Saturday, December 31, 2011

Neuroscience and Kissing? Maybe TMI!

Here's the link to the article below, which may deflate romanticists dreams, validate common sense, and demonstrate once again that neuroscience is the new celebrity of culture in the second decade of the 21st century.


Sealed with a kiss - and neuroscience

  Enlarge Photo    
By Sheril Kirshenbaum
Sunday, December 26, 2010
A kiss at midnight to ring in the new year. That's what Friday night should bring, right?
It's tradition, compulsion, festive duty. An excuse to make a bold move with someone new, a reason to be anxious about finding a date or a chance to celebrate with a longtime love. And there's pressure to get it right.
There ia a scientific basis for those high stakes. Whom you kiss can set the course for a good year. Really. It's not magic - it's chemistry and neuroscience. And no matter how painstakingly you set the scene, in the end chemistry trumps mood music. From a scientific perspective, a kiss is a natural litmus test to help us identify a good partner. Start the first moments of 2011 with the right one, and you're beginning the year on a natural high.
Just what is it that makes kissing such a powerful and significant part of the human experience?
A kiss influences important chemicals in our brains and bodies responsible for promoting social bonding. According to the work of Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher, kissing evolved to facilitate three essential needs: sex drive, romantic love and attachment. Each is involved in promoting reproduction, and kissing bolsters all three. In that view, locking lips helps us find partners, commit to one person and keep couples together long enough to have a child.
Humans have evolved to use a number of signals - including taste, smell and possibly silent chemical messengers called pheromones - to help us figure out whether someone is a suitable partner and a good person to reproduce with. A kiss means getting close to someone - close enough to suss out important clues about chemistry and genetics. At this range, our noses can detect valuable information about another person's health and perhaps even his or her DNA. Biologist Claus Wedekind has found, for instance, that women are most attracted to the scents of men with a different set of genetic coding for immunity than their own. This is probably because when there is greater genetic diversity between parents in this area, their children will have more versatile immune systems. The assessment occurs at a subconscious level, yet a bad initial kiss may be a result of a genetically star-crossed pair. (Which is something else to worry about during a new encounter: "What if the girl of my dreams rejects my genes?")
During a passionate kiss, our blood vessels dilate and our brains receive more oxygen than normal. Our breathing can become irregular and deepen. Our cheeks flush, our pulse quickens, and our pupils dilate (which may be one reason that so many of us close our eyes). A long, open-mouthed exchange allows us to sample another person's taste, which can reveal clues about his or her health and fertility. Our tongues - covered with little bumps called papillae that feature our 9,000 to 10,000 taste buds - are ideally designed to gather such information.
When we kiss, all five of our senses are busy transmitting messages to our brain. Billions of nerve connections are firing away and distributing signals around our bodies. Eventually, these signals reach the somatosenory cortex, the region of the brain that processes feelings of touch, temperature, pain and more.
Our brains respond by producing chemicals that help us decide our next move. A good kiss can work like a drug, influencing the hormones and neurotransmitters coursing through our bodies. It can send two people on a natural high by stimulating pleasure centers in the brain. The feeling has much to do with a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is responsible for craving and desire and associated with "falling in love." When it's really pumping, dopamine spurs us to take things further.
Kissing also promotes the "love hormone," oxytocin, which works to maintain a special connection between two people; kissing can keep love alive when a relationship has survived decades, long after novelty has waned. In other words, kissing influences the uptake of hormones and neurotransmitters beyond our conscious control, and these signals play a huge part in how we feel about each other.
A bad kiss, alternatively, can lead to chemical chaos. An uncomfortable environment or a poor match can stimulate the "stress hormone" cortisol, discouraging both partners from continuing. Evolutionary psychologist Gordon Gallup of the University at Albany reports that 59 percent of men and 66 percent of women say they have ended a budding relationship because of a kiss that did not go well.
Whether it's magic or a disaster, there is one thing that a first kiss is very likely to be: unforgettable. Psychologist John Bohannon of Butler University and his research team surveyed 500 people to compare their recollections of a variety of significant life experiences - such as a first kiss and the loss of virginity - to find out what made the most dramatic impression. A first kiss trumped everything: It was the most vivid memory in the minds of those being surveyed.
In fact, when asked about specifics, Bohannon reported that most people could recall up to 90 percent of the details of the moment - where they were, who made the first move - no matter how long ago the exchange took place.
Which is not to say that sharing a New Year's Eve kiss with someone new will necessarily be a memory worth savoring for a lifetime. If midnight's buss is a bust, remember that you can't control everything about the situation and that your body (or your partner's) may be saying something very important: Look elsewhere. If the chemistry is wrong, there's not much you can do. But take heart. Valentine's Day is less than two months away.
Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist at the University of Texas and the author of the new book "The Science of Kissing."

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Friday, December 30, 2011

Yes, We All Like Stuff that Mirrors Our Own Opinion. Here It Is in Spades!

"Isn’t positive thinking better than negative thinking? All other things being equal, sure, but the alternative to being either an optimist or a pessimist is to be a realist. “Human intellectual progress, such as it has been, results from our long struggle to see things ‘as they are,’ or in the most universally comprehensible way, and not as projections of our own emotions,” Ehrenreich concludes. “What we call the Enlightenment and hold on to only tenuously, by our fingernails, is the slow-dawning understanding that the world is unfolding according to its own inner algorithms of cause and effect, probability and chance, without any regard for human feelings.”

 Here's the link to the whole article from Scientific American. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=kool-aid-psychology&page=2

Realistic thinking is the way to delve in 2012!
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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Getting Ready to Get Ready to Make Changes

I'm thinking and talking and writing about change; change that I am choosing, not change that is being imposed upon me.  Theoretically, we prefer change that we have control over to that which we do not. But, we can't necessarily stick to change even change we choose. The will or skill to do so is labeled in many ways: will power, self-control, strategic allocation of attention. I started last week to avoid the onus of New Years resolution. I'm meditating for 20 minutes 5 days a week in my pjs as I roll out of bed, followed by 10 minutes of stretching, back exercises,  and finally followed by coffee. So far so good.

Along the way I found this  article on Psyblog. I like it because research is routinely included so you can easily verify the tips. Although ten techniques are mentioned, I'm only including the first two right now because many are redundant. Here's the opening.

"1. Respect low ego
Research has found that self-control is a limited resource (Vohs et al., 2000). Exercising it has clear physiological effects, like lower glucose levels (Gailliot et al., 2007).
At any one time we only have so much self-control in the tank. When you've been tightly controlling yourself, the tank is low and you become more likely to give in to temptation. Psychologists call this 'ego-depletion'.
Recognise when your levels of self-control are low and make sure you find a way to avoid temptation during those times.
Unfortunately, as we all know to our cost, self-control frequently fails. Part of the problem is we overestimate our ability to resist temptation (Nordgren et al., 2009)."

