The Gym

by Mark Sichel, LCSW

The gym is where you go to get strong and build muscle. In the Psybersquare Gym, however, we don't go to work on your biceps, triceps and abs; we work on your psychological muscle.

Most people don't even realize that emotional strength is something that can be developed and built up over time, but it's true. Everyone's psyche needs to be worked on regularly for optimal conditioning.

Psychological Cardiovascular Conditioning
Struggle is the cardiovascular workout of the psyche. Your ability to struggle with life's problems and challenges, and stick to that struggle with steadfast determination, is the emotional equivalent of running on the treadmill. Think back to when you first used cardiovascular equipment. Perhaps your first day on the treadmill you were able to walk a mile in 20 minutes. If you stuck to your treadmill program over time and built up cardiovascular strength, maybe you were able to walk a mile in 12 minutes! If you apply the same principles to your emotional and mental health, you can increase your tolerance for struggle in life. Your growing capacity to withstand struggle will help you to achieve your goals throughout all of life's challenges.

One of the best inspirational tools we've found for increasing a person's struggle endurance is the classic children's book The Little Engine That Could. Our clients have used this book for years as a model for struggle, and have verified its usefulness as they learned to build their capacity for struggle. If you are a parent, this is a marvelous book for your children. When faced with challenges, learn to say to yourself, "I think I can, I think I can, I know I can, I know I can." Just like the little blue engine, you too will be able to reach the top of your mountain and have the satisfaction of saying not only "I Think I Can," but also "Look What I Just Did!"

Nautilus Stations
Just as your personal trainer at the gym would, we recommend you supplement your psychological cardio-training with strength-training. Think of the following exercises as your emotional free weights. Work with them consistently, chart your progress and you will see your emotional strength build.

Click on the following activities to begin your strength training today.

  • Mastery and Competence
  • Frustration Tolerance
  • Ability to Delay Gratification
  • Interposing Thought Between Feeling and Action


    Copyright 2000, 2001 © Psybersquare, Inc.

    Psybersquare Inc. does not provide professional psychiatric or psychological counseling, advice or services. The exercises, information, and journalistic content of are for informational purposes only, and are in the nature of a self-help book or magazine article rather than a treatment service. provides content exclusively for educational, informational, self-help and entertainment purposes only.