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Posts Tagged ‘Psychology’

Yesterday, a young man at Kroger approached us while we were self-checking out. Bob was scanning a bottle of Chardonnay as I was pulling my driver’s license out of my feed bag; TN needs to check everyone to make sure we’re old enough to drink! The guy looked at my holographic ID and smiled while he punched in a code, muttering under his breath, “Libra.”

Turns out he’s a Libra too, so we felt an instant sympatico.

Don’t tell me, it’s all hogwash, right? Most scientists dismiss the Astrological Signs as an ancient attempt to understand human behavior. But there was a period of time, back when I actually read a paper newspaper and before going to the obits first, when I’d scan my horoscope eagerly every morning.

“Libra energy enhances our social graces and turns our attention to beauty and style. In Italy, there’s an expression known as la bella figura, in which Italian natives not only dress to impress but also exhibit their brightest, best personalities when in the company of others. Libra transits help us achieve that kind of inner and outer beauty, making us feel like the fairest of them all. http://astrostyle.com/libra-horoscope/

Libra’s symbol is the scale, which really does sum me up; moderation in all things, equal justice for all, staying balanced and centered with a daily practice of T’ai Chi. But since you’ve probably either accepted or rejected your zodiac sign, I thought I’d share with you  the latest semi-crunchy personality test to hit the street: it’s called the Enneagram! Not nearly as fun as the zodiac, you only receive a number from 1 to 9, but perhaps just a tad more scientific.  https://www.eclecticenergies.com/enneagram/test

And when you finish the test, let’s align our Chakras!

Turns out this Libran is a number 2, which the Bride had predicted. Also known as “The Helper,” I’m one of those people, people who NEED people. “Selflessness is their duty. Giving to others is their reason for being. Involved, socially aware, usually extroverted, Twos are the type of people who remember everyone’s birthday and who go the extra mile to help out a co-worker, spouse or friend in need.”

I guess I am La Bella Figura! After all, I was dressed up as an infant to delight my dying father.

And I accept the number 2, except for the remembering of birthdays part. I barely remember my own birthday but I get that by helping others, we are really helping ourselves to feel good. And what’s wrong with that? I honestly can’t cope with the latest news about pipe bombs trying to wipe out my party. It’s insane, has our country become one large crazy fiefdom run by the Tweets of a Cheeto?

Bob and I voted early this week, and we’re talking it up everywhere we go (ps in Nashville strangers talk to each other).

So don’t get distracted by the news, pick yourself up, take a tiny personality test, and VOTE early! It was a super sunny cold day, so I got out my fleece for the first time.

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I always worry a little when people describe their child as being “shy.” I’m a big believer in NOT labeling your kid, because once you tell them they are bad at math, that child will become math-challenged. Still, the nature/nurture conundrum does exist, and there’s a new mega-data study that ties up all our personality types into four simple categories! Turns out, being “reserved” is a thing.

“In a report published Monday in the journal ‘Nature Human Behavior,’ researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois identify four personality types: reserved, role models, average and self-centered.”  

https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2018/09/17/scientists-identify-four-personality-types/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.f466d00f6e5f

Now I may want to ask my brother, Dr Jim, what he thinks of this, since he’s been administering the Myers-Briggs personality test for decades. But that test was developed in the 1940s using Jungian archetypes; this time a group of researchers simply plugged in an algorithm to a questionnaire for 1.5 million people in the US and Great Britain.

People who scored very high in extroversion but were below average in agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness were “self-centered.” Amaral put it in a “nontechnical way”: Some people are “jerks.” Teenage males were more likely than average to be self-centered, but this proportion decreased with age.

“These 18-year-olds are going to grow up,” Revelle said. “Except some people don’t grow up, and they become senior political statesmen.”

So a large number of narcissistic “jerks” choose a career in politics? I’m astonished!

