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Posts Tagged ‘Psychology’

How to properly apologize should be an AP course in high school. Especially for boys, who seem to barrel through life taking no prisoners, like they are entitled to step on a few toes along the way. Girls and women apologize too much and too easily; what are we so sorry about anyway? “Excuse this mess…Sorry for the inconvenience…Please accept my…” You might think we were born with a need to make excuses for taking up space!

Certainly my Catholic education prepared me for a lifetime network worth of apologies. I’m not quite sure how they did it, but those nuns had us feeling guilty for any minor indiscretion, and made us write, “I’m sorry and I will never do X again” a thousand times on a blackboard. In proper cursive mind you. No wonder we all vied for the privilege of erasing the blackboard after school.

Bob and I watched the Cohen hearing with eyes wide open: I thought it was an act of redemption, while Bob focused on the broken-record belittling by the GOP. The most absurd moment came when Rep Mark Meadows (R-NC) had a Black woman standing in a white cape behind him. Rep Rashida Tlaib lashed out at this pathetic attempt to prove our Commander in Comedy is NOT racist because he hired her. Tlaib scolded:

Just because someone has a person of color, a black person working for them does not mean they aren’t racist,” Tlaid said. “And it is insensitive, and some would even say that the fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman, in this chamber, in this committee”—here she took a heavy sigh—”is alone racist in itself.”

Well did he take umbrage? Of course, he didn’t like this woman, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, suggesting that he pulled a racist stunt. HOW DARE SHE! So she immediately apologized in a polite, that wasn’t my intent way, “To my colleague, Mr. Meadows, that was not my intention, and I do apologize if that’s what it sounded like. But I said ‘someone’ in general.” This is called a hedging your bets apology.

OK so I understand it takes a lot of guts for a freshman/woman legislator to call that old white guy to task in a public hearing, and it certainly takes a good amount of grace to apologize and later hug it out. But this morning the Twitterverse would like HIM to apologize to HER. We all know that will never happen, but what if it did?

May I present exhibit A on how to apologize… the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau!

In 2017 he delivered a speech on the floor of the House of Commons apologizing for the dehumanizing treatment of LGBTQ service members and other government employees throughout the second half of the 20th century. It wasn’t the common, half-baked apology, “If I managed to offend your poor little ego I regret it, it was not my intention…” Which is basically a “I’m really the good guy here and you need to grow a pair” kind of non-apology apology.

It was a good and proper apology, one that my old nuns would approve of, if they ever accepted the human race as sexual. It was eloquent and moving, hitting all the right notes, and I happened to read it again on a quilt last weekend. You can read the text here: https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/full-english-text-of-prime-ministers-apology-to-members-of-lgbtq-community

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Waiting is a big part of “adulting.” One of my parenting mantras was, “Want? Work. Wait!” Teaching our children to wait, and not decompensate over an ice cream cone, is serious business. Eventually we must all wait for a plane, wait in line for a coffee, wait for a paycheck before paying the mortgage. Like Penelope, weaving by day and unraveling by night, we women are experts at this waiting game.

When I was little, I’d wait by the door for my father’s return from work. In one of his pockets he had hidden a small trinket. I can’t remember what they were exactly, only that they could fit in the palm of his hand. Maybe it was a colorful rock, or seashell? Perhaps it was a barrette? It didn’t matter really, because my memories of him are his many small acts of loving kindness.

We would collect popsicle sticks until one summer day he built me a dollhouse.

We would roll up coins from my piggy bank and deposit them in my savings account.

We would always stop for an ice cream sundae at Zanelli’s after Mass on Sunday.

Until one day years later, I walked into Daddy Jim’s hospital room and he didn’t remember me. My visits with him at the end of his life, coincided with finding Bob again, in that same hospital. Great Grandma Ada stopped me by the elevator and said, “Come with me, you’ll never guess…”

Last night I was visiting with the Bride in her ER. I’d accompanied a friend and neighbor to the hospital and we were given the royal treatment. She had an EKG done while I was parking the car! Then, while I was waiting for her tests and scans to be read, I simultaneously read a post about “Waiting” from my dear friend Bess. She too had been waiting in a hospital:

As for me, I watch and wait, and try to be who he needs right now. We are all headed down this road. John is just a few steps ahead of me. Acceptance of the new limitations of our bodies, re-evaluation, re-prioritizing, using everything we’ve learned over a lifetime to figure out how to navigate in a new reality where the only certainty is uncertainty.

My heart goes out to Bess and her husband. May this next procedure work its magic. And my heart is breaking for all those federal employees who are working now without pay. To all those furloughed and waiting at home to get back to work. To our fellow citizens who must choose between a trip to the grocery store or an electric bill.

It’s hard to accept our new reality, with a toddler-in-chief at the helm. The uncertainty of this time in our lives can seem overwhelming. The L’il Pumpkin must wait for a new helmet before he can ride his scooter. The Bride had to wait and see if the Love Bug’s new passport would be renewed. And I am waiting for Bob’s safe return from NJ.

I will not look at ridiculous pictures of McDonald’s sauce in silver gravy boats at the White House; it’s not funny at all to me. Instead, I will drive my neighbor to T’ai Chi, because it’s Tuesday. And leave you with a thought, some of us are better at waiting – insert crying/laughing emoji.

