Archive for March, 2011
More than 127,000 kids are adopted in the United States each year. Of course, adopted children are loved and cared for just like other children, but it’s natural for people who’ve been adopted to wonder about their birth families, or biological families, and where they came from. This curiosity often becomes more intense as people grow, learn, and reach the milestones like college that signal a step into adult life.
It’s common for people who’ve been adopted to want to know more about their birth history. Usually a big question is why the birth parents placed their child for adoption. And, now that we know the role genes play in many diseases, lots of people want to know about their health history. When people are curious about their birth family, it doesn’t mean they don’t love their adoptive family or feel close to them. This curiosity, which can feel quite intense, is a normal part of development. It’s common for people to just want to figure out more about themselves by meeting their birth families. Emotionally, this can be a challenging time. It’s important to prepare yourself and your family for any and all possibilities. Finding out about birth families has both advantages and disadvantages. But lots of people feel it’s better to know than not know, even if what they discover is not what they expected.
There are some common stages that occur when an adopted child is reunited with her birth family. Not every individual goes through every stage and they may not be sequential, or they may be repeated. The following stages are common to post-reunion period and are normal consequences of reunion.
1. Honeymoon Stage
a. Characterized by euphoria, joy, sense of being on top of the world.
b. Effort made by parties to find similarity and common interests.
c. Much time spent together in an effort to catch up on each other’s life with exchanges of photos, letters, and gifts.
d. Preoccupation with other party.
e. Minor negotiations about relationship, i.e., what to call birth- parent.
f. Some uncertainty about place or role in other’s life. Frequency of contact, how to introduce each other to friends and family members.
2. Time-out Stage
a. One party may pull back to evaluate and process events. The honeymoon is over.
b. Other party may feel confused when (a) occurs. Birth-parent may feel hurt, angry, frustrated and frightened if adoptee pulls back and adoptee may feel rejected by birth-parent if she/he pulls back.
c. Problems in relationship may develop here due to lack of understanding of the process; society has few role models for this experience.
d. Parties may need professional help to resolve situation.
3. Showdown Stage
a. Confrontation of parties to address status of relationship and its future development.
b. If birth-parent initiates confrontation, she/he may fear loss of child again – different confronting adopted adult because biological tie is not enough to assure success – in parenting, the element of permanency exists and the bond is not so fragile.
c. If adopted adult confronts birth-parents, she/he may fear being rejected by birth-parents.
4. Disengagement Stage
a. Characterized by adopted adult or birth-parents really moving away from the other – not just pulling back.
b. Can be extremely painful for either party with feelings of anger, loss, and rejection.
c. Can occur if expectations are too rigid and differences between parties are too great.
5. Solidifying Stage
a. Characterized by earnest negotiations between parties – roles, differences, issues continue to be worked on, but the relationship is more solid and settled with few ups and downs because agreement has been reached in many areas.
b. Re-negotiations occur as life changes and growth takes place and new relationship roles emerge.
Adopted people who were loved and did attach to adoptive families, display much more emotional stability throughout the reunion process. They find it easier to bond and have no need to run and hide from the affections of the found family. Rather, they revel in it, and are able to do this because they have found themselves in familiar territory. Their search was based in a need for identify, the need to know where they came from, rather than driven by an unfulfilled need to be loved. Consequently they accept new affection with a graciousness that originates in the confidence of emotional security, as if it is their right. They display the self-esteem that originates in self-love. They are unafraid of rejection – they don’t know what it is. Finding a trusted person to talk to — a family member, friend, or counselor — can help when it comes to figuring things out. It can also help to talk to others who were adopted or to join a local or online support group.
Some additional resources that may offer you some information are:
Impact of Adoption on Adopted Persons
Issues Facing Adult AdopteesRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Men’s Health ranks 100 American cities to find where people are most pissed off.
How did they gauge rage? Statistically (and from a safe distance). They calculated the number of aggravated assaults per capita (FBI), the number of people with high blood pressure (CDC), the amount of time spent in traffic during rush hour (Texas Transportation Institute), and the number of anger-management specialists per capita (American Psychological Association).