Yesterday, to counter my increasing fury at men behaving badly, the Bride sent me a podcast. I’ve just listened to the first one, but I intend to listen to the whole series; written by an Obama speech-writer and Pod Save America contributor, Jon Favreau endeavors to explain the downfall of the Democratic Party and how we can fix it. It’s totally worth a listen: https://crooked.com/podcast-series/thewilderness/

I’ve read that activists actually confronted Sen Ted Cruz, a fine example of the self-centered type, at an Italian restaurant last night in DC, creating quite the stir chanting “We believe survivors.” He and his wife said “God bless you,” and left the restaurant after being seated but before ordering. I might have waited for them to finish the pasta course myself.

I’m slowly returning to my “average” state of affairs, feeling slightly rushed and overwhelmed by choices in the grocery store. At least the laundry is done. Just hoping our dear legislators do NOT rush this Kavanaugh nomination, and focus instead on rushing a bill to protect the Mueller investigation. Let’s keep our eyes on Russia and our feet to the fire (for my new Italian readers, it’s just an idiom).

Oh how I miss my friends and the sheep bells that would accompany this lovely breakfast table, and its wasps!

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There are only about 1,600 black bears in the Great Smokies. They are interacting more and more with people, coming down off the mountains because their habitat is shrinking. I’ve seen a couple of bears lumbering through the forest in Central VA, but here in the Music City my only wildlife encounter has been with feral cats. I’ve heard about coyotes and possums, but they don’t scare me.

In Eagles Nest Township, MN with 4 beautiful, clean lakes, some people can lay down on the ground and allow bear cubs to crawl all over them! There’s a bear whisperer there who teaches neighbors how to feed the wild black bears peanuts from their hands! He is a biologist on a mission to let people know that bears are harmless, they are more afraid of us than we are of them!

But in the same little MN town, others are convinced of a different reality. They perceive black bears to be a threat; they look at their teeth and claws and imagine being torn to shreds. Even though they appear timid, they have tremendous strength and have killed at least 70 people since statistics were kept in the early 1900s.

I’m probably in this camp, if I were to see a bear on a trail I’d start backing up very slowly… NPR has an incredible podcast about this pair of conflicting paradigms: https://www.npr.org/2017/06/08/531904266/reality-part-one.

They are investigating why people see things differently and appropriately enough it’s called, “Reality.” After Great Grandma Ada witnessed a mama bear with two cubs playing in her swimming pool, she stopped going down to the pool alone. I’m just glad she didn’t decide to feed them peanuts from her hand, as she’s been known to encourage a stray fox or two with treats. In fact, I can’t remember a time when she didn’t have some candy in her pocket for her grandchildren.

Listening to this podcast about how we shape our own reality, and after this weekend’s #MarchforourLives I thought to myself, what’s the point of worrying about something like bears? I mean, there’s some Chinese space station that’s about to crash into earth, maybe I should be losing sleep over that?

Psychologists tell us that depression and anxiety are endemic in our modern world, and that in order to worry less we should make a list of the 10 things that worry us. Writing them down demystifies our dread and helps us decipher when we’re just worrying for the sake of worry – you know that dream where you have to take a test and realize you never went to class? Sometimes we imagine things are way worse than they actually are, or we may need medication to keep the demons at bay.

My mentor, the humor writer Erma Bombeck called that toxic, useless type “rocking chair worry:” “It gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.”

And the funny thing is, the more you write these 10 things down, make a Top Ten List every 6 months, you realize over time which worries are utterly useless because they resolved themselves, or the outcome was better than the problem, and you can get a handle on those things you may actually want to DO something about. You may even start to worry less.

Why do some people see the list of countries that are expelling Russian “diplomats” and feel fine, while I see the long list of countries who have signed the Paris Climate Agreement – that does NOT include the USA – and feel dread? We are the ONLY country is the whole world who doesn’t believe in climate science! Syria and Nicaragua were the last 2 countries to pledge their allegiance; here is what Stephen Hawking had to say about Mr T’s mean and inept decision:

“We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible,” he told the BBC. “Trump’s action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of two hundred and fifty degrees, and raining sulphuric acid.” He added that Trump’s decision would cause “avoidable environmental damage to our beautiful planet, endangering the natural world, for us and our children”.

