We all know that addiction, severe depression, and other conditions change our personality. What few know, however, is just how deeply ingrained that change can be, and how difficult (and scary) it can be to try to become “ourselves” again. In this episode, we examine such changes through the experiences of our guest, who overcame depression and addiction, and now helps others do the same.
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David Essel, MS, OM, is a number one best-selling author (10), counselor, master life coach, international speaker and minister whose mission is to positively affect 2 million people or more every day, in every area of life, regardless of their current circumstances.
His latest #1 best seller, FOCUS! SLAY YOUR GOALS…THE PROVEN GUIDE TO HUGE SUCCESS, A POWERFUL ATTITUDE AND PROFOUND LOVE, was selected by the influential blog “FUPPING” as one of the top 25 books that will make you a better person!
David’s work of 38 years is also highly endorsed by the late Wayne Dyer, “Chicken Soup for the Soul” author Mark Victor Hansen, as well as many other celebrities and radio and television networks from around the world.
He is verified through Psychology Today as one of the top counselors and life coaches in the USA, and is verified through Marriage.com as one of the top relationship counselors and coaches in the world.
David accepts new clients every week into his 1-on-1 programs from around the world at www.davidessel.com
PSYCHOLOGICAL IDENTITY SHOW TRANSCRIPT
Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Narrator 1: Welcome to the Psych Central show, where each episode presents an in-depth look at issues from the field of psychology and mental health – with host Gabe Howard and co-host Vincent M. Wales.
Gabe Howard: Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s episode of the Psych Central Show podcast. My name is Gabe Howard and with me as always is Vincent M. Wales. And today Vince and I will be talking with David Essel. David is a number one best selling author, counselor, master life coach, international speaker and minister whose mission it is to positively affect 2 million people or more every day in every area of life, regardless of their current circumstances. David, welcome to the show.
David Essel: Oh gosh, it’s great to be with you, Gabe and Vince. Looking forward to our conversation today.
Gabe Howard: This is wonderful. And just to clarify real quick before we get going… Two million people every day.
David Essel: You know, we don’t believe in tiny goals, do we?
Gabe Howard: No we don’t. Thank you so much for being here.
Vincent M. Wales: That’s a lot of people. So let me ask you… you know there are an awful lot of people out there who do similar things to what you do. And you’ve been helping people for what 30 years? Something like that? That’s that’s a long time. What makes your story about your healing different from the others?
David Essel: The reason in the world of personal growth and mental health addiction recovery and more… the reason why there are 700 million authors, basically, in this industry is the same reason why there’s so many authors in the auto repair industry, and you know personal growth industry in general is massive, but people need to hear different voices and I may be saying the same thing the late Wayne Dyer said and people, X percentage of people would grab Wayne’s words and change their lives and then there’s other people that may not connect and Wayne and I were very good friends when he was alive. And then there are people that may not quite connect with him but they might connect with the way that I talk or the way that I write or the videos we do, so I don’t know if it’s as much “What’s the big difference?” as we need to have different voices out there with different experiences. I know one of the advantages in the world of mental health that I have is that in my background I came from extreme alcoholism and cocaine addiction for years, which was caused or the underlying cause of many addictions is depression and an inability to deal with emotions in life. I went through a severe clinical depression, suicidal, to the point where that I had to get extreme medical care and you know all these things, guys, happened while I’m doing the same work I’m doing today. So not only is my energy different than a lot of other people that do the same work, the words I use might be a little different, but unlike some people that write about these topics that we’re going to talk about that have not experienced extreme mental illness or challenges or anything else, addiction, that I’ve gone through, I think that’s one of the advantages that I bring, too. Because I’ve been on those sides of the fence that are very daunting, extremely scary, and have come back and I think that’s an advantage that our work has that some other people may not be able to go that deep or as deep as we go because they’ve never personally experienced these things,which I don’t wish on anyone, but the end result is is that the empathy and compassion that I can have for people in the world struggling with mental health or addiction is is incredible because I was there. I’m very grateful for the work that I’ve done to remove myself from some of these challenges and also extremely interested in helping as many other people as we can work their way through this stuff.
Vincent M. Wales: Fantastic.