From most (100) to least angry cities (1)
100 Detroit, MI
99 Baltimore, MD
98 St. Petersburg, FL
97 Las Vegas, NV
96 Newark, NJ
95 Charleston, WV
94 Dallas, TX
93 Houston, TX
92 Philadelphia, PA
91 Miami, FL
90 Riverside, CA
89 Memphis, TN
88 Oklahoma City, OK
87 Louisville, KY
86 Los Angeles, CA
85 Jersey City, NJ
84 Fort Worth, TX
83 Jacksonville, FL
82 Indianapolis, IN
81 Boston, MA
80 Chicago, IL
79 Orlando, FL
78 New Orleans, LA
77 Stockton, CA
76 Oakland, CA
75 Sacramento, CA
4 Washington, DC
73 St. Louis, MO
72 Phoenix, AZ
71 Baton Rouge, LA
70 San Jose, CA
69 Tampa, FL
68 Aurora, CO
67 El Paso, TX
66 Winston-Salem, NC
65 Birmingham, AL
64 Tucson, AZ
63 Santa Ana, CA
62 Bridgeport, CT
61 Billings, MT
60 Tulsa, OK
59 Manchester, NH
58 New York, NY
57 Lexington, KY
56 Little Rock, AR
55 St. Paul, MN
54 Charlotte, NC
53 San Diego, CA
52 Fresno, CA
51 Atlanta, GA
50 Cleveland, OH
49 Columbus, OH
48 Lubbock, TX
47 San Antonio, TX
46 Plano, TX
45 Richmond, VA
44 Greensboro, NC
43 Providence, RI
42 Albuquerque, NM
41 Denver, CO
40 Austin, TX
39 Kansas City, MO
38 Jackson, MS
37 Bakersfield, CA
36 Milwaukee, WI
35 San Francisco, CA
34 Chesapeake, VA
33 Corpus Christi, TX
32 Nashville, TN
31 Sioux Falls, SD
30 Raleigh, NC
29 Toledo, OH
28 Laredo, TX
27 Cincinnati, OH
26 Buffalo, NY
25 Minneapolis, MN
24 Norfolk, VA
23 Honolulu, HI
22 Wilmington, DE
21 Durham, NC
20 Seattle, WA
19 Des Moines, IA
18 Fort Wayne, IN
17 Pittsburgh, PA
16 Boise, ID
15 Omaha, NE
14 Portland, ME
13 Virginia Beach, VA
12 Portland, OR
11 Columbia, SC
10 Anchorage, AK
9 Reno, NV
8 Wichita, KS
7 Cheyenne, WY
6 Salt Lake City, UT
5 Madison, WI
4 Colorado Springs, CO
3 Fargo, ND
2 Lincoln, NE
1 Burlington, VT
Empty nest syndrome describes the grief and emptiness many parents experience when their children leave home. This grief is often difficult to recognize since children moving out and developing independence is seen as a normal, healthy event in most American families. While some amount of sadness is normal, a grief response of several months might indicate empty nest syndrome.
Most parents who experience empty nest syndrome feel intense sadness, often crying excessively. They may find themselves feeling useless now that they don’t fill the same parenting roles. Many parents report that they spend a great deal of time in the child’s bedroom focused on memories of them. Some parents avoid social contact and the activities they used to enjoy. Empty nest syndrome can lead to depression when it is not addressed.
For parents, this can be a time of strong feelings. Some experience joy, fulfillment, and relief. Others feel loneliness and anxiety, or a mixture of both good and bad feelings. Some couples enter a second honeymoon period. Single parents can now date without worrying about what their children think. Parents are free to focus on their own financial, emotional, and social needs.
For some parents, this time is marked by the pain of loss and the anxiety of letting go. They may find themselves asking: “What is my purpose in life?” “My work is done. Who needs me?” Or they may feel bitter: “Look what all my hard work has gotten me now.” Single parents may have an even harder time than couples. They may have to reinvent almost every aspect of their lives and may feel more alone than ever before. If a parent and child were particularly close, they may have a hard time separating emotionally. If you find that all you think and talk about are your children, you may be hurting more than you realize. Remember that parents and children need to develop their own lives. Being too distant can also present problems. You may be pushing your children away emotionally, perhaps because you are angry or resentful that they want to leave you. This can lead to lasting feelings of bitterness and anger. You may feel guilty for not having spent more time with your children when they were home, and this guilt may stop you from paying attention to your own needs.
Change itself, whether moving, marriage, having children, or letting children go, is very hard, and it is normal to be confused and upset. Most parents adapt in 6 to 12 months. You can make things easier by doing some of the following:
-Don’t run from the problem. Pretending nothing has changed will harm you in the long run.
-If you feel very alone, plan on having someone to lean on for a few weeks. -If your children know you have someone, they can relax, and you’ll feel better, too.
-Talk to your spouse about your feelings. You may find you share the same emotions.
-Be clear with adult children that they are free to make their own way in life.
-Encourage your children to maintain relationships with each other. Siblings can be great support for each other once they have left home.
-Focus on the successes and strengths of your children.
-Recognize that they are adults now and it is up to them to let you know if they need you.
-Work to establish a more adult rapport with your children. Seeing them as adults will help you treat them as adults.
