After LOVE; Let Us PLAY

To the brain, getting dumped is the pain equivalent of getting burned by a hot cup of coffee….merely looking at a photograph of an ex-partner energized the neurological regions…that also process physical discomfort. Defensively, the dejected brain also signals the release of the stress hormone cortisol, and amplifies the body’s immune defenses as though warding off emotional pathogens. Indeed, as additional research further confirms, matters of the heart and mind are intimately connected.*

Ouch. That sounds serious. And it is. In love – and at work too, let’s say when we are let go or are unhappy enough to leave on our own – when our deeply held connections are severed and our dreams for a future in that connection are dashed – it hurts. The heart hurts, and the mind hurts, and sometimes we feel that loss of connection all over our bodies. So don’t let anyone tell you that you are not supposed to feel exactly as crummy as you do when you break up with the one you love. We are wired for this. By and for nature and nurture, in an effort to survive and reproduce, Pair Bonding matters to humans, and when the pair bond is ruptured that incredible urge to either repair it or replace it tells us all we need to know about how much we want to pair. Yes, there are what the attachment theorists call avoidant types. But it seems the wish to bond was once there in them too before ‘Enough is enough; I’m going it alone’ set in because s/he was either mistreated or ignored by an attachment figure too much of the time. By the way, try having a relationship with an avoidant type, and see how kicked in the stomach it feels every time you try to get close. Not a bad reason to break up, if things cannot be improved. You deserve better, you say. And you do.

Or maybe you two were close and really enjoyed being together. Maybe even though you both loved the same music, loved to hike or bike together, to take in the theater, or sit by the fire, or walk on the beach; maybe there was always something that didn’t feel good or right. Maybe it was the pain of incompatible core values that derailed you. As numbers of clients** have explained, they loved being together in the moment but for the long haul the plain truth was that their life plans and core values did not match. She embraced commitment; he embraced independence. She embraced intellectual and financial career success. He embraced simplicity and serenity via his art. Core values are the virtually unshakeable rules by which we live, and living long together by fundamentally different rules can sometimes, not always, but often enough make things too damned hard. So then they breakup – talk about hard.

Before we get to what makes breaking up so hard, and what we can do to make it easier, here are some interesting stats on breakups compiled from Facebook status updates*:

  • When: the most common day for breakups is first Monday in December, cleaning up mess before not during the holidays. Early March, spring break, a popular time for breakups too.
  • How: People born before 1975 tend to breakup in person 74% of the time. People born after 1984 breakup in person only 47% of the time, more likely by phone (30%), text (14%), email (4%).
  • Why: Everything from soup to nuts: Cheating, unsatisfying sex, not enough time together, loyalty, support, just not feeling it, “economy, politics, boredom and even vocal pitch as the final straws for various couples.” Kind of makes me wonder how many people really even know.
  • How Long: By this I mean how long does the grieving process take. “Eight weeks after getting dumped, 40 percent of people in one study exhibited signs of clinical depression, and 12 percent appeared moderately or severely depressed.” Remember, it’s supposed to hurt because evolution and culture want us to want to bond.
  • Who: Women initiate two-thirds of divorces and have the statistical breakup edge. Of course, sometimes her life partner left emotionally way in advance of the actual breakup, so it’s not clear who actually dumped whom.

In any case…Breaking up is hard to do. Hormonally hard. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, or pleasure inducing drug, that can send us soaring, make us crazy, and boy does that feel good. The mere sight of a romantic partner can stimulate the brain’s reward system and flood us with this love drug. The realization that the loved one is gone deprives us of the drug. To avoid this deprivation we may find ourselves out of our minds motivated to repair the relationship to get the love drug back. Being with the one we love, also produces endorphins, and with endorphins comes that “general sense of well-being, including feeling soothed, peaceful and secure.” Without that drug we’re in withdrawal and, until we grieve a bit and restabilize, we feel none of the above.

So how do we grieve? Pioneering attachment theorist, John Bowlby, gave us 4 stages of grief: Numbness, Yearning, Disorganization and Despair, Reorganization. The more widely known psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kübler Ross, gave us 5: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. It appears that in Bowlby’s model the anger pretty much rolls into the yearning, that phase of bargaining to get the love back, and the anger associated with the frustration this fruitless effort entails. So these two models are very much alike, stages beginning with ‘make it not be over’ and ending with the acceptance that it is. Turns out the stages are not any more neat and clean than any relationship is. They can be a mess. No sooner do we think we’ve moved along to acceptance than something happens, let’s say a facebook post, and we are hurled back into the throes of painful emotion all over again. The brain does not forget that easily and can be triggered by almost anything, as you may know.

