Seeking Balance in Managing Our Emotions (Part 2)

On this post, we continue to dive into how to manage our emotions effectively. Click here for Part 1.

Focus on goals.  Making choices to behave in the right manner, independent of your mood or feelings, is important in many situations.  Besides parenting, work settings which focus on customer service provide many examples, such as a waitress who refrains from throwing the soup on an irritating customer.  

Reflect on:  Proverbs 22:6; Rom. 12:1-2; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; I John 4:11-21

Set a positive emotional goal.  Select the opposite emotion to what you feel, then contemplate what may help you move in that direction.  For example, if angry, how can you move toward peace? Perhaps you take a break to contemplate a relaxing fishing trip. Or when depressed and you want to experience more joy, contact with a distant family member or friend. Simply remembering the blessing of some key people in your life’s journey can redirect depression.

Reflect on:  Galatians 5:22-26; Philippians 4:4-9; John 14:27-28; Romans 15:13-14

Study role models.  Find people you admire, particularly the way they generally handle their emotions.  Comparison can be a trap that brings you down, but learning from a role model and growing to imitate them is what children, apprentices and disciples have done for millennia.  

Reflect on:  I Corinthians 4:15-17; 11:1; Philippians 3:17; II Thessalonians 3:7-9;Matthew 28:19-20 

Learn assertive communication.  You may choose to remain silent, but acknowledging and expressing your feelings in an appropriate manner is an important part of emotional health.  Remember, assertion is not aggression or arrogance.  It is simply confident and straightforward communication.

Reflect on: Jeremiah 1:6-9; Ephesians 4:15; Acts 4:13; 18:26-28; Titus 2:1-10

Distract yourself.  When you find yourself ruminating about something upsetting, a distraction technique can help.  You can redirect your mind to something more positive and rewarding. An example might be learning to give thanks or to focus on what you are grateful for in general.  

Reflect on:  Philippians 4:8; Hebrews 11:32-12:4;  II Corinthians 10:3-5; Psalm 19:1

Consider biological factors.  Hereditary and hormonal differences exist in our lives, and different stages of life can bring about biochemical changes in our bodies that may require medical attention.  If natural coping strategies do not work such as those taught by a psychologist or pastor, consider alternative medical approaches, and certainly get a medical exam and blood work to rule out problems such as diabetes, thyroid problems, or many other medical conditions that can affect your emotional well-being.

Reflect on: Genesis 1:29-30; Psalm 147:3;Proverbs 17:22; Jeremiah 8:22; Matthew 9:12; Colossians 4:14

Value love.  Whether friendship or marriage, parent or child, an unselfish love is to be valued highly for the sake of one’s emotional health.  Paradoxically, it is by tuning into others, not ourselves, that our own need for love becomes fulfilled.  Love will motivate the repair of broken relationships and unity with others.  It will also bring emotional balance to your life with the fruit of having other positive emotional experiences.

Reflect on:  I Corinthians 13:1-13; I John 4:7-21, Heb. 10:24-25; Eph.3:14-19, 4:11-16; John 13:34-35; Romans 13:8-10

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Mays Landing on Route 50 who can be reached at:, or 609-567-9022.   

This article was originally published on the Hammonton Gazette, October 2018 and has been modified into a new format.

Seeking Balance in Managing Our Emotions (Part 1)

Emotions are automatic, instinctive reactions within us to circumstances and relationships with others.  The television news channel may stir negative feelings within you. Your spouse may inspire positive responses upon your return home.  Perhaps you react to the misbehavior of a child, or the warmth of a phone call from a distant friend. Emotions are triggered deep in our limbic system resulting in a wide range of feelings.  

Our brain develops habits and patterns of responding to different situations resulting in our feelings. When they are stuck in a negative state, such as anxiety, depression, shame, or anger, reactions seem to take over, often in an overwhelming manner. We feel like we have no control over the emotions we are experiencing.

Reflect on the emotions of each person in:  Genesis 42:1 – 46:34; I Kings3:16-28; II Peter 2:12-15; Luke 22:39-62 & Matthew 27:1-5  

From a Biblical perspective, our emotions are a part of our inner life, or the heart.  Apart from Christ, we seem like simply a “higher order” animal, as evolutionary theory postulates. In Christ, however, our true identity is discovered, made in the image of God, created for fellowship with Him and with purpose given to us by Him.  Either way, our emotions are part of our normal human experience, with both positive feelings like joy or excitement, and negative feelings such as scared, sad or angry. 