Gabe Howard: When we’re doing research for the show, one of the things that came up a few times that I thought was interesting is that you said it’s scary at first to heal from depression. And I wanted to know what you meant by that. Can you explain that a little more?
David Essel: Well you know when we have some type of a mental health challenge like a depression, we create an identity around it and that that identity is very powerful. We… it’s scary to let go of something you’re comfortable with, even if it isn’t healthy. In other words, let’s say that, during the depression, we create an identity well when we talk to our loved ones or our family, it’s always based on how we’re not feeling that great today, how we don’t have the motivation to go to the gym, how we don’t don’t don’t don’t don’t. When you repeat those phrases either vocally to the outside world or in your head, over the course of months and years we create an identity. The identity says, this is who I am. I’m a depressed person. So to walk away from that identity and then not have people saying to you on a daily basis, Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry, this is such a hard day. Or, come on, we know you can move through this or have you tried this or have you tried that? When we’re doing all these things, thinking we’re helping the depressed person, we’re actually deepening their identity. We are… the compassion and empathy that I think we should all have in the beginning turns into this thing where the depressed person actually looks and will latch on to certain individuals who will also deepen their identity as a depressed person. So when I say it’s scary. it’s like. if we’ve been in a depressed state for a number of years. we don’t know what it’s like to live with a little bit of lightness. a little bit of inner peace. a little bit of joy. and while lightness. inner peace and joy. guys, sounds like three really great things… to the depressed person, it’s like moving to Afghanistan. We don’t know what it’s like. We don’t know the terrain. We don’t know the customs. We don’t know anything other than our identity as a depressed person. So that is frightening. And it’s the same thing with the world of addiction. You know, coming from a serious addiction background, myself, I didn’t know what it was like to go out to dinner without having drinks before I left my house. I didn’t know what it was like to go to sleep at night without multiple drinks to put me to sleep. So it’s scary to walk away from an identity that you’ve held on to for years and to walk into a new life. And that depressed person, of course, at the core wants to be happy and healthy, is so comfortable in their little zone that getting outside of it can seem unbelievably threatening. And we’ve worked with some people that, once they’ve overcome, quote unquote, their depression and started to feel better, missed all of the accolades of people saying, how are you today and we hope you’re getting better and have you tried this. Some people will slip back into the old identity just to get the attention. so it can be scary. Healing on any level can be scary for people that have long term identity based on some condition.
Vincent M. Wales: We get comfortable, even if it’s something that should be uncomfortable. It’s familiar to us. So, you know, you’re right, it is hard to leave it. And that’s that’s pretty sad when you think about it.
Gabe Howard: Well especially if it’s all you’ve ever known.
Vincent M. Wales: Right.
Gabe Howard: As longtime listeners know, I thought about suicide from a very young age. In fact, I don’t remember ever not thinking about suicide and I thought that everybody did. I thought that weighing the pros and cons of life and death was just like a normal thing to do because there’s no mental health education, nobody challenged this belief in me, and then of course that’s not OK. Eventually, I went to a psychiatric hospital, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I learned about mental health and mental illness and and that all got fixed. So that was wonderful except, here I am at 26 years old, and for the first time ever, it occurred to me that I could die. And I didn’t want to die. So that was a scary thing. And I just became ultra paranoid about everything. So even though this led to greater potential for my future and you know now I’m 42 and everything is wonderful. You know for a couple of years, it was just really hard. My entire identity was wrapped up in this way of thinking. I knew no other way to think. And it sounds like that’s what you’re describing there.
