The Art of Confrontation

In the middle of a holiday meal, someone says something unintentionally (but unmistakably) bigoted. What will you do? Diana Sanchez and Kimberly Chaney say you shouldn’t let it pass.” *

Really? They want us to engage that kind of negative energy. Who says things like that, right in your own family, terrible. But Uncle Joe is not an altogether terrible guy. So his bigotry must be coming from Eckhart Tolle’s “painbody.” Even so, I thought we weren’t supposed to let our painbody get triggered by someone else’s painbody.

Two out of control painbodies trying to have conversation. Picture that. We all know where that goes. Indigestion or worse, like maybe somebody walking out and never coming back.

But here we have a study to suggest that maybe we should get involved after all, that confrontation can make a difference in a good way:

“We found that participants who were confronted felt bad about their behavior, ruminated more, showed an enduring prejudice reduction,” said Sanchez, an associate professor of psychology in the School of Arts and Sciences. “And we didn’t just look at their immediate response, but looked at them a week later.” *

Seems to me that this news makes confrontation into a right and responsibility to do what we can to make the world a better place via confrontation. Then again, there is confrontation and there is confrontation.

We are not talking about an extended emotionally bloody locking of horns. We are talking about a calmly delivered short statement, like the one in the study:

“Gee, that’s kind of stereotypical, don’t you think?” *

And that’s all, because that’s all it took to help study participants to reflect on their responses in a way that reduced their bigotry scores. Easier said than done, you may say. What if in that moment we prefer to simply wring Uncle Joe’s neck.

Now, now…now we know how much good we can do from the high road, so first we will breathe, 3 luxurious breaths, in through the nose, out through the nose, belly out on the in-breath, belly in on the out-breath. This is how we ready and steady ourselves to do right things right – short and to the point – a simple confrontation, boom, done.

And sometimes it is not even necessary to address the person directly. Recently, I deliberately used the word “civility” in a meeting, and was amazed to see a typically uncivil woman** morph into the better angel of herself, right before my very eyes, like magic. All because of a word.

We call this “Name it to Tame it,” to say that there is something about bringing a name to primitive emotion that brings the executive function back online to calm the anxious or angry brain.

The holidays are here, and with them comes plenty of opportunity to try a well honed confrontation, when bigotry arises within our earshot. Short and simple. Just to plant the seed. Practice, Practice, Practice…And See What Happens.

For help with this or something else (by videoconference from anywhere you are), or to let me know what you think,

Contact Me at:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202-617-0821

* “Speaking up against bigotry can reduce bad behavior,” Ken Branson, November 30, 2017, Medicine & Health / Psychology & Psychiatry

** Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Happiness: Inside? Outside? You Decide.

“Given all that, the next time you have the choice between meditating and sitting in a bar with your friends complaining about meditation class, you should probably seriously consider going to the bar, no matter what your happiness app says.”*

Oh come on. Please tell me she was kidding. The author of this anti-mindfulness article, Ruth Whippman, is highly praised for her humor, so who knows. She is an author, journalist, and filmmaker. It does not, however, appear that she is a licensed clinician – so here’s a perspective from one who is.

Of course, Ms. Whippman is right that people spend too much time with their phones and their apps and whatever else cloisters them away from the real joys and challenges of other people. As Aristotle said, we are social animals, so it is also true that our health and well-being depends largely on the quality of our relationships with other people in our lives.

In fact, the Harvard Grant Study, a one of a kind longitudinal study, found that love is the key to a good and happy life. In the words of the study’s pioneering researcher, George Vaillant:

As Vaillant puts it, there are two pillars of happiness. “One is love,” he writes. “The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”

And therein lies the real key – and where mindfulness can help. How we cope with life. Surely we all know people who may not even know how much they stand in their own way of giving and receiving love. I don’t mean any old crap that passes for love, but the kind of love that nourishes, the kind that Vaillant is talking about.