Reflect on:; Proverbs 14:10; 15:13; John 14:27;16:6; Psalm 69:20; 73:21-22; 84:2; II Peter 2:12-15 

While each emotion we experience can be managed through more specific strategies (see other “Seeking Balance” articles), there are general principles which are helpful to understand as you seek self-mastery over negative emotional states.

Non-judgmental self-acceptance.  Tune in to emotions and accept what you feel.  Reacting negatively to your feelings will only lead to more emotional turmoil within you.  Awareness is necessary. Not judging yourself for feeling angry, anxious, or depressed, is a starting point foundational to the change strategies noted in the rest of this article.

Reflect on: John 1:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; 4:26-27; Romans 1:7; 3:24; II Corinthians 12:8-10

Accept responsibility for your emotions.  Only then will you learn to face the reasons they were triggered and manage your responses to others. They may be influenced by hereditary factors and family dynamics or experiences beyond your control.  Only you, however, can take responsibility for your ability to strategize and make changes in how you cope with your own emotional reactions.

Reflect on:  I John 1:6-10;Revelation 3:19-20; Gal.6:4-5;Psalm 51

Monitor yourself.  You have a tendency to resist in your partner what you suppress in yourself.  In more intimate relationships, you may express anger at your spouse for being scared, depressed, or embarrassed.  Use these times as opportunities to examine yourself for the same emotion you see in others that upsets you. Ask yourself “why am I feeling this way”?

Reflect on: I Corinthians 11:28;II Cor. 13:5; Ephesians 4:26-27

Challenge your thinking.  If you have developed ways of thinking that are judgmental or if you tend to magnify negative events and minimize positive experiences, learn to challenge these unhealthy thought patterns.  The same applies if you are overly critical of yourself or see everything as a threat to you.  Many other negative thought patterns can be identified and thus can be changed.

Reflect on: Matt. 7:1-5;  II Cor. 10:3-5; I Peter 1:6-9, 13-16

Respond, don’t react.  This will be hard. Reactions are automatic; responses require thought. Think over the big picture and evaluate your best response. This gives time for your limbic system and its “fight or flight response” to settle down. It also engages the cortex of your brain, and you will be a better parent, spouse, or friend as a result.  You will be able to refrain from saying things you would regret later. In other words, do not correct others or discuss important things while angry.

Reflect on:  James1:19-20; Romans 12:2; Proverbs 12:16; 15:1,18; 21:23-24;  Eph. 4:26

This article was originally published on the Hammonton Gazette, October 2018 and has been modified into a new format.

Seeking Balance to Live Life (Part 2)

On this week’s post, we continue to dive into practical advice Seeking Balance to Live Life. Click here for part 1.

Manage your thoughts.  Even when you breathe, you can say to yourself “I am breathing in relaxation and acceptance, and (with each exhale) I am experiencing peace and life.”   Learn to challenge the unhealthy thoughts connected to the fight-flight or shut-down response, using healthier, life-giving truths that help you experience life more fully.  

Reflect on: Philippians 4:8; Romans 12:2; II Corinthians 10:3-5; Proverbs 23:7a

Accept vulnerability. You are vulnerable to many uncertainties in life, because no one can predict the future.  You are vulnerable to the past through unwanted thoughts and feelings because the past cannot be eliminated. Instead of trying to control them, accept their existence and give them less power by refocusing your mind in a valued direction.

Reflect on: Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 10:16-20; Romans 13:1-10; 15:1-7

Open up to life.   Refocus yourself to the world around you.  Learn to appreciate the art that is all around you.  Enjoy the varied types of music.  Appreciate the seasons and the beauty of nature, which has been called “the greatest show on earth.”  Dogs, cats, birds, horses, and creatures from the animal kingdom all have something to offer as you open up to life in the direction of your choice. The Lord has made all things for you to enjoy in His presence. 

Reflect on: Romans 1:20; James 1:17; Psalm 19:1-6

Choose your valued direction.  There are many roads from which to choose, so consider your values and beliefs, and choose wisely.  Move in that direction, allowing it to energize you.  It is a continuing process.  Remember, you are living life, contributing to the world.  Commit yourself to ongoing action, knowing life is not a destination, but a journey.

