|Pushed to Excel – Part 2
||Continued from Part 1 What does creative excellence take? In his article How to Win American Idol, psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman refers to research by Rena Subotnik and Linda Jarvin, who “interviewed over 80 top students at different stages of their musical careers and identified the traits important...
|Eating This For Breakfast Reduces Food Cravings Later in The Day
What you should eat for the 'most important meal of the day'.
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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|Sport in old age can stimulate brain fitness, but effect decreases with advancing age
||Physical exercise in old age can improve brain perfusion as well as certain memory skills, say neuroscientists who studied men and women aged between 60 and 77. In younger individuals regular training on a treadmill tended to improve cerebral blood flow and visual memory. However, trial participants who were older than 70 years of age tended to show no benefit of exercise.
|An Atlas of Angst
||Continuing the theme of societal expectations and my failure to satisfy them, I write today from a more detached perspective. At the moment, it doesn’t seem to me like everything ‘they’ tell us is wrong, but I do believe society hands out a map for life that is supposed to...
|Five Quotes to Consider on Being Alone
||In a new book, the author describes society's attitude towards solitude, makes a case for its benefits, and suggests ways the solitude-averse can learn to love it. Or at least deal with it.
|#121 Communicating Outside the Box
||Remember those ghosts in the nursery I was talking about? Well, those who have gone before us have an uncanny way of remaining with us. We pick up their mannerisms, their walk, their likes and dislikes—all without any words being spoken. Okay. So how does this happen? It happens because...
|How to Turn Conflict Into Creativity
||Harmony is overrated. Innovation is about bringing together individuals with diverse strengths who can push against each other and build something collaboratively that they never would've come up with on their own.
|The Right Way to Get Angry
||Anger is in itself neither good nor bad—it’s what you do with it that matters.
Anger is best viewed as a tool that helps us read and respond to upsetting social situations. Research overwhelmingly indicates that feeling angry increases optimism, creativity, effective performance—and research suggests that expressing anger can lead to more successful negotiations, in life or on the job.
In fact, repressing anger can actually hurt you. Dr. Ernest Harburg and his team at the University of Michigan School of Public Health spent several decades tracking the same adults in a longitudinal study of anger. They found that men and women who hid the anger they felt in response to an unjust attack subsequently found themselves more likely to get bronchitis and heart attacks, and were more likely to die earlier than peers who let their anger be known when other people were annoying.
When anger arises, we feel called upon to prevent or terminate immediate threats to our welfare, or to the well-being of those we care about. Altruism is often born from anger; when it comes to mobilizing other people and creating support for a cause, no emotion is stronger. It’s a mistake to presume that kindness, compassion, love, and fairness line up on one side of a continuum, and anger, rage, and dislike, on another side. Positivity alone is insufficient to the task of helping us navigate social interactions and relationships. A healthy society is not an anger-free society.
Caution around anger is certainly smart, as is the knowledge that it should not be overused, or used with everyone. With these reservations, the expression of authentic anger can be entirely appropriate with certain people in certain situations. The question is how you do that without letting it go too far. What is the right way to get mad?
How to manage anger
When you want to express anger, or any negative emotion, one way to do so is to start with what we call the “discomfort caveat.” Let other people know explicitly that you are experiencing intense emotions and because of this, it is more difficult than usual for you to communicate clearly. Apologize in advance, not for your emotions or your actions but for the potential lack of clarity in how you convey what you’re about to say.
The aim of the discomfort caveat is to disarm the person, to keep them from becoming defensive. When someone hears that you are uncomfortable and that the conversation is difficult for you, it increases the likelihood that they will approach what you have to say with empathy. After using this opening, you can then delve deeper into what bothers you, what you think and feel in the aftermath of whatever happened (why anger emerged instead of other feelings).
The obvious difficulty lies in figuring out how to put angry feelings to work, especially in relationships. First, we want to discourage you from making self-statements that push for trying to control or avoid anger, such as “I need to get rid of my anger,” or, “Why can’t I be less angry?”