Here's a link to an article on this blog about decision fatigue, ego depletion etc. http://intelligentwomenonly.blogspot.com/2011/08/decision-fatigue.htmlA shot of sugar helps — sometimes. But if you're temptation is sugar, best to try something else.

"2. Pre-commit 

Make the decision before you're in the tempting situation. Pre-committing yourself to difficult goals can lead to increased performance. In one study by Ariely and Wertenbroch (2002) students who imposed strict deadlines on themselves performed better than those who didn't.
Only take a limited amount of money with you to curtail spending, or only have healthy foods at home to avoid the temptation to go astray.
It's difficult to pre-commit because normally we like to leave our options open. But if you're harsh on you future self, you're less likely to regret it."

We'll all find different ways that work with our different brains and habits. The shot of sugar doesn't help me, even if I don't have an overeating or sugar temptation. Pre-committing works even though I'm not sure why. Maybe because I like to know I can count on myself ?
What works for  you?
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Do You Suffer from Acedia?

John Plotz opens his NYTimes Book Review essay (Dec. 25, 2011) with the following paragraph.

"By some miracle, you set aside a day to tackle that project you can't seem to finish in the office. You close the door, boot up your laptop, open the right file and . . . five minutes later catch yourself thinking about dinner. By 10 a.m., you're staring at the wall, even squinting at it between your fingertips. Is this day 50 hours long? Soon, you fall into a light, unsatisfying sleep and awake dizzy or with a pounding headache; all your limbs feel weighted down. At which point, most likely around noon, you commit a fatal error: leaving the room. I'll just garden for a bit, you tell yourself, or do a a little charity work. Hmmm, I wonder if my friend Gregory is around?"

Does this state sound vaguely familiar to writers? And perhaps to other readers too? Dr. Plotz identifies the syndrome as acedia, described in the writings of monastic monks in the 4th and 5th centuries:" . . . the ills that come with solitary, sedentary, cerebral work." Yes, those monks were writers too. I'm not suggesting that acedia is the same as writers' block, but similarities arise for contemplation. Acedia sounds more intellectual, historically interesting, and even more mystical than plain writers' block. I'll have to start looking for a place to use the word.

As it turns out, John Plotz is working on a book project titled, "Semi-detached: Absorption and Distraction Reconsidered." I'm eager to know more since detachment and distraction are topics of interest in general for intelligentwomenonly.com: useful in stress reduction, letting go of negative self-talk, meditation, self-hypnosis, focus. Remember Mischel's marshmallows and strategic allocation of attention?  For writers, absorption (when we can arrive at that level of focus) produces tremendous spurts of writing productivity. But it's difficult to summon at will.

Plotz provides no magic medicine as treatment, but tell us of a mental exercise. Divide oneself into two, "one the consoler and the other the object of consolation". Although he doesn't specifically say to talk to yourself, I assume that's what you do as both the client and therapist. He notes that this exercise and others from Evagrius (Fourth century monk and ascetic), ". . .  unmistakeably anticipate the self-disciplining (and self-forgiving) exercises of modern cognitive-behavioral scientists." Hm-m-m-m. Sometimes the connections are wide and tight at the same time: Fourth century and twenty-first, monks and psychologists, negative self-talk and realistic self-talk, the continuum of states of mind.

My absorption is waning. Or is it decision fatigue? I must need a shot of sugar. It's late afternoon after all. How about you? I'm sure some of my writing readers already know about acedia. Any thoughts about similarities and differences related to wb? Any treatment suggestions?
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Friday, December 23, 2011

Detaching from WWW.

Letting go of all things electronic for the next four days in order to be "in the moment", whether the moment is joyous, anxious, calm or content, sad — or mad or glad. The "retreat" is a spa treatment for my brain. It already feels good to my body too. Back posting on December 28th.
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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Calm, Cool, and Collected for Holiday Time?

Here's a piece of a 2010 post that might help you deal with NST and resulting stress in the week or so ahead.  Right now is the time to find a calming, realistic mantra: "I'm letting the stress go for now." "One step at a time. I'll make it work." "I can do it." "One week (or one day) and this will all be over." "I will be fine and I will be happy." Then just say it over and over to yourself like a robot. It's not positive thinking. It's not negative thinking. It's coping thinking. If you don't feel stressed at all, more power to you. You've already figured out how to hang loose, let it go, take it easy, avoid perfectionism, be in the moment, and enjoy this time of year.

• Cognitive Restructuring — A Classic Way to Change Your Inner Monologue

Cognitive restructuring is a psychological term which means to change, alter, (restructure) what we are saying to ourselves (= our thoughts =cognitions) It's the classic way to eliminate negative self-talk.

From Albert Ellis's book, A Guide to Rational Living ( 3rd edition, 1975)) to today's bestselling books by David Burns (Feeling Good 1999),  the topic of changing what you say to yourself (when it's not working to bring about a desired result) has always been a good idea.
Cognitive restructuring had been kidnapped by the positive thinking crowd along the way, but now even Martin Seligman, the "father" of positive psychology is backing away from the positive overhype as shown in his brand new book, Flourish. Not-negative is different than positive.

I used to refer to the restructured product of a negative thought  as a neutral statement but now I think of it as a realistic statement.

Here are the steps:

1. Notice your inner self-talk.
2. Discriminate between negative self-talk and useful self-instructions.
3. If it's useless negative self-talk, quickly check out alternative ways of thinking to eliminate the negative self-talk:

     • realistic thinking — "I handled that situation poorly. Fortunately I learned something from it."
     • coping statements — "Next time, if in doubt — don't."
     • substitution to divert attention — count by odd numbers to 1000, recite the Gettysburg address
     • see a big STOP sign in your mind to remind you to stop the NST
     • imagine that the NST is a concrete object that you blow up, drown, erase or turn into steam in your mind

Try some of this stuff out and see what works for you.
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Monday, December 19, 2011

Pull Out All Techniques So You Can Have a Good Day, Week, Month

There's a whole week until Christmas, two days until Hanukkah, and two weeks until the new year. This is often a time of too much and too little: too much to do and not enough time to do it, too many expectations and too few resources, too much fatigue and too little sleep,  too much perfectionism and too little acceptance, too much up tight and not enough relaxation.

Looking back and looking around I see how unimportant some of the major stressors of the holidays have been for me, although of course I didn't see it at the time. "In the big picture of life" it doesn't really matter if Jane doesn't like the scarf, or your son is disappointed with the too small fire engine, or you never sent cards out for the third year in a row, or the house looks yukky, or that you didn't make cookies, or even that you have to be alone for the holiday season.