David Essel: Oh it’s exactly. Gabe. what I’m describing. And you know it doesn’t even have to be from birth. I mean someone could hit a real challenging mental health crisis in their 20s, 30s, 60s, 70s, 80s. It doesn’t take more than about six months of something very extreme of PTSD, high anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenic disorder… It doesn’t take more than six months for the subconscious mind to create an identity that says, this is who I am. To our listeners that maybe have loved ones that struggle with depression, but they haven’t, to hear what we’re talking about, that it’s scary to not be a depressed person, doesn’t make sense. But a lot of conditions in this world – addiction and mental health disorders – don’t make sense. So if you’re listening because you have loved ones that are struggling and we’re talking about people that who are depressed, they create an identity, and they want to stay in their identity, even if it doesn’t sound logical, it’s very true. So understand that when you’re dealing with your loved ones that they may be trying to hold on at some unconscious or subconscious level to their title, to their identity as a depressed person in order just to survive, because they have nothing that they can even compare it to. And let me make this differentiation between the conscious and the subconscious mind. So the conscious mind that the mind says, you know, I’ve been feeling down, I’m always blue, I’ve lost my joy for life, nothing sounds good to eat or to drink and no activities that I used to do sound good anymore. And it’s dragging myself out of bed in the morning and so many of the symptoms of clinical depression that I just mentioned. Wen we have all those things going down and we live with ourselves on a daily basis, that subconscious mind picks up the pattern. We’ll never get out of this. Life is too hard. It’s too challenging. No one understands me. No one could possibly understand me. There is nothing that works. I’ve tried several medications, the side effects are worse than… And it’ll go on and the subconscious will grab that identity that we are a depressed person, and because we’ve rethought it so many times and talked about it so many times and gotten that validation from the outside world – I’m so sorry you’re struggling – that the subconscious then, because it’s so powerful, will hold on and fight like heck for that person to stay in that depressed identity. You know, we work with people that, in the beginning, they were on the correct medication, they were doing the correct coping mechanism skills that we gave them, we have them doing all kinds of exercises on emotion for depression. We believe in our experience in the world of depression that about 90 percent of it is caused by unexplored or submerged emotions like rage and anger, resentments, shame, guilt, like we really believe about 90 percent of depression is caused by emotions that have not been vented, that haven’t had no place to escape. So the subconscious continues to grab onto these thoughts and as that person starts to feel better, they start to see the world open up. There is a percentage that will actually try to retreat back into that depressed identity to get the validation and the feedback from the outside world that they are used to. So again, while it may not make sense to the person that’s never personally struggled with anything we’re discussing tonight, it doesn’t have to make sense to be real and hopefully some of this information that we’re sharing will make it easier for us to understand that person struggling without having to judge them or without having to placate them and keep them in that stuck identity.
Gabe Howard: We’ll be right back after these words from our sponsor.
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Vincent M. Wales: Welcome back everyone. We’re here talking with David Essel. You’re not the first that I’ve heard talk about depression being caused by unexpressed emotions, specifically anger is what I’ve heard in the past, so I’ve always found that pretty interesting. I never considered myself an angry person. It takes a lot to get me angry, as Gabe can attest. But when I when I stopped to think about it, I did have a lot of repressed anger, just unexpressed, and that I just would fight down and everything. And it often was that way because there was no target. It was just general, you know, free floating kind of anger with nothing to aim it at. So that was an interesting thing. So you talked a lot about the subconscious versus the conscious mind here, and of course, a lot of us have always heard things like well, you know, subconsciously, yada yada yada. We’re responsible for this and this is what’s causing that. The subconscious, in other words, just sounds like a negative thing but is there a positive aspect to it?
David Essel: Oh gosh, Vince, that’s that’s a great question. And you know, we believe in life that whole concept of yin yang is is absolute perfection. There is an opposite to everything. So if the subconscious that we’re talking about tonight from a negative point of view, keeping us stuck in an identity as a depressed person, then it must also be, there must also be a powerful side of the subconscious. And and there is. Thank God. Because the subconscious works on patterns, whatever you feed it or whatever you’re around listening to or whatever you’re watching or the people you’re hanging out with, they’re all sending messages to the subconscious constantly about someone’s right, someone’s wrong, conspiracy theories, you know, your weight gain is genetics and all this other kind of stuff. When a depressed person can break the chains of an identity based on being depressed and they can start to heal, if they’ll stay with the daily exercises and the possible medication that they may be on that they can stay with the program long enough, they can turn that subconscious mind from battling to hold onto an identity that I am a depressed person or I am a suicidal person. We can actually turn that around, guys, that you can use the subconscious as your greatest