-Do a life inventory. Think of all the things you have been waiting to do.
-Really think through what you want to happen in the next 10 to 20 years.
-Remember, when you had children you planned ahead 20 years, so plan now for the next 20.
-If you have a lot of negative thoughts about yourself (“I did a bad job as a parent.” “I’m just going to grow old and die alone”. “No one needs me anymore.”), try to change these thoughts. Ask people who know you well and you will find out these thoughts are not true.
While this is a normally difficult time, there are some warning signs that you may need help from a professional. You may need help if:
-You just don’t feel able to do the things you used to do regularly, like work and socialize.
-There is a significant change in your sleep cycle or in how much you eat or weigh.
-Several months later you are still very unhappy, anxious, or upset or you feel you cannot deal with the change.
-You and your spouse are becoming more distant and not addressing what it means to be living without children at home.
According to the Center for Divorce and Education, more than 1.5 million children in the U.S. are affected by their parents’ divorces each year. Effective parenting is an enormous task under the best of circumstances. Parenting during times of personal tragedy or crisis may seem almost impossible. Not only are divorce and separation likely to feel like times of personal crisis, they are times which require effective parenting. The recent trend towards shared parenting by both parents, commonly called joint custody, requires that spouses who may feel unable to communicate with each other, must work cooperatively as parents. Often that may seem like an absolutely impossible task.
Divorce is painful and it is traumatic for children and spouses. Still, how parents handle divorce makes the difference in their children’s healthy adjustment or potential maladjustment. Although things have not worked out in the marriage, the two of you still have two children to raise together. Speak with your husband about keeping the children out of your conflict as much as possible. Also, reassure them that they will continue to be loved and cared for by the two of you. Let your children know that your love for one another has changed, but that your love for them remains strong and constant. Here are guidelines that family researchers have identified to help ease this transition.
What you can do:
• When possible, make decisions to reduce other changes your children will experience during this transition. Avoid a change in your residence, or change in the schools your children attend, if at all possible. Children need a support system of friends, teachers and other adults to help them through this change.
• Reduce immediate financial stress by taking a loan from relatives, if necessary. Use credit for temporary relief, until you can stabilize. Consider refinancing your home on a low adjustable mortgage and consolidating other debts, until you can get back on your feet, both emotionally and economically. This will also free up money for support services as you travel through this family crisis. Studies have found that poverty resulting from a divorce — not father’s absence — was associated with the greatest disturbance in kids. This is not to say that fathers are not important: They are! But even in cases where fathers disappeared, financial support was also withdrawn, resulting in a lifestyle change and decreased resources for many children of single working mothers.
• Make an agreement with your spouse to refrain from talking about the details of the divorce. Do not talk badly about the other spouse to the children. Refrain from arguing in front of the children and do your best to keep them out of your conflict!
• Do not give a child more responsibility than they are ready for.
• Do not make a child a confidant for the pain the divorce is causing you. Seek a support group to help you through this period. Share your feelings with friends and professionals, who can help you grieve and reclaim yourself from the marriage.
• Support connections with extended family. Help your children avoid choosing sides or being caught in a conflict of loyalty between the two parents they both need and love.
Family experts also advise that parents establishing co-parenting after a divorce reduce conflict by staying clear of any discussion about their relationship. Focus instead on what is in the best interests of your children, and what you can reasonably do to support your child’s positive and strong relationship with both parents. Establish clear, agreed upon boundaries to reduce pain and protect the children from any unresolved marital conflict.
Let your children know you are sad and be available for their feelings, too. Cry together and grieve together, but stop short of blaming. Let them know they are not alone. Work to accept their anger, but do not fail to continue to set limits as appropriate to their ages. Look into programs in your area that connect children with others their ages who are going through a similar experience.
Children fare best when parents are able to keep them out of the middle and work toward reducing their conflict post-divorce. Quality contact with both parents and low conflict are the two best predictors for adjustment in children.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Dealing with a defiant child can be difficult. The cycle of anger can only be broken if trust is developed. Trusting your child is an important part of your relationship. Trust has to be earned by both of you. Remind yourself that your child may be struggling with lots of new feelings and his behavior could be a reflection of low self-esteem. Often, children act out because they are afraid of their parents’ temperament and worry over being a disappointment. Often, parents who are constantly angry, shouting, rigid or restrictive, encounter compulsively angry children. Parents have to get beyond the behavior, and address the behavior that “necessitated” the lie in the first place. It can be easy to lose your temper when your child is being defiant, but it is very important that you demonstrate control over your emotions. Children often learn that their outbursts can control their parents and the outcome of events.
