Every person seeks happiness. You hear it all the time. “I just want to be happy.” “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This last phrase points out an important aspect, the pursuit of happiness. There is no guarantee that it can be obtained. One of the common things I see is people spending most every waking moment seeking happiness. As if it is something out there to be gained or discovered. Perhaps this is a major contributor to the status of society.
Watch television for more than five minutes and you will see this idea confirmed. If I can only get the car, house, boat, job, relationship, salary increase; then life will be complete. I will lack nothing, at least until the next can’t-do-without product is available for purchase. The average adult now has more than 4 different careers in their lifetime. My father-in-law had one job from the time he was a teenager until retirement. Forty-two years at the same job. That’s almost unheard of now. It seems our society is more into the thought that if this job won’t bring about happiness, the next one will. If this relationship doesn’t bring about happiness, then a relationship with him or her will. If life in this tax bracket isn’t satisfying, then the next bracket up will be. It’s the same story over and over. Something out there will complete my life. It will fill the void.
What if the key to happiness rests internally? What if happiness can be learned?
This starts with the idea that happiness is up to me. My perspective of things will influence the results. My expectations affect the outcome.
So what is it about my life that brings me happiness? If I change my outlook from happiness being something out there to it resting internally, ask this; what am I grateful for in my life? What are my successes or wins lately? When I focus too much on what else is out there, I neglect the things we currently possess. Going to the other extreme is also unhealthy. Spending too much time focusing on what used to be produces blurred vision about what is.
Focusing too much on the future or too much on the past, I will miss a lot of what is going on now. I think I have told every one of my clients at some point to slow down. We live life at a fast enough speed as it is. Sometimes speed only produces uncertainty. Did you realize that of all the species on the planet, humans are the only ones that when lost, speed up. All other animals will slow down or even sit down until they get their bearings before proceeding. Do you know where you really want to go? What is your vision for life?
If you have trouble answering the preceding questions, that’s where you should spend some time reflecting and searching. Take an inventory of your current life. What are the things that you enjoy? What are the things that drain you? Enjoy the things going on in life right now. Happiness can be learned, and it starts with what’s going on inside you now. Happiness is not something out there, its inside. Resting deep within your soul waiting to be tapped into. By slowing down and seeking what you really want, life will begin to be more aligned and then more full.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Anger is a force that can move an organization forward to improve, or, it can be a force that destroys the organization’s ability to fulfil it’s purpose on an everyday level. Managers play a critical role in determining which of these results will come about. The way the manager deals with conflict and anger will set the climate for employees.
There are a number of different anger/conflict situations that managers will face at one time or another. Each of these situations is slightly different, and may require different sets of skills.
■one employee angry or in conflict with another
■employee angry or in conflict with manager (you)
■one employee angry at someone in another organization
■two factions that habitually square off
We are going to look at employee angry that is directed towards you as a manager.
The Anger Iceberg
You should be aware that the anger you see is much easier to deal with than the anger that goes unexpressed by employees. You should also know that the large proportion of employee anger is not expressed directly to the “boss”. It is this anger that is destructive to your organization since it will surface covertly through activities such as back-stabbing, un-cooperativeness, rumour spreading, and poor performance.
One important management/leadership task is to be alert to cues that indicate that there is anger sitting below the surface, unexpressed. While it may be frustrating to bear the responsibility of identifying and dealing with the “iceberg under the surface”, it is an important part of building a positive climate where conflict can be resolved. If you wait for an employee to broach the subject, when it is clear there is a problem, you may be sacrificing a great deal.
We are going to focus on how employee anger that is out in the open can be dealt with so that there is a potential for increasing the level of respect and harmony, and by extension, productivity.
1. Conflict/Angry situations become negative and destructive when they are not dealt with promptly and effectively. When the situations are dealt with properly, there is a tendency for a team to get stronger and better.
2. While angry employees may appear to want a specific issue addressed, they are looking for something else that they see as equally or more important. They want to be heard. If you don’t provide a means for them to be heard, they will find other more
subversive ways to be heard (and you won’t like it much).
3. Staff will watch very closely to see how you handle anger directed at you. Even if you have a private discussion with an angry employee, staff will know about it. Your ability to lead will depend on your behaviour, and the interpretation of your behaviour.
4. Most people react to anger directed at them with a fight or flight reaction. That is there is a gut reaction which, unchecked, results in “firing back” with an aggressive manner, defending oneself, OR, avoidance. Only in rare occasions will these gut reactions result in dealing with anger effectively.
Tips & Techniques For Dealing With Overt Angry Behaviour
1. When an employee expresses anger, deal with it as soon as possible. That doesn’t mean in two weeks! By showing a desire to make time to discuss the situation, you are showing that you are concerned, and value the employee and his or her perceptions and feelings. Many performance problems reach crisis proportions as a result of delay in dealing with anger.
2. Certain situations require privacy for discussion since some people will be unwilling to air their feelings at a public staff meeting. However, if anger is expressed in a staff meeting, you can develop a positive climate in the organization by dealing effectively with it in public. One technique is to ask the angry employee whether they would like to discuss it now, or prefer to talk about it privately. Let them call the shot.
3. Always allow the employee to talk. Don’t interrupt. If they are hesitant to talk, encourage them by using a concerned, non-defensive tone and manner, and gently use questions. For example:
“You seem a bit upset. I would like to help even if you are angry at me. What’s up?”
4. If an employee refuses to talk about what’s bothering them, consider adjourning by saying:
“I can understand that you are hesitant to talk about this, but we would probably both be better off if we got it out in the open. Let’s leave it for a few days and come back to it”
Then follow up on the conversation.
5. Respond to the employee’s feelings first, not the issue underlying the feelings. Use empathy first by saying something like:
“It sounds like you are pretty annoyed with me. I would like to hear your opinion”.
6. Before stating “your side” or your perception of the situation, make sure you have heard what the person said. Use active listening.
