Wednesday, 30 January 2013

#273 Mindful Deep Listening - Letting Go of Compulsive Fixing / Doing

     I’ve “made many mistakes because I didn’t understand the importance of validating the feelings of others, nor did I know how. I thought it was my duty to solve the problems, expressed or unexpressed, of my family, friends, and others I knew. Learning that I don’t have the power to solve other people’s problems, even those of my own family members, and that by validating their feelings appropriately I empower them to be their own problem solvers has significantly increased the quality of our relationships. In addition, I have witnessed a far greater measure of success in their personal lives, and an increase in the quality of my own.”

       Lundberg G, Lundberg J. I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better. Six Practical Principles that Empower Others to Solve their Own Problems while Enriching your Relationships. Penguin Books, 1995. 

 See also:

Sunday, 27 January 2013

#272 Perfectionism - Negative AND Positive Forms

     Dentists, physicians, and likely most health-care professionals tend to be perfectionists. This perfectionism benefits health-care recipients, but is extremely hard on providers, contributing to anxiety, depression, burnout and suicide. Fortunately, like most things, perfectionism is a coin with two sides. And mindfulness, which has been defined as "the phenomenon of standing back from negative thoughts and feelings to evaluate an experience” can help flip this coin.

     "positive perfectionists ... set realistic goals and are motivated by the positive feelings that are associated with a sense of accomplishment ... 

     Negative perfectionists are motivated by the need to avoid negative evaluations, although they may set impossible standards and are not satisfied with any outcome.
     strivings for perfection are adaptive when combined with the acceptance of non-perfection, but maladaptive when combined with an inability to accept failures.
     In the current study, positive perfectionists reported higher levels of proactive coping, mindfulness and self-esteem, and lower levels of depressive symptomatology and rumination. Negative perfectionists reported less proactive coping, mindfulness, and self-esteem, as well as greater rumination and depressive symptomatology. As expected, life satisfaction was higher for those with increased mindfulness and positive perfectionism, and lower for individuals reporting lower mindfulness and higher negative perfectionism. 
     The results strongly suggest that positive perfectionists are more likely to be mindful and have higher self-esteem than negative perfectionists, and seek to modify more effective cognitive strategies, as noted by the higher reported levels of proactive coping. Positive perfectionists are intentional and deliberative, and they actually take action (rather than just thinking about it) by using an iterative approach, engaging multiple strategies to continue to persevere.
     Conversely, results suggest that negative perfectionists are unlikely to be mindful or proactive, and more likely to default to rumination as a coping technique. They may focus solely on the desired outcome, rather than searching for alternate solutions to the problem. Failure to achieve success becomes a severe threat to negative perfectionists’ self-esteem. Rumination tends to lead to failure because it does not culminate in taking action, as does the more beneficial cognitive coping style of mindfulness. Rumination seems to reflect a continual low self-esteem state of ineffective 'engagement' which negative perfectionists internalize as better than quitting.

     ... those who were taught mindfulness techniques reported fewer ruminative activities compared to untreated counterparts. Given the positive correlation between negative perfectionism and rumination, 
mindfulness may be a beneficial skill for negative perfectionists to learn. ... mindfulness leads to an increase in the individual’s ability to deliberately respond to situations. Therefore, mindfulness may aid in controlling repetitive behavior and decreasing negative cognitions. Greater mindfulness seems to lead to a better ability to make sound judgments and decisions that lead to more beneficial outcomes. Increased mindfulness could potentially result in decreased negative perfectionism and increased levels of proactive coping, self-esteem, and satisfaction with life ..."

        Hinterman C, Burns L, Hopwood D, Rogers W. Mindfulness: Seeking a More Perfect Approach to Coping with Life’s Challenges. Mindfulness 2012
 DOI 10.1007/s12671-012-0091-8

See also:

Photo: Noah Genda

Saturday, 26 January 2013

#271 "You're perfect as you are. Try harder!"