But visits by feelings from earlier stages of grief do not necessarily mean that we haven’t moved along in the grief process. We may think of these visits as all part of the process instead. Rumi has a wonderful poem, The Guest House, to help us think about all emotion in this way. And one of the best things I ever heard, may sound obvious to you, but hit me hard in a good way when I needed it, came from a philosophy mentor who said, “You know, Madelaine, it is possible to be happy and sad at the same time.” Great. So tears of frustration or sadness are not necessarily a setback. They are okay. In fact, studies have indicated that emotional tears calm our breathing and heart rate, and carry stress hormones that can be cleansed from our bodies when we let ourselves cry. So live it up. Don’t hold back. Go on. Have a good cry.

And then Play. Because, even if we can’t get back with the one we loved, there are plenty of other ways to get the peaceful, joyful lovin’ feeling back. Romantic love and sex are not the only ways to get the love drugs back. No sir. Exercise and playing games, video games, card games, varieties of challenging or competitive play – can increase dopamine levels. Dopamine (the pleasure drug) motivates us to achieve and rewards us with pleasure when we do, making us want to set and reach goals all the more. So after love, when it can feel like all is lost and you hate that deep, dark, foggy pit you’re in – Get up, Get out, and Play. And then your dopamine will motivate you to do even more of the kinds of things that increase endorphins, the inner morphine that can ease our pain and help us to feel happy again.

How to increase endorphins: Get out of the bed. Get off the couch. Hang out with people you like. Laugh. Go to the beach. Take a sauna. Play volleyball. Dance. Eat (dark chocolate, hot peppers, alcohol in moderation, and to some extent just about anything you enjoy). Help someone (helper’s high). Exercise. MEDITATE. Yes indeed, studies have found every one off these to impact our chemistry in ways that make us feel good when we might otherwise have felt nothing but bad. How to be happy and sad at the same time. How to lift oneself up and out, to help oneself to Play for the benefits to our overall health and happiness. And okay, who knows, maybe even to find that oh so delicious high, romantic love, out there in the playground once again. You never know what can happen when we least expect it, with an aura of health and joy on our side. Play, play, play. Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens.

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

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202-617-0821

* Conger, Christen, How Breakups Work. conger

**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.

Play is Not the Opposite of Work

“Dr. Brown, is…the founder of the National Institute for Play, and he states, ‘when employees have the opportunity to play, they actually increase their productivity, engagement and morale.’….There is good evidence that if you allow employees to engage in something they want to do, (which) is playful, there are better outcomes in terms of productivity and motivation.”*

Hmm, something they want to do, (which) is playful. I hope this means that, at work or outside of work, no matter where, no matter what, doing things we really want to do is nourishing and fun like play. Or even better, doing things we want to do is play, just because we want to do them. Unfortunately, people often talk about work and play as though they are separate and different. Work Hard. Play Hard. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Teddy Roosevelt said, “When you play, play hard; when you work, don’t play at all.” But Einstein and others would disagree:

Albert Einstein: “Play is the highest form of research.”

Richard Brandson: “I don’t think of work as work and play as play. It’s all living.”

Simon Sinek: “The goal is not simply to ‘work hard, play hard.’ The goal is to make our work and our play indistinguishable.”**

Work and Play Indistinguishable…Amen! We have already looked at some of the benefits of play for work in “Let’s Play. Here’s Why.” Here we are looking at how to mush the two together to make play useful and work fun, all jumbled together so that if someone asked us whether we were working or playing, we wouldn’t know and wouldn’t care. Sound like a great way to live?

Look at Google, all employees have access to and can play during their workday. They have all sorts of activities like bowling, meditation, wall climbing, volleyball and more. Facebook, LinkedIn and Ideo also provide opportunities for play time at work, anything from ping-pong to arcade games and a few take it one step further by instilling a culture of play. These fun activities are not just for lunch, employees can get up and go play when they get tired of working on a project or answering emails.*

And, as the article goes on to say, trainers and consultants are bringing fun and games right into learning activities to help the learning stick. Contrasted with flatter types of spoon fed learning activities, emotional learning experiences get tagged in the brain, easier to retain. But these examples are at the group level, and I’m thinking too of folks I know who just wish with all their might they could wake up in the morning wanting to go to work. Of course, if they could make it workplay chances are they would, I mean if they are going to go in anyway, why not?***

Life is what our thoughts make it (Aurelius). So how can we use our thoughts to make work (a something we want to do) play. Well, it’s not really enough to just want to do it. We have to actually be into doing it while we are doing it. And that means we have to be paying attention, exquisite attention, to create what Csikszentmihalyi calls FLOW, the joyful state of optimal experience when we lose ourselves in what we are doing by paying attention to it. We all know what it is like to be reading a book and 3 pages later have no idea what we just read. Or driving to our destination without any recall of anything on the road that took us there. Boring. But ahh…attention, attention to what my philosophy tutors have called the working surface – where my fingers meet the keyboard when I am typing to you, where my listening receives the sound of my client’s voice, or my sight receives my client’s face and body language. Is there joy and play in this work I do? You bet there is and can be for you in yours too, all through the power of your attention. Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens.