Reflect on: Elisha in II Kings 2:9; Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14; I Corinthians 12:4-7

Love.  Open up to giving and receiving love.  It is the highest value, and through it we all can experience freedom from the ravages of the fight-flight or fright response.  Forgiveness for ourselves and others is found under the umbrella of love, as is hope for the future.  As philosophers and spiritually minded people have indicated for millennia, love is a resource which will never run out.

Reflect on: John 13:34-35; 17:23; I Corinthians 13; I John 3:16-18; I John 4:7-21

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Mays Landing on Route 50 who can be reached at:, or 609-567-9022.    

This article was originally published on the Hammonton Gazette, March 2019 and has been modified into a new format.

Illustration by Jeff Östberg.

Seeking Balance to Live Life (Part 1)

Life throws us curve balls, or sometimes fast balls that really hurt when we are hit.  We find ourselves battling various threats to our well-being, like a swordsman parrying the attack of an enemy. At a visceral level, we feel the fight-flight or fright response taking place in our central nervous system.  

This automatic response to threats may lead us to anxiety and panic. We find ourselves running in flight mode, seeking to avoid the danger that feels like a cougar on our back with its claws and teeth taking the life out of us. Or, we turn and fight, becoming more vicious ourselves like a pit-bull fighting for its life. Sometimes we give up and play possum, with our system in total shut-down mode.   

Reflect on Elijah in I Kings 18:16-19:4

How do we manage these situations so we may pursue a meaningful and productive life?  

Here are a few tips which may help.    

Notice your avoidance pattern. What feelings and experiences are you seeking to avoid?  Evaluate your own fight-flight or fright pattern in your thoughts and actions. Learn to become an observer of your own responses to perceived threats.  Addictions and various emotional and psychological problems can grow out of this pattern.

Reflect on:  Joseph’s brothers in Genesis 42 –Genesis 44

Learn acceptance.  Rather than fighting your emotional reactions, befriend them.  These physical and emotional responses are automatic, signaling you that some threat is present. The real enemy is your learned patterns of avoidance. You are seeking increased flexibility and freedom in your life. For example, you may gain freedom by saying a loving “No,” when necessary, if you are prone to say “Yes,” against your will to avoid the discomfort of offending someone.

Reflect on: Romans 12:1; I Peter 5:6-7; James 4:6-10

Assess the threat.  Is the threat realistic or more in our own minds?  Mark Twain said “I’ve lived a long and horrible life, and most of it never happened.”  Our minds are often the true battlefield wherein we struggle.  We magnify perceived threats, demand impossible perfection from ourselves for fear of rejection, minimize our own strengths, and so on.

Reflect on: II Timothy 1:7; Proverbs 28:1-2; Ephesians 6:10-12; I Thessalonians 5:21-22

Resolve memories.  When we do get attacked and injured, the memory of it is often where people become stuck. We can relive the experience over and over, even in nightmares. Instead, face those memories, grieve what needs grieving, confront what needs confronting, and seek resolution so that you may live in the present. Let go of labels about yourself that hold you back.

Reflect on: Proverbs 14:10; Exodus 1:14; Ruth 1:20; Ephesians 4:31-32 

Breathe. Focusing and taking charge of your breathing connects the deep limbic system with the conscious, thinking part of the brain.  You can slow your breaths to six breaths a minute, five seconds in and five seconds out, for example.  We can also consider how God breathed life into us and has given us this gift of life. 

Reflect on:  Proverbs 14:30; Genesis 2:7; Ecclesiastes 3:21; Psalm 150:6; John 20:22

Continue reading next week to get more practical advice on seeking balance regarding our lives.

This article was originally published on the Hammonton Gazette, March 2019 and has been modified into a new format.

Illustration by Jeff Östberg.

Seeking Balance Regarding Self-Esteem (Part 2)

On this week’s post, we continue to dive into practical advice Seeking Balance Regarding Self-Esteem (Part 1)

Challenge your inner critic.  Your inner critic is evident when you beat yourself up in your own mind.  For example, after making a mistake, you might say to yourself “You stupid idiot!”  Gaining strength to combat our own inner critic through rational questioning can be beneficial. Often we think we have failed when the reality is quite different.  Rational challenges to the inner critic need to be balanced with self-acceptance, even after mistakes. This way, we find the inner peace we really desire. Tell yourself, “Mistakes are normal and I want to accept and learn from them.”