It is important to work on your relationship with your child first, because no discipline will be successful unless this is the basis. Having a good relationship takes time. Allowing room for negotiation, compromise, listening before accusing, and keeping your volume down usually helps in paving the way for more honest communication. Continually reminding your child of past mistakes is not helpful. It is important to give your child a chance to try again after a mistake. Mistakes are how we all learn.
When your child talks, make an effort to really listen. Stop whatever you are doing, establish eye contact and pay attention to what your child is saying. Quite often what is said between the lines (the tone) is just as important as the words being spoken. Demonstrate an interest in what your child is saying by asking appropriate questions and responding in a positive manner. If a child’s comments are continually passed off as being of little consequence, the child will begin to feel that his/her opinions are not important. The following tips can help you learn to read the body language of other people and enhance your own ability to communicate effectively.
1. Pay Attention to Nonverbal Signals – By paying closer attention to other people’s nonverbal behaviors, you will improve your own ability to communicate nonverbally.
2. Look for Incongruent Behaviors – If someone’s words do not match their nonverbal behaviors, you should pay careful attention. For example, someone might tell you they are happy while frowning and staring at the ground.
3. Concentrate on Your Tone of Voice When Speaking – Your tone of voice can convey a wealth of information, ranging from enthusiasm to disinterest to anger. Start noticing how your tone of voice affects how others respond to you and try using tone of voice to emphasize ideas that you want to communicate.
4. Ask Questions About Nonverbal Signals – If you are confused about another person’s nonverbal signals, don’t be afraid to ask questions. A good idea is to repeat back your interpretation of what has been said and ask for clarification. An example of this might be, “So what you are saying is that…” or “I love you enough to be honest. I have noticed that….”
Listening and valuing adolescent ideas is what promotes the ability of parents to effectively communicate with them. When people feel bad, they feel that their pain is so bad that no one can really understand it. That’s why a person who is hurting would probably rather have you say, “Your pain must be awful. I wish I could understand just how sad (or hurt or lonely) you feel.” Sometimes the best way to show understanding is to admit that you can’t understand just how bad a person feels. The key to understanding what the other person feels is identifying her feeling. After we have listened carefully (and watched carefully) to learn how a person is feeling and acting, we might do one of the following:
Acknowledge or identify the feeling.
-”You feel strongly about this!”
-”You seem to feel very concerned (hurt, upset, confused).”
Invite more discussion.
-”I would like to understand how you are feeling. Will you tell me more?”
Understand that the person’s pain is special for that person.
-”I wish I could understand better how you feel.”
-”Ouch. I don’t know if I can even guess how terrible you feel”
Use active listening.
-”Let me see if I understand. You feel like…? “
-”It sounds like you feel lonely (confused, sad, etc.).”
Arguing only fuels hostility and it doesn’t get you heard. Don’t feel obliged to judge everything your spouse says. Retain the mutual right to disagree. Never try to reason with someone who is upset — it is futile. Wait until tempers have cooled off before trying to sort out a disagreement. Don’t try to talk people out of their feelings. You can acknowledge someone’s reaction without condoning it. An example of this might be, “I don’t blame you for feeling that way…” This type of response often defuses anger.
It can be very easy to lose your temper when your son is being defiant, but it is very important that you demonstrate control over yourself and you emotions. Always remember that you are the model for your child’s behavior. Be sure not to contradict yourself. If you tell him not to yell, but then you go ahead and yell, it sends a mixed message. It is important for you as a parent to be firm and consistent with rules. Having family meetings where family members are able to talk about their feelings or rules in the home often allows for communication about why these rules are enforced or how individuals are feeling. If you have established house rules, try to follow them yourself.
Although it is important to deal with the negative behaviors, it is equally important to identify and praise the positive ones. When your son does do something that is unacceptable, explain to them why it is unacceptable but then give him a replacement behavior that is appropriate. You may say “Yelling at your parents is unacceptable and you have a choice, you can use your words or behavior and either way their will be a consequence, but it up to you to choose.” Be sure to acknowledge your son when he has done the right thing. This will help the behavior to occur more often and also raise the child’s self-esteem by feeling that he can accomplish things.
If you believe that there may be more complex, underlying issues affecting your child’s behavior, it may be beneficial to seek professional assistance. Talking to a family counselor may be helpful.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Doing the “balancing act” in your everyday life requires careful and thoughtful planning of how to spend your time and energy. In order to plan effectively, however, it’s important to know what your priorities are. Your priorities are based on what you value (achievement, intimacy, personal satisfaction, independence, caretaking, etc.) and what your goals are (establishing/maintaining a career, raising a family, finding/maintaining a committed relationship, etc.) Since you are a unique individual with your own values and goals, your priorities will be somewhat different from those of others. They may conflict with the priorities of those close to you; it is important to understand what your own priorities are before you decide to adjust to others priorities. You are the ultimate decision-maker about your life. Even when you compromise, you are deciding to compromise. Priorities are relative to each other. What you are saying is that for you at this time, activity X is more important to do than activity Y. As your life changes, so do your priorities. Keep yourself aware of what your priorities. Experiment with the following coping strategies and determine which ones work best for you.