ally in the world. Now when I say subconscious, I want to make something else clear, too. We look at subconscious responses and a term that we always use is a subconscious response is a knee jerk reaction. That’s the easiest way to describe it. So someone is talking to you about your mental illness and they say, hey you know I just read the story about this person in some other city that used this new therapy and it was incredible. Now, to most people who are struggling with depression, the immediate response is, well it might work for them, it would never work for me, I’ve tried everything. That happens so fast that it’s not a conscious decision to reply like that to this person. It’s a knee jerk reaction. It’s a defense mechanism, and it happens instantaneously without us even thinking about it. Now the cool thing is, and I’ll sort of jump tracks here over to the world of addiction, for twenty-five plus years, I knew myself as a raging alcoholic, but I was in denial, so I didn’t call myself a raging alcoholic… a cocaine addict, and I was in denial with that, too. For twenty-five plus years, my identity was all about addiction, but I didn’t use the word addiction on myself. I said, this is the way I relax. This is what successful men do. So I created a subconscious identity to protect my addiction so I never had to end it. Now when I ended it, guys, there were three parts of my recovery that were the scariest… It was like living a nightmare. The first was going to a treatment center and knowing that, as of noon when I checked in, I would not have access to any alcohol or drugs. And it scared the hell out of me. The next time I was extremely afraid was the day that I came home, thirty-two days later. And now I was free. I had the freedom. I could go to the store. I could go to my local dealer. I could do whatever I wanted to and that was outrageously scary. And then the third scariest time was basically the next year. When I was changing my identity. I wasn’t drinking. I was doing really heavy duty emotional work with several counselors. But I was still afraid to go to dinners or to go anywhere… I was based in fear. And over time and a lot of work – and that was a number of years ago – the fear totally was gone. The subconscious mind we turned around to be an ally where I am a completely recovered person. We don’t even talk about the word addiction, anymore. I don’t believe that I’m a “recovering” alcoholic. I believe I have fully recovered, which is a pretty strong statement, but we can back it with tons of information, if needed. But the subconscious, now, I go to parties, I go out to dinner, I’ll go to funerals, I’ll go to weddings, I’ll officiate weddings and funerals, and where in the past, it was just really normal for me to look for a glass of wine or someone to offer it right away, now the subconscious has turned around so much, guys, that there’s not even an interest. When the last great depression hit, in 2006, 2007, and I was sober back then, I lost everything. And I over-bet on the real estate industry, I had everything on the real estate industry, and I lost my shirt, as they say. In that time of going through those years, of accumulating all of this wealth and losing it in a matter of a year, completely losing everything… It would have been a great opportunity, if the subconscious hadn’t been so wholly turned around, for me to drink or to do cocaine or do something to get out of the pain. But when you learn the correct coping mechanisms, and the subconscious is turned around, the thought of having a drink never even enters your mind. And that’s the beauty of the subconscious, is that if you’re willing to do the work – which about 90 percent of people in this world (now listen to this) are not willing to do – you can go ahead and take wherever you are with your addictions, with your challenges and with the correct help, and in some cases, as you guys know, the correct medication – which can be really hard to get that correct dosage and the correct medication – but if you’re willing to do the work, we can heal so deeply and turn that subconscious mind that used to have an identity as a depressed person or I can’t do this because I have this other mental health issue or I have an addiction… we can turn that around and find out what freedom truly feels like.
Gabe Howard: I think I understand what you’re saying because, for example, when I work with doctors, social workers, psychologists, people that work with people with, you know, severe and persistent mental illness, you know, bipolar, schizophrenia, major depression… I always ask them what are their goals for their patients. And, oftentimes I get pretty stereotypical answers. They want them to be med compliant, they want them to stop pushing back in therapy, they want them to be on time, they want them to not complain about the wait of the waiting room, they want them to pay the bills on time. You know, a lot of stuff like that, that is all very good things. I mean, I understand why they want them to, you know, take their medicine as prescribed and be on time and not cause a problem in the waiting room, but I pointed out that there’s a disconnect there because their patient’s goal is to go to Hawaii. Their patient’s goal was to get married, is to have a job. They’re not going to see you to be compliant with the treatment that you prescribe. They want the treatment so they can get on with the rest of their life. And it seems like what you’re saying is if the doctors sort of subconsciously believe that the goal is to be compliant, they’re going to subconsciously push that compliance onto their patients. That’s going to make their patients unhappy because they don’t feel that their medical staff understands that their goal isn’t to be compliant. Their goal is to go to Hawaii. And the doctors don’t realize they’re doing this, the medical staff, they don’t realize they’re doing it, they’re not bad people. So yeah, if your knee jerk reaction every time something bad happens is to drink, that is in fact problematic… or however it fits into, you know, anxiety, depression, etc.