Reflect on: Romans 7:24 – 8:1; I John 1:8-10; II Corinthians 10:3-5; Hebrews 4:16; John 14:27

Challenge external critics.  These are people who tear you down.  Rather than allowing criticism to belittle your self-worth, imagine an inner shield defending you against the exploding darts from others that could hurt you deeply.  It is good to be open to positive input and even helpful negative feedback which can guide you toward positive growth.  However, if the criticisms are not valid, dismiss them as quickly as possible.

Reflect on: Ephesians 6:10-18; Hebrews 11:25-12:3; Acts 4:12-22

Embrace forgiveness.  First, seek to understand yourself and what led you to sin or make the mistake.  Second, accept what has already taken place since you cannot change the past. Finally, choose to forgive yourself and let go of what you cannot change.  The same is true when you deal with others who have hurt you.  It is amazing how liberating forgiving others can be, even though it can be a process that takes time. 

Reflect on: Matthew 6:12-15; Luke 17:3-5; 23:33-34; Colossians 3:13; I John 1:7-9

Accept conflicting views.  When you are inwardly secure, you can listen to opposing perspectives without them threatening your self-esteem.  You can evaluate them objectively, and they may or may not influence your own opinions. You are not inferior as a person, and your perspective may be equally valid.  Your self-esteem is not based on how many people agree with you on various topics of interest.  

Reflect on:  Proverbs 18:13; Ecclesiastes 7:5; Acts 18:24-26

Enjoy compliments.  Low self-esteem often causes people to negate compliments and minimize their importance.  Instead, try accepting and enjoying them, acknowledging that the real glory goes to God Himself.  Make a special place in your journal for these praises. Balance really involves being a fully activated instrument, tuned in to our creator for the mission and purposes for which we were created.  Be thankful and accepting of your successes, knowing God is at work in you. You will see your self-esteem grow in a healthier and more positive direction as you trust, obey, and give glory to Him.

Reflect on:  Daniel 2:23; Psalm 100:1-5; Philippians 2:13;  I Thessalonians2:13; 5:16-18

This article was originally published on the Hammonton Gazette, February 2019 and has been modified into a new format.

Seeking Balance Regarding Your Self-Esteem (Part 1)

What feelings do you experience when you reflect on your core self? Is your general attitude toward yourself positive or negative?  What is your evaluation of your self-worth?  These are questions that can help assess what is often called your self-esteem and influence whether you desire to address this issue in your life.  

We all have a “self” that is separate from “others.” This self is where our beliefs, emotions, likes, dislikes, values, goals, etc., reside. Our self is influenced by our interactions with parents and others which greatly impact how high or low we assess our self-esteem to be.  Our self-esteem may be low in the context of some relationships, while good in other situations.   

At some point in people’s lives, nearly everyone experiences low self-esteem.  For some it seems like a central trait of their personality.  Research has shown that counseling which targets a person’s self-esteem helps improve many different emotional and psychological problems, such as depression and anxiety.  However, the pursuit of striving to improve our self-esteem can be costly in terms of your social, mental and even physical health. It is healthier, then, to see self-esteem as a secondary benefit from pursuit of other meaningful goals and activities in life.  

Reflect on:  Matthew 6:33

For the Christian, our relationship with God and theology of “self” also impacts our feelings about ourselves.  Those who focus on our fallen human nature, sinful and separated from God in its natural state, may be prone to a lower self-esteem.  Those who focus on our core self as made in the image of God, valued by him such that He bought our salvation with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, may be more prone to a higher self-esteem.  In the latter case, it is really faith in what we could call “God-Esteem” – a conviction of how high God esteems us.

Reflect on: Romans 3:10-26; 7:21-8:9; II Corinthians 3:17-18; 5:21; John 3:16 

Here are some tips which may help you improve your feelings about yourself in a more balanced manner.

Keep a journal.  Write down, on a daily basis, your personal reflections, goals, thoughts, challenges, vulnerabilities, strengths and weaknesses which may relate to your self-esteem. Seek to be as open with yourself as possible, while keeping it private.  You can make it a prayer journal, with open discussion with God.  Consider the following ideas to guide your reflections.