-Recognize the problem. Watch for signs of stress such as forgetfulness, fatigue, sleeplessness, changes in appetite, increased physical sickness like colds and headaches, withdrawal from social situations, increased mood swings or emotional outbursts.
-Balance your lifestyle. People subject to negative stress are often perfectionists, idealists, and workaholics, who can never really please themselves. Identify other areas in you life you would like to develop besides your career, then get involved in some stress- relieving activities.
-Build positive social supports, and control negativity in your environment. Seek out projects in which you’ll work with people who have a positive attitude. If you have to work with a negative person, limit the amount of time you must spend with the person, and stick to those limits. Look for positive affiliations in your social relationships or club memberships.
-Gain control where you can. Ask to be involved in decisions that affect you. Seeking flexible hours for work to accommodate your needs for exercise, for example, may also be an option. If you are not in control of your schedule, ask for help. Asserting yourself and expressing your needs help reduce the negative emotions of fear and anger.
-Work smarter and not longer. Begin with staying and ending on time with all appointments. Schedule realistic breaks at work. Allow yourself enough time to get to places. Pressuring yourself with tight deadlines increases stress and reduces you effectiveness.
-Quit doing something. If you are overcommitted, say “no” and mean it the next time you are asked to do another favor that will greatly raise your stress level. If possible, cut activities out of your schedule that are causing you stress.
-Control thoughts that you are indispensable. To control stress, you must learn to accept your mortality, your vulnerability, and your limits.
-Employ personal strategies to avoid or cope with burnout. Do something for yourself each day. Eat well and get enough sleep. View mistakes and setbacks as learning experiences. Acknowledge your strengths and achievements, and reward yourself. Identify your life purpose, and pursue activities that are compatible with your mission.
-Employ interpersonal strategies. Identify the people, places, and activities in your life that make you feel good. Stay away from relationships that drain you.
-Use stress-management techniques. Fantasize a mini-vacation. Take a break during your day and close your eyes, imagining yourself in a favorite peaceful place. Go to the beach and feel the sand and warmth of the sun. Listen to the birds and the waves. See the calm beach scene. Five minutes there, and you will be mentally and physically relaxed.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Some people develop bad habits in their computer use that cause them significant problems in their lives. The types of behavior and negative consequences are similar to those of known addictive disorders; therefore, the term Computer or Internet Addiction has come into use. While anyone who uses a computer could be vulnerable, those people who are lonely, shy, easily bored, or suffering from another addiction or impulse control disorder as especially vulnerable to computer abuse.
Computer abuse can result from people using it repeatedly as their main stress reliever, instead of having a variety of ways to cope with negative events and feelings. Other misuses can include procrastination from undesirable responsibilities, distraction from being upset, and attempts to meet needs for companionship and belonging. While discussions are ongoing about whether excessive use of the computer/Internet is an addiction, the potential problematic behaviors and effects on the users seem to be clear.
A person who is “addicted” to the computer is likely to have several of the experiences and feelings on the list below:
- Mixed feelings of well-being and guilt while at the computer.
- Make unsuccessful efforts to quit or limit your computer use.
- Lose track of time while on the computer.
- Neglect friends, family and/or responsibilities in order to be online.
- Lying to your boss and family about the amount of time spent on the computer and what you do while on it.
- Feel anxious, depressed, or irritable when your computer time is shortened or interrupted.
- Use the computer repeatedly as an outlet when sad, upset, or for sexual gratification.
- Develop problems on the job as a result of the time spent and the type of activities accessed on the computer.
Being “addicted” to the computer can cause physical discomfort, such as:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (pain, numbness, and burning in your hands that can radiate up the wrists, elbows, and shoulders)
- Dry eyes or strained vision
- Back aches and neck aches
- Severe headaches
- Sleep disturbances
The first step in coping effectively with Internet dependence is recognizing that the problem exists. As with other kinds of behavior that have become habitual or compulsive, the individual suffering from Internet dependence may not be conscious of the extent to which his or her behavior has become problematic. The fact that the costs of Internet use have come to outweigh its benefits may at first be denied, but this fact needs to be acknowledged.
On one level, Internet dependence is a behavioral, time-management problem. Most individuals dealing with Internet dependence find that it is helpful to alter their routines. They often need to limit the time they stay online and make an effort to devote time to other activities. They may need outside help of some sort in adhering to the limits they set for themselves.
