Tag Archives: psychology

decisions

yesterday we went car shopping. after driving the sixth test car, in which we were quite interested, the salesperson made us a very tempting offer. we did the rational thing and retired for a family powwow to a nearby fast food place. after briefly going through the pros and cons of another car that was quite attractive, the decision to accept the offer came fast and unanimous.

then we finalized the deal, and the question of warranty insurance came up. my husband left the decision up to me. it had gotten dark outside, i was getting tired from a day of car shopping, and suddenly that decision, which was much less important, and involved much less money, suddenly began to wear on me. after 30 minutes of back and forth, we finally came to a decision on that one, too.

afterwards we went to an east indian restaurant. i hadn’t been to one for a while and chose to eat a bit more than i had planned.

(hold on, i’m going somewhere with this :))

before i went to bed, i realized that i hadn’t done any exercise yet. what to do, what to do? go for a

the fool, a tarot card

image by ark in time on flickr

walk, use the stationary bike, or dance downstairs in my studio? argh! i hadn’t been outside enough and the stationary bike would be really easy, and my studio is beautiful! then i decided to just quickly draw a tarot card and drew the fool. pretty clear image: the fool is on a hike. so i went for a walk.

what i found really interesting was that each step underscored what we know about decision making:

the first step, when we decided to buy the car, was very much carried out along the lines of rational decision making. we gathered all the information, didn’t get swayed by cute arguments (“it has heated seats and adjustable cup holders!”) and didn’t act without reflection.

and then decision fatigue started to set in. i started getting tired, my glucose level went down, and things started to slow down.

by the time i reached the east indian restaurant and one of my favourites, palak paneer (spicy spinach with fresh cheese curds), was particularly well cooked, ego depletion was in full force – all my rational “muscle” was used up, and my food choice was made by that little gremlin inside of me jumping up and down, slobbering with anticipation of devouring yet another tasty morsel.

it was the last situation that i found perhaps the most interesting. typically i consider myself a happy and vigorous decision maker (note to self: ask family how delusional i am with that assessment.) and yet, here i was like a deer in the headlight – quick, tell me with way to go! it looks like indecision is not as well researched as decision . but there was another level to it: i knew at some level that i did not want to choose any of the options. but because a) i want to see myself as someone who engages in at least moderate exercise and b) the option of not doing anything was VERY tempting, i could not add that forth option. instead i head to tell myself that “i don’t know what to do.” i knew EXACTLY what i wanted to do, which was nothing! having removed my favourite option, the next best thing i came up with is to shift the burden of decision to someone/something else. i wonder how often that happens?

by the way, the walk was lovely. the moon, still almost full, poured a magical light over the neighbourhood full of sparkling christmas lights.

psychology dailies

a few months ago, some people in switzerland came up with paper.li, a program that organizes links shared on twitter into an easy to read newspaper-style format. newspapers can be created for any twitter user, list or #tag. (there is a fun little wordplay to the name: the “li” at the end, a sort of diminuitive, is a hallmark of switzerdeutsch, the swiss version of german.)

i think this is a neat idea. here are some examples:

the psychology daily
the mental health bloggers daily
and one i put together: the world changers daily

creativity and mental health – a twitter chat

today i had the honour of moderating the weekly mental health and social media chat (“#mhsm”) on twitter. these are always such interesting conversations! our topic today was “creativity and the arts”. here is a slightly abridged transcript:

moritherapy: welcome to the weekly #mhsm chat about #mentalhealth and social media. today’s topic: creativity and the arts #mhsm

moritherapy: Q1 how does “consuming” the arts (listening to music, watching movies, looking at paintings, etc.) help with #mentalhealth? #mhsm

moritherapy: my father, who struggled with addiction and bipolar disorder all his life, always said “there’s nothing more soothing than music” #mhsm

KerisWithaK: Consuming and contributing to the arts is incredibly healing! #mhsm

stephintoronto: A1: Consumption of the arts, movies, theater, ballet, opera… are an escape for me from my #mentalillness #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Q1. Music is for most a highly effective means of clearing the mind, taking your emotions to a different place #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: A1 Music that is uplifting to me, helps boost my mood. #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy We’re partially here great topic tonight! Arts are a healthy outlet when coping with the side affects of recovery #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: A1: Certain movies, or TV programs help me focus on other things besides negative things that might be going on. #mhsm

stephintoronto: A1:think that the consumption of arts helps to stimulate my brain outside of its regular zone,which is gr8 for helping #mentalillness #mhsm

PeacefulBaker: #mhsm I love calming music for anxiety. Feels like it regulates my heartbeat somewhat.