Reflect on:  Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Habakkuk 2:2; Psalm 102:18

Target self-acceptance.  Your goal is not to attempt building your self-esteem based on accomplishments or developing competencies in some skill, but to gain a better understanding of and to be comfortable with yourself.  It is good to recognize your strengths, but equally important not to belittle yourself for your weaknesses, mistakes, and failures.  Accept them, as this does not make you inferior, but only human.  God’s grace makes all this possible.

Reflect on: Ephesians 2:1-9;  I Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 1:3-6

Build your competencies.  While your abilities are not the foundation for your self-esteem, it is healthy to continue growing in your skills and strengths.  In what areas are you successful?  What skills do you value which you would like to learn or gain a better mastery of?  

What are your gifts and talents?  Reinforce self-talk that builds on your self-acceptance and decreases thoughts that bring low self-esteem.  One client recently reported “With God’s help, I know I can go back to college and succeed, even though I failed before.”

Reflect on: Exodus 35:10; 35:30-36:1; Ephesians 2:10;4:15-16; II Corinthians 3:4-6

Overcome your fears.  Often, fear leads to avoidance which blocks our efforts at building our skills or taking classes to learn new things.  Facing those fears as a challenge and embracing your path to developing those new strengths will help increase your self-esteem as a side benefit.  Every master started out as a beginner making plenty of mistakes.  Accept your fears about what others may think.  Do what you believe is right for you (according to the Bible) anyway and put aside worries about what others might say.

Reflect on: Joshua 1:6-9; Isaiah 41:10; II Timothy 1:7

Avoid the “comparison trap.”  Too often we compare ourselves with others. This is a false foundation for our self-esteem.  We may get puffed up with pride, or our self-esteem crashes as we see others with better skills and more success.  Do not allow activities such as sports or games to determine your self-esteem.  If possible, avoid using the words “should” and “must” which bring the pressure to be perfect and overly demanding of yourself. An example of this is “I should always be the best parent/pastor/teacher.”  Instead, work to excel without making comparisons with others and give yourself permission to fall short of your ideal.

Reflect on: II Corinthians 10:12; Galatians 6:3-4; Philippians 3:12-14

Continue reading next week to get more practical advice on seeking balance regarding your self-esteem.

This article was originally published on the Hammonton Gazette, February 2019 and has been modified into a new format.

Seeking Balance in the Use of Marijuana (Part 2): The Politics of Pot

Marijuana has been used for thousands of years for medicinal and other purposes. It was made illegal in the USA through the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Pharmaceutical companies had to discontinue their research and use of it in medicines. Marijuana and its derivatives were later classified as a Schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The legalization of this herb called Cannabis for medicinal purposes and even for recreational use in
many states has brought marijuana back into the public discussion.

THC concentrations have significantly increased through plant breeding practices over the past 50 years. The negative impact on brain function, especially in prenatal development in pregnant mothers, children of nursing mothers, and our youth, raises serious concerns for many who examine the evidence. The wisdom of our lawmakers is in question when recreational
marijuana is supported, yet lobbying efforts are winning the political game across the USA.

Many argue that the broader costs to society do not justify the revenue generated through taxes. Here are some points to consider if you are voting on this issue.

Traffic Accidents and Fatalities: Marijuana is the drug most frequently reported in connection to fatal accidents, as well as impaired driving accidents in general. A 2012 Meta-analysis of the data concluded with: “Drivers who test positive for marijuana or self–report using marijuana are more than twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in motor vehicle crashes.”

Another study reported it “doubles the risk of a motor vehicle accident.” THC levels and performance impairment have been tested and verified in laboratory studies. The evidence is clear from other research that marijuana impairs perception of time and speed, reaction time, motor coordination, and attentiveness.

Increased Crime: Crime has significantly increased where marijuana is legalized. Consider the report by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. “The crime rate in Colorado has increased 11 times faster than the rest of the nation since legalization, with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation reporting an 8.3% increase in property crimes and an 18.6% increase in violent crimes.” This makes sense when considering the impaired judgment and impulse control
which is a consequence of marijuana use.

Brain Impact on Youth: Statistics show that young people use marijuana at a higher rate after it is legalized. Their brains are still forming until they are 25 years old, and the serious negative impact on them has been clearly documented. The younger the brain, the worse the long term negative impact of marijuana use. The loss of an average of eight IQ points persists even into midlife, according to a longitudinal study of regular marijuana users.