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

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202- 617-0821

* The Power of Play at Work, The Huffington Post, 9/14/2016

**Above quotes found via Work play internet images:;_ylt=A0LEV7p8NbBYxHQAroUPxQt.?p=play+work&fr=yhs-adk-adk_sbnt&fr2=piv-web&hspart=adk&hsimp=yhs-adk_sbnt&type=ma_appfocus29_ff#id=84&

***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.



Let’s Play. Here’s Why.

When you’re stressed, the brain’s activated emotional hub, the amygdala, suppresses positive mood, fueling a self-perpetuating cycle of negativity. Play can break you out of that straitjacket. It’s the brain’s reset button. This tonic we write off as trivial is a crucial engine of well-being. In its low-key, humble way, play yanks grownups out of their purposeful sleepwalk to reveal the animating spirit within. You are alive, and play will prove it to you.”*

According to Oxford Dictionaries, to “play” is to “engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.” Wait a minute, if “recreation” is the “Refreshment of one’s mind or body after work through activity that amuses or stimulates; play,” I don’t think we can rightfully say that refreshing one’s mind or body lacks serious or practical purpose. Anybody who has ever suffered burnout will tell you how practical and serious it is to bring one’s energy back to life – at work and at home.

In fact, Harvard researchers have found that play not only relieves stress but improves brain function, stimulates the mind, boosts creativity, improves relationships, builds energy and resistance to disease. Wow. But then, if it’s that good, how come we don’t play more. Seems to me right up there with the best of ways to spend our time. And yet, a lot of folks don’t look at play that way. As one author put it:

Our society tends to dismiss play for adults. Play is perceived as unproductive, petty or even a guilty pleasure. The notion is that once we reach adulthood, it’s time to get serious. And between personal and professional responsibilities, there’s no time to play.

Make time. You know you can. Somehow we all manage to find time for whatever it is we really want to do. But maybe you haven’t played in a long time, and don’t even know what would be play for you. After all there are so many kinds of play:

  • Object play (basketball)
  • Locomotor play (running)
  • Social play (pretending)

And there is play that doesn’t look like play at all. Take imagination. When we have a problem on our hands and may ask ourselves what someone we admire might do in a similar situation, is that not a form of playing around up there in the brain. In fact, more than a few people** I know play most of what could be the best parts of their lives up there in the brain, more as spectators up in the stands than players out there on the field of their very own lives. These folks spend time planning trips they never take, imagining love they won’t go out to find, wishing for their dream career from the desk they will not dare to leave. It’s a fine place to start, with that glimmer in the mind’s eye about how we dream things to be. But it’s a terrible place to be stuck, and won’t get us much of those serious and practical benefits of play if we are.

So, what’s in the way for those who don’t or won’t play as much as they could? Fear? Fear of looking like a fool? Fear of making a mistake? Fear of being undeserving? Fear of work undone? You name it. Name it for yourself. So for example, when the spoiler in you says ‘You have work to do’ you may follow that with something like ‘Yes, I do, and it will be there for me when I’m done refreshing my mind to do it better’. Or when the spoiler says ‘You will look like a fool out there on that dance floor’, you can agree again with something like ‘Yes, you are right, I might, but how I look is irrelevant for a physical activity aimed to improve how I think and feel.’ And for anyone having trouble figuring out what’s the best play for you, you may take a magic carpet ride back to your childhood, and picture yourself playing at what you loved to do. I, for one, spent hours on end writing books as a little girl, with construction paper covers, sewn up the middle with yarn. For me, reading and writing were play, and still are favorite ways to spend my time. And you? What was it for you then? How do you dream about playing now? How about to start: One time a day designated just for play? Or something else you might devise. Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens.