MelissaMashburn: A1: I have always enjoyed art, especially painters from the impressionist era. Something about it is very soothing. #mhsm

moritherapy: @stephintoronto interesting – you call it “escape”. sometimes that word has a negative connotation. what do you think? #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Art and creativity has the power to heal, center & empower people out of hopelessness. #mhsm

mySahana: Q1: Dancing creates a total body experience instead of being limited to just the head and cerebral processes. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: I think escape is an accurate word for the feeling that it gives me sometimes. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: It certainly can replace the stuff in my head for a while, that is escape #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: Does the same for L RT @MelissaMashburn: I think escape is an accurate word for the feeling that it gives me sometimes. #mhsm

moritherapy: @mySahana oh, i love what you say about dancing – incredibly healing, isn’t it? #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: @moritherapy @stephintoronto Escape from suicidal thoughts could never be negative. For players/listeners, music can also be grounding #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: I am not sure if this counts as “art and creativity” but sometimes I like to look around for inspiring quotes to lift my mood #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: It provides an escape from an otherwise seemingly hopeless world at times #mhsm

johnalchin: A1. The arts have the ability to mood-alter. Appropriate music can take the edge off a hectic day or motivate when feeling flat #mhsm

stephintoronto: @moritherapy i agree that “escape”has a negitive feel,but so does feeling crappy w #bipolar & #mentalillness šŸ™‚ #mhsm

mySahana: @moritherapy Oh absolutely! It just shifts your whole experience and emotions to a different, almost tangible place #mhsm

Kidsider: @MySahana I think the arts in all forms really works towards mindfullness by stimulating all the senses in such a positive way. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: I also find writing very theraputic #mhsm

mySahana: @kidsider Definitely true! I personally have had most experience with dancing but you’re right. Music, dancing, drawing it’s profound. #mhsm

—–

moritherapy: Q2 do you consider yourself a “creative”? how does your own expression of creativity help with #mentalhealth? #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: For L writing music also gives him a chance express feelings he otherwise has trouble getting out #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: As a student of music, playing helps me deal w/ emotional + mental pain, puts things in perspective, gives access to accomplishment #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: A2: I think I am very creative. In the past it took the form of fabric arts, now it is almost exclusively writing. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: Even if I do not write about stuff going on in my head, just the process of writing feels healing to me. #mhsm

mySahana: A2: I’m very creative too and use it mostly to choreograph dances, to write and to create new experiences for myself #mhsm

stephintoronto: A2: i don’t consider myself a “creative” but i have come to realize that I need artistic outlets to help deal w #mentalillness #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy I think through blogging and SM I would call myself a “creative” we’re all being creative now in breaking stigma #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A1: I find nothing feeds my soul & makes me feel less alone than great art – especially music & poetry. #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: Here is a video of him singing and playing one of his songs a few months ago http://www.youtube.com/user/OJTLBlog?feature=mhum #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Art starts in the mind #mhsm

KerisWithaK: A2– I like to write for 2 reasons – advocacy (feel empowered and possibly educate) & 2 humor to lol when I’m struggling #mhsm

mySahana: I have also recently started singing classes which has been a fabulous way to find my voice and tap into new skills. #mhsm

stephintoronto: i think that many people dealing with #mentalillness and #mentalhealth issues,is that they are blessed with creativity. #mhsm

moritherapy: i feel like i’m in some sort of creativity hub, just listening and talking to you #mhsm guys šŸ™‚ #mhsm

stephintoronto: creativity comes out for me in writing, painting, ballet, arts and crafts, poetry, photography, write comics…. #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: @stephintoronto I have found that fact very interesting. Makes me wonder if the rest of the world needs to catch up with us #mhsm

moritherapy: @mySahana i love the idea of singing to find your voice – so important in #mentalhealth #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @unxpctdblessing Writing & graphic arts are my go to things when Im stressed/upset. #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A2: I write poetry as a means of expressing those moods & anxieties that won’t otherwise be spoken. #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy i’m glad I have a few minutes this week to be creative with everyone too #mhsm

stephintoronto: feel blessed that so many of you are creative and i get to be the recipiant of it everyday. #mhsm