Instead, recognize the difference between events that you can change and those that are beyond your ability to control. If you are on a trip and you lose your win- ter hat on the first day, there is nothing you can change, so there is no benefit in expressing anger. But if you are haggling with a shopkeeper at a flea market over the price of a hat and you’re angry that you’ve been quoted a higher price than the last customer, you possess some control. Now, in this situation, how do you appropriately communicate annoyance or anger in a way that leads to a healthy outcome? Psychologist and Anger Disorders editor Dr. Howard Kassinove mentions that the key is to use “an appropriate tone without demeaning the other person.”
Second, slow the situation down. Our initial tendency is to jump into a situation and act immediately, especially in cases where our blood is boiling. Instead, try thinking of anger as coming in both fast and slow varieties, when you want to scream versus when you want to motivate a person in a calculated way.
When you’re angry, give yourself permission to pause for a moment, even if someone is standing there awaiting a response. You can even let them know that you are intentionally slowing the situation down. Choose to make good decisions rather than fast ones. When you’re angry, pauses, deep breaths, and moments of reflection more effectively exercise power and control than rapid-fire responses. If you feel less angry when you slow down, great, but that’s not the goal. This is about giving yourself a wider range of options to choose from in an emotionally charged situation.
Think like a chess player. Before deciding on a course of action, imagine how the other person will counter and how the situation might look two moves from now. If it looks good, continue along your present path. If it looks bad, consider an alternative behavior, imagine how they will counter that, and evaluate this scenario. Keep checking in with yourself by asking, “Is my anger helping or hurting the situation?” When you’re engaged in dialogue with someone else, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question because the emotions and actions involved are constantly shifting. At one point I might want to assert my dominance by telling a story, and a few minutes later I might want to increase the feeling of connection by ignoring an incendiary remark.
Setting speed limits
When we become extremely angry, it seems that if we don’t go into attack mode we’ll suffer serious consequences.
Psychologist John Riskind, an expert in helping people with seemingly uncontrollable emotions, has come up with techniques for slowing down the speed of threatening events. Riskind has found that the experience of anger is not as problematic as the belief that the sequence of events triggering that anger is accelerating, that the danger is escalating, and the available window for taking action is quickly disappearing. This sense of impending danger pushes people to do something that might stop the immediate threat but in the longer term will make the situation worse (such as punching the person who cut you off in line at the grocery checkout).
The first step is to check in with yourself frequently to assess whether your anger is increasing, decreasing, or stable in the given situation. For a scrupulous self-examination, use a number and even a few descriptive words to capture the intensity of your anger, as you’ll see in this speedometer example:
90 miles per hour and above: boiling, explosive, violent
85 miles per hour
: fuming, outraged
80 miles per hour: infuriated, enraged
75 miles per hour: irate, exasperated
65 miles per hour
: bitter, indignant
60 miles per hour
: pissed off
55 miles per hour
: mad, angry
50 miles per hour
: agitated, perturbed
45 miles per hour
: annoyed, irritated, frustrated
40 miles per hour
: ruffled, displeased
35 miles per hour and below: calm and cool, peaceful, tranquil
If your anger is well above the speed limit, you’re going to need more time in order to retain maximum flexibility and control in dealing with the person who provoked or upset you. In this case, consider slowing the speedometer. At this high speed, you probably feel a bit out of control.
Imagine putting on the brakes so that the way you’re acting and the way others are responding goes from eighty-five miles per hour to sixty-five, and then from sixty-five to fifty-five. Create a visual image of what you would look like and how other people would appear to you. Notice how they no longer seem as physically close to you. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying, and read the underlying message in their body language. Use the lower speed to see whether the person bothering you is open to conversation or closed off, whether they’re really looking to attack or are looking for a way out of this jam.