“George, if I understand you correctly, you are angry because you feel that I have not given you very challenging assignments, and you feel that I don’t have any confidence in your abilities. Is that right?”
7. If the employee’s perceptions do not match your perceptions express your perceptions in a way that tries to put you and the employee on the same side. Your job is not to prove the employee wrong (even if they are). Trying to prove the employee is
incorrect is likely to increase the anger level even if you are right.
“George, I am sorry you feel that way. Let me explain what I think has happened so you can understand my thinking. Then we can work this out together.”
8. A technique used by expert negotiators is to establish agreement about something. Before getting into the issues themselves, lay the groundwork by finding something the two of you agree on. Again, the point here is to convey the message that you are on the same side.
“George, I think we agree that we don’t want this issue to continue to interfere with our enjoyment of our work. Is that accurate?”
9. At the end of a discussion of this sort, check with the employee to see how they are feeling. The general pattern is:
a) Deal with feelings first
b) Move to issues and problem-solving
c) Go back to feelings (check it out)
Ask the employee if they are satisfied with the situation, or simply ask “Do you feel a bit better?” You may not always get a completely honest response, so be alert to tone of voice and non-verbal cues.
If it appears that the employee is still upset or angry, you may want to let it pass for the moment. Allow the person to think about the situation away from you, THEN follow-up in a day or two. This is important because someone who is angry initially may “lose face” by letting the anger go immediately. Or, the employee might just need time to think about your discussion.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Work on recognizing anger early, before it escalates. Point out when voices get louder, faster, more tense, or more demanding. Use unkind sarcasm or failure to follow through on commitments as a clue to anger. Once you recognize your anger, make a polite request. If it works, you don’t even need to express your anger. If it doesn’t work, use your anger to tactfully insist on negotiation, compromise, and problem solving. The anger will pass if you accept it and express it respectfully.
Help an angry or explosive man to express his feelings several times each day. This is an important first step in learning to use anger constructively. Anger often covers up feelings of hurt, insecurity, inadequacy, or fear. Use “I feel (an emotion) when (this happened)” statements, but not “I feel you …” or “I feel (an emotion) when you …” statements, which often lead to critical, blaming comments. Teach him to make polite requests and avoid blaming or verbally attacking you.
Use the next two techniques whenever either partner can’t maintain a calm, respectful tone of voice and carefully listen to the other. First, take a few deep breaths, relax the tension in your body (perhaps by stretching), and slowly count until you calm down, whether this takes 5 seconds, 20 seconds, or more. Imagine your parents and grandparents, a preacher or priest, a respected and well-loved teacher or boss, your counselor, or several policemen are watching how you respond. If you can’t use a calm tone of voice to respond tactfully and respectfully, start counting again and pretend the authority figures are watching.
If this doesn’t help, take a time out. Leave and do something else until you calm down. Be sure to avoid angry thinking when you count or leave to calm down. Repeatedly thinking about the conflict only prolongs the upset feelings. If you tend to blame other people or circumstances for your anger, read or repeat every day, “Nobody makes me angry. I make myself angry over certain situations and only I can change this.” If a man’s anger is intense or explosive, don’t bother with counting: he should leave the situation immediately. If he has ever been violent, he should use time out often, at least several times a week for practice and to develop the habit, even if he feels only mildly irritated and doesn’t really need to leave.
Avoid angry thinking during time out by getting things done or doing what you enjoy. You might work on a hobby, read a good book, or work on projects around the house. Practicing meditation or deep relaxation is an excellent way to calm down. Physical activities such as walking, jogging, exercising, or bicycling help by
eleasing tension. Don’t punish a loved one by leaving for much longer than an hour or two. Be very careful if you drive a car because angry people often drive dangerously. Don’t use alcohol or other drugs when you feel angry. If you return and can’t use a calm tone of voice to respond respectfully, despite pretending authority figures are watching, leave again and do something else. As you gradually improve in dealing with your anger, you should be able to reduce the time you need away from the situation to calm down. Whenever either of you feels angry, use the questions listed in the box to help you think more carefully and logically.
A stream, from a far-off mountain, passed down through the countryside, until it at last reached the sands of the desert. Just as it had crossed every other barrier, the stream tried to cross the desert, but the stream found that as fast as it ran into the sand, its waters disappeared.
It was stuck and had no choice but to cross this desert. Yet there was no way the water cold flow over the hot sand. Now a hidden voice, coming from the desert itself, whispered: “The wind crosses the desert, and so can the stream.”
The stream was dashing itself against the sand, and only getting absorbed. Then the stream thought, “sure it easy for the wind. The wind can fly, and that’s why it can cross a desert. But I have always been on the ground and streams don’t fly.” The desert voice continued, “By moving in your own accustomed way you cannot get across. You will either disappear or become a marsh. You must allow the wind to carry you over, to your destination.”
The stream replied, “But how could this happen?“ “By allowing yourself to trust in the wind”, the voice responded. This was not acceptable to the stream. After all, it never had to give up control over its direction before. It did not want to lose its independence. And once having lost it, how could the stream be sure that it could ever be regained?
“The wind, “said the voice, “performs this function. It takes up water, carries it over the desert, and then lets it fall again. Falling as rain, the water again becomes a river.”" How can I know that this is true?” thought the stream. “It is so, and if you do not believe it, you cannot become more than a swamp, and even that could take many, many years. And it certainly is not the same as a stream.”
“But if I trust the wind and am carried over the desert, I will not remain the same stream that I am today.” The stream replied. “This is true in both cases, either way you cannot go back to what you once were,” the whisper said. “Your essential part is carried away and forms a stream again. You are called what you are even today because you do not know which part of you is the essential one.”
When the stream heard this, certain echoes began to arise in its memory. Dimly it remembered a state in which it or some part of it, had been held in the arms of a wind. And the stream raised its vapor into the welcoming arms of the wind, which gently and easily bore it upwards and along, letting it fall softly as soon as they reached the roof of a mountain, many, many miles away. And because it had its doubts, the stream was able to remember and record more strongly in its mind the details of the experience. It reflected, “Yes, now I have learned my true identity.”