     "An expert is one who's incapable of learning" used to refer to old folks "stuck in their ways". These days, people in their 20's talk about their "expertise" in various matters, which IMHO is clumsy self-promotion or delusion.
     A closely related ego issue is the inability of some students to accept a mark below an A, constructive criticism of their work or behavior.
     "Everyone has a certain bias to view oneself in a favorable light. Most people prefer a self-view that includes being physically and mentally competent, being liked by others, and adhering to such principles as honesty and concern for the welfare of others."       Whitbourne SK, Whitbourne SB. Adult Development and Aging. Biopsychosocial Perspectives. ed 4, John Wiley & Sons, 2011.
     Indeed, wisdom traditions tell us that we each have an aspect of perfection within us. Yet at the same time, these same traditions encourage us to do the right thing and avoid messing up - nicely summed up by a meditation teacher: "You're perfect as you are. Try harder!" In other words, you're a wonderful human being AND your work or behavior needs improvement. So don't argue, you're being helped - be grateful and "Just do it!"
     It takes a degree of mindfulness to be able to FEEL the difference between your work or especially behavior vs you as a person being criticized. One's work or behavior can never really be perfect, so there's always room for improvement. Why should one feel humiliated and ashamed for being helped to improve one's work or behavior? Tuition is not for buying A's and a degree! A good education should help the student know more and behave better, in other words, be able to function better and truly contribute to society.


Friday, 25 January 2013

#270 Interpersonal Conflicts - Inevitable Learning Opportunities

     "outbreak of interpersonal conflicts may originate from personal factors like cognition, perception, emotion, non-conscious needs, and communicative skills, or cultural factors, real differences, social and physical environments or the quality of the message given in the communication process. Conflicts among individuals are naturally inevitable, as they differ from each other, in every aspect of these factors. 
     Conflicts are a normal segment of daily life. Yet, to many, conflict is considered to be negative, as it causes disagreements, stress, social chaos and violence, and moreover, the most significant indication of a good relationship is accepted to be the absence of conflicts. ... positive aspects of conflicts are; it helps the individual in knowing themselves, enhancing their awareness about others’ characteristics, noticing the relationship problems that they need to solve, and encouraging change, increases energy and motivation for problem solving, making life more interesting, and help find small problems that are perceived as big issues. After all, it is obvious that conflict, can induce constructive results both for the conflicting person, and the person or the group that conflict is about. 
       Dincyurek S, Civelek AH. The determination of the conflict resolution strategies of university students that they use when they have conflicts with people. The Behavior Analyst Today 2008; 9(3-4): 215-233.

                    "Our deepest fears are like dragons

                     guarding our deepest treasures"
                 Rainer Maria Rilke

Photo: fulviavecchia

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

#269 Training the Busy Mind - the Rushing River Metaphor - Excellent!

     “we talk about the thoughts moving through the mind like a rushing, roaring river. The river is always moving, and the thoughts are always rushing along. Mindfulness is the skill that allows the student to sit on the bank and watch the thoughts rather than be in the river, carried away by the thoughts. We often say:
     At first, you’ll find that you climb onto the bank and then fall right back into the river. Climb onto the bank, fall back into the river, over and over. Practicing mindfulness of your thoughts is actually just being willing to climb out of the river, over and over. Every time you turn your attention to the present moment and notice what you are thinking, you have just climbed out of the river. ‘Staying on the bank’ is noticing the next thought instead of getting caught up in the story of the first one. If you stick with the process, you will eventually notice that you start to sit on the bank a bit longer, and the river may actually begin to slow down. As this starts to happen, you’ll really get a feel for the difference between sitting on the bank and watching the thoughts go by versus being in the middle of the river, washed away by the thougths.”

       Rogers H, Maytan M. Mindfulness for the Next Generation. Helping Emerging Adults Manage Stress and Lead Healthier Lives. Oxford University Press, NY, 2012. 

      "Mindfulness has been defined as the phenomenon of standing back from negative thoughts and feelings to evaluate an experience."

        Hinterman C, Burns L, Hopwood D, Rogers W. Mindfulness: Seeking a More Perfect Approach to Coping with Life’s Challenges. Mindfulness 2012
 DOI 10.1007/s12671-012-0091-8 

Photo: microsurgeon

Monday, 21 January 2013

#268 Diversity Enhances Mindfulness Training

     “a high degree of diversity enhances mindfulness training in a few key ways.
     Learning to identify the internal judgments we make is an important first step in mindfulness training. Sometimes we see those judgments more clearly when we are faced with others who differ from us in some way that seems important to us. Second, acceptance evolves as judgments are released. As students from diverse backgrounds see each other having identical struggles with present-moment awareness, they see similarities rather than differences. Judgments are then naturally released. Third, the richness of the stories and the explorations of the group are influenced by the degree of diversity present. … a more diverse group of students will lead to a deeper and more complex experience for all.”

