|Learning with all the senses: Movements and images facilitate vocabulary learning
||“Atesi” – what sounds like a word from the Elven language of Lord of the Rings is actually a Vimmish word meaning “thought”. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig have used Vimmish, an artificial language specifically developed for scientific research, to study how people can best memorise [...]The post Learning with all the senses: Movements and images facilitate vocabulary learning appeared first on PsyPost.
|New study finds that parenthood is one of the risk factors for increased depressive symptoms
||An article released on February 5, 2015 by Social Work titled, “Gender Differences in Depression across Parental Roles” by Kevin Shafer and Garrett T. Pace explores how combined parental roles — biological, stepparent, cohabitating, non-cohabitating — influence depressive symptoms in mothers and fathers. The authors also look at gender differences. Their results indicate that having [...]The post New study finds that parenthood is one of the risk factors for increased depressive symptoms appeared first on PsyPost.
|Study details how cocaine works in the brain, offers possibility of drug to treat addiction
||A research team led by the University of Colorado Boulder has discovered a mechanism in the brain that is key to making cocaine seem pleasurable, a finding that could lead to a drug treatment for fighting addiction. The findings build on past research also involving CU-Boulder that found the same mechanism in the brain also [...]The post Study details how cocaine works in the brain, offers possibility of drug to treat addiction appeared first on PsyPost.
|Brain’s response to angry or fearful faces may reveal vulnerability to stress
||Duke University scientists have a new strategy to predict whether individuals are at an increased risk for depression or anxiety after stressful events, and therefore might benefit from interventions aimed at safeguarding their mental health. In the February 4th issue of the Cell Press journal Neuron, the researchers report a correlation between how a college [...]The post Brain’s response to angry or fearful faces may reveal vulnerability to stress appeared first on PsyPost.
|Neuroimaging studies review suggests areas of agreement in psychiatric diagnoses
||A review of neuroimaging studies suggests there are areas of agreement across psychiatric diagnoses in terms of the integrity of the brain’s anterior insula/dorsal anterior cingulate network, which may relate to executive function deficits seen across the various diagnoses, according to a study published online by JAMA Psychiatry. Psychiatry has focused on establishing diagnostic categories [...]The post Neuroimaging studies review suggests areas of agreement in psychiatric diagnoses appeared first on PsyPost.
|Partner caregivers of veterans with brain injuries may be at risk for chronic disease
||Blame and anger associated with the grief of caring for a loved one with a traumatic-brain injury (TBI) may be related to inflammation and certain chronic diseases, according to researchers from Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. These findings were published in the latest issue of Biological Research for Nursing. “Traumatic-brain injuries can [...]The post Partner caregivers of veterans with brain injuries may be at risk for chronic disease appeared first on PsyPost.
|Stanford study ties immune cells to delayed onset of post-stroke dementia
||A single stroke doubles a person’s risk of developing dementia over the following decade, even when that person’s mental ability is initially unaffected. Why this delayed deterioration occurs has been a mystery. Now, Stanford University School of Medicine investigators think they have discovered a major reason for it. In experiments using both mouse models of [...]The post Stanford study ties immune cells to delayed onset of post-stroke dementia appeared first on PsyPost.
|A brief history of childcare advice
||From the wisdom of family to doctors’ advice from the late 19th century, trends in parenting have waxed and waned. 110 AD: Plutarch The Greek historian and essayist wrote about importance of education, insisting that anyone charged with raising children should have impeccable manners and be free from scandal. Both he and Plato believed that [...]The post A brief history of childcare advice appeared first on PsyPost.
|7 Free Therapeutic Valentine’s Day Gifts
|| On Valentine’s Day people often bend over backwards to show how much they love their loved ones. This can cost a lot of money. There are men or women who take their spouses to expensive candlelight restaurants, surprise them with expensive trips to Paris, buy them extravagant flowers, chocolates...