PeacefulBaker: #mhsm Love to act in plays. It’s a real escape and you learn empathy for people through understanding your characters.

bentsinister: @moritherapy A2: I write fiction too, but I don’t find the same kind of effect from it. #mhsm

KerisWithaK: I can’t sing but loving putting sign language to music!! It’s a great way for me to”show” emotions #mhsm

stephintoronto: @MelissaMashburn I wonder if strong creativity it is our brains compensating for the part of it that is not firing on all cillinders. #mhsm

johnalchin: For me creativity comes by singing, playing guitar, web design and building, enjoying musical theatre, photography #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: There are so many ways to be creative: music, theater, written and spoken word,… #mhsm

KerisWithaK: ASL is a great way to overcome what is known as ‘flat affect’. I had to learn how to overcome flat affect. ASL & theatre were the cure #mhsm

johnalchin: A2. I too have had a love of poetry since I was a young boy. I have written poetry in the past & iit s a great way to get out my angst #mhsm

—–

moritherapy: Q3 what do you think of the (controversial) idea that people with #mentalillness are particularly creative? #mhsm

stephintoronto: @MelissaMashburn i have wondered if it is a bit like ppl who lose there sight and their sense of smell improves to compensate. #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: @stephintoronto @moritherapy at some level, I think all “artists” thrive on conversation (with others, self and their subjects). #mhsm

stephintoronto: A3:completely agree w the idea ppl with #mentalillness are particularly creative.I wonder if there is any concrete supportive evidence #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: L tends to be most creative (and at times almost frantic about it) when he isn’t doing well (especially when manic) #mhsm

unxpctdblessing: A3: I recently looked back through my poetry from college when I was supremely depressed/ lost in grief. Intense amazing stuff. #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: A3 Its unfortunate that some artists are foremost identified with MH illness, inspiration/genius do not always have an obvious source #mhsm

mySahana: A3: I think sometimes it’s true and other times it acts as a way to “reach” to find something positive to say about them #mhsm

johnalchin: RT @stephintoronto: A3:completely agree w the idea ppl with #mentalillness are particularly creative.I wonder if there is any concrete supportive evidence #mhsm

moritherapy: there are some studies on the mental health-creativity connection but they seem to go back and forth #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy PTSD victims often gain a state of hyper vigilance making them more aware of surroundings, possible creativity boost? #mhsm

HealthWorksBC: A3: i’ve worked w 100’s of acutely ill ppl w #mentalillness + 1000’s w other illnesses-rec therapist. Have not seen or read evidence #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: RT @mySahana: A3: I think sometimes its true and other times it acts as a way to “reach” to find something positive to say about them #mhsm

johnalchin: The schizoaffective family member I care for is the creative one in our family. She’s a brill singer, great fashion sense when well. #mhsm

moritherapy: example of study: creativity, schizophrenia and bipolar have similar dopamine system http://bit.ly/b3F8jE #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A3: For what it’s worth, I’ve seen a correlation between creativity & mental illness in friends & acquaintances. #mhsm

moritherapy: @Kidsider wow, never thought about the connection between creativity and vigilance, very interesting idea #mhsm

KerisWithaK: A3- I worry abt generalizations. As a person of color ppl assume I can do things ascribed to my race. Many times I can’t. #mhsm

HealthWorksBC: a1: con’d I have not seen or heard sufficient evidence about the people w mental illness -creativity correlation. #mhsm

stephintoronto: “Biological basis for creativity linked to mental illness”http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031001061055.htm #mhsm

johnalchin: Wondering if there is a link between somatisation and the arts. Creativity as outlet for felt pain/grief/psychosis, etc? Anyone know? #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: A3 Art can be a more effective way of explaining complex concepts and emotions than speech, symbols alone #mhsm

mySahana: @stephintoronto Great article! I wonder how this plays into effect considering creativity changes between childhood and adulthood. #mhsm