The flowing stream speaks to us about the journey of life. The seemingly insignificant trickle leading to the world’s mightiest rivers, each drop of water becomes part of an uncontrollable flow that feeds it forward. An individual drop of water cannot flow by itself, its needs other drops of water to join in on its journey. Fed by rain that fall from the sky, it gains strength, contributing to its growth. It cannot reach its destination without receiving from others, but it also gives. Giving life to animals, people, and plants. It picks up the soil and deposits it to enrich the land. No stream flows without obstacles, no stream moves straight to the sea, it faces impediments that hold it back, and its mood alters with its circumstances, rushing down a narrow channel or spreading into a tide pool. With each barrier the stream finds a new solution.
The stream joyful to dance over rocks and pebbles. If a tree falls across its path it has new options. Does it wash the trunk away, does it find a new path, does it lie still and stagnant, doe sit dam up until the weight causes pressure and flows over? Its pace slows as it reaches the ocean. And the oceans become one with all the waters on the planet. The warmth of the sun evaporates the ocean water and it gathers in clouds. And the journey begins again. The stream flows with such urgency fighting with itself, caught up in the destruction, swirling, and clashing energy full of both respect and power. There is a sense of timeless eternity in this experience, for the stream is something that will outlive us all. Still the river is constantly flowing, forever changing and adapting.
Like the stream, we may change, but our identity endures. This means the acts may change with time but the actor is what remains constant. Our choices, lifestyle, appearance all change. It is our very nature. If we do not let ourselves be transformed by the winds of life, we become stagnant. So, with great fear and yet great courage, we let life lift us, shape us, purify us, help us become who we really are. We change every day, sometimes in big ways, sometimes in very small ways, but our essential humanity remains constant. One day we are children, the next it seems we are adults, we are lovers, we are parents and friends and grandparents. Yet no matter what the form of our days may be, our essence is steady. You are always just yourself. You may be a mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife, son, daughter, friends, employee, neighbor or customer but you are always just you. That is the core of your identity. You are the one who has all these experiences and you are the same person who was a small child riding a bicycle and playing hide n seek. That is what really matters. That is your true identity.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
Judgment is the organ of decision making. Our judgment does not operate in a vacuum. We have degrees of judgment and we have attitudes towards ourselves and our judgment. If we respect ourselves, we are likely to trust our judgment and use it constructively for our own behalf. If we hold ourselves as worthless and inferior, we cannot respect or trust our judgment to guide us through life. In fact, we will trust it negatively: whatever it tells us to do, we will do the opposite. The irony is that when it tells us to do something self-destructive and consistent with our self contempt, we will trust it! We lose either way.
Most young people take their cue from their parents and teachers. If they are called “stupid” every time they make a mistake, they come to hold their intelligence and judgment in the same contempt they hold themselves. They take these insults personally, as a reflection on their worth as a person. They don’t know how else to take it. The reverse process does not occur. The child rarely hears himself being commended for his good judgment in solving a problem. The parent may have the attitude that he doesn’t want success to go to this child head. “It will spoil him.” The irony is that he is spoiling the child with his good intention to avoid spoiling.
The child without self respect cannot win for losing. With his judgment knocked out, he is predisposed to fall back on his unconscious attitudes towards himself. He feels he doesn’t deserve to succeed. If his judgment yells him yes, he will outsmart himself and say no in order to avoid the negative outcome he predicts for himself. His good intention to save himself will be counter productive. If his attitude tells him yes, he will do it. But his attitudes have no brains. They cannot steer him in the right direction. They are in the service of his self-destructive self contempt. The child who respects himself does not feel he deserves to fail, does not predict failure, does not over ride his appropriate judgment, does not arrange to fulfill his prophecies of disaster. He does not stand in his own way. He deserves to succeed in life, no more and no less than anyone else.
The child who does not respect himself reaches the point where his self contempt and his self blame for being such a “loser” ferment into depression, anxiety and self-destructive behaviors. Here is a conversation with a young man who, like many imperfect human beings, has trouble trusting his in the present. We had been talking about his memories of himself. The things he remembers are consistent with they way he feels about himself.
Client: “I remember my dad catching me and my brother Simon taking money out of his wallet. I ran out the back door, but Simon got caught. He got the crap beat out of him. When I came home, my dad had calmed down, but I felt terrible about what happened to Simon. He was still sobbing.”
Therapist: “You felt guilty for abandoning your brother. You should have stayed and taken your punishment like a man, but you didn’t. Your judgment propelled you out the back door and you have regretted it ever since.”
Client: “I haven’t thought about that for years.”
Therapist: “This escapade also includes the lament of exemption from the consequences of your behavior. Simon was not immune, like you. You got away with it.”
Client: “I was quick on my feet and I could talk my way out of anything.”
Therapist: “That ability gives us a fictitious sense of power and control over the circumstances of life. We end up defining our self worth in terms of this very minor, superficial trait.”
Client: “What’s wrong with that?”
Therapist: “It’s only the gift of gab; it is hardly a prescription for a healthy, gratifying existence. For instance, it does nothing to relieve you of your underlying contempt for the limits of your judgment. You end up being all mouth no brains.”
Client: “I had everybody fooled, didn’t I?”
Therapist: “You even succeeded at fooling yourself. Your weak spot was your judgment. Your great trick was to overcompensate for the unworthiness of your judgment.”
Client: “How did I do that?”
Therapist: “By imagining that your judgment was superior to the judgment of everyone else, that you knew in advance that you could take things and emerge unscathed. By believing that you could talk you way out of anything, you predicted the future and knew that you would be immune to any consequences thrown at you.”
Client: That’s stupid isn’t it?”
Therapist: “There you go again. It is not a matter of stupidity. It’s a matter of learning things about yourself that are not true.”
Client: “What do you mean? What is true?”