       Rogers H, Maytan M. Mindfulness for the Next Generation. Helping Emerging Adults Manage Stress and Lead Healthier Lives. Oxford University Press, NY, 2012.

Photo: NickOlas

Sunday, 20 January 2013

#267 Reality TV - OR - Wise Living?

     Lance Armstrong is our generation's superstar gladiator isn't he? Hasn't he met and exceeded our society's daydreams of obscene wealth & fame? Isn't "at any cost" a given if one is driven, encouraged, coached, & massively rewarded to achieve one specific goal? Doesn't our society love creating (then destroying) idiot savants like Armstrong, Charlie Sheen, Bernie Madoff, Kim Kardashian, O.J. Simpson, and countless others? These cartoon characters don't appear out of nowhere. They're a product of, CULTIVATED by, our society's demand for freakish entertainment - our version of feeding Christians to the lions & gladiators fighting till death. We pay these characters thousands of times more than teachers, social workers etc!
      Every day, moment-by-moment, we make countless choices between being egocentric (selfish) OR being in harmony with the big picture
. Choosing to live wisely ensures a very fine quality of life, NOT notoriety & wealth.

Photo: stevepinnz

Saturday, 19 January 2013

#266 Emerging Adults & Mindfulness Training

     “The developmental characteristics of emerging adults make them especially well suited to benefit from mindfulness and meditation.
     Emerging adults have the task of developing their identity by clarifying their values and making choices about careers and life partners.
     The array of choices and perceived expectations create a sense of extreme pressure and stress for many emerging adults.
     Mindfulness assists with the developmental tasks of emerging adulthood by providing relief from pressure and worry.
     Perhaps even more important, mindfulness allows students to develop greater self-knowledge and provides a framework they can use to evaluate their life choices.”

       Rogers H, Maytan M. Mindfulness for the Next Generation. Helping Emerging Adults Manage Stress and Lead Healthier Lives. Oxford University Press, NY, 2012.

Photo: Michael T

Friday, 18 January 2013

#265 Who are Emerging Adults?

     “emerging adulthood is a relatively new developmental stage, a product of changing culture in the developed world. With this change in culture, the age of marriage and parenthood has moved to a later time in life. This delay in the onset of adult family responsibilities contributes to a delay in other aspects of development as well, especially the need to make early decisions about work and career choices. As a result, the period of life from about age 18 to age 29, which used to be the time for starting careers and raising young children, has now become a time that is open, free of adult responsibilities, and ripe for exploration and self-discovery.
     … the search for identity is typical of this age group. … seven vectors of student development: developing competence, moving through autonomy toward independence, developing mature interpersonal relationships, developing purpose, establishing identity, managing emotions, and developing integrity. … highlights the seeking, questioning nature of this time of life. Emerging adults are seekers.”

       Rogers H, Maytan M. Mindfulness for the Next Generation. Helping Emerging Adults Manage Stress and Lead Healthier Lives. Oxford University Press, NY, 2012.

Looking for Yesterday by Kristiina Lehtonen

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

#264 Impossible to Grow & Mature when I'm Perfect & Everyone Else is Wrong

     "identity assimilation refers to a tendency to interpret new experiences relevant to a person's self-view as competent, well liked, & ethical."
• benefit: can "feel happy & effective, despite being less than perfect." 
• drawback: can lead to a "distorted interpretation of experiences that challenge" one's positive self-image. Example: protecting one's self-esteem by blaming a low mark on the the wording of the test or the professor's ineptitude, rather than questioning one's own knowledge & preparedness. See:
     Continuing discrepancies between external and self-appraisals must be confronted for development to continue successfully. "Learning to accept (one's own) imperfections is vital to (one's) growth. Ideally the realization of (one's) flaws will trigger the process of identity accommodation, through which (one) changes (one's) identity to incorporate a (REALISTIC) view of the self that is not perfect."