—–

moritherapy: Q4 creatives & people with #mentalillness live with feeling “different”. when there’s both, does it all get a bit too much? #mhsm

Kidsider: @moritherapy I dont think its matter of apmlifying the negative issues but a symbiotic aide in the struggle of mental health #mhsm

mySahana: @johnalchin I think body centered therapy addresses the issue of holding mental illness/stress/pain etc in your bdy #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy A4: I’ve dealt with far more of a feeling of difference from MI than from creativity. #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @KerisWithaK “different” is perceived as negative. Leads to a hard, lonely life until difference is embraced positively. #mhsm

stephintoronto: wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all embrace our creative sides and say screw you to the #mentalillness side? #mhsm

storiesofsommer: @johnalchin @moritherapy A4: I frequently feel overwhelmed. But am learning to deal with it. #mentalillness #mhsm

moritherapy: @bentsinister there’s stigma re #mentalillness but the creative #stigma is less, or not so visible? #mhsm

KerisWithaK: I love it when people see people for people. Acknowledging and celebrating all that IS that person. #mhsm

moritherapy: @storiesofsommer @johnalchin yeah, i think the word “overwhelm” is well placed here #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy I guess the only times I’ve experienced stigma re: creativity is when I got too “out there” for most people’s standards. #mhsm

stephintoronto: i’d be ok with being the creative artsy lady that lives in “there”,but somehow that always comes w the “crazy” label as well #mhsm

—–

moritherapy: Q5 can you recommend any social media sites or web sites about the topic of creativity and/or how the arts help with mental health? #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy When that happened, though, I was probably hypomanic, now that I think about it. #mhsm

johnalchin: @storiesofsommer @moritherapy I *HATE* feeling overwhelmed. I wan’t to have sense of control at all times. #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: A4 We R all different. I think much pain comes feeling that we have to be so much like others to be loved+respected #mhsm

moritherapy: @stephintoronto yeah, the whole “crazy” connection is kinda interesting. #mhsm

storiesofsommer: @moritherapy No, but it is actually something I have been thinking about starting for quite a while now #mhsm

bentsinister: @moritherapy So I think that any stigma over creativity might be less, at least in my experience. #mhsm

KerisWithaK: My mom used to say I had multiple directions- couldn’t see “one way”. Now that’s called lateral thinkers! The new leaders! #mhsm

moritherapy do you guys know about the ikarus project re mental health and creativity?http://bit.ly/12nHkM #mhsm

storiesofsommer: Unfortunately, here in the states, I think we’re way behind on mental health resources. I’ve seen more progress in european countries #mhsm

moritherapy: @storiesofsommer yes, it does look like particularly the UK are making great strides in the area #mhsm

moritherapy: another great resource: @soundtherapyrad does internet radio shows about creativity and mental health #mhsm

johnalchin: @KerisWithaK Yes, I say that my abstract random learning style means my mind is a lot like the world wide web. #mhsm

moritherapy: there’s the creativity and conflict peopleĀ http://bit.ly/9zqShT #mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: Oof! Im getting all shaky from the excitement/vibes in tonight (and a small amount of coffee). Can you feel it?! #mhsm

storiesofsommer: This may have been asked already but which comes b4: the creativity or the mental health issue? #mhsm

—–

moritherapy: as we’re closing, please let us know your blogs and websites so that we can support each other as a resource #mhsm

MelissaMashburn: My blog is Sugar Filled EmotionsĀ http://www.sugarfilledemotions.com #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @storiesofsommer:Ā  http://www.storiesofsommer.com; life questions and how my depression/bipolar plays a part plus other random bits #mhsm

moritherapy: RT @MelissaMashburn: My blog is Sugar Filled EmotionsĀ http://www.sugarfilledemotions.com#mhsm