Therapist: “That you were a little boy and you made little boy mistakes. You compounded these human childish mistakes by taking them personally, as if they were a reflection on your intelligence and your self worth. When you got through compounding this pain, you didn’t have any self worth left. You grew up feeling worthless and stupid.”
Client: “That’s how I have always felt; I just didn’t want anyone to find out.”
Therapist: “When we try to conceal our secret stupidity in ways that don’t make any sense, the secret usually comes out one way or another.”
Client: “I’m always screwing up.”
Therapist: “When you do, you mistakenly perceive the screw-up as if it were a confirmation of your stupidity, which is an error in thinking because there was no stupidity in the first place.”
Client: “What other mistakes did I make?”
Therapist: “You made the mistake of perpetually blaming yourself. You imagined that your childhood ignorance was permanent and would last forever, which of course it does not.”
Client: “So I overcompensated by proving myself to others to get their approval. That’s stupid.”
Therapist: “Nope, that wasn’t stupid either. Stupidity has to do with one’s level of intelligence. The efforts you made to prove yourself to relieve the pain of your self-contempt did not arise out of your intellect. They arose out of feeling that you have about yourself. If these emotional conclusions are mistaken and unrealistic, you will have trouble coping with reality.”
Client: “I believed that my judgment couldn’t be trusted.”
Therapist: “That’s right. That was something you have come to accept as ‘fact’. You didn’t question it rationally or objectively when you were a child. And you never went back to check it out.”
Client: “I’ve been struggling ever since.”
Therapist: “That belief of yours is a double edged sword. One side is that you cannot trust your judgment positively. The other side is that you cannot trust it negatively.”
Client: “What does that mean?”
Therapist: “It means you can only trust your judgment to be wrong and let you down.”
Client: “So when I come up with a good decision, I doubt it will work, so I go ahead and do the opposite.”
Therapist: “Exactly. What happens when you doubt your judgment?”
Client: “It’s always a disaster. I could kick myself for not trusting my gut. I was right the first time, but doubted what I was thinking.”
Therapist: “This is how you confirm over and over again that your judgment cannot be trusted. Your self doubt kicks in and overrides your initial approach. It is this doubt that sabotages your happiness and success in the real world. It is entirely consistent with your identity of self-contempt.”
Client: “It proves that I am just being me doesn’t it?”
Therapist: “Yes. This is how you maintain the consistency of your childhood role as the stupid five-year-old that you used to be. It’s a payoff in a way. It is reassuring to know that you haven’t changed, you are still you even if it a stupid, unhappy you.”
Client: “Well it feels awful.”
Therapist: “It is awful. But these choices are not judgments at all. They are negative beliefs. They have nothing to do with your intelligence. They are emotional. They come from the heart, not the head. You keep overriding your mature adult judgment in the present with this childish belief from first grade. This approach makes sure that you don’t get any happiness, which you feel ‘stupid’ people do not deserve.”
Client: “Why don’t I stop?”
Therapist: “People, who feel they are guilty of being stupid, need to be punished for making mistakes. They don’t believe they have earned the right to be happy. Every six-year-old knows that when you are wrong, you deserve to be punished. So by denying yourself happiness you are just righting the wrong. When you fill yourself with doubt, it relates to the potential of being punished, which must be avoided. But since you don’t trust yourself to make a good decision anyway, you end up in painful doubt. This is the closest you come to finding happiness; it’s a painful pleasure in a way.”
Client: “Can I turn this around?”
Therapist: “Not by yourself. You can not be objective about your own mistaken feelings and beliefs. You are just going to agree that what you are thinking is right.”
Client: “I’m tired of this painful pleasure. I want to quit.”
Therapist: “Wanting to quit is nice but it is not enough. People who are drowning in self-contempt do not deserve to get what they want. They deserve to be punished. First you have to feel that you deserve to get something better.”
Client: “How do I do that?”
Therapist: “It’s done by doing your homework.”
Client: “What’s my homework?”
Therapist: “Instead of giving you an assignment for tomorrow, let me see if you have done some homework already.”
Client: “How could I do homework without even know it?”
Therapist: “Well let me see…How do you feel about coming to see a therapist?”
Client: “I feel it was a good decision.”
Therapist: “In what way?”
Client: “I feel like I am learning something about myself.”
Therapist: “That is a feeling of accomplishment. Would you call it a success?”
Client: “Yes, it was hard to come and ask for help, to admit that I couldn’t do it myself.”
Therapist: “Do you feel stupid?”
Client: “No I feel smart.”
Therapist: “How smart is smart enough?”
Client: “I don’t know?”
Therapist: “As smart as you are right now, that is smart enough. Did you have a choice in coming here today?”
Client: “Yes. I could have chosen not to come.”
Therapist: “So how do you feel about the choice you made?”
Client: “It was a good choice.”
Therapist: “In order to make that choice you had to use your judgment didn’t you?”
Client: “I guess.”
Therapist: “How good was your judgment in making the choice to come here today?”
Client: “Good enough”
Therapist: “This ability to recognize how good is good enough speaks to your own standards. By living up to our own standards we have feelings of accomplishment, success, maturity, security and self-respect. By coming here today you already did some homework for your own good, not for your parents, or for me, but for yourself.”
Client: “I always thought it was selfish to do things for me.”
Therapist: “It’s only selfish if it ends with you. Self-preservation means you take care of your self so you can help others. But if you don’t take care of you who will?”
Client: “I don’t know who?”
Therapist: “No one and you will come to resent those who you help since they take away from your ability to care for yourself. You are an equal member of the human race who is equally entitled to care for himself, no more or less important then anyone else. “
Client: “Actually, it was kind of scary to come here.”
Therapist: “But you did it anyways. Do you feel liberated?”
Client: “From who?”
Therapist: “From the old you. You came here and took responsibility for your own happiness. You made an independent choice and you can do it again. It took courage to try something new and do it anyways, that was quite a risk, but you did it anyways. You have earned the confidence and competence that come with courage. You took control by making a choice in the real world, according to your own standards. How do you feel now?”