       Whitbourne SK, Whitbourne SB. Adult Development and Aging. Biopsychosocial Perspectives. ed 4, John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

     Only after accepting the fact that one can & did make mistakes, can one learn from these and from the people who brought attention to them, thus avoiding repeating these mistakes in the future AND maturing gracefully as an adult.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

#263 Physician & Patient - "Heal Thyself!" - Contemplative Science

     “In the case of contemplative traditions, the vector of inquiry and investigation up to now has been primarily inward directed, probing the domain of the mind. Yet until recently, interior experience was dismissed in some academic circles as merely ‘subjective,’ as opposed to ‘objective.’ Now it is getting a second look as an essential and valid phenomenological dimension of human experience and knowing. This more balanced view, reconfigured as first-person experience, is thanks in large measure to Francisco Valera. Since nothing in science to date actually explains the nature of our interior experience, it seems prudent to at least entertain the possibility that a systemic investigation of inner experience from the first-person perspective has its own valid parameters as an epistemology, and has the potential (especially coupled with third-person methodologies) to contribute profoundly to a balanced and collaborative investigation of what we call the mind and human experience, including the dilemmas of suffering, greed, aggression, delusion, and ignorance, the tyranny and dangers inherent in Socrates’s ‘unexamined life’ – the mind that, contrary to the appellation Homo sapiens sapiens, does not know itself. This is the very much alive and relevant arena of the contemplative traditions, what might be called their ‘laboratory domain.’
     Of course, it is a heuristic conceit and a gross generalization to speak of science as outer directed and the meditative traditions as inner directed. Many fields within science are concerned with studying the nature of mental phenomena, and contemplative wisdom does not make a distinction between outer and inner, recognizing that they are different aspects of a deeper, non-dual wholeness, and that the ultimate realization of any introspective process manifests in how one lives one’s life. Nevertheless, there has been at least the appearance of a predominantly outer-directed mind-set and mode of investigation on the part of science and an inward investigation on the part of the meditative traditions. The Mind and Life Dialogues are contributing to the examination and breaking down of such categories and a cross-fertilization of ways of knowing and viable research endeavors at the interfaces of these larger trends.”
        Kabat-Zinn J, Davidson RJ eds. The Mind’s Own Physician. A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama on the Healing Power of Meditation. New Harbinger Publications Inc, Oakland, California, 2011.

Photo: summicron

Friday, 11 January 2013

#262 Psychological Flexibility & Flowing with - OR - Rigidity & Crashing against

     The present moment constantly presents us with new challenges and creative opportunities IF we're awake to appreciate them. To be awake, we must be aware AND accepting. A great deal of flexibility is required to constantly accept new challenges, for these challenges are indifferent to our personal preferences. See:
     Reality flows, constantly changing, like a river picking up an infinite amount of new stuff from the air, shore, and riverbed, and likewise leaving behind an infinite amount of old stuff. Each of us is somewhat like a cup of water in this massive, rapidly flowing river of life. 
     Other analogies: being a musician in a large orchestra; being a cell in a complex multicellular organism; driving a car during rush hour traffic ("you're not stuck in a traffic jam, you are the traffic jam").
     Clearly we need to be consciously aware of the reality in which we're intimately interwoven. We're completely immersed in and entirely dependent on this one complex ecosystem, which in turn depends on each one of us. Being an intelligent, informed and decent citizen - "team player" - is absolutely NATURAL. Being otherwise eg selfish, thief, liar, counterfeiter, vandal, etc while common, is COMPLETELY UNNATURAL.
     Moment-to-moment we choose, mindfully or mindlessly, to flow with or crash against reality. Each choice impacts everyone, everything, forever - how could it possibly not?

     Humor: "In the 60's, people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal."           Anon

See also:

Tamer by Kristiina Lehtonen

Thursday, 10 January 2013

#261 Psychological Rigidity - "I have always ... I will never change!"

     "Although the term rigidity may be somewhat out of vogue among personality and social psychologists today, we continue to see considerable interest in a range of highly related personality variables, such as flexibility, need for closure, and openness to experience. Indeed, every major personality inventory contains a dimension similar to rigidity. ... Social psychologists have always been interested in behavior change. As presented in the following review, rigidity is the tendency of an individual not to change.
     On the basis of our definition of rigidity,
the tendency to develop & perseverate in the use of mental or behavioral sets, the present review of the literature supports the following major conclusions:

• Rigidity is related to age in a curvilinear manner. Between the ages of 5 and 18 rigidity decreases; between the ages of 18 and 60 rigidity is fairly stable; and from age 60 on rigidity increases in a linear fashion.