On a deeper, more significant level, Internet dependence is a problem of human disconnection. It would be most helpful—though it may seem extremely difficult at first—to cultivate flesh-and-blood relationships in addition to cyber-relationships. Avoidance of face-to-face relationships is often a part of Internet dependence. It is also often the case that Internet dependence has been driven by feelings such as boredom, anxiety, emptiness, or loneliness. It is important for each individual to consider what has led to the dependence and what has been keeping it in place. Counseling can be a very useful way of getting support, exploring the issues and feelings involved in the dependence, and deciding what specific options would be most appropriate.
How to Help Computer Obsessed Friends/Coworkers
- Be a good role model. Manage the computer use in your own life well.
- Introduce them to some other people who handle their computer use sensibly.
- Get them involved in some non-computer related fun.
- Talk to them about your concerns with their computer use.
- Support their desire for change if they think they have a problem.
- Encourage them to seek professional counseling.
People sometimes feel that their cravings for food or a particular food are so intense that they feel that they must be “addicted” to food. The relationship between eating disorders and addiction has been the subject of some debate. There are obvious similarities between eating disorders and addictions including the experience of “cravings”, the use of a substance (in this case, food) to cope with mood or personal problems, secrecy and shame connected to the behaviours, and in early stages, denial of the problem.
There are also several differences. Significantly, some of the above experiences associated with the eating behavior are actually brought on, or exacerbated by, attempts to lose weight, restrict food consumption, or abstain from food or particular food. Unlike addictions that are helped by abstinence, the eating disorder is actually worsened by abstinence. In fact, it is known that dieting is the strongest risk factor for the development of an eating disorder, whether it be anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder.
Essentially, dieting can disrupt the body’s (and mind’s), normal responses to hunger and fullness and interfere with the way the body was designed to naturally regulate eating. Further, the nutritional and emotional deprivation experienced on a diet leads to many of the symptoms of the eating disorder, namely “cravings” for food, overeating and/or binge eating, and obsessiveness about food and weight and emotionally triggered eating, all documented consequences of food restriction. Therefore, what appears to be an addiction to food is actually brought on by, or often exacerbated by, attempts to be abstinent from it. In addition, body image concerns, which underlie and are part of the experience of an eating disorder, cannot be accounted for by the explanation that an individual is “addicted” to food.
Many people believe that eating disorders are only about food and weight issues when in reality those are just the symptoms of a bigger problem. Eating disorders may develop due to a difficult life experience. The disorder may begin with depression, stress or other feelings related to body weight. The best treatment approach for a person suffering from an eating disorder is psychotherapy along with medical and nutritional counseling.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
January, the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords produced a half dozen bona fide heroes, including Patricia Maisch, a 61-year-old woman who snatched ammunition out of alleged gunman Jared Loughner’s hands as he tried to reload. For good reason, people like these earn our respect and adulation; their grace under pressure strikes us as almost superhuman. Yet as we marvel at their deeds, we’re always left wondering about where, exactly, this composure comes from. Do these people emerge from the womb with sanguine looks on their faces, ready to perform life-saving surgery in the next room if necessary? Or is their coolness something they picked up through life experience?
When I was researching Nerve, my new book about how people deal best with fear, pressure, and stress, I got quizzed about this constantly. Is cool-headedness born, people wanted to know, or is it made? We’ve been arguing about this question since the days of Socrates, but until recently, psychologists had very little hard data about how genes and experience interact to determine how we respond under stress. We now have a far more solid idea of where cool comes from, however. Poise under pressure, it turns out, does indeed have a strong genetic component—yet our poise is mostly the result of what we do to build it up throughout our lives.
Let’s start with the “nature” side of the equation. For every one of us, the starting point for cool-headedness comes bundled within our DNA: our innate disposition toward anxiety. It’s never been a secret that anxiousness is partially inherited (my parents, for example, had me pegged as a future neurotic from the first time my brow furrowed), but no one knew how much influence our genes threw around until psychiatrist Kenneth Kendler came along. In a 2001 study, Kendler and his colleagues examined 1,200 pairs of male twins, some identical and some fraternal, probing into each brother’s individual phobias. Because all of the twins shared the same upbringing, yet only the identical twins shared the same DNA, Kendler could filter out environmental factors altogether and calculate a pure figure for our genetic susceptibility to anxiety. The answer? Genes account for around 30 percent of our anxiousness.
