|The Best Time to Have a Heart Attack? When...
||Large medical conventions – where hundreds if not thousands of doctors converge on some luxury hotel in an exotic location – supposedly to read scientific papers to each other – often attract a well-worn joke: that such conferences are indeed the best place in the … ...
|Narcissism and Self-Esteem Affect Autobiographical Memories Differently...
||You can only trust your memory so far. Our brains are pretty good at saving the information that lines up with the way we see the world and discarding the rest. Based on how memory is selective, you might venture a guess about what kinds of things people who score...
|Opioids may affect how we perceive 'cuteness' of babies
||Opioid dependence -- which includes dependence on drugs such as heroin -- affects how 'cute' we perceive images of children to be, new research shows. As cuteness can trigger caregiving motivation, this result indicates that the opioid system may have significant effects on our ability to care for others. The implications of this may need to be considered in any consideration of medical or recreational opioid use.
|Most Compelling Reason EVER to Stop Judging People
||We all care about what people think about us on some level, and some people really struggle with self-acceptance and other emotional issues because of it. “How positively you see … ...
|What I Wouldn’t Change If My Health Were Restored Tomorrow
||I’ve lived with chronic pain and illness for over 15 years. This is the first of two pieces on the subject of what I would and what I would not change should I regain my health.
|Ambiguous Family Communication: Descriptions, or Judgments?
||People involved in repetitive dysfunctional family interactions may use the intrinsic ambiguity of language to mislead interested third parties. One way is make global judgments.
|What’s Behind a Narcissistic Rant?
||The conversation begins so normal. There is good flow from one person to the next with each hearing and understanding the topic at hand without any indication of stress. Then out of nowhere, it dramatically shifts. The conversation becomes one sided almost lecture like, the … ...
|How People With ADHD Prioritize Tasks Differently
||Most of the tasks we do fall into one of three categories: Things we want to do Things we need to do Things we should do When it comes to … ...
|Finding your way around in an uncertain world
||Suppose you woke up in your bedroom with the lights off and wanted to get out. While heading toward the door with your arms out, you would predict the distance to the door based on your memory of your bedroom and the steps you have already made. If you touch a wall or furniture, you would refine the prediction. This is an example of how important it is to supplement limited sensory input with your own actions to grasp the situation. How the brain comprehends such a complex cognitive function is an important topic of neuroscience.
|Mental Illness and Pregnancy: 5 Items to Consider
||Mental illness continues to be an ongoing concern and struggle for many people, some seeking help and treatment, others suffering in silence. Persons with a history of mental illness or … ...
|Can sertraline prevent depressive disorders following traumatic brain injury?
||Depressive disorders are common following traumatic brain injury (TBI). So, can the antidepressant medication sertraline prevent the onset of depressive disorders following TBI?
|Why We Can’t Accept Ourselves — and Small Steps...
||There are all sorts of obstacles that stop us from accepting ourselves. For starters, it might be a combination of scarce self-knowledge and wounds from our past, said Alexis Marson, LMFT, a psychotherapist who specializes in working with individuals, couples, families and children. We often lack … ...
|How to Stop Being a People-Pleaser
||Many commentators took issue with my claim that happiness comes when we live with total integrity—when we stop people-pleasing and start living more authentically.
I understand entirely why a lot of people fear the sort of transparency and honesty I’m advocating. We are clannish beings, with nervous systems that evolved to profoundly fear being rejected by our tribe. Acceptance can feel like everything, and for some people, it can be a matter of survival.
At the same time, for most of us, it is far better in the long run to be ourselves and risk having people not like us than to suffer the stress and tension that comes from pretending to be someone we’re not.
Does this mean, though, that we never act in a way that doesn’t resonate with our mood? That always express what we’re feeling? That we always say what we’re thinking? Sometimes it’s simply not safe, or smart, to do that. As one commenter recently mused:
Is there anyone reading this who has not had an interaction with a law enforcement officer for at least a minor traffic issue? a tail light out? a parking ticket? And during such an interaction, is telling that officer that you resent being stopped because you believe s/he hasn’t met their quota of fines for the month a wise idea? Or if taking a ticket to court, is it wise to tell the judge you think s/he is a fool? You might think that but saying —so may lead to needing a good attorney.