Client: “You know, I can’t remember the last time I said that and meant it, but I feel happy.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
When we think about morality, many of us think about religion or what our parents taught us when we were young. Those influences are powerful, but many scientists now think of the brain as a more basic source for our moral instincts.
The tools scientists use to study how the brain makes moral decisions are often stories, said Joshua Greene, a Harvard psychologist,citing one well-known example: “A trolley is headed toward five people, and the only way you can save them is to hit a switch that will turn the trolley away from the five and onto a side track, but if you turn it onto the side track, it will run over one person.”
It’s a moral dilemma. Greene and other researchers have presented this dilemma to research volunteers.
Most people say they would flip the switch and divert the trolley. They say they don’t want to kill someone, but one innocent person dead is better than five innocent people dead.
What this shows is that people resolve the moral dilemma by doing a cost-benefit analysis. Greene says they look at the consequences of each choice, and pick the choice that does the least harm.
In other words, people are what philosophers would call utilitarians. Except, Greene tells me, sometimes they aren’t.
He asked me to visualize another well-known dilemma:
“This time, you’re on a footbridge, in between the oncoming trolley and the five people. And next to you is a big person wearing a big backpack. And the only way you can save those five people is to push this big guy off of the footbridge so that he lands on the tracks. And he’ll get squashed by the train; you sort of use him as a trolley stopper. But you can save the five people.”
Would you push the big guy to his death? More important, do you feel this moral dilemma is identical to the earlier one?
“In a certain sense, they’re identical,” Greene said. “Trade one life to save five. But psychologically, they’re very different.”
Pushing someone to their death feels very different from pushing a switch. When Greene gives people this dilemma, most people don’t choose to push the big guy to his death.
In other words, people use utilitarian, cost-benefit calculations — sometimes. But other times, they make an emotional decision.
“There are certain lines that are drawn in the moral sand,” Green said. “Some things are inherently wrong, or some things inherently must be done.”
There’s another dimension here that’s interesting: If you watched yourself during the first dilemma, you may have noticed you had to think about whether you’d push that switch. In the footbridge dilemma, you probably didn’t have to think — you just knew that pushing someone to his death is wrong.
Greene says we really have two completely different moral circuits in our brain.
When you listen to a dilemma, the two circuits literally have a fight inside your brain. Part of your brain says, slow down, think rationally — make a cost-benefit analysis. Another says, no, don’t think about it. This is just wrong!
“These responses compete in a part of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is a kind of place where different types of values can be weighed against each other to produce an all-things-considered decision,” Greene said.
So what makes the ventromedial prefrontal cortex go with the rational mode sometimes, and the emotional mode other times?
Greene and a colleague, Elinor Amit, thought closely about what was happening to people as they tipped from rational mode to an emotional mode. In new research they’ve just published in the journal Psychological Science, these psychologists say they have the answer.
“Emotional responses don’t just pop out of nowhere,” Greene said. “They have to be triggered by something. And one possibility is that you hear the words describing some event, you picture that event in your mind, and then you respond emotionally to that picture.”
That’s the key: Some dilemmas produce vivid images in our heads. And we’re wired to respond emotionally to pictures. Take away the pictures — the brain goes into rational, calculation mode.
Here’s how they found that out: Greene and Amit set up an experiment. They presented people with moral dilemmas that evoked strong visual images. As expected, the volunteers made emotional moral judgments. Then the psychologists made it difficult for volunteers to visualize the dilemma. They distracted them by making them visualize something else instead.
When that happened, the volunteers stopped making emotional decisions. Not having pictures of the moral dilemma in their head prompted them into rational, cost-benefit mode.
In another experiment, Greene and Amit also found that people who think visually make more emotional moral judgments. Verbal people make more rational calculations.
Amit says people don’t realize how images tip the brain one way or another. And that can create biases we aren’t even aware of.
She laid out a scenario to think about: “Imagine a horrible scenario in which a terrorist takes an ax and starts slaughtering people in a bus,” she said. “I’m coming from Israel, so these are the examples that I have in my mind.”
The story produces a movie in our heads. We can see blood everywhere. We can hear people screaming. We don’t have to think at all. It feels terribly wrong.
Then Amit presented another kind of news event: A drone strike that sends a missile hurtling toward a target. At the center of the cross-hairs, an explosion. There’s dust billowing everywhere.
“So if you learn about these events from television or from pictures in a newspaper, which one [would you] judge as more horrible?” Amit asked. “The person with the ax that killed maybe two people but the scene looks horrible and extremely violent, or the picture of the drone that killed 100 people but looks relatively clean and nice?”
To be sure, the events Amit describes are completely different. One’s a terrorist attack, the other is a military action. But it’s true the ax murderer instantly sends the brain into emotional mode.
The drone strike has less vivid imagery. You can’t see, up close, what the missile does. So most people go into utilitarian mode — they start to think about the costs and benefits.
Amit’s point is not that one mode is better than the other. It’s something much more disturbing. As you listen to the news everyday, hidden circuits in your brain are literally changing the ground rules by which you judge events.
You think you’re making consistent moral choices when, really, the movies playing in your head might be making your choices for you.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
We all lament the inconsistencies of everyday life. We are rude to the people we love, yet civil to people we know nothing about. We make the right choice and then over-ride it to our own disadvantage. However, when we consider the complexities of our civilized existence and the complications of the human personality, it’s a wonder we are as consistent as we are.
We need to ask ourselves the right questions: “What determines our consistency in the first place? What are the barriers that keep us from being as consistent and as predictable as we’d like ourselves to be?” Our lives would be smoother and less problematic if we could answer these questions. We wouldn’t have to apologize as much or pay the penalties for deeds we had no conscious intention of achieving. We could stop saying, “I don’t know what got into me.” If we knew, we would not do it all over again next time.