• Although rigidity is found to be generally positively related to authoritarianism, the basic effect is moderated by stress, whereby authoritarianism is a stronger predictor of rigid behavior under stressful conditions than it is under relaxed conditions.
• Rigidity is negatively related to intelligence when people of average and above average intelligence levels are compared.
• It is inconclusive whether people with mental retardation differ in rigidity from people without mental retardation.
Men tend to be more rigid than women.
OCD is positively related to rigidity.
• Schizophrenic people are more rigid than nonschizophrenic controls and nonschizophrenic siblings. This effect is reduced, but still significant, when medication is administered."

        Schultz PW, Searleman A. Rigidity of thought and behavior: 100 years of research. Genet Soc Gen Psychol Monogr 2002; 128(2): 165-207.

Dan Siegel MD

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

#260 Open Awareness in Daily Life

     Open awareness refers to mindfulness of our internal and external environment, with nonjudgmental acceptance. Initially, this practice feels awkward and tiring to do, so in the beginning we tend to do it briefly and intermittently. But as the practice continues to bring about improvements in our quality of life, we tend to practice on a more regular basis. Eventually, continuously practicing mindfulness becomes our way of being in the world.
     What do we give up or what is displaced when one is practicing mindfulness? Or what is the nature of mindlessness? Being drunk, sleepwalking, living in a daze, going along passively with the momentum of our life, yet having the idea that we either know it all, or we don't know and don't care - all these describe mindlessness.
     Mindfulness on the other hand is remaining alert, curious and inquisitive - fully alive, whether the situation is pleasant, neutral or unpleasant in the conventional sense. Why add 'conventional sense'? Because if we don't jump to conclusions ie don't prejudge, nor judge quickly, any situation is much more complex and nuanced than at first glance. Nothing is completely terrible, completely boring, nor completely wonderful in life. Everything is extraordinarily complex. It's remarkable how radically different ordinary life becomes when appreciated with fresh unjaded eyes and without "attitude".
     Of course each of us needs to try mindfulness in our own life ie it's experiential.

Photo: jr

Saturday, 5 January 2013

#259 In-groups, Self-centeredness, Maturity & Wisdom

     "My country - right or wrong!" is a controversial position still held by some. Such "group think" attitudes allow the group to commit atrocities. To permit atrocities to happen, the majority of followers must at least fail to oppose, if not actively participate. Yet, as soon as a leadership falls, the previously silent majority starts to whimper: "We were only following orders"; "We didn't know these things were happening."
     A proportion of the population will ride along with anything that provides easy access to power, wealth and security - ethics and common decency be damned. Too self-centered and weak to care for anyone but themselves, short-term gain is their game. Such opportunists completely identify with whatever group holds power: country, ethnicity, political party, religion, profession, cult, tribe, gang, etc, and against outsiders. 

     Some of us will, instead, actively seek and increasingly grow in wisdom. To do so requires that we outgrow self-serving in-groups.
     Wisdom is “a developmental process involving self-transcendence. Self-transcendence refers to the ability to move beyond self-centered consciousness, and to see things as they are with clear awareness of human nature and human problems, and with a considerable measure of freedom from biological and social conditioning. This ability to move beyond a self-centered perspective is certainly an important component of wisdom. Consistent with this idea, … transcending the self is needed to move beyond ingrained, automatic ways of thinking, feeling, and acting, and to connect empathetically with the experiences of others.”

     Le TN, Levenson MR. Wisdom as self-transcendence: What's love (& individualism) got to do with it? Journal of Research in Personality 2005; 39(4): 443-457.

Carsten Krieger Photography

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

#258 Goal-orientation & Expectations

     If we work long and hard to achieve a goal, even if we do achieve it, the goal probably can't live up to our expectations. After all, didn't we give up or delay truly living in order to achieve the goal? Didn't we also give up who we think we are to single-mindedly pursue this goal? Isn't our authenticity too valuable to give up, regardless of the goal?
     A common example is working overly hard, perhaps in a less-than-satisfying work environment and then expect to make up for it all with an expensive exotic week-long vacation. No matter how well this precious week - 2% of the year - goes, it can't possibly make up for 51 weeks of purgatory!
     Does it not make sense to ensure that 100% of our life, moment-to-moment, is lived as authentically as possible - consciously, meaningfully, mindfully?
     Striving toward a goal has features of egotistic materialism - climbing over people & things to reach the top. This leaves us impoverished, diminished.
     Being authentic, on the other hand, does not look or feel as busy, everything that needs to be done is accomplished, and the doer has grown in the process.

Photo: Xiaomao