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

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202- 617-0821

* Working Smarter “The Missing Link to Life Satisfaction: Play. Joe Robinson

**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.


Love at Work

Chartered Psychologist (Occupational) Dr. Fiona Beddoes-Jones, in a study of over 300 managers/leaders, found the majority of respondents were dissatisfied with the level of warmth and care displayed at work and believed that their wellbeing would be improved if there was more ‘love’.”*

Not what you thought? Maybe you thought ”Love at Work” would be about affairs, 85% of which were found to begin in the workplace. Or maybe you thought we were talking about finding true love and marriage at work. Turns out a lot of people do meet their spouses at work, around 10% in 2009, down from 20% in the 1990’s, due to the rise of internet dating, one study finds. But affairs at work and finding true love at work are not what this piece is about. What we are talking about here is love at work about the work, for both the work, and the people who are doing it.

In business school there was a course called “Managing Work Groups,” which was in essence a T-Group. T-Groups “use feedback, problem solving, and role play to gain insights into themselves, others, and groups.” One of the men and one of the women** in the group seemed to lock horns every time the class met. So one day one of the students asked, “What do you two think is underneath all the fighting?” The answer was affection. The truth beneath the fighting was that these two had a crush on each other – and that no one in the group had any idea what to do with affection at work, no doubt a large part of why, if not exactly why, warmth and care (aka love) tend to get withheld at work. Awkward. Doesn’t feel appropriate. Doesn’t feel safe. And to some extent it’s not if it is not mindfully managed, especially with people working such long hours and traveling together so much of the time. So what kind of love does it take to enrich the work, to enrich the worker’s experience of it, and to enrich the relationships in and out of the workplace, all at the same time. Let’s take a look at Hot Groups.

Hot group members behave like people in love…. The excitement, chaos, and joy generated in hot groups make all the participants feel young and optimistic regardless of their chronological age. In hot groups, the usual intellectual and social inhibitions are relaxed. These qualities almost re-create the sense of exuberant confidence people feel as children. Many people may have felt the excitement of a hot group when they were at school, putting together a show or a school magazine. It may have been in the military in a squad fighting its way up an impossible hill. Perhaps it was in a research group on the trail of an elusive gene or in a cross-functional new product team building the next generation of pasta makers. We have even received unsubstantiated reports of hot groups taking root in boardrooms. Overall, however, hot groups are rare, especially within traditional organizations.

Note the wording “sense of exuberant confidence people feel as children.” That’s what is too often missing in the workplace, that sense of exuberant confidence. But it doesn’t come from warmth alone. The bird wants to fly. The tree wants to grow. So do we and, as children or adults, to grow and to fly we need clear guidelines and boundaries, as much a part of loving as anything else. As the study found,* “People want clarity from a logical and pragmatic manager, but they also what to feel that a manager and the organisation genuinely care about them and that is often what is missing.” So for example, Hot Groups can be too heavy on emotion and not heavy enough on the guidance and boundaries they need to help them protect their outside relationships and to avoid burnout altogether from the intensity of it all. Everything, including love at work, in good measure, I guess we could say, and for this we need to pay attention to the work, to the work relationships, and to the impact of these on everything else. Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens.

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

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

Phone:   202- 617-0821

*“Leaders and managers should be taught how to ‘love’ their staff,” January 5, 2017

**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.


Narcissism Continued…

“Narcissistic Personality Disorder…An enduring pattern of grandiose beliefs and arrogant behavior together with an overwhelming need for admiration and a lack of empathy for (and even exploitation of) others.”*

Every day people thank me for my posts on Narcissism. When I mentioned this to someone I know** she replied that, not counting the current intensified interest in the topic politically, she believed that most people either know a Narcissist or are afraid they are one. And pity the ones who try to love one. Holy Hannah. It hurts. It matters. And people are trying to figure it out.

Some experts are saying that Narcissism is rampant these days; selfies, facebook, and the like. Others are saying that true pathological narcissism is in fact quite rare, that Narcissism is an overused term we lay on people who get on our nerves: in-laws, exes, ‘difficult’ people of different stripes.

So what is it and why is it? Here’s my take. At the risk of sounding grandiose and arrogant myself, I do want you to know that I am not just pulling what I am about to say out of my personal experience, although there is that. Having studied the topic with the masters, I have come to think of the ordinary old Narcissist, the kind a lot of us know and worry we may be, in a way I believe to be both useful and humane. See what you think.

What we commonly refer to as Narcissism is a continuum on which we all live that has something to do with how much energy it takes to steady our sense of self, everyday. What it takes for each of us to feel okay enough about who and what we are to do well in love and work (that’s Freud, love and work, all there is) varies. Easier for some than for others. Some pretty much wake up feeling okay enough, maybe not perfect, but who is, and who needs to be. We’re all just peas in a pod trying to get through the day in the best way we know how. Others might be plagued by more crippling angst about themselves and their place in the world. These are the people who spend so much energy on ‘looking good’ to themselves and others that there is little if any energy left in genuine caring for anyone or anything else. These are the ones we may see as grandiose and arrogant who, underneath their glossy exteriors, may be all the more likely to be deeply demoralized and depressed.