So maybe I should be worrying about the bears, and gorillas, and the newly endangered, my favorite of all wild things the graceful giraffe: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/giraffes-silently-slip-endangered-species-list-180961372/  I had NO idea the giraffe’s tail is used as a status symbol in parts of Africa. It’s time to schedule a safari so I can see my long, tall blondes in the wild, not just at a zoo.

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Mindfulness. I’ve been reading alot about this lately, and the Bride asked if I’d like to attend a Mindful Parenting and Grandparenting course with her, “Sure,” I said, who wouldn’t?

Of course my yogi daughter practices some of these techniques, like meditation, to deal with the stress of her job. You never know what’s coming through the door in an ER, and like the life of a pilot – who is on remote control until he has to land a plane in the Hudson River – she sews up a lot of cuts until someone tries to overdose (or, insert any catastrophic event).

Saying you want to “Be Here Now!” doesn’t do it for me. I need practical tips and strategies to stay in the moment and quiet my monkey brain. This morning someone wanted to follow my Instagram, and instead of immediately deleting her, I scooted over to her page @mindfuleatsnutrition. She is a “Dietician helping people make peace with food.” Some algorithm somewhere must have sensed I was at war with vegetables, since I’m always looking up new and ingenious ways to prepare okra.

She is part of the “No More Dieting” movement. Throw away your scales ladies, listen to your inner voice and practice “mindful eating.” Don’t buy pre-packaged Nutri-System meals that taste like mush, don’t join Weight Watchers and tie yourself to counting points, or whatever it is they are counting these days. Full disclosure, I did join WW before turning 60 since I was inching towards plus sizes. But by 65 I’d gained that weight back, as dieting almost always does.

Oprah, do you really think teenage girls should start attending WW with their moms?

Great Grandma Ada kept marveling at how much weight I’d lost last week. It’s true, I’d lost some weight this year because I’m not eating cookies or ice cream at night and I’m walking around this city with Ms Bean. I tend to lose weight when I’m stressed; like in my substitute teaching days when I went on my own fractional diet, eating only half of whatever was on my plate. Moving can be a wee bit stressful. There are no good and bad foods as I’ve said before, and our weight is only half of the problem.

Physical hygiene is half of self-love; caring for ourselves enough to visit a dentist regularly, to keep moving, to eat healthy by choosing more vegetables and less protein. To adore avocados!

Emotional hygiene means caring enough about ourselves to avoid negativity. To seek out a therapist if nothing else helps. To rid ourselves of the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” complex and stop judging others. It’s been shown that people who hang around with depressed people start to feel depressed themselves, just like that study that said if your friends are always choosing fried foods, so will you. It may be time to start practicing mindfulness and you don’t have to be hippy-dippy to do it. I never went to Woodstock! I’ll be reporting back from our course in March.

You’ve got to put that plane’s oxygen mask on yourself first, if you want to get your babies out alive. It’s like the Dalai Lama said this morning:

Compassion suits our physical condition, whereas anger, fear and distrust are harmful to our well-being. Therefore, just as we learn the importance of physical hygiene to physical health, to ensure healthy minds, we need to learn some kind of emotional hygiene.

Is mindfulness your super power?

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A psychologist friend once told me that 80% of our lives are filled with duties, things we feel obliged to do, like cleaning the kitchen let’s say. Or visiting a sick friend with a pot of soup. This same doctor told me it’s alright to lower that ratio, to do more of what we really really want to do, and less of all that obligatory stuff. Now that’s a hard pill to swallow for a recovering Catholic school girl, but since our move I figured I’d give it a try.

It’s an age old philosophical question, that may inform some of our political divisiveness today. For instance, Kant wrote about ethical dilemmas that were universally accepted. Is it ever OK to lie? Or, by allowing a society to think that lying (alternative truths) is acceptable, don’t we call everything anyone ever says into question?

It’s the credibility factor, this feeling we Americans have of watching our government implode like an episode of Big Brother or Celebrity Apprentice. For Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), a metaphysical philosopher, morality consists of differing layers of duty:

“…a duty is something that we are obligated to by the Categorical Imperative. In other words, it is something that that we can see as a universal rule for all of humanity necessary for a morally just society.” 