ReachOutinUSA: http://ReachOut.com – a place 4 teens, young adults to share stories on tough times in their lives & how they got through, MH expert vetted #mhsm

johnalchin: I’ve just added a Mental Health section to my website at http://johnalchin.info which I will be adding to over summer (in Oz) #mhsm

GermanInAlabama: http://www.our-journey-through-life.com Been slacking lately but really want to get back to blogging #mhsm

mySahana: Thank you for an amazing discussion! Please see our site http://www.mysahana.org addressing mental health issues in the South Asian community #mhsm

stephintoronto: i write about #mentalhealth #migraines #bipolar disorder…. when i feel up to it…http://princessrantsandraves.blogspot.com/ #mhsm

moritherapy: thanks all for participating in the #mentalhealth and social media chat. please come again, same place same time next week! #mhsm

my mental health camp talk: insanity in the workplace

my talk at mental health camp yesterday:

it’s not about mental illness. it’s about mental health.

in 1996, 510 murders occurred in canada. taking a prevalence rate of about 3% of violent crimes committed by people with mental illness, at most, 16 of these people were killed by someone with a mental illness. i’m mentioning that because of the tragedy that happened a few days ago where a little girl was killed.

still. i’d like you to get that number. 16.

at the same time, 45,000 deaths were attributed to tobacco, 2,900 to car accidents, and 1,900 to alcohol.

mental illness is not the big problem.

i think mental health is.

an industry that makes products that kill tens of thousands of people in canada alone is not mentally healthy. in fact, it is literally insane.

i’ll tell you what else is insane.

a country that does not extradite someone who has been judged responsible for the death of at least 25,000 people is insane. the country is the united states, the person in question is warren anderson. he was the executive in charge at the time of the bhopal disaster.

who else is insane?

a company that disregards safety just like union carbide in bhopal did. the company is BP. it is insane.

a police force that is more concerned with turf wars than preventing disasters is insane. the police force is the RCMP and the disaster is the air india crash.

i’m not here to say that mental illness is not important, that all of us here who are dealing with depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder or whatever, either ourselves or through our loved ones, are not important because otherwise we wouldn’t have mental health camp.

but right here, right now, i want to talk about mental HEALTH. because i’ve looked at all these things and all of a sudden, i realized something enormous:

the vast majority of big disasters nowadays, from environmental crimes to wars to major health problems such as lung cancer and diabetes – you know where most of them come from, or more precisely, where the decisions are made to go ahead and do or not do things that have vast negative consequences?

they are all fomented in the work place. union carbide, the RCMP, the cigarette company philip morris, BP – all the decisions that have a horrible effect on countless people are made at the workplace.

those workplaces are insane.

who here has worked in an insane workplace?

who here is working in an insane workplace right now?

what type of insanity do we find in the workplace?

  • incivility
  • bullying
  • abusive supervisors
  • resentment
  • never being appreciated
  • blame
  • betrayal
  • cynicism
  • distrust, always on the lookout for trouble
  • focusing on shortcomings
  • obsessed with reputation
  • reluctance and lack of cooperation
  • fear of disappointment
  • anger
  • grief
  • anxiety
  • extreme vigilance
  • phoniness
  • being a “hard-ass,”
  • playing favorites
  • irrationality
  • scrutinizing everything for hidden meaning
  • closed mindedness
  • uneasy relationships that never get repaired – toxins build up
  • layoffs and other painful measures that are being pushed through disregarding the effect they have
  • disconnection from reality
  • in-groups and out-groups that fight each other
  • differential treatment from bosses
  • active and passive provocation
  • incompetence
  • not admitting problems
  • not asking for help
  • lack of meaningful relationships at work
  • getting blindsided
  • frustration
  • evasiveness
  • lack of fairness
  • nobody listens
  • deflecting responsibility
  • self-handicapping

(adapted from an MIT sloan management review article)

there’s quite a bit of research on the dysfunctional workplace, for example on violence in the workplace, or the effect abusive supervisors have on turnover in the workplace. however, i haven’t seen anything yet on how the dysfunctionality that seems to be the norm in many workplaces makes it possible for disastrous decisions to be made.