David Essel: Yeah. Interesting comment that you just made, too, Gabe, about, you know, do we as professionals, do we understand what someone’s going through? And again I’ll say it’s probably one of the edges that counselors, therapists, psychiatrists who have struggled themselves have. A number of years ago, I started working with a young schizophrenic man, and I still work with them to this day. And when… you know, our traditional sessions for 18 and up is an hour, 17 and lower is a 30 minute session. So, you know, he was they were really struggling with finding the right medication. He would be in the session with me but not there present for about 80 percent of the session. He would be drifting off and, you know, the voices were coming and thoughts were coming and he couldn’t stay… he couldn’t concentrate, just could not concentrate. So I said to his parents one time, I said, hey listen, I love your son, by the way. I’ve worked with him. We do great work together. But I want to make a recommendation, and this is going against all protocol that we’ve been trained with, but I want to do 15 minute sessions. That’s it. I can see that this is a strain on him. I can see that this isn’t what he wants. Now, he walks out of the sessions telling you, mom and dad, that you know he wants to continue to work with David. But I said in the sessions it’s different. So if you’re willing, and thank God they were… guys, we went to 15 minute sessions. This young man blossomed. Right now – and I’m getting shows as I say this – the last time I saw him was three weeks ago because his family went on a vacation. He is now in his… I think he’s 24. He’s in college. He’s going to get an associates degree. Now, it’s going to take him… I think he’s been at it for about three years. I think it’s going to take him another year. Now, he will never live outside of the house, he’ll always live with mom and dad, but for this kid, this young man… and it goes right to what you’re saying, Gabe, it’s like, you know, when we asked him what was his goal, his goal was to finish school. Now according to everyone else that had worked with him, that was an impossibility. He couldn’t go to college, for all the different challenges that he had. And yet, in a year he’s going to graduate. When I saw him just before the Christmas break, the last time I saw him, he was ecstatic. Now he doesn’t show ecstasy like I might or someone else might. But you could see it in his face and his eyes how proud he was that he was able to do this, you know, and able to accomplish something that everyone had told him he couldn’t do. And I think it’s because we modified, extremely modified the program to fit him, not what statistically programs are supposed to be like. Does that make sense?
Vincent M. Wales: Yeah yeah. And that’s that’s a great story. Great story. Thank you. Thank you. Let’s talk about anxiety for a second. What kind of things have you got to say about that?
David Essel: First let’s look at the volume. You know, 40 million people on a daily basis in the U.S. alone struggle with depression and/or anxiety. It’s an interesting topic because we’ve heard over the years that there’s been a continual increase in anxiety in our society and people are blaming social media, and it definitely has a role in it for sure. When we talk about anxiety, and I just had a brand new client this week start, and he came in and he’s filled with anxiety. Now he has a high pressured sales position, so everyone who has always told him, all the counselors he’s worked with,you know, it’s genetically based or it’s something, it’s just you put so much pressure, you’re so competitive, you’re so you’re this, you’re so that… and I just met with him one time, we had our first session, and I asked him – because this is, I think, a missing link with anxiety – I asked him was his grandmother, grandfather, mom, dad, sister, brothers, aunts or uncles… Was there anyone in his life when he grew up that couldn’t relax? That was always on the move. That was always trying to accomplish the next ABCDE. And he looked at me and he started laughing and I said, What’s so funny? He goes, You just called my mother out. I said, Well let me tell you something. In our opinion, and we’re just one opinion of 40 years in the personal growth industry, 30 years in counseling and coaching, he said we see anxiety being created by the core family element between the age of zero and 18 much more so than a genetic link. And what we mean by that is… we’ll go back to the subconscious mind. From zero to 18, we’re in an environment where mom can’t sit down. She’s always up and moving. She can’t relax. She’s always doing that. It might seem productive, you know, that she’s dusting now and she’s sweeping next and she’s picking up this next and she’s got TV’s on one room and and a radio on and another room. That might seem like a productive use of time. Actually it’s an example of a full-blown anxiety episode. So this young man was raised in an environment where it was normal to not relax. It was normal to be hyper-competitive. It was normal that, when friends or relatives