“Aha!” we might exclaim. “Cool under pressure is 30 percent genetic, then.” Well, not quite. After all, anxiety certainly influences our poise in stressful situations, but being anxious doesn’t always lead to falling apart—far from it. Some of history’s coolest customers have also been nervous wrecks. Boston Celtics center Bill Russell, who led his team to 11 NBA championships, was legendary among his teammates for his pre-game anxiety; until the end of his career, Russell grew so nervous that he threw up before every single game. When Laurence Olivier was delivering the most lauded theatrical performances of his life, he too suffered from such intense stage fright that he asked people to physically push him onstage. Feeling anxious and flopping while under fire, then, don’t necessarily go hand in hand.
The first people to perform useful studies specifically on composure in crisis were World War II combat researchers, who could examine soldiers under literal fire. In 1943, one of these men, a British officer named Lionel Wigram, noticed a pattern in his studies of infantry units on the Italian front. Whenever a 22-man platoon encountered enemy fire, Wigram realized, the troops always responded in the same proportions: A few soldiers would go to pieces and try to escape, a few more would react valiantly, and the vast majority would enter a sheeplike state of bewilderment, unsure of what to do. Wigram wasn’t a scientist, but his insight about our instinctive reactions to crisis was remarkably accurate. According to modern research by survival psychologist John Leach, when a random group of people finds itself in a sudden emergency like a fire or a natural disaster, 10 to 15 percent will consistently freak out, 10 to 20 percent will stay cool, and the rest will become dazed and hesitant sheep.
These aren’t exactly inspiring figures for those of us who fantasize that we’d respond to a mugger with a heroic flurry of karate kicks—and the situation is about to get bleaker. When researchers have studied those who naturally stay composed in crisis, they’ve uncovered evidence that their poise has a biological underpinning. Yale psychiatrist Andy Morgan, for example, has studied elite Special Forces recruits as they undergo “Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape” training, a three-week course designed to simulate the tortures of enemy capture. The program is brutally stressful, yet many recruits preserve an amazing amount of mental clarity in the midst of it. When Morgan examined the poised trainees’ blood tests, he saw that they were producing significantly more of “a goofy little peptide called neuropeptide Y” than other, more rattled recruits. The extra NPY was like a layer of stress-deflecting mental Kevlar; its effects are so pronounced that Morgan can tell whether a soldier has made it into the Special Forces or not just by looking at a blood test.
At this point, the evidence appears to be stacking up against cool-headedness as something we can learn. Our anxiety is one-third predetermined? Less than one-fifth of us naturally react well to crisis? But not so fast! Before you start fretting about the size of your NPY endowment, consider this: While we may have a few coolness-thwarting tendencies encoded in our genes, these predispositions still don’t even tell half of the story of how we become poised under pressure. Recent research overwhelmingly shows that with effort and smarts, we can more than counteract our natural inclinations and cultivate enduring cool.
Our first route to heightened poise is through training. Although the studies on WWII soldiers and disaster victims might seem grim, a vital caveat is in order: Virtually none of those people had been well-trained for the situations in which they found themselves. (These days, even recreational paintball players receive better live-fire preparation than WWII troops ever got.) Most of them reacted like dazed sheep not because they couldn’t show composure, but because they simply didn’t know what to do. Training changes this. Psychologist Anders Ericsson has shown that whether we want to keep cool amid machine gun fire or just stay poised in a presentation at work, the most effective single thing we can do is to practice the task under realistic conditions until it becomes second nature. As Ericsson’s colleague David Eccles told me, even simple chores like fire drills can radically help to produce a better response when crisis strikes. Solid preparation “washes out” our natural dispositions, planting the seed for adaptive behavior in our brains well ahead of time.
Another, newer method for building coolness hinges on a different kind of training: teaching ourselves resilience-enhancing beliefs about stressors. If that idea sounds like Grade A psychobabble to you, then you obviously haven’t been reading Consulting Psychology Journal. (What, you don’t subscribe?) Study after study has shown that people who function well under stress share several core beliefs: They tend to see times of change and uncertainty not as dangerous but as exciting opportunities; they focus on what they can do to improve a stressful situation, rather than growing helpless; and they maintain a sense of commitment to the world around them, instead of withdrawing. Some people are simply born with these attitudes, but psychologists have demonstrated that they can be learned as well. One of them, University of California-Irvine’s Salvatore Maddi, says kids who complete his “hardiness” course—in which students learn new coping behaviors and beliefs about stress—earn higher GPAs than those who don’t. The U.S. Army is such a believer in these classes that it now puts all of its 1.1 million soldiers through its own stress resilience course.