|The cyberpsychology of a black hat hacker
||About 80 million customers of Anthem Inc., the country’s second-biggest health insurer, are co-victims in a hack of the company’s database. President and CEO Joseph R. Swedish said, in his letter to the company’s policyholders, the information acquired by hackers includes “names, birthdays, social security numbers, street addresses, email addresses, and employment information, including income [...]The post The cyberpsychology of a black hat hacker appeared first on PsyPost.
|What Makes a Highly Sensitive Person?
||My mom called me her “flapper” when I was a baby. Whenever I got excited, I would flap my arms, like I was young chick taking off for flight … in front of a hawk. I still do that, to some extent, but I manage to keep the arm movements...
|The Power of “NO”
|| My mother says that my first word was no. I’m not surprised that this was the first true word that came out of my mouth. Many children sing out the joys of no regularly and with enthusiasm. “Would you like more potatoes?” “NO!” “Put on your shoes please.” “NO!” “Time...
|The Truth About ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences): Infographic by
||Adverse Childhood Experiences Infographic credit: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, childhood experiences can have a tremendous effect in various ways throughout a person’s life. Three Types of ACEs RWJF reports that there are three types of ACEs, or adverse childhood experiences. These...
|Why it’s Better to “Like” than be “Liked”
||In my recent novel, “Don’t Try to Find Me”, social media plays a significant role. And for many of us, it’s hard to go a day without being on some form of social media. The act of posting and hearing back from others can be a form of connection and...
|Learn Languages Better With This Psychological Tip
Boost language learning with this tip.
Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is
"Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
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|Tom Sullivan Tries to Backtrack on His Comments, But
||Tom Sullivan, the Fox News Radio show host who claimed that the bipolar disorder diagnosis was simply a “fad,” has tried to backtrack on his disparaging and thoughtless remarks. In a Facebook posting, he claims the comments were taken out of context from a lengthy, two-hour discussion about the Social...
|A Secret Cause & Cure for the Socially Anxious
||The Fatal Flaw: A deeply buried, un-nameable sense that: Something is wrong with me. I am missing some vital ingredient that other people have. I am set apart, different. I do not quite fit in anywhere. Fortunately the Fatal Flaw is not as bad as it sounds, because it’s not...
|Creativity’s Monsters: Making Friends with Complexity
“To live creatively is a choice. You must make a commitment to your own mind and the possibility that you will not be accepted. You have to let go of satisfying people, often even yourself.” ~ Jessica Olien
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, studied the lives of 91 eminent creators, what he terms “big C” creatives who changed their domains, in search of what they might have in common. His conclusion? "If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it's complexity” ().
By Sabine Fricke; Graffiti: Unknown (Sabine Fricke) CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
By "complexity" he meant having personalities of “contradictory extremes,” such as being both extremely smart and naïve, or traditional and rebellious, or objective and passionate. There is little middle ground. Creatively complex people are nearly impossible to “peg” as this or that. Their capacity to tap into a fuller range of what life has to offer is what allows them a broader response to life’s problems and questions, whether practical or artistic. This is in line with findings that openness to experience is an important part of creativity.
Csikszentmihalyi believes that we all can become more creative by consciously becoming more complex:
"A creative person is highly individualized. She follows her own star and creates her own career. At the same time, she is deeply steeped in the traditions of the culture; she learns and respects the rules of the domain and is responsive to the opinions of the field—as long as those opinions do not conflict with personal experience. Complexity is the result of the fruitful interaction between these two opposing tendencies."1
Creativity and Social Rejection
Complexity, however, is not for the faint of heart. Parents, teachers, friends, and employers are more at ease when we are predictable, when we confine our creativity to what is comfortable, when we remain free from conflict and controversy.
In “Inside the Box: People don’t actually like creativity,” Jessica Olien writes about how, beginning in school and continuing through the world of work, our society routinely discourages if not outright punishes creativity. Yes, we celebrate eminence and innovation, but we do not value the ways in which creative people think and feel and live. Children are rarely praised for their divergence. Workers who challenge the status quo are rarely rewarded. But Olien also writes that not fitting in may be just what we need to live a fully creative life:
“All of this negativity isn’t easy to digest, and social rejection can be painful in some of the same ways physical pain hurts. But there is a glimmer of hope in all of this rejection. A Cornell study makes the case that social rejection is not actually bad for the creative process—and can even facilitate it. The study shows that if you have the sneaking suspicion you might not belong, the act of being rejected confirms your interpretation. The effect can liberate creative people from the need to fit in and allow them to pursue their interests.”