Gateway Drug: Increased use of marijuana does predict an increased risk of the use of other illicit drugs. This is both through social contacts who introduce the person to other illicit drugs, as well as the impact on different regions of the brain. Impaired pre-frontal cortex activity leads to decreased judgment, and the specific dopamine system impact can result in an increased addictive potential from opioids, if ingested. Who will bear the cost to society of losses to the
work force, treatment and increased need for health care due to these problems?.

Increased Black Market: The black market for marijuana has greatly increased in states where legalization has occurred, contrary to the false arguments of pro-marijuana supporters. The overproduction of marijuana is one reason noted. Another is the desire to avoid paying the extra cost from taxation. Another possibility is the competition for higher THC levels among
recreational users, increasing significantly the potential for dependence and even permanent psychotic episodes in some people.

Profits to Big Corporations: Large tobacco and alcohol companies, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies, and even banking interests are lobbying for legalization of marijuana. George Soros and the lobbying group Drug Policy Alliance have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the cause, influencing politicians in this direction for over 15 years. Alcohol companies and the pharmaceutical industry have changed their opposition into
support, seeing new potential for profits. The argument that legalization of recreational marijuana will benefit our local economies has to be examined more carefully.

Problems due to Federal prohibition: Commerce and even travel across state lines presents potential legal problems, and even international travel is in jeopardy for those involved in the marijuana business. This State versus Federal “rights” issue is making it difficult for the banking industry at present, although congress is currently debating that issue.

Conclusion: It is reasonable to advocate for marijuana with lower levels of THC – the part that gets people “high” – to be used in research to determine its health benefits. This is particularly true of the CBD oil component from marijuana which does not get people high. Putting it under Federal oversight through the DEA and FDA will not only increase research, it can then standardize dosages and diminish contaminants like pesticides and heavy metals currently in many marijuana products. However, the health and social consequences of marijuana use strongly indicate legalization of marijuana for recreational use is a mistake for society in general. Judicial reform and racial bias in sentencing are concerns that can be addressed in other ways.

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Mays Landing on Route 50 who can be reached at:, or 609-567-9022. References upon request.
Originally written for the Hammonton Gazette, July 2019, who have first rights to publish.

Seeking Balance in the Use of Marijuana (Part 1)

The negative impact on the brain leads to great concerns in regard to normalizing recreational use of marijuana for the general public.

After researching this issue from a professional perspective, I believe there are both positive and negative factors to consider before choosing to use marijuana in any form.


Medical Conditions:  The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s extensive 2017 review of the health effects of cannabinoids found that only three therapeutic uses had conclusive research support: 

1) treating some forms of chronic pain, 2) decreasing spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, and 3) reducing nausea associated with chemotherapy. Other possible conditions being researched are glaucoma, epilepsy, wasting syndrome associated with AIDS, and inflammation (as in rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis).

Thousands of studies on the benefits of marijuana’s components are ongoing, with potential benefits to many other conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and neuropathy in diabetes.

CBD Oil: CBD oil is a non-THC part of marijuana that does not get a person “high”. Investigations are ongoing as to whether CBD oil provides equal benefit, or whether THC – the part that gets you “high”- is more effective for treating various conditions, especially pain. CBD oil as a safe alternative to THC is promising, although most companies get CBD from hemp as opposed to marijuana. Also, caution is needed since investigations show great variations in actual dosage compared to labels among different companies selling it.  

High quality CBD oil has much testimonial support as an alternative to THC, and claims of an improved pain management effect with a small dose of THC added that is insufficient to get a person “high”.  This may be useful in the treatment of conditions such as problems with anxiety disorders or even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Rigorous studies are needed before empirical conclusions can be made. Quality control problems and lack of FDA or NIH approvals cause many to be cautious at present.  Due to THC in many CBD products, stories of many people having employment problems from positive drug tests are also of real concern for occupations such as truck drivers and police officers.


Risk of Psychosis? Cannabis use in teens increases the risk for psychosis.  Clients with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia experience a more severe course of illness and poorer life functioning.  The research shows, however, that other genetic factors, such as family members who have these conditions, may bring an even greater increase in risk.  Genetic vulnerability to this problem certainly indicates that those with hereditary risk factors should avoid marijuana use. 