but i’m just going to go out on a limb and say that someone who is in complete and optimal mental health cannot make the kinds of decisions that end up killing people, destroying the environment and otherwise compromising the wellbeing of people and the planet.

let me use the air india disaster as an example. reading through justice john major’s report, we see that these things happened at the RCMP and CSIS

  • not communicating effectively with each other
  • RCMP not sharing information with CSIS when they clearly should have, and vice versa
  • not respecting each others’ rules and requirements – e.g. RCMP was often careless in protecting CSIS sources
  • a culture of managing information designed to protect individual institutional interests and not the public interest
  • compromising the need for reliable proof (when the parmar tapes were erased)
  • misunderstanding or dismissing that the relevance of information, not who has the information, determines what happens before the court
  • institutional lack of self-restraint and self-discipline
  • overstating the need for secrecy

i propose that all of these things are signs of dysfunctional mental health. i propose that most people would say that these are signs of mental health:

  • open and honest communication
  • reflecting on the consequences of one’s actions
  • having a degree of basic trust towards others
  • working hard to resolve any tensions that arise
  • co-operating for the common good
  • a degree of maturity that includes self restraint and self discipline where needed

and i propose that if these and other indicators of mental health were present, there would be less, and probably far less, calamities in the world.

i have to tell you that these ideas are still pretty new to me. as some of you know, i was going to talk about a different topic. but then one day, interestingly enough, when i was preparing a talk somewhere else about mental health in the workplace, i saw this connection between war and destruction and the workplace.

a book i have been reading avidly lately is tony schwartz’s the way we’re working isn’t working. (you can follow tony on twitter, it’s @tonyschwartz.)

let me read you just a few excerpts. here is the one that may have triggered all of this:

not a single CEO or senior executive at a large bank ever stood up and blew the whistle on the practices that led to the worldwide financial meltdown in 2008. nor has virtually any one of them ever explicitly acknowledged any personal responsibility for what happened.

we tolerate extraordinary disconnects in our own lives, even in areas we plainly have the power to influence.

human beings have continued to evolve by leaps and bounds in terms of what can be externally measured and observed. but for all these extraordinary external advances, we’ve devoted remarkably little attention to better understanding our inner world.

[we have a] tendency to default to impatience, irritation and even anger as a way to mobilize others to action

no single behaviour, we’ve come to believe, more funamentally influences our effectiveness in waking life than sleep

the survival zone is an acceptable place in which to operate in most organizations

survivial zone, performance zone, burnout zone, renewal zone

[when a amy pascal needed to implement some major changes at sony] she began by asking herself a simple question: “what is the right thing to do here? … everybody knows that it means to do the right thing. it means serving the greatest good even when it doesn’t seem to be in your immediate self-interest. it means you don’t make choices out of fear of failure or just because they seem expedient, you don’t make choices that are quicker or easier because that’s what everyone else is doing.”

okay, so now we’ve spent about 35 minutes on doom and gloom, and that’s just about all i can handle. i want to talk about more positive things now. like mental illness.

actually, about the experience and wisdom of people with mental illness. more precisely, the experience and wisdom of people with mental illness who are working hard at making the best of their lives. i’ll assume there’s a few of us in here right now, and more who may have friends or family who have learned to manage mental illness.

part of that management is medication. but the other part of that is therapy and even more importantly, leading a life that strives for as much mental health as possible.

in the course of managing mental illness, we have learned some valuable things. so what i’m saying is that precisely BECAUSE we are forced to manage mental illness we have gained tools that can make a difference, a big difference.

my final point then is, seeing that the world needs help, and seeing that in managing mental illness, we have gained these valuable tools, how can we practically, day by day, today and not tomorrow, use these tools to influence our places of work? because i think that’s one place where we can start. make it our responsibility to make our places of work places where we can be in what tony schwartz calls the performance and renewal zones, where we can be calm, engaged, invigorated and peaceful, mellow and receptive. and even more specifically, how can we use social media to make this happen?