The students in my creative thinking classes are emboldened when they learn that the complexity they had always thought of as something to hide or try to simplify, because it is messy and hard to understand, can actually be a creative asset. They also begin to re-think aspects of their childhood that were difficult and painful—parental divorce, bullying, learning disabilities—as preparations for them to be more fully themselves, free from the need to fit in because they already know that they can survive without fitting in.
Snatching Creativity from the Jaws of Defeat
In his theory of Positive Disintegration, a theory of personal growth and personality development, Kazimierz Dabrowski posited, “A great flow of creativity, changing direction, reach, subject, and level of the creativity, often follows after great defeats in life.” Like Csikszentmihalyi, he found in creative people "the struggle of contradictory sets of tendencies, an inadaptability to reality, a disposition to prospection and retrospection.”2 He argued that creativity “is often connected in some individuals with periods of emotional crisis, inner conflicts, and difficult life experiences. It seems to demand 'turbulence' in the inner environment.”3
WhiteBoyzCantRun at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
This is not to say that we should seek pain and conflict for their own sake, but rather that we can cut ourselves some slack for lives that are imperfect. Our periods of disintegration can serve as opportunities for both creative and personal growth. Dabrowski argued that this is especially true of complex feelings we have about ourselves and that life-long creatives often have a persistent "sentiment of inferiority toward themselves.”4
Perhaps no other musician has explored through his art the complexity of a creative life more often or with more candor than Eminem (Marshall Mathers). His Grammy-nominated collaboration with Rihanna, “The Monster,” is no exception. The lyrics and the music video for the song reflect many themes present in much of his recent work, resonating with young and old alike: retrospection, conflict over one's domain, self-knowledge, self-doubt, self-acceptance, and fear of losing one’s creativity when life becomes less rather than more complex.
Before watching "The Monster" music video, learn more about the ideas behind it from Eminem's manager, Paul Rosenberg, including an Inception-like journey through Eminem’s career thus far, in “The Monster Explained (Behind The Scenes) ft. Rihanna.” Note that both videos contain some explicit language.
1 Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity. New York: Harper Collins. p. 363
2 Dabrowski, K. (1967). Personality shaping through positive disintegration. Boston: Little, Brown. p. 129
3 Dabrowski, K. (1964). The theory of positive disintegration. Boston: Little, Brown. p. 115
4 Ibid. p. 50
Creative Commons Image links: Eminem performing in 2011 & Graffiti of Eminem in Shanghai, China
Being more creative often requires us to get along with our own messy selves.
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Creativity is about more than what time you wake up or what apps are on your phone. Being more creative requires us to be open to all the voices in our heads, even—or especially—the crazy ones.
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|Why Everyone Should Try Being Invisible
In the circles in which I travel—very small and strange circles, but circles nonetheless—the question of “which superpower would you want” comes up quite often. While others would usually answer super-speed or flight, I usually answer “invisibility,” although I’ve often struggled to articulate why. But I read something recently that made me think more about it, for which I am very grateful.
In a New York Times piece titled “How to Be Invisible,” Akiko Busch hails the benefits of social invisibility, positioning it as a salve to modern society’s tendency toward narcissism, the “look at me” preening so common to reality TV and YouTube. As Busch writes, “We live in a time and culture that value display and are largely indifferent to the virtues of passing unnoticed.” She points to Susan Cain’s book Quiet as well as the natural world as support for the value of invisibility, but I didn’t need convincing.