were coming over, that that house was freaking spotless. It was normal that all of this anxiety that was produced, not on purpose, but by mom, and she’d probably modeled her mom or dad… he took on because of the environment he was raised in. And right away when I see… when I can when I can pull someone out of, you know, this must be genetic, and everyone wants to use those words, genetic. So with anxiety, a large percentage we see that people – just like almost everything we’re talking about tonight, guys, is that people, when we’re not taught how to deal with emotions, when we’re not asked to go deeper, when we’re not exploring what could be the cause of this depression or anxiety other than the fact that it could be genetically related, that we’re losing out on helping millions of people a day to heal. So anxiety is real. The condition is real. A huge number of people are affected by it. But we have seen in our practice so many people heal from it, get off of their medications, live super productive lives when they learn how to deal with underlying emotions that they didn’t even know were there. Or they can start to see constructively that, oh my god, I’m repeating my dad’s alcoholism or I’m repeating my uncle’s whatever it might be. There are so many conditions that are created in this incubator called zero to 18 and I think that information is crucial to get out because, once again, going back to what I talked about a little while ago, this gentleman that came in the other day, he said, I’ve been diagnosed with full-blown anxiety attacks, panic attacks. I have them once a week. And now we’re going to get to the core and find out what is causing them. And a big part of it could be he’s just repeating the way his mom reacted to life, and if he continues doing that, it’s going to get worse. But we’re gonna help him break through it, for sure.
Gabe Howard: That is wonderful. Thank you so much. We’ve only got a couple of minutes left, is there any final thoughts that you want to leave us with? Where can we find you? Obviously the show notes will have your web page and all of that stuff. But, you know, there’s just so much that we didn’t get a chance to talk about. Can you give us the 30 to 60 second overview of of everything that we can know about you?
David Essel: Absolutely, Gabe. First of all I want to thank you and Vince for having me on, and for our listeners… you know, we offer a lot of free stuff. And that’s – again, how do you reach 2 million people a day, is that you’ve got to be creative, so – if your listeners want to get on our daily video e-mail list – it’s called David Essel’s Daily Video Boost – where we talk about these type of topics, where we talk about what causes depression and what are some of the potential cures and everything else that we’ve discussed today… All they have to do is go to the Web site, which is TalkDavid.com and sign up for the Daily Boost, it’s free. They’ll also find our link for our YouTube videos. Thirteen hundred videos, there’s a lot of videos on depression anxiety et cetera there. So if they just go to TalkDavid.com, they can find out where they can get all the free information, and then if they wanted to do something with the work that we do, they could let us know with an e-mail.
Gabe Howard: That would be wonderful. Thank you so much. And thank you, everybody, for tuning in this week. And remember you can get one week of free, convenient, affordable, private, online counseling anytime, anywhere by visiting betterhelp.com/psychcentral. We will see you all next week.
Narrator 1: Thank you for listening to the Psych Central Show. Please rate, review, and subscribe on iTunes or wherever you found this podcast. We encourage you to share our show on social media and with friends and family. Previous episodes can be found at PsychCentral.com/show. PsychCentral.com is the internet’s oldest and largest independent mental health website. Psych Central is overseen by Dr. John Grohol, a mental health expert and one of the pioneering leaders in online mental health. Our host, Gabe Howard, is an award-winning writer and speaker who travels nationally. You can find more information on Gabe at GabeHoward.com. Our co-host, Vincent M. Wales, is a trained suicide prevention crisis counselor and author of several award-winning speculative fiction novels. You can learn more about Vincent at VincentMWales.com. If you have feedback about the show, please email email@example.com.
About The Psych Central Show Podcast Hosts
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. He is also one of the co-hosts of the popular show, A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast. As a speaker, he travels nationally and is available to make your event stand out. To work with Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.
Vincent M. Wales is a former suicide prevention counselor who lives with persistent depressive disorder. He is also the author of several award-winning novels and creator of the costumed hero, Dynamistress. Visit his websites at www.vincentmwales.com and www.dynamistress.com.
Read more: psychcentral.com