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Growing up, I was always told it’s unbecoming “for a girl” to show anger. In fact, one of my earliest memories was getting angry at my foster parents for one thing or another, running into my bedroom, slamming the door and turning the crucifix around on the wall above my bed. After all, I didn’t want Jesus to see me like that!

But later, as a young feminist, I learned to appreciate and harness my anger. Why should I have to come home earlier than my brothers? Facing any injustice, I would tap into that feeling, because I knew that it was like the wind before a storm. And after a storm, the air would be pure and clean.

Well I hate to admit it, but I’m getting angry again, just like everybody else who’s been paying attention. And it’s not only at cable news and social media or our Liar-in-Chief. This past week Bob and I attended 2 “holiday” ie Christmas parties… and  our local Planned Parenthood Center has stopped providing abortions:

In a statement, Aimee Lewis, the Vice President of External Affairs and Chief Development Officer for Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi said: “We are 100% committed to meeting our patients’ family planning needs in Nashville, including abortion services. We believe that the ability to control fertility is fundamental to human health and well-being. We believe that your body is your own, and when it isn’t, you can’t be free, and you won’t be equal.”

They believe that statement, and I believe it to my core, except the clinic’s reasoning has been obscure – they are no longer accepting appointments for abortions since they are doing some quality control “…and will return with those services soon.”

Meanwhile the lovely state of TN has a 48 hour waiting period requiring 2 trips to a clinic. This is a costly and overtly Republican ploy to shame and humiliate women seeking such services. Nashville women will have to travel to Memphis or Knoxville twice.

And last night driving home from the Grands, I heard an ad on the radio about a convenient website for men seeking Erectile Dysfunction drugs – they could avoid the embarrassment of talking to a doctor by simply clicking on this wonderful website!!! A whole month of little blue pills will be delivered discreetly in the mail! How wonderful for men. I was almost surprised it wasn’t an App already.

So I say to myself, yes there will be more women in Congress next month. Michelle Obama wrote a wonderful book. The Love Bug told me she’s glad she’s a girl cause she won’t have to shave her face! Every night I list all the things I’m grateful for because I know that anger can consume you if you’re not careful.

The Atlantic published a compelling essay on the universal rage we Americans have been feeling for far too long. If the holidays seem a little too jovial about now, this might be required reading, “The Real Roots of American Rage” by Charles Duhigg:

Cable news, Twitter, politicians who now do more campaigning than governing—their every incentive is to keep us angry. But we own some of the guilt, too.

I’m not proud to admit that I know what it feels like to relish seeing an opponent get his comeuppance. I profess to hate what cable news is doing to the national conversation, but I still tune in. I decry the nasty discourse on Twitter, then check back the next hour to refresh my outrage. I deplore the nation’s rank partisanship, but I rarely split my ballot.

My anger has become a burden. Perhaps yours has too. And yet we can’t turn away. The anger impulse is too deeply encoded, the thrill too genuine. So where do we go from here? https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/01/charles-duhigg-american-anger/576424/

When they go low, you’ve got to fight as if your life depends on it. There is a storm brewing – suppressing our fundamental rights to vote, to govern our own bodies, to not get gunned down in a school or a mall. Are you angry enough yet?

This was a Victorian Christmas with our neighbors. I thought my 80s yellow leather jacket was a propos?!

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We picked up the L’il Pumpkin at school mid-morning. It was going to be a fun day, going to the Children’s Theatre to see The Little Mermaid, then lunch and on to Hannukah. But we had a long holding session in the lobby before the play with a few other schools, so I headed over to the large center table covered with paper, crayons and writing prompts.

“Ariel and her father the King are having trouble understanding each other. What do you wish adults could understand better about children?”

“What do you think,” I asked my little grandson.

“Listening,” he said without missing a beat.

And a light went off; I thought about the term “active listening,” like some ancient artifact that had washed ashore in my brain, back before parenthood. While studying child psychology, I knew even before reading a text that some people are checked out when it comes to their kids, and some are just naturally checked IN.

This was long before we had tiny smart phones to ding and buzz our attention away from our children. Just as we need context to read and comprehend, we need to hear between the lines in order to communicate well with little people. Sure meltdowns can happen, but if we are paying attention, we can usually avoid them.

I was recently involved in a conversation with one of Great Grandma Ada’s friends. He had been a professor at Vanderbilt in his youth, now well into his 90s he liked to paint beautiful, vivid landscapes. I was aware of how effortlessly we spoke, and it’s hard to remember what exactly we spoke about, but it started with Brexit. The rare thing of beauty was that here was a man who was listening – he wasn’t turning his head away, or nodding, or looking at his watch. He was engaging, and our words flew elegantly back and forth.

You don’t have to be a Disney princess to get into hot water with your parents. The L’il Pumpkin told me he was glad Ariel smashed the magic shell containing her voice, thereby breaking the sea witch Ursula’s spell. I thought about the many voiceless women, throughout his/herstory, who were destined to live a constrained life; tied up in apron strings, never learning to drive a car (like Nelly, my foster mother), living in a “Doll’s House” like Nora herself, or Shakespeare’s Rosalind before her.

I hope our grandson grows up to be a good listener, to be a mensch. Watching him skip back to our car, holding Bob’s hand in the parking lot, my heart melted a little.

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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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