One woman** told me that, just as the article suggested, she drinks with her friends at the bar to lift herself up when she feels down. But she noticed that while she was with her friend…she was not really with her friend – mostly because what ailed her on the inside distracted and removed her from the very human connection she craved. Intoxicating maybe. Nourishing not. She realized that her happiness would have to be as much an inside as outside job, and came to me to figure out how to cope with life on the inside in ways that did not prevent love.

That’s one end of the spectrum. At the other end, there are clients who aim to become perfect on the inside so they can feel worthy enough to risk an attempt to find and keep love. For them, the work is in finding the courage on the inside to get them out there to practice, practice, practice, as I like to say. This is how we grow. In relationship, I agree. Surely there is growth in our relationships, for my clients and me, but at some point they need to enact the learning in the real world for the real thing to happen for them out there for real.

For some, the inside needs caring and careful attention. For others, the outside job needs more of the mind’s attention that it’s been getting so far. Different strokes. Either way, all of my work is mindfulness-based, which is to say geared toward increasing present moment, non judgmental awareness of how the mind works, what makes us tick, and what gets in the way.

So, even though a number of experts I happen to respect make the point themselves that mindfulness is not for everyone and everything, they add that there are enough well crafted studies to indicate that there are ways in which it really can help. Some of it is in cultivating the kind of focus, calm, and compassion that finds and fortifies connection to inner and outer world love.

Don’t take their word for it, but let’s not throw this baby out with the bathwater either, just because someone has had some fun with it in print. Over time you might find that life begins to ease or even transform. I know mine did. But don’t take my word for it either. Practice, Practice, Practice…And See What Happens.

For help with this or something else (by videoconference from anywhere you are), or to let me know what you think, Contact Me at:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202-617-0821

* Whippman, Ruth. “Happiness is Other People.” New York Times, October, 27, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/27/opinion/sunday/happiness-is-other-people.html

** Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

 

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.

 

 

Change Yourself? Change Your People.

Whether it be for the environment, one’s health, or other important causes, convincing people to adopt new or uncommon behaviors can be difficult. One reason is that societal norms powerfully reinforce the status quo….What leads people to overturn a status quo?”*

Other people are, of course, a big part of what leads us to overturn a status quo. But the researchers found an interesting twist. So, for example, it was not only being told that some other people are trying to eat less meat these days that influenced participants to eat less meat themselves. Participants ate even less meat themselves if they were told that it’s because other people are changing that they are eating less meat.

That people are changing makes it sound like eating less meat could morph naturally into a norm and, if you don’t fit in with that, then where will you be. Left out, left behind or “counternormative”* as the reference suggests.

Okay, so we like to think we are special. Introverts** I know are great examples of people who may be more comfortable on the edges but don’t exactly want to feel left out. None of us wants to feel so far out that we don’t matter to anyone anymore. Back in the day, many thousands of years ago when our social brains were formed, in what we call the environment of evolutionary adaptation, too far out socially meant no food, no care…we died.

This is why we may feel bad when we don’t get invited to that party or meeting that we didn’t even want to go to. Hardwiring. Alarm goes off when we begin to feel socially left out. Wait. We can use this!

All we have to do is surround ourselves with enough people who live and breathe the ‘me’ we want to be that it feels normal enough to be whatever that is. Affinity grouping. Back to the meat, why not surround oneself with people who for environmental, health, or other reasons also want to eat less meat. Unless you happen to want to eat meat. Then that sense of normalcy and belonging would be provided by eating with some people who also eat meat.

Or the gym. Or spending habits. Or environmental foot-printing. Want to – on purpose – overturn your own status quo. Embed with others who already have. People are everywhere. Meetups. Community or professional organizations… Go where the norm is, or is becoming, the norm you want to be. Opportunities abound. Practice, Practice, Practice…and See What Happens.

For help with this or something else, or to let me know what you think, Contact Me at:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202-617-0821

* “Change behaviors by changing perception of normal” October 6, 2017    https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-10-behaviors-perception.html. Citing Gregg Sparkman et al. “Dynamic Norms Promote Sustainable Behavior, Even if It Is Counternormative,” Psychological Science (2017). DOI: 10.1177/0956797617719950  Provided by Stanford University.

** Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

70% Mind Wandering: Who’s in Charge?

“Researchers in the United States have investigated mind wandering….the volunteers reported mind wandering 70% of the time.”*

Scientists may refer to it as ‘stimulus independent’ or ‘default network’ thinking. Mindfulness tutors may liken the wandering mind to a bunch of drunken monkeys, or a 2-year-old who is winning and wreaking havoc all over the house. Whatever we call it, we do it a lot. In this study of simulated driving* the mind wandered a whopping 70% of the time, a lot of the time without people even realizing it. It’s like dreaming our lives away; daydreaming, as it is sometimes called.

So who’s in charge here? Shouldn’t it be us? It’s not like the mind is bad. Just needs some discipline. After all, mind wandering can be a very nice break from the stresses of the day, and can make good space for planning and creativity that more intense focus on a task cannot. In this way, some amount of daydreaming can make us more, not less, productive than we might otherwise be.

Too often, though, the mind wanders off on a fool’s errand to resolve the unresolved (unresolvable?) whatever it is…in our past, present, future. When this happens then we are worrying and wasting our time. Shoulda Woulda Coulda’s in the past. What If’s in the future. What Now’s in the present. Brain drainers. So what can we do? A few things

Is There Something To Be Done Here? When regrets about the past, worries about the future, or complaints about the present intrude, it can be useful to ask this question about the thing we are thinking: Is there something to be one here? Sometimes the answer is Yes but not by you, or not right now. Then you can make a plan to delegate whatever is needed or do it later yourself. Sometimes the answer is Yes by you right now, as in, car coming get out of the way! And sometimes the answer is a flat No, either because you or someone else has already done it, or there really was nothing to be done – so we can just let it go.  My clients have used this one well;** particularly useful for What Now complaints about a job s/he knows to be the right job for right now but maybe not forever. Is there something to be done here? Yeah, focus on the task that is before us. Do good work now, and see how much happier that can make us. And make a date with self, for a later time, to honor any discontent and plan the where to from here, if we still want one.

Make it Happen. If it’s hard to let things go even if we know there is nothing to be done, let’s say it is the right job just not as perfect as we’d hoped, then we can set aside a certain amount of time at a regular time each day dedicated to regret, worry, or complaint. What we resist persists, so some recommend letting the mind have its way like this for a period of time each day, to help ease it away (‘til it comes back anyway).

Pleasant Dreams. What if it’s not even regrets, complaints, or worries? What if it’s pleasant thoughts that take the mind away from what you are doing or supposed to be doing in the present moment. You know what to do. Same Same. Go back to #1 or #2 or something else you might devise. Distractions are distractions no matter how pleasant. There is a time and a place for everything. And there is a whole lot of productivity and real happiness in our focus on the task before us when it is the right time for that.

Practice, Practice, Practice…and See What Happens.

For help with this or something else, or to let me know what you think, Contact Me at:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202-617-0821

* Mind wandering is common during driving. August 31, 2017 in Medicine & Health / Psychology & Psychiatry.  https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-08-mind-common.html

** Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.

 

 

What’s So Great About Giving?

The researchers found that brain activity associated with happiness, along with self-reported happiness, increased simply after making a commitment to be generous to others. Happiness and happiness-related brain activity also went up when actually giving, the research team found, and left givers in a happier overall state than those who acted selfishly. Interestingly, relatively small acts of giving gave rise to just as big a happiness bump as bigger acts, the investigators said.*

Have you ever noticed how incredible it can feel to give? I have…years ago when I was drilling nails to build a child’s bedroom with Habitat for Humanity, a bedroom that kid might not have otherwise had. Not sure whether these Swiss researchers looked into how long the happiness bump lasts, but I can tell you mine has been around for decades. Every time I think of it I get that rush.

So they are right about just the thought of it. It will be a few weeks before my hospice volunteer work actually begins and, here again, just the thought of giving to another that way makes me feel good all over.