I believe it is our subterranean beliefs from the past that determine how consistent we are. These beliefs keep us on track without the need for our conscious awareness, even if we don’t like the path we are on. In a given situation, our beliefs based on past experiences kick in and draw parallels based on vague similarities. Some people consistently give up heir seat on the subway for a pregnant woman. Others consistently do not. We didn’t have to weigh the merits of the case. We just go along with what is programmed deep down inside of us.
Consistency is not what many people think it is. For example, few of us stop to consider there are two kinds of consistency, just as there are two kinds of success, two kinds of control, and two kinds of communication. There is the healthy kind and the unhealthy kind. We al know people who never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. You’d think they’d catch a break once in a while, but they never do. They claim it’s a matter of dumb luck, or a bad break, or fate. They blame everything but the silent operation of their consistently unhealthy beliefs from their own past.
In my counseling sessions, I look for the consistencies in a client’s life. They could find them if only they knew where to look. For example, I can understand that a man may date or marry the same kind of woman because they are all consistent with his observations of a female role model growing up. He acquired certain beliefs about what a woman is and does. These beliefs shape his expectations of what his wants and needs are in a compatible marriage partner. If a mother is critical and demanding, he will be attracted to women whom act in similar ways. His agenda is not a happy marriage. His agenda is based on a constellation of underlying beliefs, it is to maintain and perpetuate the continuity of these childhood patterns from the past into the present and future. And it all goes on below the level of conscious awareness.
His friends may say he is “consistently inconsistent,” or that he is “predictably unpredictable.” I would say that when it comes to marriage partners, he is consistently unconscious of his inconsistencies. My approach is to reveal these negative consistencies to the individual who, as an adult, has the power to make new choices using his adult judgment to consciously replace his unhealthy beliefs from the past with healthy one in the present. The same processes determine his beliefs toward work, play, success, trust and many other aspects of adult life.
I define the word lifestyle as one’s way of moving through life. This includes the ways we cope with the tasks of love, work, and friendship. Our lifestyle is our way of solving problems of everyday life as they arise. Some of us have been adequately prepared to cope with life. We learned well from competent, self-respecting role models. We acquired some healthy, constructive beliefs such as, “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want them to do unto you.” This sort of belief facilitates the functional interactions of a civilized society. But we have learned many things from people and have been given conflicting information. Thus, we have our inconsistencies too.
There is a range of such learning from healthy to unhealthy. There are minor imperfections, which are the fossil remains of minor setbacks in first grade. They are not the problem. The problem is the major imperfections that derive from the never-forgotten events of our childhood. These events taught us lessons about ourselves, about others and about life. These lessons were built into our emerging lifestyle and became the unhealthy beliefs that predispose us to behave in ways that are not consistent with our overall lifestyle today. They are like raisins in oatmeal. Under the stress of a situation in the present similar to ones in our past, these old beliefs come to the surface and predispose us to behave in ways that seem out of character. We have a temper tantrum. But the situation passes and we resume our prevailing lifestyle, our everyday personality re-emerges and our life goes on until the next bump in the road.
It’s a matter of degree. Some of us have healthy self-respect. We have good judgment and we use it to our advantage. Some of us have a mixture of self-respect and self-doubt to a degree that makes our lives more problematic and difficult. We get in our own way without realizing our mistaken beliefs are kicking in and doing the damage. Some of us have still higher degrees of self-doubt and self-contempt, leaving us with mostly raisins and very little oatmeal. We consistently behave in ways that are self-destructive.
Our unhealthy beliefs are stronger then our healthy ones. We make useless mischief instead of living useful, productive lives. We don’t trust our judgment, it’s not good enough, so we merely react to stimuli and provocation. We do not seek happiness, only unhealthy excitement. We are not equipped to identify and evaluate the appropriateness of our unhealthy, dominant beliefs. We do not even question their validity. We just follow where they lead. An impulsive act of kindness, for example, would be inconsistent with our overall lifestyle. It would be a healthy drop of oatmeal in our unhealthy raisins.
Our unhealthy beliefs do not exist in a vacuum. They are not chaotic. They are in the service of our self-doubt. If the beliefs are so intense, they will overthrow the self-respecting part of our nature and bring about the self-destruction that the insecure part of us believes we deserve. So the pressure to succumb crushes the worthwhile part. It is a battle between two aspects of our personality. Our adult, civilized, mature thought processes are in direct opposition to our childish, immature beliefs from our personal development.
Our beliefs have dimensions. In addition to the healthy-unhealthy dimension, there is also the intensity dimension ranging from weaken to powerful. When we say we have a strong impulse to hit someone, that is a belief kicking in and trying to control our behavior. When we say we are fighting a strong temptation, we are talking about an intense belief that is predisposing us to behave in ways we know we should not behave. The conflict is between our emotional beliefs and our rational thought processes. The intensity of the belief is directly proportional to the intensity of the early recollection in which it is embedded.
My approach to personal problem solving is to help clients identify the sources of their unhealthy beliefs, which arise from their load of thoughts, emotions and behaviors that give rise to the complaints they want to resolve. In my view, the issue is not the complaint, and I do not give advice. The real issue is the constellation of old beliefs that are creating the problem in the present. My task is to find out what these old beliefs are and where they came from. To do this, I ask: “What is the first thing you remember when you think of your childhood?” and a treasure chest of buried beliefs rises to the surface.
Once I see where these beliefs are coming from, half of the mystery of the unwanted behavior is solved. The rest of the solution consists in helping clients find out what they can choose to do instead of what they have been doing. We solve that part of the mystery together by giving people small tasks to do in their everyday lives. This is called doing your homework. Each time they do their homework, they learn a little more about themselves. They experience themselves as competent to take life as it comes. Each success gives rise to stronger, healthier beliefs that crowd out and replaces the negative ones. As a result, the person becomes more consistently consistent.