Maybe their parents were stingy about loving them just for being, and/or stingy with praise for specific behaviors when it was deserved. Maybe that’s how the parents were raised and the only way they knew how. Or maybe the parents loved them in a enmeshed, hovering kind of way, or praised them too much, hooked to nothing particularly deserving of it. Sometimes it’s inconsistent; sometimes too much, sometimes too little. Either way, the child grows up wondering what if any of it had anything to do with him/her at all. Either way, there is little sense of stable self to wake up with everyday. And that’s where an unfortunate amount of time and energy goes – toward the stabilization of the self. The leftovers, what little there are if any, might go to caring about other people in love and work. But not necessarily even then, if it has become one’s habitual way of being in the world to almost entirely, if not entirely, care pretty much about oneself. Nature/nurture it seems because some experts are saying that Narcissism, as a character disorder or personality style, can have a genetic component too. And, culture, let’s say social media comparisons, not helping either, as you know.

So if we know one, love one, are one, too far along on the continuum of energy expenditure…what can we do? We can stop it. Yes, that’s right. Chronic stress shortens the telomeres on the end of our chromosomes, and shortened telomeres shorten our lives. When we find that we are being damaged chronically by another person’s utter disregard for us, we can and should run for the hills. Leave the relationship. Find a new job. What if you can’t? What if you love the guy/gal? What if you’ve done your due diligence and found that this is the best job, or only job, for you? Then please, please make it a priority to take very good care of you. Food, fun, sleep, exercise, interests, social supports; call on everything you’ve got to take care of you. Wait you say, won’t that make you one of them? With all this focus on yourself. Not necessarily. You should be taking care of yourself anyway, and they always say to put the oxygen on your own face before you try to help anyone else when the plane is in trouble. Take a good whiff and get on with your day.

Now, what if it’s you? What if you’re the one who spends too much of yourself trying to feel good about you. What can you do to ease the pain for you and everyone around you? Well, you can stop making your self-esteem your full time job. Check out Ron Siegel, PhD who talks about self-esteem collapse. For Siegel, self esteem (as in, our estimation of ourselves) is something that has a way of rising and falling when this or that happens for all of us whether we like it or not. And when this or that doesn’t happen too. So like when you didn’t get the memo, or the reply to your email, or the invitation to the party you didn’t even want to go to. You felt bad, real bad, even if you didn’t want to go! For Siegel, the what we can do is to begin to notice – to begin to notice the tyranny of self esteem, to notice what slaves we are to trying to make ourselves feel good not bad in the face of provocations, big and small, all day long. But we can get a grip on that. What if, instead of trying to win the all consuming self esteem game, we stopped playing it as much as we do. We are who we are. Unlikely we can stop altogether. Unlikely we should. But just think how much energy we could free up, for the good of ourselves and each other everywhere in our lives, if we started paying enough attention to discipline our minds in playing the game – a little bit, somewhat, or a whole lot – less. Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens.

For help with this or something else, Contact Me…

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

*“Narcissistic Personality Disorder” PubMed Health

**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.


Power of Will: New Years Tip

Just as we should seek joy by engaging in enjoyable pursuits, we can receive the benefits of willpower indirectly, by removing the need to expend it in the first place. Instead of focusing on willpower, we should look to the power of will.” *

Right on!! Love that. Power of Will. And what’s wrong with Willpower? Well, turns out there is considerable debate in the literature on whether the faculty of the mind we call willpower is like fuel in a fuel tank that gets depleted and needs to be refilled (maybe with a cookie or bowl of ice cream) – or more like an emotion (say, joy) that comes and goes and can be taken as a guide to inform our optimal living. Not a matter we will settle here; the studies are ongoing. But, what this author contributes is the notion that when we don’t feel like doing something we know we should, or we feel like doing something we know we shouldn’t – we should take heed, pay attention. There is important information here.

His example is good. He is a writer. Sometimes he doesn’t feel like writing. Sometimes it just pours out of him. He says he could use his willpower (no good) to force himself to write the stupid thing, but it won’t be nearly as good as a piece he really wants to write. The great piece is driven by the power of his natural will to write it. Feels like it practically writes itself. The not-as-good piece drains enormous amounts of time and energy, as he forces himself to just get the thing done. Of course, he feels depleted. He just wrung himself out doing something he didn’t want to do, propelled by nothing more than some idea from who knows where that he was supposed to do it.