incivility

bullying

abusive supervisors

resentful


never being appreciated

blame

betrayal

cynicism

distrustful, always on the lookout for trouble

focusing on shortcomings

obsessed with reputation

reluctance and lack of cooperation

fear of disappointment

anger

grief

anxiety,

extreme vigilance,

phony

being a “hard-ass,”

playing favorites

irrational

scrutinizing everything for hidden meaning

closed minded

uneasy relationship that never get repaired – toxins build up

layoffs and other painful measures that are being pushed through disregarding the effect they have

disconnection from reality

in-groups and out-groups that fight each other

differential treatment from bosses

active and passive provocation.

incompetence

not admitting problems

not asking for help

lack of meaningful relationships at work

getting blindsided

frustration

evasiveness

lack of fairness

nobody listens

deflecting responsibility

self-handicapping

goals, learning and contracts

after my post about small and SMART goals on garfield’s blog, i got inspired to write another one at brainblogger about the pitfalls and benefits of goal setting, this time taking a bit more of an academic slant. larry ferlazzo took up that post and talked about goal setting in the classroom. it made me think about learning goals. i won’t get much into this right now but i found it interesting that when i was googling around a bit about the topic, pretty much everything i saw were not really learner-directed goals. they were either goals clearly set by the teachers, or contracts that were not really contracts, i.e. they don’t meet the criterion of containing mutual promises. a lot of learning contracts (and contracts in counselling, too, by the way) are of the mafia sort: if you don’t pay up, we’ll break your leg. fortunately, there is usually little leg-breaking involved in learning or counselling contracts but they tend to be one-sided. the promises by one party (e.g. the learner) are numerous and clearly laid out, and often there are no promises made by the other party, or they are not specified.

travel and emotions

today, a guest post by larry blanken

travel is a major activity in the lives of modern people. some of us travel by choice as a source of pleasure, while others only venture away from home when they are forced to. regardless of individual motivations, the act of traveling can have a deep psychological impact on those who engage in it. oddly enough, the same elements that bring excitement to one person can bring dread to others. these distinctly different responses are driven by very similar forces of human nature.

as evidenced by the billions of dollars spent each year in the travel industry, the world’s population is on the move. there are millions who scrimp and save for traveling, constantly wishing they had more time and money to explore strange new parts of the planet. for these folks, each trip becomes an adventure and experiencing travel embodies dreams being fulfilled. among the greatest goals for some people is to go to places they have never been.

there are others who simply accept it as a permanent or temporary part of daily life. because of professional, educational or social necessity, they regularly wake up each day in a different location and give little thought to what it would be like to live a stationary life. an international businessperson, an airline pilot or a truck driver might view travel as just part of the routine. travel for some is just a chore required to get from one place to another.

at the other end of the spectrum are those who feel apprehension at the mere thought of straying from their own doorstep. they have built their own ideas of comfort zones that rely on familiar spaces to give them a sense of safety and security. for this group, the unknown is a threat to be avoided. they are perfectly content with remaining in their own backyards.

what are the basic motivations that make people crave or shy away from travel?

while the impulses that make people want to travel or stay at home are complicated and unique to every person, there are underlying characteristics that are similar in all personality types. the most fundamental of these has to do with self-esteem, along with our definitions of achievements and rewards. essentially, travelers usually place greater value in experiencing places and things than in possessing them. however, both are actually manifestations of control over one’s life.

humans have a basic need to feel better about themselves and elevate their self-image of who they are. naturally, everyone will have their own yardstick by which they measure their accomplishments. we all have our own methods to prove our self worth in our own eyes while we strive to gain the respect and admiration of others. the avid traveler will generally see their journeys as evidence of their ability to set and achieve their goals. those who do not care for travel have similar desires, but keep them close to home.

in this sense, traveling fulfills the same needs that growing a garden, owning a boat or building furniture might do for someone else. it is a way to replicate something we have given importance in our own minds in order to associate ourselves with it. travel also gives us the opportunity to get close to things that we have decided to identify with for the same reasons. it is a another way of transforming a mental image into actual experience.

like many other human activities, travel is a way of expressing individuality by re-creating and sharing the acts of others. when we stand on the same spot where kings stood, touch the eiffel tower or cruise the caribbean, we are participating in the experiences of those who have gone before us. these things become a part of us and expand our identities. in this way, we are able to somehow share the the accomplishments of the people we observe.