I have a system of identifying current beliefs from the client’s behavior in the present. For example, Kate wanted to know why she is afraid to be happy. She had been to a party with people she liked, but she couldn’t enjoy herself. She isolated herself and found something to fret about the whole evening. It didn’t make sense to her and she wanted to know where her feelings were coming from. I didn’t tell her, my theories of why she felt they way she did. I didn’t say, “It’s just a case of nerves” or “You were just being self-conscious” or “I was something you ate”. It had to come from her. To identify Jane’s current feelings in the present, I asked her “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of your childhood?” Jane thought for a moment and said, “I don’t remember anything. I guess what comes to mind is being on the playground, playing alone.”
(Therapist) “How do you feel thinking about being alone on the playground, playing by yourself?”
(Client) “Ok, I guess.”
(T) “Could you have felt all alone and lonely, maybe abandoned?”
(C) “No I enjoyed playing by myself, doing what I wanted to do, no one to get into my way.”
(T) “Would you say you felt happy?”
(C) “Yes, I was happy.”
(T) “What else come to mind when you think of playing on the playground?”
(C) “Getting beat up. I was in second grade and playing alone until two boys came pushed me down to the ground and the some other kids started to hit me.”
(T) “How did that make you feel?”
(C) “I felt awful.”
(T) “It probably ruined the happiness you had, wouldn’t you say?”
(C) “Yes, I guess there is a pattern here, whenever I’m happy something bad happens.”
(T) “How do you think this relates to what happened at the party?”
(C) “At the party I must have had the fear that something would happen to spoil my happiness.”
When Jane came to me for help with her confusion, I didn’t just say, “You are allergic to happiness”, which may have saved a lot of time. But she wouldn’t see the connection between the present and the past. Instead, we were able to ask her to reflect, which evoked a constellation of experiences and feelings that were waiting just below the level of her conscious awareness. It’s like pushing a button on a computer. Talking about the problem stimulates the buried recollection to pop to the surface and she can print it out and look at it. Jane was able to make the connection between these two situations for herself. She could see that there was a clear distinction in her experience between playing happily all alone on one hand and the experience she had with others. They caused her pain and hurt. They made happiness very difficulty for her.
To this day she is happier alone doing her own thing, such as gardening, then she is in the presence of fellow human beings, who are unpredictable, potentially dangerous and totally outside her control. It is hard for her to be happy under this fog from the past.
However, once these connections are made, Jane can break them. She can put her early recollection of happiness being followed by disaster in a more mature perspective. She can see the mistake in her conviction that the happiness in her memory was somehow responsible for the disaster that followed. There was a relationship in her memory of the two events, but not based in reality. The earlier happiness in being alone did not cause the disaster, as she has come to believe. We all have ups and downs in life. The ups do not cause the downs. We cannot prevent downs by stifling the ups. The mistake is to draw inappropriate conclusions. As adults, we can see these mistaken beliefs for what they are and correct them.
I said to Jane, “At the party, you were sabotaging your happiness by living in the future and trying to predict what was going to happen, so you could prevent it from happening. You wanted to control the future, but you couldn’t figure out how. You had an anxiety attack. You didn’t know what was going to happen or when. Not knowing what was going to happen was scary and you felt helpless and out of control. Your old beliefs were used to predict a possible scenario and this expectation predisposed you to feel, think, and act the way you did in the past. You brought something into the present from the past without knowing it was happening or how to deal with it. This reaction was automatic, it just kicked in and spoiled your happiness.”
Almost every time we have an insolvable, emotional problem in the present, we can predict that the answer lies in beliefs buried in early experiences. We can predict that after examining the problem that is occurring today, the client’s internal consistencies can be counted on to bring forth a relevant memory or sequence of recollections that put the problem in a useful perspective. This is how our human consistency works. How we make sense out of events from the past is consistent with how we make sense out of events in the present.
We can also predict that once we make these unconscious beliefs conscious, they lose their grip on the individual. Once they can understand where they are coming from, they can choose to replace self-doubt with new beliefs in the context of mature self-respect. “I’m not a vulnerable child anymore, I’m not a victim. I’m a grownup. I’m a worthwhile human being now and deserve to be happy.”
There is nothing unusual about the process of transferring a whole constellation of feelings and beliefs from one person in the past to a similar circumstance in the present. Our emotional system is consistent. We tend to remember painful emotional events and unresolved problems. They nag at us and cause painful discomfort. We strive for resolution to release the tension. When these problems remain unsolved emotions linger. Our memories of unresolved anger, private guilt, secret shame or paralyzing fear do not go away just because they are not expressed. They lay dormant and are triggered when a situation while a similar feeling occurs in the present. However, we can use this consistency to our advantage in our efforts to solve the mystery of where our problems in the present came from and how they can be resolved by using our adult judgment, which we did not have back then.
1. Is what I’m thinking a fact (provable of course)
2. Does thinking this thought help me feel the way I want to feel?
3. Does thinking this thought help me achieve my goals? or better yet get where I want to go or be where I want to be.
4. Take responsibility for disturbing yourself and do not cop out by blaming others;
5. Face the fact that your early disturbances do not automatically make you disturbed today;
6. Understand that no magical forces will change you, but only your own strong and persistent work and practice – yes, work and practice.
Recognize that neither another person, nor an adverse circumstance, can ever disturb you–only you can. No one else can get into your gut and churn it up. Others can cause you physical pain–by hitting you over the head with a baseball bat, for example–or can block your goals. But you create your own emotional suffering, or self-defeating behavioral patterns, about what others do or say.Identify your “musts.” Once you admit that you distort your own emotions and actions, then determine precisely how. The culprit usually lies in one of the three core “musts:”
“Must” #1 (a demand on yourself): “I MUST do well and get approval, or else I’m worthless.” This demand causes anxiety, depression, and lack of assertiveness.
“Must” #2 (a demand on others): “You MUST treat me reasonably, considerately, and lovingly, or else you’re no good.” This “must” leads to resentment, hostility, and violence.
“Must” #3 (a demand on situations): “Life MUST be fair, easy, and hassle-free, or else it’s awful.” This thinking is associated with hopelessness, procrastination, and addictions.