Pay attention. If everything in us is saying we don’t want to do this whatever it is, then maybe there is not a thing wrong with our willpower. We just don’t want to do it. And then maybe we shouldn’t. Not right then anyway, because forcing it is bound to deplete us, maybe even make us resentful. Now we have to deal with that too, being all pissed off. And maybe we want to make it up to ourselves, to feel better whatever it takes, let’s say by mindlessly overindulging in some feel good in the moment no good person, place, or thing – like a bag of potato chips, I mean the whole thing. We know we do all kinds of things we know we shouldn’t to ourselves when we are tired or mad or both. People do this.** What Kelly McGonigal, PhD calls the “What-the-Hell” Effect. Once we have fallen already somehow, what-the-hell, and then there’s hell to pay for that. Excess drinking, eating, spending, couch surfing… So what’s a better way?

Well, what if every time we felt like we were forcing our will instead of being powered by it, we paused to ask ourselves how we would rather spend that moment of our lives – and go with whatever that is instead. Wouldn’t life be grand? Doing and not doing exactly what we do or don’t want to do all day long, every day for the rest of our lives. Wouldn’t work that way all the time would it? Not in love. And not in work. Sometimes we just have to do or not do things that go against our felt wishes at the time. Then what? Okay, so what if for that we paused and gave ourselves choices. What if we added two alternative courses of action to the one we felt pressured (and potentially drained) by. Then we could do a modified Lewinian Force Field Analysis. To keep it simple, quick, and propelling instead of inhibiting, instead of listing both the forces “for” and “against” each option, we could just list the forces “for,” pick the one that turns us on the most, and then use the power of that will to take us where we decided to go – like a magic carpet ride.

It’s a New Year. I am going to try this myself on a couple of fronts, and believe that it will work, which raises another point of the article for this post. Belief matters. People who believed humans run out of willpower felt depleted and performed less well on tasks they were assigned. So here’s to you and your own Power of Will to help you create the life you want to live. Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens.

To work on this or something else (including new program on Mindful Emotional Eating: Jump Start to Effectiveness) would love to hear from you:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

*“Have We Been Thinking About Willpower the Wrong Way for 30 Years?“ Nir Eyal

**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.

Mindful Emotional Eating: JumpStart to Effectiveness


Newsflash: Emotional Eating is NOT self-destructive. It is a legitimate form of self-care. And it is inevitable because, like it or not, we humans are inevitably emotional creatures. So whether you are eating to celebrate your joy or cope with your sorrow, whether you are eating to spice up your life or numb it out, or eating just because you like it and it feels good – feeling good is emotional so eating for pleasure is emotional too. In other words, all eating is emotional eating. That said, the mindless intake of food is not emotional and it’s not eating either. It is feeding – and feeding isn’t eating any more than taking nourishment through a nasogastric tube would be considered eating. Enter Mindful Emotional Eating: JumpStart to Effectiveness.

Based on the work of Pavel G. Somov, PhD, in this 4-session (1hr/session) program you will learn, interactively with me, how to turn food battles into food peace (and joy) for the rest of your life. Doesn’t have to be a struggle. Practice, practice, practice with me right from your home or office (by Hipaa compliant secure videoconference) and see what happens. Let’s get started. Contact me for details at or 202.617.0821. Would love to hear from you!

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

Why I Have to Be Right and So Do You.

Few people saw Donald Trump’s victory coming, including Donald Trump. There are easy culprits to blame for the surprise win (skewed polls and fake news come to mind), but the biggest enemy might be our own egos. It’s natural to ignore everything we disagree with, and many of us don’t realize that we’re biased until we’re shocked into noticing that things are not like we expected. That’s true regardless of who you ultimately voted for.” *

This is not just about politics. Let me tell you about my people. Anthropologist and psychologist, Robin Dunbar, tells us that there is a limit to how many people we can manage as our own ‘my people’. This is a bit of a digression but so interesting, I think, that I want to share it with you, here below on the Dunbar number:

The Dunbar number is actually a series of them. The best known, a hundred and fifty, is the number of people we call casual friends—the people, say, you’d invite to a large party. (In reality, it’s a range: a hundred at the low end and two hundred for the more social of us.) From there, through qualitative interviews coupled with analysis of experimental and survey data, Dunbar discovered that the number grows and decreases according to a precise formula, roughly a “rule of three.” The next step down, fifty, is the number of people we call close friends—perhaps the people you’d invite to a group dinner. You see them often, but not so much that you consider them to be true intimates. Then there’s the circle of fifteen: the friends that you can turn to for sympathy when you need it, the ones you can confide in about most things. The most intimate Dunbar number, five, is your close support group. These are your best friends (and often family members). On the flipside, groups can extend to five hundred, the acquaintance level, and to fifteen hundred, the absolute limit—the people for whom you can put a name to a face. While the group sizes are relatively stable, their composition can be fluid. Your five today may not be your five next week; people drift among layers and sometimes fall out of them altogether.