Granted, a traffic stop is a racial flashpoint and a huge public issue. For some people, a run-in like this one could be lethal, especially if they were to express hostility—however authentic that might be. But there is an enormous difference between living your truth and always saying what’s on your mind. I don’t think that it’s necessary, or even a good idea, in instances like this one to “speak your truth.”
Nor do you need to pretend to be happy about the situation. Being pulled over can be extremely stressful (even life-threatening) and pretending that it isn’t will simply ratchet up your fear response, which is not a good thing. Inauthenticity—in this case, actively pretending to be happy when you’re terrified—tends to increase the fight-or-flight response in both people, and in that way could actually make a scary situation more dangerous.
But it’s entirely possible to internally acknowledge your feelings, while remaining quiet or emotionally unexpressive to those around you.
This is where it gets tricky again. Say you are feeling afraid; is it best to indulge your fear? Even if you don’t tell the officer how frightened you are—or even if you don’t pretend to be happy about the situation—how does one behave authentically in this situation? If you are resentful, is it best to be transparent about your resentment? Should resentment dictate your behavior?
Often this is the way it works: Something happens—or we have a thought or memory—that triggers an emotion. In turn, that emotion triggers behavior.
Sometimes, the behavior is repression—the act of pretending that we aren’t feeling what we actually are feeling. Or an emotion triggers a numbing behavior, so that we don’t really feel something, as when we start to feel bored or anxious and we immediately check our phones. (This doesn’t work, by the way; physiologically our emotions get bigger when we stuff them down. But let’s leave that for another post.)
Emotions trigger loads of behaviors. They may cause us to hug someone we love, or lash out when we feel angry.
So again: If we are trying to live with total integrity, if we are attempting to “live our truth,” does that mean always acting on our feelings?
Again, I don’t think so. Why? Because often it simply isn’t effective. It won’t necessarily make us feel less stressed or more honest. In the same way that we don’t always need to say out loud everything that is on our mind, we don’t need to act on our every emotional impulse. We need to be aware of what we’re feeling, for sure, but we don’t always need to act in the ways that our emotions would dictate.
It can be even more effective to “act as-if” we are already feeling something else. Before you write me off as contradicting myself entirely, hear me out.
Just as emotions tend to trigger behaviors, behavior can also trigger emotion. We know that facial expression alone, for example, without first feeling a corresponding emotion, is often enough to create discernible changes in your nervous system. When you lift the corners of your lips and crinkle your eyes, for example, after a couple of minutes your body will release the feel-good brain chemicals associated with smiling. Or think about the wise (and almost cliched) advice to take some deep breathes when you are feeling stressed. In each of these cases, a particular behavior can help to create a different emotional state than you may be feeling initially. We often think of this as the “fake it ‘til you make it” path to happiness.
There is a catch here, which gets confusing. “Faking it” only works when we aren’t pretending or performing. Consciously faking a smile, for example, to cover negative emotions (what researchers call “surface acting”) tends to increase our distress. This kind of toxic inauthenticity is corrosive to our health (especially our cardiovascular system), and it damages our relationships with others. It also makes it hard for us to access our intuitive or visceral intelligence.
Suppressing or numbing our emotions doesn’t work the way we often want it to. UNLESS—and here is the trick—we consciously foster the emotions that we want to feel in our lives. This is what researchers call “deep acting.”
Deep acting is when we genuinely work to foster specific feelings. When we make an effort to cultivate real happiness, gratitude, hope, and other positive emotions in our lives, we can dramatically increase our well-being—authentically.
Deep acting is what this commenter is asking about:
I’m wondering…if you would suggest that the idea of “acting as if” for treatment would never work? I suggest the use of breathing, self-imagery, posture…to feel better and improve relationships.
When we are talking about the types of research-tested behaviors this commenter suggests, “acting as-if” can be quite different than pretending to feel something that we don’t.
Here’s the difference: Pretending is about hiding or denying our emotions, while “deep acting,” or “acting as-if” is about proactively fostering emotions, starting with an action or behavior.