…a perfect duty is one which one must always do and an imperfect duty is a duty which one must not ignore but admits of multiple means of fulfillment. Kant specifies two imperfect duties: the duty of self-improvement and the duty to aid others.

So maybe we could try to get our imperfect duties down to 50% self and 50% others?

For Great Grandma Ada, painting is her time for self-improvement and learning, mixed with friends and fun. For me, the practice of writing weekly, attending workshops and authors’ readings are my ways of self-indulgence. For the Bride, keeping up with her continuing ed credits and practicing yoga to prevent burnout help to improve her life. And for the Love Bug? Well just about everything is about learning these days, but she already told me she loves music class!!

Now when it comes to our “duty” to aid others, this is the divide I’ve noticed in our political life. Since the extreme right Tea Party takeover in the late 90s, there’s been less cooperation in government and more castigation. The whole #MAGA movement held a kernel of truth in its inception. Gone are the days when we were the world leader in democracy. Only Mr T hasn’t really been making us great again, he’s been digging our collective grave.

Few countries look anymore to Trump’s America as a global exemplar, the “city upon a hill” Reagan spoke of in his farewell address to the nation. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel is routinely described as the leader of the free world, the moniker bestowed on the US president since the days of FDR.
The Economist, which trolls Trump almost weekly, has described Chinese President Xi Jinping as the most powerful man in the world. American exceptionalism is now commonly viewed as a negative construct. “Only in America” is a term of derision. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41826022

And partially this fall from grace is due to a new GOP philosophy of individualism – that Ayn Rand sector of old white men. Ronald Reagan wouldn’t recognize it. It’s “all for one” and no one for all. Of course they want to abolish taxes for their richest 1% of donors, and they don’t care about millions losing their health insurance. They’ve become callous pioneers of a myth they’ve sold middle America.

Lately I’ve heard that many of my VA friends, who are self-employed, are losing their Anthem coverage. These people are certainly not impoverished, but they may be if they have to quadruple their health insurance payments. Now they didn’t vote for Mr T, but I wonder what his followers are thinking. It’s funny how the word “entitlement” only applies to others, to “socialists,” until they reach age 65, or have their insurance companies pull the rug out from under them.

If the White House has truly become an “Adult Day Care Center,” we can only hope that Mueller finishes his investigation soon, and that Republicans with a conscience stop quitting politics altogether and step up to the madness before it becomes an existential crisis. I’d like my 5 year old grand daughter to have more days filled with music, and less active shooter drills.

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When I was young, and didn’t want to eat something the Flapper served at the dinner table, she would happily chirp, “Good! All the more for us!” She was all about the Freudian theory of opposites, and she thought if she just played up how great a new dish was, my defense would fold and I’d give in to her exceptional strategy. Sometimes it worked!

Which is why I was intrigued with an essay written by Andrew Wilkinson on his tactic of reversing his To-Do-List at work; he applied the theory of opposites by turning his goals upside down and became immeasurably happier. “He wanted to figure out how to improve his day and make it more enjoyable. So, he followed the lead of Charlie Munger, right-hand man of famed investor Warren Buffet, and a proponent of ‘inversion’ – a strategy that looks at problems in reverse, focusing on minimising the negatives instead of maximising the positives.” http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20170919-the-power-of-a-not-to-do-list

Last night, as I was explaining simply what the Jewish New Year meant to me while the 5 and “almost” 3 year old partially listened, it dawned on me that I wanted to start off the year 5778 with a new angle. I promised myself I’d try and look for the silver lining when things go south, I’d apply my Pippy Longstocking pigtails to every new challenge. I’d learn something new.

Just imagine making your New Year resolutions, only this time God has his Book open and he’s writing down everything you’re putting on your To-Do-List, making Rosh Hashana a kind of spiritual reckoning that ends at Yom Kippur and you better have confessed all your sins by that time.