Back to my people…can’t think of a single one of them, not a single person I know, who doesn’t think s/he knows something. Kind of like the 10 blind Chinese men asked to say what an elephant is by touching it, each describing it differently based on which part of the elephant he was touching. All are right, of course, but only partially right, given the limitations of what he can ‘see’. The truth but not the whole truth, and yet each is completely convinced that he is entirely right – and that everyone else is wrong. It was certainly that way with my people and the election, and, as I said, not limited to that. That’s pretty much just the way (my) people are, including but not limited to the one** who saw the print out of this “How the brain tricks you…” article sitting on my desk and laughed, haha, thought he had me now, somehow missing that it kind of applied to him too, as it applies pretty much to us all.

Now why is this? What is wrong with us? Nothing. It’s a strategy. Our beliefs tie us together. Strength in numbers. They are a vital part of how we know that we are not alone in this chaotic world. Anything, like new and accurate information, that threatens the strength of these beliefs threatens the strength of the social bonds on which we depend psychologically for our sense of well-being in the world. Our beliefs define us as individuals too, or at least we think so, even if my philosophy tutors are quick to point out that’s just the Ego talking, and the Ego talks too much. They call it the Ahamkara, aka the personality, that becomes so full of itself it doesn’t even know how little it knows. But try to diddle with the Ego, and it fights for it’s life. It’s right and you’re not. Simple as that.

So here’s the good news: People want to be right, but they also want to be good. Robert Wright, in The Moral Animal, tells us so and I have seen it myself again and again in written responses on exercises in organizational workshops I have run. Maybe because if we are not good our reputations can suffer and people with bad reps in the environment of evolutionary adaption were left to die, seems we are hardwired to think we are good even when we are not until and unless we get exposed. Then we get defensive. Then we have to be right.

But not really. No one is perfect. No one has to be. We are all just a bunch of humans trying to get through the day in the best way we know how. And if we want to draw people near, instead of pushing them away with our opinions on politics and other things, then here is what we can do. First thing is that we can remember the 10 blind Chinese men. Thoughts are not facts; they are events of the mind. The more recurrent they are, the stronger we feel them, and the more we think they are true even if they are not, especially if our thoughts are shared by people whom we think really matter to us.

So the next time you may find yourself mired in a ‘groupthink’ belief that is potentially obnoxious to others, or even obnoxious to a part of your own more rational self, good time to pause and remind: There goes thinking – thinking, thinking, thinking. Thoughts are not facts. They are events or ideas of the mind. Other people’s thoughts are events and ideas of their own. We are all right, based on what we can see, and not so much on what we cannot. But we can be more on-purpose curious about ideas and information outside of our own awareness – to at least try to see what we can’t see – for the good of all. Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens.

To work on this or something else, would love to hear from you:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

* “How your brain tricks you into believing you’re the reasonable one: It’s so natural to ignore everything we disagree with,” Angela Chen, Nov 23, 2016,

**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.







Judge Much? Too Much?

judgyA well-known saying urges people to ‘not judge a book by its cover’. But people tend to do just that – even after they’ve skimmed a chapter or two, according to Cornell University research….First impressions formed simply from looking at a photograph predicted how people felt and thought about the person after a live interaction that took place one month to six months later.”*

Who knew? Wouldn’t we all like to think that, even if we are judgy from the get-go, at least we can revise our impressions after actually meeting the person. Let it please be true, only according to this study it’s not. Instead they found that people looked at photographs of faces, some faces smiling some not, then participants made a determination that stuck for a good long time. The smiling people were considered liked and cloaked in all kinds of other positive attributes, e.g., they were assumed to be competent, with marriages and kids better off, just for smiling nicely in a photo. Faces in unsmiling photos were presumed unlikeable, unstable, disagreeable, narrow-minded. Yikes.

And this was just from photos. We have much bigger problems in real life where things get interactive with multiplier effects as a result. Here’s an example. When I moved here to DC I was struck by how smiley and friendly people seemed on the street. When I asked around about it, I kept hearing that here in DC one never knows, could be anybody, could be somebody really important, better safe than sorry, people pretty much networking all the time. Of course, I was new here, full of curiosity, head up in wide-eyed delight looking all around. And this may have made all the difference in the world – because I know people** who feel just the opposite about DC. These people who find DC people horribly unfriendly, say “no one ever looks up from their phones,” let alone to cast a warm and welcoming smile. No surprise that these people who see things so differently also happen to be people who wear BRF’s. Click here for an earlier post on BRF, what the kids call Bitchy Resting Face. Projection, projection, projection, we might say. We get what we give. Goes around comes around. Golden rule. Seems obvious once we know how much a simple smile can count. Ask Oprah who launched a whole campaign on smile.