Brain Function: Cannabis use in teens results in lower cognitive functioning and is also correlated with lower prestige occupations than their parents, lower income, higher unemployment, a greater need for socioeconomic assistance, increased criminal behavior, and lower satisfaction with life.  Brain scans show decreased blood flow to the brain indicating lesser brain function, decreased IQ, and increasing concerns regarding early Alzheimer’s disease. 

Adult Health Consequences: Long term daily cannabis users experience the most harmful effects, while these are uncommon for occasional recreational users. Inflammation of the large airways, lung hyperinflation, chronic bronchitis, increased respiratory infections, pneumonia, higher risk of stroke and heart attacks, are all noted in some correlational research with marijuana.  There is also concern for the prenatal brain development of unborn children.  Physically, the most frequent problem experienced is gum disease.  Research related to lung cancer is confounded by other variables, such as cigarette use.  Tobacco is clearly related to lung and other cancers, and many believe the evidence points to the same problem with marijuana.  Others argue for a protection benefit from some cancers, however, due to our endocannabinoid system and preliminary research.  

Addiction Potential: Nine percent of those who experiment with marijuana will develop an “addiction” to it.  That rises to about 17% for those who start using marijuana as teenagers, and 50% for those who smoke pot daily.  The teenage brain is still developing, so introduction of psychoactive substances at this age is seen as very problematic for healthy development.  Learning and memory portions of the brain are affected, as are those areas involved in alertness, self-conscious awareness, and impulse control.  The healthy development of children and youth is hindered through the influence of marijuana which studies show make them more vulnerable to addiction to other substances.

Brain scans show the same patterns for marijuana as other addictions. There is a “cannabis withdrawal syndrome” with irritability, sleep difficulty, anxiety, and craving which contributes to the addiction process and relapse.  

Gateway Drug: Increased use of marijuana does predict an increased risk of the use of other illicit drugs.  Research shows that marijuana decreases the reactivity of the dopamine neurons that modulate the brain’s reward regions.  In other words, the brain becomes more susceptible to addiction to other drugs, making marijuana a “gateway drug” both socially and physiologically.  The marijuana primes the brain for a heightened response to other drugs.  It is no surprise that research has shown that smoking marijuana doubles the risk for opioid addiction later in life.

Impaired Driving: A 2012 meta-analysis of the data concluded with:  “Drivers who test positive for marijuana or self–report using marijuana are more than twice as likely as other drivers to be involved in motor vehicle crashes.” Another study reported it “doubles the risk of a motor vehicle accident.” The evidence is clear from research that marijuana impairs perception of time and speed, reaction time, motor coordination, and attentiveness.     

What are your thoughts about legalization? Write me with your feedback or to request references.

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Mays Landing on Route 50 who can be reached at:, or 609-567-9022.      

Originally written for the Hammonton Gazette, June 2019, who have first rights to publish.

Seeking Balance to Overcome Racism (Part 4)

The science of psychology has hundreds of specialty areas which can help with any problem in race relations, if politics are removed from the equation with inherent win-lose goals. In the previous article I highlighted the importance of research on prejudice, listening with empathy, boundaries, forgiveness, leadership, and cognitive therapy.  In this article, I would like to make note of some other specialty areas of study which can be helpful. As with all science, these complement the Word of God, when interpreted properly, and are designed by God to be a blessing to us.     

Reflect on: Psalm 133:1;  Proverbs 2:1-15

Science of Religious Experience.  Since William James wrote his famous book, Varieties of Religious Experience in 1902, research has taken place showing the value of balanced religious faith and spirituality. Dr. David Larson, Dr. Harold Koenig, Dr. Siang-Yan Tan, and Dr. Everett Worthington are only a few authors who have written extensively on research in this area, proving the unifying and health-giving dimensions of positive spiritual and religious experience. Core values related to unity, love, equality, meaning and purpose in life, as well as an empowerment to live out those values, can be found here.  Race relations can be well served by the leadership of religious communities who can have a powerful moral and spiritual influence on this dialogue.   