How does it feel when you imagine things slowing down? As Riskind says about anger, “You might think there are too many things to do and not enough time to do them.” This exercise, focusing on the speed that threats are moving, gives us a little more psychological breathing room. Experiment with this tool. The overall objective here is to learn how to work with your anger.
In the end, most prejudices against negative emotional experiences arise because people conflate extreme, overwhelming, problematic emotions with their more benign cousins. Anger is not rage. Anger can be a beneficial source of emotional information that focuses attention, thinking, and behavior toward a surprising number of effective outcomes.
|Radical Self-Care for Moms
||As a mom, when you hear that it’s important to take care of yourself, your eyes might glaze over and you may be thinking something like: “Another thing I need to add to my to-do list: ‘self-care.’ How am I supposed to do that?” That’s the reaction Elizabeth Sullivan sometimes...
|The Garcia Effect Nitpicks A Clockwork Orange So You Don't Have To
The most famous scene in the film A Clockwork Orange is the one in which Alex DeLarge goes through a brutal conditioning process to give him an aversion to violence. But aversion conditioning is not as simple as that, and the Garcia Effect shows why....
|Brain activity provides evidence for internal 'calorie counter'
||As you think about how a food will taste and whether it's nutritious, an internal calorie counter of sorts is also evaluating each food based on its caloric density, according to findings from a new neuroimaging study.
|New antidepressant: Rapid agent restores pleasure-seeking ahead of other antidepressant action
||A drug being studied as a fast-acting mood-lifter restored pleasure-seeking behavior independent of -- and ahead of -- its other antidepressant effects. Within 40 minutes after a single infusion of ketamine, treatment-resistant depressed bipolar disorder patients experienced a reversal of a key symptom -- loss of interest in pleasurable activities -- which lasted up to 14 days. Brain scans traced the agent's action to boosted activity in areas at the front and deep in the right hemisphere of the brain.
|Design of micro, nanoparticles to improve treatments for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's
||Techniques are being developed to deliver correctly and effectively certain drugs to treat Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Both disorders affect the neurones: their structure and function is lost, and this in turn leads to the deterioration in the patient's motor, cognitive, sensory and emotional functions.
|Some Answers on Media Violence
||The media tend to report that psychiatrists and other researchers continue to debate whether media violence promotes aggressive behavior in children. In fact, a variety of studies dating back six decades shows that media violence is bad for the developing brain and contributes to our nation’s elevated levels of assault, gang fighting, sexual violence, robbery and murder.
|How Vision Works: Why Most of What You See Looks Sharp When Really It’s Not
Solving the most fascinating quirk of vision: what you see isn't really what you see.
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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|Making the Most of Your Hospital Stay
|| Taken by Ambulance Let’s be frank: to be 5150’d or to check yourself into a mental health hospital is one of the scariest things to do to save your life. But when done, it will make the difference between living and dying. Let’s also be honest, I’ve never...
|Bullying Starts in Families and Spreads Like Cancer
||Often these days the subject of bullying comes up in the context of prejudice. For example, during the last Presidential election former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was accused of bullying a fellow student during his youth, a student who was perceived to be different and possibly homosexual. When bullying is...
|This Experiment Shows We're Low On Good Samaritans And High On Irony
How likely are you to stop and help a stranger? Do you think that would change if the ethos you subscribe to is all about helping others? Here's an experiment that tested that very idea....
|Head injury causes immune system to attack brain, new study finds
||Scientists have uncovered a surprising way to reduce the brain damage caused by head injuries -- stopping the body's immune system from killing brain cells. A new study showed that in experiments on mice, an immune-based treatment reduced the size of brain lesions. The authors suggest that if the findings apply to humans, this could help prevent brain damage from accidents, and protect players of contact sports like football, rugby and boxing.
|Fish intake associated with boost to antidepressant response
||Up to half of patients who suffer from major depression do not respond to treatment with Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. Now a group of researchers has carried out a study that shows that increasing fatty fish intake appears to increase the response rate in patients who do not respond to antidepressants.