But look, humans are judgy. We just are, and it’s not going away anytime soon. Judgy has helped us to survive and to thrive. It’s how we knew the difference between what we could eat and what could eat us. Who was friend and who was foe. So judge away we will. We are hard wired for it. Even so, as with all things of the mind, it is helpful to remember that the mind is an instrument for our use, not the other way around, and that we have a right and responsibility to use this instrument well. So, if we and the people on the street with us can have this much impact on one another, just by the judgments the mind makes in response to the expressions on our faces, think what a difference can be made in our work and home lives in face to face interaction with the people there. We can be mindfully in charge of what ‘face’ we bring to the world, so we don’t misrepresent ourselves in a way that we now know can stick for a very long time. And, conversely, we can cut a little slack for anyone with a BRF on, to judge not (or at least to judge less) lest ye be judged. My philosophy tutors have said, “Treat each person, no matter how many times we have been with this person, as if we are meeting him/her for the very first time.” I have tried this and liked it. You can too. Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens.

To work on this or something else, would love to hear from you:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

* “When judging other people, first impressions last,” November, 28, 2016.

**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.

Indulge Yourself. Mindfully. It’s OK. Really.

indulge“Even though [the more mindful] participants were more likely to give in to some desires without guilt, they were also able to discern whether their desire was in conflict with a larger goal they had….If giving into the desire threatened that goal, they had self-restraint. In other words, when it really mattered to them, they could keep their eye on the prize and not give into the lure of instant gratification.“*

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally,” according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, Founder Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction. The study here found that people in this sharpened state of awareness were more likely to indulge their desires, and without later guilt and remorse. It is as if, in this mindful state, just thinking about it “You can literally taste that bit of chocolate…whatever it is that you jones for.”* But wait, isn’t mindfulness supposed to put the executive brain in better control of setting goals and the discipline we need to reach those goals. Yes indeed, and that is exactly what the researchers found, i.e., that when it mattered participants who were mindful could exercise the self-restraint to forego the immediate pleasure for a greater good down the line.

What’s so great about this study is the permission it gives to actually enjoy ourselves, particular around this time of year when there is so much joy to be had. Well yes, for some more than others, there is sorrow in the mix too, but sorrow needn’t completely wipe out all joy unless we make that so. No matter what is going on in anyone’s life, somewhere in there is a simple joy to be had. Look around. Fill the senses. So much to see, hear, feel, smell, and taste…ah yes, taste, let’s talk about taste.

The premise of Mindful Emotional Eating is that All Eating is Emotional Eating because all eating feels good – even if it’s ‘good for us’ eating that makes us feel good about ourselves for eating good. And it’s not like we can ever do without eating altogether, let’s say like smoking. So, if we have to eat we may as well enjoy it in ways that do us more good than harm, which requires that we not feel bad about it because post eating guilt and shame tend to make people say ‘what the hell’ and binge eat even more. Reminds me of the gelato cone I had after piloting my 4-session program on Mindful Emotional Eating (MEE): Jumpstart to Effectiveness. Cone to mouth I stopped myself, turned to my friend and said, “Look, I have to concentrate on this gelato now because if I don’t it’ll be all gone before I can even know that I enjoyed it – and really otherwise what’s the point of eating it at all.” Another woman I know** who took the program reported more pleasure, less guilt, and less weight on the bones. To be clear, the goal of mindful emotional eating is food peace and pleasure, not weight loss per se because dieting is said to be a kind of deprivation that is the surest way to gain weight. But as we begin to eat more mindfully, we may experience greater satisfaction on less food so weight loss can naturally occur. That said…

Take control. Take back your joy. Use your sense(s). Actually look at your food before you put it in your mouth. Taste it before you swallow. Pay attention. Put your mind where your mouth is. Pause between one bite and another, so you even know you took a bite and enjoyed it. And, of course, allow yourself to stop, knowing that another eating event is coming soon – and that it will be good. Practice, practice, practice…and see what happens.

To work on Mindful Emotional Eating: Jumpstart to Effectiveness or something else, would love to hear from you:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

* “Mindfulness Supports ‘Wise’ Indulgence: A recent study finds that mindfulness may not help us overcome all of our urges, just the ones that count.” Kelle Walsh. November 18, 2016m

**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.