The ‘feel good all over’ that goes off in the brain when we give encourages us to do more of it, just like eating and, well you know, feel good to encourage us to do more of that too. Back in the day reputation mattered. Still does. It is speculated that givers appeared more trustworthy than takers, resulting in greater control over resources (or at least access to food and safety) with which to survive and to thrive. Doing well by doing good is what we would call it today.

We all want to be seen as good, and we feel happy when we are. In my Organizational Politics workshop, virtually every participant peeled down on our 5 Why’s exercise to being fundamentally driven by a deep desire to be seen as a good person. Makes us feel good.

Yeh but…what if the giving is obviously to get. What if, let’s say, a husband is stingy with his wife where no one can see, but an uber generous big tipper, big donator out in the world where everyone can. Or what if a woman sits on a variety of non profit boards, but is rarely home for her children, and rude to her employees. More about ‘looking good’ than being and doing good we might say.

Maybe you know people like this. And maybe you don’t like them, so not sure about the happiness bump for them. In fact, one such person** told me that, despite his most generous public persona, deep down he felt like a “wretched soul.” So the self cannot be fooled for long. Even if everyone else can, no real happiness for him.

Another woman I know** said she believes people only feel like giving when they are already happy, as in cup runneth over, so why not. To this I added my own yeh but…telling her what she said makes sense too but, if the research is right on what’s so great about giving, isn’t when we are feeling down a really great time to give. Look at all the happiness we can kick into motion for ourselves and others to help make the world we live in a better place.

She thanked me for this, which brings us to gratitude. There is plenty of research linking gratitude and happiness. And what is gratitude, after all, if not a form of giving itself. Giving thanks, that is. But don’t take their word for it, nor mine. Test it out yourself and let me know what you find.

So, for example, instead of spending on yourself, spend on someone else instead to see how that feels. Just a test. And remember, it doesn’t even have to be big. Something as small as offering a smile, or holding a door…could tell you all you need to know. Or something else you might like to try. Practice, Practice, Practice…and See What Happens.

For help with this or something else, or to let me know what you think, Contact Me at:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202-617-0821

* Givers Really Are Happier Than Takers. MedLIne. Tuesday, August 15, 2017. https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_167833.html

** Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Human Hate Continued: Knit Ourselves Together or Tear Ourselves Apart?

”Only through solidarity and cooperation within one’s own group was it possible to raise children and survive when competing against unknown and rivaling groups for scarce resources in pre-civilized times…”*

There it is, folks. This could be what we are up against when we wonder why, why, why, after all this time, in this day and age, inter-group hatred still rears its ugly head. Some would say, like it or not, we are hardwired to huddle with our own against the ones we think are not us. Us versus Them. That’s the bad news.

Here’s the good news. Two things:

  • The human brain (aka the “social brain”) got bigger and smarter over time due to living in – and allowing us to live in – larger and larger communities. The social brain is now considered flexible and therefore shaped, not just by our genes, but by the environment in which it lives as well.
  • New research suggests that xenophobia, (or fear/disgust of people who are different), can be reduced and altruism increased by oxytocin and social pressure.

So it’s not hopeless. And we are not helpless. We can change. And it appears that oxytocin + social pressure can help us to do just that. Social interaction increases Oxytocin, which then brings pleasure and trust to that interaction. Cause and Effect. So let’s just hang out – with more and more people different from the ones our primitive brain picks out for us. And let’s be sure to do it out and about to create the social pressure that interaction with people who do not look exactly like us is how it is and how it is going to be more and more over time. Period.

But I am talking to and about adults here. Because infants don’t need to be told that we are all one. As per Obama’s tweet of Mandela’s quote: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Maybe love is not even more natural than hate. But it is natural enough, and every single one of us can do something to help knit us together, one stitch at a time.