We all have to dig deep to find our resilience and to rise to a reasonable place where we can be comfortable and slightly happy. So we have relatives who are a pain in the neck, or competitive co-workers who are difficult, or health and money problems, or worst of all, tricky problems with our partners, spouses, family. Not good.

I don't have the answers and I can assure you that I don't handle things well and easily, routinely. But I encourage us all to at least be most accepting of ourselves during this time of year. Remember the three ways to get rid of negative self-talk: problem-solving thinking, cognitive restructuring, and detachment. Eliminating NST will not solve all problems, but it will definitely help you have a more enjoyable few days, few weeks, few months ahead.
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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How to Have a Healthy Brain

Top 10 Quotes on Lifelong Neuroplasticity and Neurogenesis (and a Call to eBook Readers)

You may have  noticed that Amazon.com is shar­ing aggre­gated data on how ebook read­ers inter­act with the books they are read­ing. For exam­ple, the “Pop­u­lar High­lights” sec­tion (towards the bot­tom of our Kin­dle book page) ranks the Top 10 sen­tences that Kin­dle read­ers have high­lighted and shared while read­ing The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: 18 Inter­views with Sci­en­tists, Prac­ti­cal Advice and Prod­uct Reviews, to Keep Your Brain Sharp (April 2009; 182 pages; ranked #1 in Kin­dle Store’s Pre­ven­tive Med­i­cine section).
This infor­ma­tion is invalu­able to authors and pub­lish­ers - as you can imag­ine, we’ll make sure to not only main­tain but to elab­o­rate on these top­ics as we pre­pare future edi­tions of the book.
So, what are so far the Top Ten Quotes on Life­long Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity and Neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis, based on read­ers’ reac­tion to The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness via Kin­dle eBook plat­form? Here you are the Top Ten:

  1. Neu­ro­plas­tic­ity refers to the life­long capac­ity of the brain to change and rewire itself in response to the stim­u­la­tion of learn­ing and expe­ri­ence. Neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis is the abil­ity to cre­ate new neu­rons and con­nec­tions between neu­rons through­out a life­time.” (High­lighted and shared by 24 Kin­dle readers)
  2. …best defenses against chronic stress are phys­i­cal exer­cise, relax­ation, self-empowerment, and cul­ti­vat­ing social networks.”
  3. Learn­ing is thought to be “neuro-protective.” Through neu­ro­plas­tic­ity, learn­ing increases con­nec­tions between neu­rons, increases cel­lu­lar metab­o­lism, and increases the pro­duc­tion of nerve growth fac­tor, a sub­stance pro­duced by the body to help main­tain and repair neurons.”
  4. There is not one sin­gle “atten­tion”, but three sep­a­rate func­tions of atten­tion: alert­ing, ori­ent­ing, and exec­u­tive attention.”
  5. The fear of fail­ing, the fear of look­ing not smart, is a key obsta­cle to learn­ing that I see too often, espe­cially with peo­ple who want to pro­tect per­ceived rep­u­ta­tions to such an extent that they do not let them­selves try new learn­ing cycles.”
  6. Emo­tion is the sys­tem that tells us how impor­tant some­thing is. Atten­tion focuses us on the impor­tant and away from the unim­por­tant things. Cog­ni­tion tells us what to do about it. Cog­ni­tive skills are what­ever it takes to do those things.”
  7. As lit­tle as three hours a week of brisk walk­ing has been shown to halt, and even reverse, the brain atro­phy (shrink­age) that starts in a person’s for­ties, espe­cially in the regions respon­si­ble for mem­ory and higher cog­ni­tion. Exer­cise increases the brain’s vol­ume of gray mat­ter (actual neu­rons) and white mat­ter (con­nec­tions between neurons).”
  8. Evi­dence of neu­ro­plas­tic­ity has been observed mostly in the brains of indi­vid­u­als who became experts in a par­tic­u­lar skill. Why? Because changes asso­ci­ated with learn­ing occur mas­sively when we become expert in a spe­cific domain. The areas of the brain that sup­port the skills at which one has become an expert change over time.”
  9. Cur­rent rec­om­men­da­tions sug­gest that a brain-healthy life style should include at least bal­anced nutri­tion, stress man­age­ment, phys­i­cal exer­cise, and brain exercise.”
  10. it is also impor­tant to main­tain emo­tional con­nec­tions. Not only with our­selves, to have self-confidence and self-esteem, but also with our fam­ily our friends.” Sleep and over­all health con­di­tions are other fac­tors that also mat­ter. Here we focus on the four main pil­lars of brain health: Bal­anced nutri­tion Stress man­age­ment, Phys­i­cal exer­cise, Men­tal stimulation.”
We have not yet fig­ured out whether we’ll be able to track this same data via other eBook plat­forms such as Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Apple’s iPad. In any case, fas­ci­nat­ing times! If you hap­pen to have a Kin­dle (or read Kin­dle books via other devices), and can invest $4.99 in a pretty solid eBook…please get your own copy and make sure to high­light your favorite sen­tences so we can include them in our analysis!
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Monday, December 12, 2011

Mexico, Detachment, and No Stress

Back on the detachment kick as a stress reduction technique. I'm in Mexico, where it's particularly easy to be "in the moment". I'm looking out over the earth curved water's edge, the beach inhabited only by willets and seagulls, life uncomplicated by responsibilities other than cooking occasionally, watching tiny sand islands suddenly emerge as the tide goes out then expand into endless stretches of empty beach.
I know this is a rare opportunity. I also know that being here, or actually almost anywhere in Mexico, always does the same thing for me. Allows me to zone out easily and comfortably.

Although meditation is a wonderful form of detachment too, and certainly much more practical, it's impossible to pursue REAL life while in a meditative state. Some can do that. I have not been able to do so — yet.

In accord with the research on the intuitive style of thinking versus the logical, I'm finding (or imagining) greater fluidity and creativity in thinking when I'm here and detached. The question becomes, "How can I carry this back with me? And where can I find a similar ease of detachment and how can I carry it with me in real life? Maybe there is no answer and the escape is only that — a brief opportunity to zone out. I like it.

Questions that arise with lengthy periods of detachment are: How to not care without being uncaring? How to detach and yet still be responsible? How to use the creative thoughts while keeping the detachment in place?