And finally, we arrive at what may be the most crucial ingredient in composure, an idea that is simple to understand but tricky to master. In all of the hours I spent researching Nerve, I almost never came across a case in which a cool-headed hero didn’t feel afraid; the vast majority dealt with plenty of fear, just like Russell and Olivier. What truly separated them from the pack was this: While many who fizzle under fire battle against anxiety and vilify their nerves, these poised people understand that fear doesn’t have to hold them back—it can even help them. This switch to a friendlier view of fear is more than mere sleight of hand. Studies of everyone from classical musicians to competitive swimmers have found no difference at all between elites and novices in the intensity of their pre-performance anxiety; the poised, top-flight performers, however, were far more likely to describe their fear as an aid to success than the nonelites. No matter what skill we’re trying to improve under pressure—working on deadline, public speaking, staying cool on a first date—learning to work with fear instead of against it is a transformative shift.
Of course, following these tips won’t make you into a paragon of poise overnight. (As Charlie Sheen has taught us, only people with tiger blood and Adonis DNA are capable of instantly achieving feats like that through the power of their minds.) Make no mistake, though: Regardless of what our genes have to say about it, smart training, building resilient attitudes, and developing a better working relationship with fear can help us achieve true grace under pressure. It takes effort to get there, but hey—after you become the next cool-headed hero in the news, it’ll make a great story for your bestselling inspirational memoir.
Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2287216/Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
We genuinely need people we can trust to tell us the truth, even when it is difficult to hear. Shallow acquaintances are easy to come by, but they usually fade fast, leaving us with little or no lasting worth. On the other hand, healthy, caring relationships with family, friends, colleagues and significant others can give our lives immeasurable joy and meaning. Like most things of value in life, these relationships must be sought and maintained deliberately. Meaningful relationships take hard work and conscious effort.
There are many qualities that mark sound, durable relationships. Among them are:
-strong two-way communication
-caring reciprocity (a give and take)
-ability to laugh at selves and the world -respectful confrontation of trouble spots -patience -thoughtfulness -mutual respect -willingness to compromise
Sounds good but how does one attract and maintain such friendships or loving relationships?
Step 1 – Develop Your Self-Esteem
The best place to start in trying to attract healthy people to you is to be as healthy as you can be yourself. This means becoming comfortable with who you are, what you are about and where you are headed. Think, read and write about what you value, what is worth pursuing in life. It is a slow and evolving process to become a genuine, authentic individual, but it is highly desirable. Besides that, to be an independent, strong individual is attractive to others. We generally like and respect people who:
Calmly articulate and stand by well-thought-out opinions and decisions Express self acceptance in a healthy, not cocky, way Take responsibility for their actions, decisions and own happiness Have a sense of where they are headed and why Know they are not perfect and target faulty thought patterns or behaviors for change
Step 2 – Learn to Communicate Well
Learn how to initiate conversations and then how to keep them going. Good conversationalists have opinions and thoughts to share; they read, keep up with world events and like to learn about many things. Equally as important is a person’s ability to be a good listener. Listening shows a genuine interest in and respect for the other person.
Body language, or non-verbal communication, is an important ingredient in communication. Crossed arms, a stern tone, poor eye contact and poor posture send the wrong messages. Be aware of how you communicate non-verbally and what messages you are sending with your gestures.
Step 3 – Choose Carefully Places to Go and Activities to Do You have to go where you are likely to meet people with similar interests and values. Bars and alcoholic parties are not your best bet; try clubs, academic classes, hobby classes, fitness activities, places of religious worship, lectures, cultural events or self-growth groups. Don’t always wait for others to initiate things. Call people, drop them cards or e-mail, stay connected with them.
Step 4 – Have a Positive Attitude Towards Others Cultivate an open and non-judgmental attitude towards others. You can learn something from everyone you meet; be tolerant and respectful of others and their differences. Don’t block someone out simply because they don’t share your views; you may be giving up an opportunity to learn something valuable.
Step 5 – Avoid Common Interpersonal Pitfalls Be aware of the pitfalls to meaningful interaction; if you recognize one in yourself, do something to change it. The following qualities are almost certain to damage relationships:
-Having unrealistic expectations of yourself, the other person or the relationship in general -Coming too close too soon, physically or psychologically -Being negative about self, the relationship or life -Being a rescuer, a martyr, a savior or a “perfect” person -Trying to change the other person to suit your needs -Being too self-centered, judgmental, or always “right”
-Stockpiling strong feelings – anger, pain, sadness, neediness – and then pouring them all out at once -Expecting the other person to be a mind reader, a fixer or always a rock of stability for you -Crowding and smothering the other person, expecting him/her to meet all your needs and spend all his/her time with you
And finally, be yourself! Knowing who you are and what you believe in is important but being able to express that person is knowledge in action and will be rewarded in reciprocal, meaningful relationships.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
« Previous Entries