As only one example, one client,** a black man, told me he fought back the urge to pick someone who looked more like him to work with, and picked me instead because I am white. We have worked boldly on racial identity issues together, in ways he tells me would have been less possible and less fruitful for him had we both been black. Each and every one of us can catch it and counter it, just as he did, to choose someone different instead of too often someone who is same, for the sake of same and same alone. If this is your tendency…try something different. Try someone different. You might like it. And the world will thank you for it. Practice, Practice, Practice…and See What Happens.

For help with this or something else, or to let me know what you think, Contact Me at:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202-617-0821

* Universität Bonn. “Oxytocin and social norms reduce xenophobia.” ScienceDaily, 14 August 2017, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170814162334.htm>.https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170814162334.htm

** Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Human Hate: Why We Do and What To Do About It

Similar to the “hate-watching” experience of viewing television programmes you don’t like because you enjoy mocking them, this can be seen as a mild form of “hate-reading.” Logging onto Facebook gives you the chance to be indignantly offended (or maybe just mildly piqued) by other people’s ill-informed views and idiosyncratic behaviour. And there’s a surprising amount of pleasure in that.*

Disappointing isn’t it. Not like we didn’t know. Still it’s unsettling to think about how much pleasure humans can take in feeling better than everyone else. Why all the hate? Here are two broad ideas on that:

  • Social Dominance: In animals, including humans, social dominance gives greater access to and control of life sustaining resources for the individual and kin group. Makes sense that we would be wired to take pleasure in the idea that we rank higher somehow, for how it has helped us to survive and to thrive as a species.
  • Social Bonding: Strength in numbers, i.e., individuals bonded together in a group had a better chance of overcoming natural and social threats than individuals who stood alone. Makes sense we would be wired for that to feel good too.

Short of it is that humans appear to be both competitive and cooperative and even cooperation can morph into hate. As the study suggests, people go to Facebook to bond – over 2 billion of them monthly* – but bonding is not all that’s going on there. Just as in the offline world of people, there is shunning, sneering, you name it… And some of it is pretty hateful in that ‘I’m better than you’ or ‘We’re better than you’ kind of way. My children, my social life, my vacations, my political party, my ethnic group, my gender group, my sexual preference group – better than yours. In its extreme, witness the violent protests in our streets. We are together – and better than you.

Here’s an individual example.** Let’s call him David. David, a successful attorney, has been widowed for years. Nice man. Attractive man. Pretty good catch for some good woman looking for love, as he is himself. When asked why this hasn’t happened for him, he said that he meets seemingly lovely women online, but when he tells the woman whom he voted for that’s the end of that. One woman’s family threatened to disown her if she brought him anywhere near them. How hateful is that.

Spiritual teachers tell us that these boundaries we create between ourselves and others are foolish and destructive falsehoods. From Ken Wilbur’s No Boundary: A Union of Opposites:

The war of opposites is a symptom of a boundary taken to be real, and to cure the symptoms we must go to the root of the matter itself: our illusory boundaries….When the opposites are realized to be one, discord melts into concord, battles become dances, and old enemies become lovers. We are then in a position to make friends with all of our universe, and not just one half of it.

Differences as dances. I do love that. And, if “life is what our thoughts make it” (Marcus Aurelius), why can’t we think of the world as, for the most part, a world full of many different kinds of friends with as much right to exist as we do ourselves. The more we hate, no matter how justified we feel in it, the more hate there is in the world, and the more polarized and extreme the hateful behavior becomes.

So the next time we find ourselves feeling “I’m better than you,” how about those 3 breaths, belly out on the in-breath, belly in on the out-breath…with a reminder “there goes human hate,” served us once, can hurt us now, letting it come and letting it go like a cloud in the sky, returning to love wherever, however, and as much as we can. Practice, Practice, Practice…and See What Happens.