I'll be back attached by Wednesday!
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Friday, December 9, 2011

Why Women Need to Support Men

Here's a quote from Marcia Reynolds (author of Wander Woman) a colleague whom I have quoted previously in posts.
"There is an identity evolution going on around the world. Economic necessity has spurred women to be more self-sufficient and confident both at work and at home. This reality has put a dent in male dominance. However, the result is not the "End of Men" as many writers would have you believe. As the definition of "what it means to be a woman" changes, so does the definition of "what it means to be a man."
The problem is the lack of support for this evolution.
The truth is that many women are proving to be good at traditionally "male" tasks, such as running businesses, fixing gadgets and even drinking. Men are also proving to be good at traditionally female tasks, such as listening, caretaking, doing household tasks well and managing family relationships.
Women are not becoming less feminine; they are learning to speak up, take charge and more easily make decisions while still possessing more "feminine" qualities at varying degrees. Men are not becoming wimps; they have been given the freedom to express their "softer" emotions, find joy in less "manly" tasks, and choose careers based on meaning and fulfillment instead of taking a path based solely on money.
We are all evolving. It's the labels and judgments we place on each other that are not evolving."

Here's the link to the full article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marcia-reynolds/why-we-need-to-support-me_b_1127886.html

Most interesting to me was a comment by a reader who noted that moving beyond competition as to which gender is smarter, quicker, funnier, better, is key to improved communication and relationships. I heartily agree while also noticing that I'm very competitive with, to, and about men and need to make some changes in my thinking, behavior, and posting on the topic of gender difference.

Here are some thoughts I'm entertaining on the topic.

• I don't want to be less or feel that I have to be less, so that men can be more.
• I don't want to be fakely feminine so that I can be acceptable.
• I don't want to have unrealistic expectations of the men in my life: colleagues, sons, spouse, friends. E.g. They always know about technology and directions to get somewhere.
• I don't want men to have unrealistic expectations of women and me. E.g.We always enjoy the caretaking role.
• I'm not sure how to drop the defense, or the offense, and genuinely move forward collaboratively, although I think for sure it's the right way to go.
• If I figure it all out I'm sure I'll feel good, but I'll miss the humor and edginess of the competitive game.

What are your thoughts about gender differences, competition, and supporting men? Remember the Time magazine article about whether men or women do more work to "run the family show"? http://intelligentwomenonly.blogspot.com/2011/08/equity-in-gender-division-of-labor.html
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

WW: Ann Patchett — Writer, Entertainer, Entrepreneur

Trumpet blast!  News flash! 

Today's post opens the curtain on a new subject for intelligentwomenonly.com, Writers and Writing.  It shows up now as the 8th and bottom red box on the right side of the intelligentwomenonly.com site. Posts on the topic will show up haphazardly for now, all labeled "Writers and Writing" and carrying WW in the title line. If you have ideas, thoughts, comments about the new subject and/or you'd like to write a guest post for Writers and Writing, please let me know.

After today, I'll continue to post Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on the regular topics: understanding negative self-talk, eliminating negative self-talk, gender differences, psychosocial/political/cultural stuff, stress reduction, techniques to reduce NST and stress, and problem-solving.

Ann Patchett — Writer, Entertainer, Entrepreneur

 I heard Ann Patchett read and speak at Town Hall in Seattle. She was the best writer/speaker I've ever seen/heard: funny, real, honest, dramatic, and right there with the audience. When I recently saw this article below about the "new" book tour trend I realized Ann broke the historic and familiar pattern at least a year ago. Here's the link to that article:


 In case you missed the article about Ann's new bookstore in the New York Times, here's the link:

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Rumination — Often an Extension of Negative Self-Talk

 David Brooks, columnist and author of The Social Animal, asked people in their sixties and seventies to write to him about life and learnings. Here's a snippet from one of his recent columns as he categorizes and summarizes the responses he receives.

 Beware rumination. There were many long, detailed essays by people who are experts at self-examination. They could finely calibrate each passing emotion. But these people often did not lead the happiest or most fulfilling lives. It’s not only that they were driven to introspection by bad events. Through self-obsession, they seemed to reinforce the very emotions, thoughts and habits they were trying to escape.

Many of the most impressive people, on the other hand, were strategic self-deceivers. When something bad was done to them, they forgot it, forgave it or were grateful for it. When it comes to self-narratives, honesty may not be the best policy.

Here's a link to a previous post about rumination. http://intelligentwomenonly.blogspot.com/2011/10/rumination-is-not-problem-solving.html

Now is a great time to stop NST and rumination! Enjoy the upcoming holidays without the inner critic, demon, harsh perfectionist. Let's get real. You don't have time to make exquisite cookies. You did drink too much at the office party. You have not chosen the perfect gift for everyone on the list. Your party wasn't the best. The house hasn't a touch of decoration yet and maybe won't for a week or two or three.
BUT, you are still a good person, a smart person, a capable person. You just are NOT a perfect person. And when you are 60 or 70 you certainly don't want to still be stuck on 2011 and your inability to be a great cook, party planner, or gift giver.
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Friday, December 2, 2011

The Pain and Pressure of Negative Self-Talk

Here's the beginning of a heart-felt article and link to the rest at http://thinksimplenow.com  Reading this along (with permission) in contrast to the usual research-based stuff. This is real life, from the heart.

How to Stop Negative Self-Talk

Photo by aeschleah
By Tina Su
Do you know what makes life difficult?
The answer is simple: it’s us. :)
It is us, and that large and complex brain of ours that seem to seek out drama, repeat negative self-talk, create false illusions of fear, and generally makes our life difficult in almost all situations. Seriously.
Every single struggle we experience on a daily basis; every complaint, every dissatisfaction, every problem can be drilled down into a single source of root cause: our brain and the stories it tell us.
Because our brain’s job is to keep us safe, it is constantly acting from a place of fear. Its job is to ensure our survival. As such, its job is not to ensure that we have a blissful experience while we are alive.
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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is Mind-Set Created by Self-Talk?

If our unconscious mind controls most of our behavior, can it be said that we truly have willpower? A recent article in the NYTimes, 11/27/2011 by two Stanford researchers refers to earlier research (mentioned at IWO,  http://intelligentwomenonly.blogspot.com/2011/09/no-negative-self-tallk-for-intelligent.html) and a subsequent book by Baumeister and Tierney that says "willpower is limited and depends on a continuous supply of the simple sugar glucose. When glucose is depleted, you fall prey to impulse shopping, affairs and cookies." It all seemed to me a good reason to eat M and Ms more frequently. I liked the simplicity of it all.

But of course, the more things change the more they stay the same. Latest research by Stanford psychologists, Walter and Dweck, says that people who believe that willpower is not limited, ate less junk food and procrastinated less than students who did not share that belief during final-exam week. They use the word mind-set to describe a psychological belief system. Notice that no one is mentioning negative, positive, or realistic thinking, but rather beliefs. However we know our beliefs by talking to ourselves. Don't we? I'll have to get their book because it sounds like it's going away from trendy and revealing neuro-imaging and more toward basic psychology.

