. Is that a good idea? What is my gut anyway? Is is always trustworthy?

What if we aren’t our best judge?  Maybe we should stop, reflect and ask questions of our gut.

In my psychotherapy practice I do a lot of self-esteem and confidence building. Often the question of trusting our own “inner voice” comes up. David Burns, admittedly someone I see as a expert in all things CBT, wrote that if we tune in to our inner, real ME voice, we will not go wrong. For many reasons we have trouble doing that, the ‘other’ voices are louder, our cognitive core beliefs are distorting our thinking, stuff like that.

But what if we think, “My inner true gut is telling me this….” and we end up making a huge mistake? Do I really want to question myself all the time? That does not sound reasonable at all. In fact it sounds scarily anxiety provoking.

To solve this conflict I go back to the idea that we have three inner voices, the Child, the Parent and the Adult (Id, Superego and Ego respectively if we are talking Freudian.) These voices can all have a say but the judge, the one who is in charge, is the Adult. That way when my Child gut or voice or instinct, whatever you want to call it, says, “I want to just sit and watch TV all day!” I consult with my inner Adult voice to see if it’s OK or if I need to regulate that somehow. Maybe my Adult needs to consult with an outer voice like my accountant, if it’s a business decision, or husband if it has to do with the kids, but my Adult always gets to make the final decision.

Let’s not confuse taking action by what our gut tells us as an excuse to act impulsively. Oprah may say that she never made a wrong decision by listing to her gut but I’ve got to say:


Related reading:

The Hazards of Confidence, by Daniel Kahneman, psychologist, Nobel laureate and one of the fathers of behavioral economics.

The Invisible Gorilla, How Our Intuitions Deceive Us

Do Not Use Your Bed for Anything but Sleep & Sex!

courtesy of ‘the air we breathe’ via Flickr


If you have trouble sleeping, and who doesn’t from time to time, you may have heard of sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is a fancy schmancy term for good sleep habits. To encourage our bodies to relax into a good night’s sleep we should turn the lights down low, have a little routine we do every night before bed, get up and go to bed at the same time everyday and DO NOT USE YOUR BED FOR ANYTHING EXCEPT SLEEPING AND SEX.

That means no laptops or smarty-pants phones, no eating, absolutely no television watching, no playing tug of war with your dog or chase the laser pointer with your cat, on your bed! When I tell people this they look at me like ‘You’ve got to be kidding. That is never going to happen.’ So I just ask that they try to limit the extra curricular bed activities because you want your body to see your bed and think ‘sleepy time -zzzzz!’ not ‘time for Craig Ferguson, whoopee!’

Meanwhile I break my own rule by reading in bed. I turn the lights low, I have my bedtime ritual and I go to bed, usually, around the same time, yes even on weekends. My sleep hygiene rocks! Except that…


5 Crucial Ingredients for a Working Mom’s Vacation

Fanny, born the day I arrived, with her Mama, Gordy. See them smiling? Who can be depressed around animals like this?


1) Go somewhere where there is spotty Internet & your mobile doesn’t work. 

2) Where ‘work clothes’ means a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. No makeup!

3) Be with a lot of animals who don’t want anything from you except grain, hay & their poop picked up.

4) Do a lot of playful, creative right brain activities.

5) Hang out with people who love you and have a healthy respect for the benefits of laughter, good food & wine.

About three weeks ago I hit a wall. Why I have to hit the same wall over and over again, I don’t know. This particular wall has a sign on it that says, “If you don’t stop long enough to re-charge you are going to DIE!”

Leaving my son at college for the first time, my father-in-law passing away, taking care of my sixteen year old daughter’s needs (anyone with a sixteen year old daughter knows exactly how demanding that can be! God bless them, every one!) plus over-doing it at work, feeling guilty about not writing enough, totally neglecting my book draft, watching too much television, the days getting shorter, the nights getting longer… I was a depressive episode waiting to happen.

Which is why it was such a good idea to leave town…


Before You Burn Out – CBT for the Therapist: An Interview with Dr. John Ludgate

Ludgate Do you ever wonder about how your therapist does it? If you are a therapist, do you ever have a day when it takes everything in you not to reach over and slap your patient silly? Or raise a white flag in defeat?

Occasionally people ask me, “How do you listen to peoples’ problems all day long without becoming depressed yourself?” The answer is the same for whatever the job is: we need to pay attention to balance. I do my best to balance the hours I dedicate to work, for family time, and for just plain old time off and play.

But to be perfectly honest, there are those days when I find myself severely stressed out. It could be I’ve over-booked myself too many days in a row, or had a series of challenging sessions or maybe just one person I wonder if I’m really helping.

On those days, before I decide to chuck it all and go work for Mary Kay, I remind myself of what Dr. John Ludgate, of the Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Center of Western North Carolina, wrote. He says turnabout is fair play and invites the therapist to use the CBT techniques they share with their patients on themselves.

Whether we are new to the profession or seasoned, in private practice or in a not-for-profit setting, sometimes the therapist’s thinking could use a tune up to help them feel better about their work. That’s why I am happy that Dr. Ludgate agreed to be interviewed on this subject, one he describes as being close to his heart:

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