For help with this or something else, or to let me know what you think, Contact Me at:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202-617-0821

* The real reason you can’t quit Facebook? Maybe it’s because you can judge your friends.July 13, 2017 by Philip Seargeant And Caroline Tagg, The Conversation https://phys.org/news/2017-07-real-facebook-friends.html#jCp

** Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

The Exerciser: Think Exercise Think

How being hunter-gatherers boosted human brainpower and taught us to love exercise….New research suggests that the link between exercise and the brain is a product of our evolutionary history and our past as hunter-gatherers, and the same parts of the brain that are taxed during complex tasks such as foraging also benefit from exercise.*

It’s called the Adaptive Capacity Model to mean that when we were hunter-gatherers, 2 million years ago, we were multitasking all the time. We used our memories to make decisions about where to go for food and how to get back home, at the same time we had to manage our bodies over challenging terrain.

If this physical/mental complexity of foraging fortified the brain then, as with any other organ – Use it or Lose it. No surprise researchers are now thinking of the aging brain’s cognitive decline as a loss in capacity (neurons and their connections) associated with diminished use.

But even more interesting than this inextricable mind/body connection is how the mind can actually think the body into the exercise that is so good for the body and mind.

Life is what our thoughts make it (Marcus Aurelius). And although it appears the brain can sometimes impact the body without moving a thing, it is good to work the body to keep the “thinking thing” (Descartes) strong enough to do all of its magic for us.

In other words, Get Moving, any way you like. I take dripping wet Latin dancing fitness classes at the gym. What gets me there, more than telling myself how good it is for me, is that my dear departed parents were Latin dancing trophy winners. It’s in the blood. Brings me, and in the way them, alive.

Another woman I know** got going, not as much by telling herself how good it was for her, as by reconnecting with how much she loved and missed the fiercely competitive soccer player she once was. If there is anything to the studies above, she and I both might:

  • Visualize ourselves at it and into it, when we can’t or don’t feel like exercising.
  • Tell our minds that we are exercising, when we are.
  • Think of ourselves as Exercisers as part of who we are.
  • Remember that being able to exercise at all means in no small way that life is good.

And for those who are not yet The Exerciser our brains and bodies need us to be, you too can take a mental magic carpet ride back to a time and place when physical was fun. Then you can graft that delicious memory onto whatever form of exercise best helps you to be The Exerciser researchers believe we were all meant to be. Practice, practice, practice…and See What Happens.

For help with this or something else, or to let me know what you think, Contact Me at:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202-617-0821

* Borkhataria, C. “How being hunter-gatherers boosted human brainpower and taught us to love exercise.” DailyMail, June 30, 2017 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4655218/How-hunter-gatherers-taught-love-exercise.html#ixzz4oE8w2uzi

** Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

What is Resilience? Hero Making. Here’s how.

In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice….It is not freedom from conditions, but it is freedom to take a stand toward the conditions.  Viktor E. Frankl*

Resilience is bending but not breaking under stress, or:

…the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences. American Psychological Association

My family had a mantra, “It’s not Cancer,” which we used to put things in perspective to cope with whatever it was. Except sometimes it was cancer and sometimes it was worse; for example, the sudden death by stroke of my dad when I was 15 years old.

That was pretty bad but, typically, we humans do go on. The famous study on the relative happiness of lottery winners v paraplegic accident victims is pretty good evidence of that. Victims were found to experience even more pleasure in mundane daily life activities than the lottery winners, rather than the other way around.

The SEEDS of resilience include: Social networks, Exercise, Education, Diet, and Sleep. Surely we know by now (whether we do it is another matter) that taking good care of ourselves under life changing stress is a good way to help us bounce back.

But some people do more than bounce back. Some overcome their adversity to leap tall buildings in remarkable ways. JK Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, Nelson Mandela…come to mind. And, of course, psychiatrist Viktor Frankl who, after losing his entire family in the Holocaust, gave us lessons for spiritual survival that I reflect on and share with my clients practically everyday.

One woman I know,** we’ll call her Melissa, was involved in a difficult situation with a man she dearly loved. Melissa had struggled for years to accept and understand the situation from his perspective, even though she felt throughout that the situation as it was being conducted was inconsistent with her own deeply held values. What we resist persists with all its might. So, in one session this woman, who was typically kind of snarky when in pain and rarely wept, surprised herself when she finally began to cry.