Reflect on: Proverbs 3:1-8; I Corinthians 2:12-3:11

Group Processes. Yalom’s curative factors in group therapy included instillation of hope, universality (people face similar problems), learning information, altruism (desire to help others), working through dysfunctional family dynamics in a healthier way, improved socialization, modeling and imitation of healthy relationships, group cohesiveness, and catharsis. Each of these has relevance when working together to resolve race relations. 

How can we facilitate committed mixed race community groups who are willing to address race relations to see the curative impact of getting to know one another in this way?

Reflect on: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; I Thessalonians 5:12-22 

Positive Psychology.  Research in this area addresses character strengths and virtues, and is a balance to the negative focus on pathology which can reinforce a victim mentality.  We can learn much from this area of study to build wellness and resilience.  Building on wisdom and knowledge, finding courage and love, developing hope and humor, pursuing gratitude and humility, seeking freedom and happiness, and many other positive areas of study can help each of us find valued direction in our pursuit of healthy race relations and fulfillment for all. 

Reflect on: II Corinthians 3:17-18; Philippians 4:4-13

Neuroscience.  In books by The Institute for Brain Potential, we see outlines for addressing deep seated, unhealthy patterns of behavior, including thoughts. Other resources such as the writings of  Dr. Dan Amen, Dr. Caroline Leaf, and Dr. Tim Jennings, give us insight into neuroscience for the layman. Research on neuroplasticity and our ability to modify even the chemical connections in our brain can help us understand how prejudices and even racist attitudes can be addressed when an individual chooses to train their mind to think in ways that value human relations with people of all races and people groups.  The human heart, mind, will, and emotions, can be transformed, which should give us all hope for improved race relations, if we choose to accept responsibility for our part in this complex equation.  

Reflect on: Romans 12:1-2;  Psalm 1:1-6

Cognitive Psychology. Racism is irrational. How do we first discern irrational beliefs, and then how do we challenge them? Racism disconnects from the larger group of humanity in favor of a smaller sub-group which wants to stay united in their use of power. Spirit-led, self-administered psychosurgery is needed, but can only be performed by each of us on ourselves with God’s help through the Word of God. Eliminate global generalizations, exaggerations, mind-reading tendencies, unfair comparisons, and all or nothing thinking.     

Reflect on: II Corinthians 10:3-5;  Romans 12:1-2

Love is what unites people. Fear, hurt and anger can lead to defensive reactions that hurt others, creating fractures in relationships. Repairing those relationships becomes necessary for there to be peace among all people groups. Let us pursue it. 

Reflect on: Galatians 5:13-16; Romans 12:9-18

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist in Mays Landing, NJ who also does tele-therapy. His website, has a blog designed to provide practical tips for managing a wide range of life problems. He also can be reached at 609-567-9022.

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Seeking Balance to Overcome Racism (Part 3)

In Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Non-violent Communication, we learn about a powerful process for healthy communication to help resolve conflicts.  We learn to express ourselves as well as listen without blame or criticism. We also see the value of “I” messages regarding what we observe and how we feel, tuning into needs, and clearly expressing what we want through non-demanding requests.  It is a reciprocal respectful process, proven to be successful around the world with various conflicted groups, including different races, nationalities, religions, and on a smaller scale even individual families.  

Conflict Management. Seeking ways of managing both internal and interpersonal conflict has been central to the field of psychology for well over a century. Acknowledging feelings, helping each side feel valued and heard, healthy communication of needs and desires, and fairness of both process and outcome seem to be essential ingredients. Win-win solutions are possible, barring interferences which hinder progress toward unity.

Reflect on: Matthew 5:9; James 3:17-18 

Problem-Solving. The steps of identifying problems, brainstorming solutions, evaluating options, and testing a selected option are essential, with input from everyone at the table. Every institution should be involved in this type of process, perhaps an “action research” approach, where solutions are revisited and reevaluated to see if they are moving toward the stated goal. Applied to race relations, we can do better.

Reflect on: Proverbs 14:15; 21:5;  Galatians 2:1-21 

Teamwork.  The science of teamwork has demonstrated many excellent principles for helping teams work more efficiently and in greater harmony. Emotional Intelligence research expands this literature even further, with healthy relationships growing out of a healthier individual sensitivity to your own and others emotional reactions. Similar goals and creating bonding experiences are important.  How can we create such opportunities for interaction and bonding in healthy ways?  It is doable.

Reflect on: Ephesians 4:11-16;  I Corinthians 12:4-27