Very powerful ending to the article as it moves into philosophical questions:
"At stake in this debate is not just a question about the  nature of willpower. It's also a question of what kind of people we want to be. Do we want to be a people who dismiss our weaknesses as unchangeable? When a student struggles in math, should we tell that student, "Don't worry, you're just not a math person"? Do we want him, to give up in the name of biology? Or do we want him to work harder in the spirit of what he wants to become?"

You know you'll be reading more about this. I'm wondering what's in it for us in everyday life? I'm pondering. Are you?
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Monday, November 28, 2011

Even More Researched Reasons for Women to Eliminate Negative Self-Talk

Gender differences in the experience of stress and coping with stress have been mentioned previously in this blog. A brief summary:

• Women experience more stress than men; meaning they say they feel stressed more often and more intensely than men.
•  Men's coping techniques, logical problem-solving and detachment, work more effectively than women's coping techniques of emotionality and avoidance.

Here's a link to a previous post about the topic.http://intelligentwomenonly.blogspot.com/2011/03/writers-gender-differences-and-stress.html

In the last 5 years, the neuroscientific research involving brain imagery adds a new dimension to what we know, or thought we knew. A study called, "Gender Difference in Neural Response to Psychological Stress" is one such study.

The article quotes findings of past studies:

• Men show higher physiological stress reactivity than women, which may be reflected in their increased aggressiveness and greater frequency of cardiovascular disease; also in their standard fight or flight response to stressors.

• Women benefit from the buffering effect of estrogen which perhaps accounts for their lower than men's physiological stress reactivity. Also they tend to use a "tend and befriend" coping approach rather than a flight or fight response.

• "It has been proposed that women are more likely to be negatively affected by interpersonal events than men — a tentative factor underlying the emergence of gender differences in depression." Exception: When a social rejection task was adopted as the stressor instead of  an achievement task, women seemed more physiologically reactive than men.

Another finding from the current study was that the lasting physiological stress response (lasting — compared to men) in females might reflect a greater degree of rewinding (melancholy thinking) or reflection on one's own emotional traits in females, consistent with the tendency for ruminative thinking in women. "A somewhat related cognitive style more common in women than men that increases the risk for depression is ruminative thinking — repetitively and passively focusing on symptoms of distress and their possible causes and consequences."

OK. Now we know for sure practically, realistically, common sensically, psychologically, physiologically, brain imagerally, neuroscientifically, that NST is harmful.

Women of the world UNITE! Dump it.
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Friday, November 25, 2011

I Inadvertantly Said No to Posting Today

The day after Thanksgiving is always like Saturday of a 3 day weekend for me — and maybe for many of you. Thinking that way is my reason for not posting today because it felt like Saturday, except it was Friday. I'll be back on Monday. In the groove. I had a delightful Thanksgiving without stress, family friction, or turkey traumas.
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Decline of American Exceptionalism?

 A recent Op-ED by Charles M. Blow in the NY Times, titled "Decline of American Exceptionalism" opens with this paragraph.

"Is America exceptional among nations? Are we, as a country and a people and a culture, set apart and better than others? Are we, indeed, the “shining city upon a hill” that Ronald Reagan described? Are we “chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world” as George W. Bush said? 

This year for the first time Americans did not say yes."

The Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project found that 49% of people agree that " our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior." This is the lowest percentage since 2002, the first time the poll was taken.

A Time magazine survey found that 71% of Americans believe that our position in the world has been on the decline in the past few years.

NBC/Wall St. Journal survey found that most Americans believe that we are " at the start of a longer-term decline where the US is no longer the leading country in the world."

The author says, "We are settling into a dangerous national pessimism."

WOW! My attention was caught by the broad spectrum of research that supported the same basic perspective. I also saw the normal American pattern of big pendulum swings: from overly optimistic evaluations of the American way of life to overly pessimistic evaluations of the American way of life.

In either case action is required. When we're overly optimistic we still have to be planning how to sanely maintain the good life. When we're overly pessimistic, we also need to act in ways that may move us forward to sane rebuilding of the good life — even if that life is markedly different from the past good life. Problem-solving thinking comes next for me. What do I need to do to move to the middle ground of reality from pessimism? Thanksgiving will help I'm sure! How about you? Did this post motivate you or drag you down?


Here's the link if you want to read the whole article.
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Monday, November 21, 2011

Gender Differences Can Be Funny

Still sticking with humor is a comment from blog-reader Martha Lundin regarding the post about intuitive/logical thinking . Here's a link to a previous post on the topic. http://intelligentwomenonly.blogspot.com/2011/11/intuitive-versus-logical-problem.html

"I chuckled when I saw your list of steps for classical sequential, cyclical problem-solving for men. My husband did it for a problem that I had just the other day, and I literally watched him walk through the steps and waited for him to come back to me with a solution. Much easier to communicate with someone of the other gender if you know how they process information and solve problems. I'm not sure my husband has figured out how women solve problems because I know he finds my processes frustrating at times!"

Following my presentation on Intuitive vs. Logical Problem-Solving Thinking, man women commented that their husbands found their thinking "wacky", "crazy", "far out". They were delighted to have their process validated and even elevated, but they weren't so convinced that their husbands would be convinced. Yes, it's easier to accommodate similarity than difference!

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Are Men or Women Funnier? Who Says So Anyway?

An article in a psychology journal reported research that said men are perceived to be slightly funnier that women. The research involved joke-telling and putting captions on cartoons. The gender of the joke teller or cartoon captioner was not disclosed. Both male and female listener/responders saw men as funnier. A theory; men use humor as seduction of women. Like the peacock's beautiful tail, humor might turn on unfunny women? Women really value a sense of humor?

A second study found that it was mostly men who found men funnier, giving a big NO to the peacock theory. Men also used more sexual innuendo and profanity than women, not surprisingly. Both sexes tended to misattributed funny jokes and comments to men and unfunny ones to women.

Most telling for me was that women were much less confident about their abilities as humorists than men. Now that makes sense. Theory: women are perceived as less funny because while they're trying to be funny, their negative self-talk is convincing them that they aren't, can't be, and never will be? It's impossible to be funny without confidence. It's a big risk. Women are often over serious in their attempt to be taken seriously. Here's another reason that self-deprecating humor is rarely effective for women — unless you're a big shot and you want to shine off a bit of power.

Lots of h-m-m-m-ms? here.

In real life when a group of female friends go out for dinner, I bet they think other women are very funny ( and probably are in fact more confident) than those in a research study. Also true for men. But in a mixed group I would guess that men still see themselves as funnier, women still see themselves as not so funny. And women would see men as not so funny too, but probably wouldn't say so. The women would still be less confident of their abilities.

Generally in my experience, men don't get or appreciate a lot of women's humor — maybe because some of it is negative about men. Women generally get men's humor because it often lacks subtleties, but may not like it anyway,
 because they see it as aggressive or a put-down.