When asked what her tears were trying to say, she realized who she was and what sacrifice she would need to make to be true to herself and everything she stood for down to her toes. That is, she knew in that moment that, despite her true love, she would have to give up all of her hopes and dreams about a life with this man.

In that moment, Melissa became her own hero – Joan of Arc. She did not burn at the stake, but her suffering did, as she took a stand for her values and women everywhere who may suffer corruption in similar ways. This is the meaningful sacrifice that Frankl said makes suffering not be suffering anymore.

Melissa now has fewer and fewer waves of sadness. Attachment is physiological as much as it is anything. So in the early stages of love lost we may even feel sick, until we heal and get well. She is tending to the SEEDS of resilience noted above; social supports, plenty of rest, and so on. But what has helped to up level her mood and her life more than anything else is the meaning she grafted onto this life changing adversity in love, which she would no longer deny nor avoid.

The miracle for Melissa was in the meaning – meaning that could not be given to her, nor imposed on her – but rather meaning that had to spring from deep within her, from the depths of her soul about the woman she was.

So here is another favorite Frankl quote: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Practice, Practice, Practice…and see what happens.

For help with this or something else, Contact Me at:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202-617-0821

* Viktor E. Frankl. Man’s Search For Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy. Washington Square Press (1959). https://www.amazon.com/Search-Meaning-Introduction-Logotherapy

** Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.

 

 

The Truth about Lying

 

“Lying, it turns out, is something that most of us are very adept at. We lie with ease, in ways big and small, to strangers, co-workers, friends, and loved ones….Being deceitful is woven into our very fabric, so much so that it would be truthful to say that to lie is human.”*

Good grief. My daddy always said, “Honesty is the best policy.” I believed him, have lived my life accordingly, and been proud of it. Now we hear that everybody’s doin’ it, even those of us who say we’re not. One study found that  92%  of people who said they didn’t lie admitted they had when asked if they had lied in the past week.

I’m sorry, to the best of my knowledge, I still don’t think I do. I did swear to god about something important once and later on changed my mind. But I meant what I said when I said it, so I don’t think it counts as a lie. Open to the idea that I am lying to myself  about lying somehow, I took a test to determine what kind of liar I am, only in none of the sample situations would I have ever resorted to lying in the first place, not at all necessary, other skills to use, if we can even consider lying a skill.

Researchers actually do. They consider it part of emotional and intellectual development when a child learns how to lie:

From about age 4 on, children lie for many of the same reasons adults do: to avoid punishment, to gain an advantage, to protect against an unwanted consequence, and even to boost self-esteem….to demonstrate power, to maintain privacy, or to protect a friend…. recent research has shown that lying plays a positive role in normal development. Essential human skills — independence, perspective taking, and emotional control — are the same skills that enable children to lie.

Most kids eventually learn that others may stop giving them what they want, or want to be with them at all, if they tell so many lies that lying goes from something they do to something they are: Liar. So they develop other kinds of skills, conflict resolution and negotiation skills, let’s say, before even knowing that’s what they are. And then there are those who just get better and better at lying.

Look, would I lie to save the life of someone I loved. You bet I would. And my heart goes out to people I know** in situations begging for some tampering with the truth, e.g., parents waiting for the right time in a child’s life to tell the child the truth that they are going to part. Our need for truth and trust is just as human as the human ability to lie. Unfortunately, the more we lie, the easier it gets for the brain (amygdala), then the more we lie and there goes any trust that might have been possible had we found another way.

So, if you find yourself with someone whose primary life strategy is lying, since all that lying can drive us crazy, if it is possible for you to do so, rather than lose your sanity, you can run for the hills. And, if and when you may feel tempted to lie a little yourself, take a deep breathe and ask yourself if, in that circumstance and with that person, lying really is your best and only shot. This you can Practice, Practice, Practice…and see what happens.

For help with this or something else, Contact Me at:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202-617-0821

* “Why We Lie: The Science Behind Our Deceptive Ways Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, National Geographic, June, 2017 http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/06/lying-hoax-false-fibs-science/

** Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.