“What’s a sin?” the Love Bug asked. I mumbled something about not listening…

So I thought about changing my resolutions, my intention to “do Better” infers that I haven’t been doing enough, right? What if I chose to make this the year I employ some “Anti-Goals?” Like Wilkinson, who stopped meeting with people he didn’t like, stopped holding morning meetings altogether, and never scheduled more than 2 hours of his workday, I might just say “No” now and then. I wonder how he dealt with his emails?

Let’s all try and reverse our thinking for a day, a week or maybe even a year. Let’s just put the wrong shoe on the right foot for once and walk around like a toddler not caring one iota! What will bring you more joy in the New Year? Let’s all make our very own “Not-To-Do-List!”

Happy Birthday to the World and I promise never to stop fighting for climate science education, because otherwise our great-grandchildren will have to populate another planet and start over. And I’m not so sure God would start out with “Let there be Light” again, since we didn’t listen the first time.

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My very first job as a preschool teacher in the federal housing projects of Jersey City, NJ was very enlightening. I had a classroom of four year olds who only wanted to sit on my lap and stroke my long, blonde hair when we first met and that was ok with me. I taught them about sharing by breaking popsicles in two. When we had free play time in the classroom, I noticed how the girls immediately gravitated to the mini-kitchen area to play “house,” while the boys all started building with the big wooden blocks and trucks.

I was a new feminist, still feeling my wings after college and a starter marriage. This little example of playing house was not quite as important to me in the 1970s. I was more interested in getting my children ready to learn, ready for Kindergarten before there was a pre-K, by teaching them about language and math concepts through movement and singing and play. I was intent on breaking a cycle of poverty; I still thought I could save the world.

But now that I’m nearing 70 myself, that first Head Start classroom seems prescient. We still don’t tell our young boys that they will make great fathers one day. We figured out we need to tell our young girls they can be anything they want to be, but most of us still forget to tell our young boys they will make wonderful daddys in the future! In fact, it was surprising to the Bride, when her nanny bought our little guy a baby doll last year for his second birthday, that so many people wondered if that was OK with her?

Child-rearing practices vary widely across different cultures, and views about gender differences change over time, but there do seem to be some clear consistencies in the way boys and girls are treated, especially during the first few years of life. According to Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory of gender development, parents often have clear gender stereotypes about “appropriate” behavior for different genders and rely on punishment and rewards to ensure that their children abide by these expectations. Boys are often discouraged from playing with dolls or acting “effeminately,” while girls are often prevented from doing any physically risky activities. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201706/do-fathers-treat-their-sons-and-daughters-differently

Yesterday was a twelve hour Nana day for me since Bob is back in Cville getting the house ready for our closing. Because the Love Bug spent the morning in Kindergarten, I had some special time with our little 2 1/2 year old grandson. We cleared off his train table and built some new tracks, we built a tower with the wooden blocks his Great Grandpa Hudson carved for his Mother. And we played “pretend,” where he was the daddy and I was the mommy. Sometimes a monster truck was the baby, and sometimes it was a stuffed animal or a doll. Every single time he was as sweet as sugar.

Last night I watched his big sister practice a forward somersault over and over again, taking a running start and jumping headlong into some bean bags, stretching herself tall with a very self-satisfied “Ta Da!” at the end. It never occurred to me that this might be risky, or that I should curtail such a fun and exhilarating activity. In fact, I filmed her with my iPhone and sent it to her parents at their hospitals! The Bride sent back a few hand clapping emojis 🙂

And in another bit of TN news, a House member from Memphis has decided he’s done with Mr T “playing” at being the President. Memphis Democrat US Rep Steve Cohen is filing articles of impeachment today against Mr T largely as a result of his reaction to Charlottesville. Maybe more House members will stop playing at their jobs on the Hill, we can only hope.

President Trump has failed the presidential test of moral leadership. No moral president would ever shy away from outright condemning hate, intolerance and bigotry. No moral president would ever question the values of Americans protesting in opposition of such actions, one of whom was murdered by one of the white nationalists. … If the President can’t recognize the difference between these domestic terrorists and the people who oppose their anti-American attitudes, then he cannot defend us. …http://www.nashvillepost.com/politics/federal-government/article/20972898/cohen-files-to-impeach-trump

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