Most people really like a sense of humor in others and in themselves. It's definitely worth cultivating! What do you think about gender differences in humor? Here's a link to an earlier post about men/women and humor.
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Monday, November 14, 2011

Intuitive vs. Logical

After the Perry debate error and oops comment, my OOPS! has taken on a whole different nuance. I'll have to change my standard usage of that  term.

After today's all day  writers' workshop on editing, publishing, social media, and all the new stuff about blogs, e-books, and technology that I don't quite get, I'm overwhelmed and zonked. But it did generate an idea about my blog. I think I'll add a blog for writers or add a section of this blog for intelligentwomenwritersonly.com Maybe not. That url is a bit cumbersome.

Still on the problem-solving track today, I did an informal survey of writers at the conference. I asked 20 people, "Do you prefer an intuitive or logical approach to problem solving?" No one asked what I meant, although one person did ask for specific definitions, which I didn't provide. Fifteen out of twenty writers cited intuitive and five cited logical. Most of the participants were women. The brain imaging research that I have referred to previously said 59% of identified intuitive problem-solvers were women. Several of the women followed up with their identification of intuitive as their preferred method with comments such as, " My husband thinks I'm nutty," or " My husband is a lawyer so you can imagine what he thinks about my thinking!"

Here's another slightly off on a tangent thought before I get back to reality. Previous research which I've mentioned shows that problem-solving thinking is one of the best stress management techniques. I didn't think alot about that finding until I read the new research about intuitive problem-solving, a valid very different process than logical problem-solving. Checking back with the stress research, the problem-solving the researcher described was the logical type.  Is intuitive problem-solving also a stress reduction technique? But since the process is unconscious how does that work? What does it all mean? H-m-m-m?

I'll incubate it all and perhaps come up with some big insights. I'd love to hear some brilliant ideas from readers too!
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Friday, November 11, 2011

OOPS! A missed post.

Off to a writers conference at Stanford! Will tell you more about it next week!
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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Intuitive versus Logical Problem-Solving

OOPS! The link I had previously placed here took readers to the Dec. presenter's promo for OPEN MIC Science, not my promo for the November presentation on Problem-Solving Thinking — which went very well by the way. But the rest of the post is about some of the audience's comments.

Lots of interesting comments and questions from the intellectually curious audience.

• Do people always have a preferred method of problem-solving — either intuitive or logical?

 Generally speaking, the "resting" state of a brain is different depending on what is your preferred style of p-s as demonstrated by by EEG and functional MRI. However, having a preferred style doesn't imply that you can't use both successfully. You just have to practice to build  your "nonstandard" neural pathways.

For example. I'm easy and comfortable with the logical style and a rarely have AHA! moments characteristic of the intuitive style. If I want to get better at problem-solving and expand my capabilities, I need to purposefully (but effortlessly?!) incubate problems, allowing time for a prepared brain to activate a bunch of loose associations such as a book title, a visual memory, a fact, advice from my mother, words to a song. Then, while I'm still leaving the incubated problem all alone in my unconscious mind, the connections are made.  POP! I'm in the shower, or waking up, or walking in the woods by myself and the solution appears as if by magic. We'll see how that works.

It's all very funny in a way. I always thought logical problem-solving was the gold standard. Further reading and research has clearly demonstrated, at least right now, that intuitive problem-solving is taking top honors! A recent article about Steve Jobs talks about him as not smart, but instead a genius; labeled as such because of his intuitive approach to problem-solving. Zen Buddhism and meditation also receive credit for contribution to his intuitive approach and resulting genius.

Here's a link to a previous post on the topic. http://intelligentwomenonly.blogspot.com/2011/10/ramp-up-your-problem-solving-thinking.html

Thanks to those of you who went to the link and took the quick poll at Linked in. I'll report the results in about 10 days.
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Monday, November 7, 2011

New spin from Flourish, A Visionary New Understanding of Well-Being by Martin Seligman

As I mentioned in Nov. 4th post, Seligman is the "father" of positive psychology. His early book, Learned Optimism was an outstanding book which focused on getting rid of negative self-talk and learning to NOT be a pessimist. Why? Because optimists are healthier, live longer, are happier etc. Somehow the learned optimism concept morphed into a different concept and later book, Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment.

Now after decades of the overly positive thinking hype, Seligman has come up with new thinking, or perhaps a new spin on former thinking, that makes much more sense.

Here are some quotes/ideas put forth in the book:

Happiness (or Positive Emotion) is now one of five pillars of Well-Being along with Engagement, Relationship, Meaning, and Accomplishment. PERMA, is the acronym of the permanent building blocks for a life of profound fulfillment. With this concept Seligman moves away from the power of positive thinking, toward more realistic and well-respected, researched beliefs about what else is required for well being in addition to positive thinking and optimism. Whew!

I was surprised to see many negative references to Barbara Ehrenreich's 2009 book, Bright-Sided, which criticized the positive thinking cult. But, I guess turn about is fair play!?  They have extremely differing views on reality. Seligman sees reality as reflexive or nonreflexive, meaning influenced by perceptions and expectations and not influenced by perceptions and expectations. A stock price is a reflexive reflexive. A rejection of an offer of marriage is a nonreflexive reality. I didn't get it. Ehrenreich talks about cultivating realism as smart thinking and as an antidote to both overly negative or positive thinking. I liked her thoughts.

I'm not sure what the take-away would be for intelligent readers. The more I read, the more confusing the message, the greater the obfuscation about the purpose of the book. Maybe it'll be good news that you don't have to be happy all the time. That you can be occasionally grumpy or even pessimistic and tell everybody who criticizes you that they should read Flourish and understand that the old overly positive thinking thing is OUT, untrendy, even embarrassing.  Seligman, psychologist, professor at the U. of Pennsylvania, past president of the American Psychological Association even says on p. 13-14 of Flourish that there are three inadequacies in the old positive psychology/authentic happiness theory.

• Cheerful mood is overemphasized and demanded by the theory.
• Positive psychology is too tied to mood as a measure of life satisfaction.
• Life satisfaction is very different for different people. Not everyone connects cheeriness with happiness and life satisfaction.

No kidding? I'm feeling pretty grumpy about Flourish.
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Friday, November 4, 2011

Optimism and Pessimism

Long-time readers know that I'm a long-time critic of the overdone positive thinking movement. Barbara Ehrenreich's 2009 book Brightsided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America was a key factor in demonstrating that the positive Emperor was wearing no clothes. The Secret and it's silly sequel were so far out that a boomerang backlash had to happen.

Now Martin Seligman's (psychologist and "father" of positive psychology) new book Flourish, acknowledges that positive thinking isn't all it was jacked up to be.  Psychology Today produced a solid, well-written, even-handed article, "The Uses and Abuses of Optimism (And Pessimism). "Seligman is still an advocate of optimism. But he says it must be paired with 'reality testing' — conscientious checking on the results of our efforts — to make sure that overly positive expectations are not leading us astray."