Begin by asking yourself: “What’s the evidence for my `must?’ ” “How is it true?” “Where’s it etched in stone?” And then by seeing: “There’s no evidence.” “My `must’ is entirely false.” “It’s not carved indelibly anywhere.” Make your view “must”-free, and then your emotions will heal. Reinforce your preferences.
Preference #1: “I strongly PREFER to do well and get approval, but even if I fail, I will accept myself fully,”
Preference #2: “I strongly PREFER that you treat me reasonably, kindly, and lovingly, but since I don’t run the universe, and it’s a part of your human nature to err, I, then, cannot control you,”
Preference #3: “I strongly PREFER that life be fair, easy, and hassle-free, and it’s very frustrating that it isn’t, but I can bear frustration and still considerably enjoy life.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Over and over again, studies show that people set out on a mission to seek out reasons to support their emotional reactions. And because you are usually successful in this mission, you end up with the illusion of objectivity. You really believe that your position is logicallly and objectively justified. Most people give no real evidence for their emotional reactions and no effort is made to look for alternatives opposing this emotionally based sense of certainty. The mind generally uses the “makes-sense-to-me” rule, where you take a position, look for evidence that supports it, and if you find some evidence, enough so that your position “makes sense”, you stop thinking. If someone brings up reasons and evidence on the other side, you can may be swayed to change your mind. However, the problem is that you may not make any effort to seek out conflicting points of view unless they are presented to you.
This reminds me of a client I saw who ad two failed marriages and concluded, “All men are pigs.” From only two examples, she created a generalization that included three billion men! Her cynicism, her unwillingness to allow any men to get close to her, was the side-effect of two fundamental facts about how the brain work: 1) the brain has the amazing ability to see a pattern with minimal clues, and 2) your brain has a tendency to look for evidence that confirms an already-existing beliefs. So once you have concluded something, you have a strong tendency generalize that conclusion by noticing evidence that supports your pre-existing belief. So a pessimistic, cynical, or defeatist feeling, causes your mind to look for negative evidence and selectively ignore any positives. In this way the pain comes from making negative events larger and more awful than they really are.
Our memory allows us to recall information about what is likely to happen in different situations. Our memories promote expectations and predictions to how life will unfold. For example, when you walk into a grocery store, you know automatically, how things are supposed to go. You go in, grab a cart, pick food off the shelf, line up for a cashier who will take your money for the food, and you can go home. It is not as if you walk into the store and think `OK, what happened the last time I was here’ or `Why are people looting food off the shelves?’ You automatically know how to behave in the situation based on your experience. The knowledge from these memories, makes the world a much more predictable place.
So let me be clear, you are not conscious of everything you do and how you do it, for every aspect of your life. For example, tying your shoelaces, walking, dialing the phone, or driving, are all guided to a large degree by unconscious processing. Frequently performed actions and behaviors become automatic so your consciousness can turn to other things. In this our complex, information saturated world, the brain is required to handle a vast amount of data. This enormous amount of information exceeds the capacity of your consciousness, which can contain only one or a few things at a time. In fact some researchers suggest that most of what you do on a daily basis is habitual. Which side of the bed do you get out of in the morning? Do you think about the processes of getting dressed, or is it automatic? First the left leg and then the right leg. You put my trousers on the same way every morning. You shave the same way, eat the same breakfast. And so forth. In fact, most of the choices on a daily basis are automatic and out of your conscious awareness.
A good example would be to think of the name of your sixth grade teacher. Before reading the last sentence, you probably weren’t thinking about that period of your life or that teacher. But this information was stored unconsciously and has now entered your consciousness. Soon it will pass back into your unconsciousness, ready to be accessed again if the need arises.
Try for a moment, while reading this passage, to consciously piece together the individual letters in this sentence. Actively focus on how each letter is a symbol, then consider how their meaning changes when they stand in relation to one another, how they form words whose meaning is in turn affected by the words around them, and how these chunks of symbols form a representation in your brain of what the sentence says. Not easy right. Try again.
A few things are worth noting about this exercise; namely that a) in spite of your intentions, you probably couldn’t do it without a significant level of focus, b) you understood the sentence very quickly anyway, and c) it still affected your behavior. Also, since you already knew what it said, the meaning of the sentence didn’t really change when you went over it again, trying to consciously determine why it conveys the particular meaning it does. This illustrates a few factors involved in unconscious functioning, which can be fairly difficult to consciously understand. The first point is this that you unconsciously and very quickly derive meaning from past learning experiences. Second, you have incomplete insight into how this happens, and once the skill of reading is learned, it is hard to stop without conscious effort. Thus reading is an automatic skill that is guided by your unconscious, your behavior occurs without your being entirely aware of it or choosing that it happen.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Humans, for all their sophistication, tend to use unconscious processes. For example many of us drive using unconscious skills unless something unexpected happens, at which point conscious processes take over. These allow you to analyze the unfamiliar situation in more depth in order to figure out how best to respond. The same is true for social situations. Much of the information coming in from social situations is processed unconsciously. Only a small amount of the information is attended to and analyzed consciously. Because you rely so heavily upon unconscious processes, many of your responses to social situations occur “mindlessly.” You are thus free to think about Bob’s annoying table manners and Jane’s infectious laugh as you wander down the aisles, selecting all the necessary ingredients for the dinner party the next night.
The problem is that you unconsciously conform your new experiences into existing patterns. The compulsion to explain, or determine the generalizations, is hardwired in humans, it helps us to learn. Unfortunately, the compulsion to explain is not bound by reason. If a logical explanation does not fit, the mind will make up its own explanation based on exaggerated and unlikely patterns. When presented with bits of information that have no particular relationship, your mind will find one anyway. When the mind cannot generalize a pattern with the information that has, it will create an explanation to fit. No effort is made to test the validity of facts used as evidence. Your mind tries to find additional evidence that supports your conclusion and proves that you were right in the first place. No effort is ever made to prove that you could be wrong. You just assume you are right.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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