I’ve long tried to be invisible, at least in person if not in print. (I am a writer, after all.) Even when out among “the people,” I prefer to pass unnoticed, to blend with the crowd—which stands in stark contrast to my general contrarian nature in the world of ideas. Chalk it up to my introversion if you want, but my self-loathing probably explains it better. My desire to remain invisible is based less on wanting to be left alone and more on not wanting to bother anyone. I try to pass through crowds as smoothly as I can, letting people pass when they’re obviously in a hurry and holding open doors when I can, contributing while not taking. As Busch writes, “Invisibility can be about finding a sense of fit with the immediate landscape, be it social, cultural or environmental. It can be about adaptability and the recognition that assertiveness may not always be in our best interest. Most of all, it can reflect a sense of vigilance, a sensitivity to and respect for external conditions.”
As I’ve written before, my role models in this are servants, like the butlers of literature and film who seem more a part of the house than of the people in it, who add without subtracting, greasing the wheels of society within their small domain. It’s also a very Taoist idea: in verse 8 of the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu says, “The supreme good is like water, which nourishes all things without trying to. It is content with the low places that people disdain.” From the lowest places, where one cannot be seen, often the greatest good can be done, even if it goes unrecognized.
Returning to the topic of superheroes, invisibility takes several forms among the mask-and-cape crowd. Perhaps the most well-known of the unseen is Susan Storm Richards, also known as Invisible Woman of the Fantastic Four (played by Jessica Alba in the first two movies and Kate Mara in the upcoming reboot). Her power has been interpreted by various writers as symbolizing her feelings of living in the shadow of the men in her life, and was originally portrayed as a weak, defensive power, augmented shortly after her introduction with the more offensive capability to project force fields (invisible ones, of course). Over the fifty years of Fantastic Four stories, the Invisible Woman has developed into the most powerful and admirable member of the group, in both physical and emotional terms, but largely despite her most basic power, not because of it.
But invisibility can be a valuable trait, even if not in the form of a superpower granted by exposure to cosmic rays. Consider Batman, for example, who has no superpowers per se, but whom various writers over the years have portrayed as an unseen “urban legend,” which contributes enormously to his mission to protect the citizens of Gotham City. Also, the close association of the word “shadow” with Batman, and the striking image posed when a streetlight casts his immediately recognizable silhouette on the side of building in the dark Gotham night, points to the importance of the mere suggestion of his presence, which is often enough to strike fear into the hearts of criminals.
In fact, one of my favorite comic book series relies critically on Batman as a storytelling device while rarely showing him. Written by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka and illustrated by David Lark, Kano, and others, Gotham Central was a series that chronicled the lives of members of the Gotham City Police Department as they tried to do their jobs in a city inhabited by masked vigilantes and criminal psychopaths. The absence of Batman from most issues of Gotham Central belied his importance to the storyline and how he defined the life of the GCPD and the people within it. Even when Batman did appear in the comic, it was often in silhouette, and the creators focused instead on the reaction of the GCPD detectives and officers to him, some appreciative and others resentful. Gotham Central showed not only the benefits to Batman of cultivating an air of mystery by remaining largely in the shadows, but also the way that invisibility can enhance storytelling. It’s common to hear the writing advice “show, don’t tell,” but sometimes the best way to show is not to show at all!
Invisibility can be just as beneficial and enriching in the real world as it is in the four-color world of comics. As Busch writes, “Escaping notice need not be about complacent isolation, mindless conformity or humiliating anonymity.” Invisibility doesn’t mean sacrificing one’s individuality; it only means not having to assert it all the time. In this sense, blending in can reflect a deeper sense of self-confidence than standing out—even if no one else ever knows.
For a select list of my previous Psychology Today posts on self-loathing, relationships, and other topics, see here.
I invite you to follow me on Twitter, visit me at my website, and sample my other blogs: Economics and Ethics and The Comics Professor.
Invisibility has tremendous benefits for normal people and superheroes alike.
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Maybe It's Just Me, But...
In The New York Times, Akiko Busch heralds the virtues of invisibility, contrasting with trends of increasing narcissism. I add my own personal perspective, drawing on Taoism as well as some of my favorite superheroes and comics.
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|Self-Care Sunday: Hard Questions
||In Thursday’s post I mentioned that sometimes self-care involves asking hard questions. I shared these examples: “What am I afraid of? What is important to me? What am I doing that I really don’t want to be doing? What do I really need? What do I need to let go...