in fact, traveling is something almost everyone does for much the same reasons. if we remove the factors of distance and location, travelers and homebodies are essentially striving for the same things. in most cases, the basic difference is only a matter of the proximity of our connections to what we desire to be identified with.

for example, a fan of emeril lagasse will eagerly travel to the kitchen to recreate his cooking feats. some people visit their gardens to enjoy their collections of plants and flowers. others journey to the park to feed the pigeons and watch the people. however, when we take a plane, train or automobile to experience these same things, we call it travel. we all are curious about the world around us and want to repeat the actions of others who fascinate us to express our own self worth.

some of us simply prefer to do it in las vegas, hawaii or spain.

larry blanken is a freelance travel writer and semi-retired english instructor living near lexington, kentucky. in addition to teaching writer’s workshops and creating web content, his passions include creating travel articles.

… and when and why is it ok to talk about mental health?

still thinking out loud

when and why do people get to talk about mental health?

there seem to be certain circumstances that make it more acceptable or easy to talk about mental health. as i am writing this i am telling myself that i need to be careful not to sound too cranky. “the curmudgeonly old advocate” is not a role that i am very well suited for. but it’s tempting, people, it’s tempting …

the truth is, there seems to be an unconscious fear of contagion. “if i get too close to you, will i catch your depression/anxiety/schizophrenia?” in a very, very roundabout way, it’s understandable where this comes from. we are sensitive to others’ emotion. harvard researchers, for example, found that happiness can be contagious (thanks for the reminder, aaron). i’ll be looking up research on “contagiousness” of mental illness as well.

however, some, perhaps much, of this fear is irrational. you don’t get the cooties from hanging out with someone with anxiety or PTSD. my (as yet unresearched) theory is that the irrational fear stems from old, instinctual fears that arose during times when humanity did not have the science to detect that the majority of diseases arise from causes such as bacteria, malnutrition, unsanitary practices or chemical imbalances.

all this is to say that when there is this fear of contagion, you talk about mental illness at your own risk. this fear seems to be strongest in the presence of ignorance. you know the silence that sits in a room like a rock when someone has the guts to say something like, “i wasn’t here last week because my meds got adjusted and i had to go to the hospital for a few days”? this thick, heavy, dense silence typically comes from fear and ignorance. fear and ignorance that OCD is contagious, but also lack of knowledge of what to say. we, the ones who know about mental illness first-hand, aren’t the only ones who don’t know how to talk about it. those who don’t know have even less of a clue.

so when is it a good time to talk about mental illness? since fear seems to be the problem here, the answer may just be, “when it’s safe.” that means situations like

  • when you’re in the presence of others with mental health issues (which is one of the major benefits of mental health camp)
  • when mental illness is far away, when others have it (e.g. when psychiatrists talk amongst each other; that is, psychiatrists who either don’t have a diagnosis themselves or if they have it, they’re secretive quiet about it)
  • to a lesser degree, when there is a “good reason” to have a mental health issue

yup, we’re coming back to the ignorance (and also to the cranky curmudgeon, apparently i can’t escape that role right now) because, you see, mental illness is apparently the kind of thing you only have a right to have (just for a short while, of course) if you have a “good reason”. a bit of postpartum depression is ok, about 3.5 weeks of depression caused by grief is ok, and if you’ve been raped or spent months in a crazy war, you’re also allowed to go off the rails for a little while. maybe.

someone i know is dealing with the acute, deep end of bipolar disorder right now. his family is pissed off; what is he doing going to the hospital when there are so many important things to do right now? and hasn’t he been to the hospital before and he still gets those silly crying jags, so clearly it doesn’t work? what a nuisance! mental health issues, like many other invisible illnesses, don’t seem to really exist for a lot of people, they are often treated like annoying idiosyncrasies.

boy, do i ever sound negative. let’s end with something a bit more uplifting. let’s think of a few more circumstances (the “why”) when it is at least somewhat safe to talk about mental health issues:

  • when the topic is to erase stigma
  • in art – literature, music, visual art, dance
  • in research

any more ideas?