We need as well to check on our negative self-talk to be sure that our overly negative criticism is not leading us astray.

Here's a sentence from the last paragraph of the article. "Optimism has its uses to be sure. But the goal to 'think positive' no matter the situation is unsupportable and counterproductive."

Here's the link to the whole article http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201110/optimism and a link to a previous post:http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=5630711609871539058&postID=8148646727666242766
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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Collective Intelligence

Groups are generally much more efficient at solving problems than individuals.  Moreover, the performance of a group does not correlate well with the average I.Q. of the group or even with the I.Q.’s of the smartest members. BUT, studies from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon have found that "groups have a high collective intelligence when members of a group are good at reading each others’ emotions — when they take turns speaking, when the inputs from each member are managed fluidly, when they detect each others’ inclinations and strengths"

As most of us know from experience, the ideal conditions for high collective intelligence to exist and produce the wonderful results possible rarely are present. Creating and developing a well-functioning group is very difficult even when there's high motivation and trust to start.

Remember the social psychological model of group development? Form, storm, norm and conform? Many groups never get beyond the storming phase. I have been in few high-functioning groups I'm sad to say: even groups with social psychologists who understand the process well, but can't translate theory into practice. I'm all for group problem-solving for many reasons, but I prefer to do it on my own. It takes less time, generates less conflict, and produces good results much of the time.

I'd welcome an offer for a guest blogger to write a post about an experience with a well-functioning problem-solving group, or for any of the intelligent women — or men — to e-mail me with a story that I could then post about collective intelligence at work!

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Monday, October 31, 2011

Problem-Solving Thinking Is Becoming a Celebrity

Yes, I'm exaggerating. But suddenly, just as you notice hundreds of Nissan Leaf's when you buy one yourself, I'm noticing references to problem-solving everywhere I look.  Neuroscience is investigating and exploring new evidence of styles of problem solving, books are being written for the mainstream, and articles are being written about the books!

I'm quoting today from a friend's commencement speech. Carl Morgan, an engineer spoke to graduating U of W electrical engineeers last spring about problem-solving. From my perspective, he was also talking about the psychology of coping with life transitions. And he was motivating and inspiring graduates to become good managers of their lives. Here's a small section of that speech that tells the story.

"Everyone in the Core Curriculum has told you, over and over, that you need to be a lifelong learner. And you do.The difference is, before,  most of the things you learned were picked by others. Now, they have to be picked by you. But how? It’s daunting: you’re smart enough to know that there are things that you will need to know, but you don’t know that you need to know them! How do you sort it all out now and make decisions that give direction to your future development.

The punch line is this: An excellent way to sort out your future development is to find a big problem that calls to you, and to then develop yourself through the struggle with its intense demands."
A great message for engineering graduates. We can also think of Carl's words as metaphorical: Core Curriculum stands for all we've been told, and learned, at various transitions of life; graduation, first job, committed relationship, parenthood and on and on to retirement and beyond. Lifelong learning and development can go on forever, if we choose. And so can problem-solving; as an everyday tool, but also as Carl suggests, as an exciting way to challenge yourself through some potentially difficult times.

Carl goes on in his speech to tell the interesting story of his own big problem. I can e-mail you the PDF if you're interested. Just e-mail me at intelligentwomenonly@gmail.com

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Eliminating Negative Self-Talk — Category 3, Detachment and Distraction

Before you go further with today's post, re-read the January 7th Technique of the Week post. The WSJ article mentioned discussed a new addition to the cognitive therapy protocol.  Cognitive theory underlies all the techniques described in Handbook #1 for Intelligent Women: Break the Negative Self-Talk Habit, the book I've been working on for the past year — and will be still working on in 2012.

Perhaps the most unorthodox technique that I describe in the book is detachment. It differs from the other main categories, problem-solving and cognitive restructuring, both of which require increased focus on the negative thinking in order to eliminate it. In contrast, detachment implies inattention to the negative thinking as a way to eliminate it. If you are a meditator or have acquired yoga mind, you may already have detachment skills. Following is a how-to suggestion for one form of detachment. It comes from an early article I wrote about banishing the inner critic.

There's much more information on distraction and detachment, mindfulness and meditation as forms of the d and d. Put any of the terms into the Search blank and you'll find out lots about the power of detachment. It's hard to learn, but a wonderful way to reduce stress, particularly if you're dealing with a problem over which you have no control.

Ask a male friend of family member about detachment. Men do it all the time, even though they may not call it detachment. They could have some ideas about how women can get distance between yourself and your problem or intense emotion.

            The detachment approach is based on a mental technique described by Walter Mischel, Ph.D. as “strategic allocation of attention.The ability to purposefully pay attention, or choose to not pay attention, correlates highly with success factors related to education and career. By purposefully not paying attention to negative thinking, you decrease its influence. The detachment process results in better coping; disconnection from the negative thoughts and feelings allows increased feelings of well-being and self-confidence. Detachment also owes credit to the Zen Buddhist concept of bare attention, explained so well in thoughts without a thinker, a wonderful book by Mark Epstein.
1. Notice the voice in your head, without judgment or reaction. If it’s negative self- talk, say to yourself, “Oh, the critic is talking,” rather than, “What a jerk. I’m doing it again. When am I going to stop dumping on myself all the time?”
2. Remind yourself, without judgment or reaction, that negative self-talk which doesn’t produce problem-solutions can be discarded with no loss or harm. 
3. Reallocate attention from the internal negative thinking to the external moment and action. If you are walking or talking, writing or reading, staring out the window, cooking or care taking, purposefully and mentally feel yourself shift attention and maintain it on that external activity, just as you might move a book from a bookcase to a table and leave it there. 
4. When the voice of the critic arises again, demanding attention, reallocate attention back to the moment. Let the critic voice fade from inattention, and diminish as before. 
5. Practice the process at every opportunity. Allocate attention from self-doubt and self-criticism to here and now and an external activity.

There's much more information on distraction and detachment, mindfulness and meditation as forms of the d and d. Put any of the terms into the Search blank and you'll find out lots about the power of detachment. It's hard to learn, but a wonderful way to reduce stress, particularly if you're dealing with a problem over which you have no control.

Ask a male friend of family member about detachment. Men do it all the time, even though they may not call it detachment. They could have some ideas about how you can get distance between yourself and your problem or intense emotion.
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Poll About Problem-Solving Style

                      What type of problem-solving thinking process do you use in your work?

Please take a minute to take this very quick poll about problem-solving. Thanks. I'll give you the results at the end of 23 more days.
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Another Man Talks About Negative Self-Talk

 Here's the link to an interesting blog post about self-sabotage through negative self-talk by Michael J. Formica, a Psychology Today blogger.