It’s a fine line, to be sure. Here’s a method I teach my coaching clients for remaining in integrity when when they have an impulse to pretend.
Ask yourself what you are feeling. Are you afraid of what someone else is thinking of you? Are you avoiding an inconvenient truth or difficult emotion?
Allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you are feeling. All emotions are okay; they are a key part of our intelligence and the human experience.
Assess the situation. Can you safely share your feelings with others? Would it make you feel better to do so? If yes, go ahead and share. This might feel risky, but authenticity and vulnerability usually create intimacy and connection — two keys to happiness.
Decide on an appropriate behavior based on how you’d like to feel. If you are afraid, for example, you might want to choose a behavior to calm your fear, like taking deep breaths. If you are feeling low-energy, you might want to do a few jumping jacks to get your blood circulating.
Finally, check back in with yourself to see how you are feeling. Allow whatever comes up for you. You may now be feeling both a sense of calm (from taking a bunch of deep breaths) and a little frightened. It is entirely possible to experience more than one emotion at a time. Or, your blahs might have vanished now that you’ve taken a little walk outside.
Does this work for you? When does it still seem untenable for you to be truthful?
We sometimes become pretty invested in our false selves, in the “representative,” as Glennon Doyle Melton calls it, that we send out into the world instead of showing up fully and authentically as ourselves. We create representatives to protect ourselves, often in response to unstable or abusive situations.
Sometimes, we aren’t yet able to separate our false selves from our real ones. We want to defend the important representative that has worked so hard for us for so long. And that’s okay…so long as we can see where our representative is holding us back, and that it is, of course, the truth that will eventually set us free.
My latest eCourse, The Science of Finding Flow, focuses on so many of these topics — how to really feel your feelings, how to live with total integrity, how to prioritize friendships and nurture important relationships. In 9 self-paced units, you’ll learn to allow your most joyful, productive, energetic, and successful self to emerge. Enroll now or learn more here.
|Consumption from within: How the brain controls our appetite
||Researchers show how our brain activates self-destruct mechanisms when it is low on energy to regulate appetite. The scientists have uncovered the mechanisms behind the enzyme that controls our appetite in response to low glucose availability in the brain.
|Glutamate plays previously unknown role in neuromuscular development
||In mice, glutamate plays a vital role in controlling how muscles and nerves are wired together during development, researchers have discovered. Glutamate is the most common neurotransmitter in the brain.
|ROI in Building a Private Practice
||I enjoyed watching a recent discussion in an online forum after a person asked if they should invest in coaching. Each respondent had their own theories as to if it was “worth it”. Some said don’t do it because you can get everything for free … ...
|Neurofeedback: When output becomes part of input
||Neurofeedback is a technique used for the treatment of clinical disorders (like depression, anxiety, chronic pain, ADHD and schizophrenia etc.) and enhancement of brain performance. It is based on the “self-regulation” of brain activations underpinned by the principles of feedback control systems. Feedback systems can be found in areas such as cybernetics, industrial automation, quality control, optimization and so on. A new study has reviewed the literature on feedback control systems and neurofeedback in order to provide some insights into how the basic principles of feedback control systems are the building blocks of the advanced brain-computer interfacing technique popularly dubbed “neurofeedback.”
|Parkinson's disease protein plays vital 'marshalling' role in healthy brains
||Researchers have established how a protein called alpha-synuclein, which is closely associated with Parkinson's Disease, functions in healthy human brains. By showing how the protein works in healthy patients, the study offers important clues about what may be happening when people develop the disease itself. Parkinson's disease is one of a group of conditions known as "protein misfolding diseases," because they are characterized by specific proteins becoming distorted and malfunctioning. These proteins then cluster into thread-like chains, which are toxic to other cells.
|Do We Put Too Much Weight on Shared Interests When Dating?
||It sounds wonderful to have interests in common with a person we're dating, but we should be wary of putting too much stock in them—in the end, they could backfire.
|Today I Love Early Mornings
||Today I love early mornings when the thin edge of dawn is Popsicle orange. I love the cool promise of a warm day and the feel of determination that I … ...