I found it particularly interesting because it was written by a man — unusual, although he doesn't count himself in specifically. I asked him to guest post on this site with more thoughts about men and negative self-talk, which he has agreed to do. Does his article make you think more about gender difference — or similarity?

I commented to Dr. Formica that in my experience as a therapist and executive coach I had only once (that I remember clearly) heard a man do negative self-talk out loud. And he presented proof that he was all these bad things he said he was: a letter from a boss, a letter requesting his resignation from a different job, a medical report about his poor health habits etc.

I'll be interested in Dr. Formica's guest post.

Here's another link to a post on intelligentwomenonly.com about Mark Zuckerberg's (Google head honcho) negative self-talk and how a woman that he hired has been a great help to him and Google.


What are you experiences with men and negative self-talk?
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Monday, October 24, 2011

Listening is problem-solving help says Peter Bregman, PT blogger

 I posted last month about the effectiveness  of problem-solving in families and also TAPPS, talking out loud to yourself as a useful way to improve your problem-solving abilities. http://intelligentwomenonly.blogspot.com/2011/09/problem-solve-out-loud-and-alone-even.html

Here's an interesting post from a Psychology Today blogger about listening as an aid to problem-solving for yourself and the other person. If you're active listening, which encourages others to tell you more, you're subtly allowing them to talk out loud about their problem. This might be helpful to all: an opportunity for the person you're hearing to elaborate and hear their own thoughts about their thinking. And it helps you as the listener to avoid escalation of a problem, particularly if it involves you!

I'm all for the listening approach. When I listen intently, the conversation always goes better, even if it's not a problem situation. BUT I acknowledge that I'm often too impatient to keep on facilitating the other person's conversation without imposing my thoughts. Then I've got trouble!

Here's the link to the whole article plus a quote from it.


  1. "Actually listen. And only listen. That means don't multitask. I'm not just talking about doing email, surfing the web, or creating a grocery list. Thinking about what you're going to say next counts as multitasking. Simply focus on what the other person is saying.
  2. Repeat back. This feels a little silly at first but works magic. If someone says she is angry about the decision you just made, you can say "you're angry about the decision I just made." I know, I know, she just said that. But it shows you're listening and it communicates to the other person that she's been heard. If you don't have the courage to try it with an adult, try it with a child. You'll see what a difference it makes and it will embolden you to try it with a colleague or your spouse.
  3. Ask questions. Explore the other person's thoughts and feelings more deeply. And "You don't really believe that, do you?" does not count as a question. You are not using the Socratic method to prove your point; you are trying to better understand what's going on so you can better understand your partner in this conversation.
Really listening can feel risky, which seems strange because listening doesn't materially change anything. But sometimes you'll hear things that are hard to hear.
Remember that listening is not the same thing as agreeing. And it will never force you to take any particular action. If anything, it will reduce the intensity of people's insistence that you take a specific action. Because in many cases what they're looking for is proof that you've heard them. So if they feel you've really heard them, their need for action diminishes.
As Eleanor  [blogger's wife] spoke, I noticed my own resistance to various things she was saying. There's no question that it's hard to really listen. But once I relaxed into it, I heard her in a much deeper way. That made her feel better. Call me co-dependent, but it made me feel better too.
It turns out that sometimes, just listening is problem-solving."
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Friday, October 21, 2011

Eliminating Negative Self-Talk — Category 2, Cognitive Restructuring

October 17th post addressed eliminating negative self-talk through problem-solving, generally a good place to start the trek to breaking the NST habit. Today, the post focuses on Cognitive Restructuring, the 2nd of 3 main categories of techniques to get rid of negative self-talk.

• Cognitive Restructuring — A Classic Way to Change Your Inner Monologue

Cognitive restructuring is a psychological term which means to change, alter, (restructure) what we are saying to ourselves (= our thoughts =cognitions) It's the classic way to eliminate negative self-talk.

From Albert Ellis's book, A Guide to Rational Living ( 3rd edition, 1975)) to today's bestselling books by David Burns (Feeling Good 1999),  the topic of changing what you say to yourself (when it's not working to bring about a desired result) has always been a good idea.
Cognitive restructuring had been kidnapped by the positive thinking crowd along the way, but now even Martin Seligman, the "father" of positive psychology is backing away from the positive overhype as shown in his brand new book, Flourish. Not-negative is different than positive.

I used to refer to the restructured product of a negative thought  as a neutral statement but now I think of it as a realistic statement.

Here are the steps:

1. Notice your inner self-talk.
2. Discriminate between negative self-talk and useful self-instructions.
3. If it's useless negative self-talk, quickly check out alternative ways of thinking to eliminate the negative self-talk:

     • realistic thinking — "I handled that situation poorly. Fortunately I learned something from it."
     • coping statements — "Next time, if in doubt — don't."
     • substitution to divert attention — count by odd numbers to 1000, recite the Gettysburg address
     • see a big STOP sign in your mind to remind you to stop the NST
     • imagine that the NST is a concrete object that you blow up, drown, erase or turn into steam in your mind

Try some of this stuff out and see what works for you.

 Here's a link to an earlier post about going away from negative self-talk.


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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Please Respond to Poll About Problem-Solving

What type of problem-solving thinking process do you use in your work?

Please click on the poll and take less than a minute to respond. Thank you. I'll let you know the results in 30 days.
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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A New/Old Take on Women and Men at Work

Here's a link to the entire article about high potential women — whom I assume means smart too!

"A study by research firm Catalyst has found that women with MBAs who are considered high potential are using all the right career strategies to get ahead, but the pay and promotion gap still exists. Conventional wisdom that says women are failing to negotiate  for themselves, opting out, or putting the skids on careers for family are all bunk, according to the findings.
“It’s really time for organizations to stop assuming that these myths are true and look at what’s going on in terms of their talent management systems,” said Christine Silva, senior director of research for Catalyst.
The report -- which studied more than 3,000 male and female MBAs who stayed on a “traditional” career path and were working full time -- broke down the participants into four strategy profiles:
  • “Climbers,” who are actively seeking to advance in a company.
  • “Hedgers,” who are looking for advancement inside and outside their existing employers.
  • “Scanners,” who are looking for future prospects in the job market.
  • “Coasters,” who are not actively using career-enhancing tactics."
Do you match one of these profiles or are you a Wander Woman, the title of Marcia Reynolds book about high-achieving women who are always looking for the right, best opportunity to use their skills, smarts and abilities to run a big project or their own company? They don't opt out of the workplace, because work, challenge, opportunity, great possibilities are what they want. but they have trouble finding contentment and direction.
    The ending paragraphs of the "Women Doing All the Right Things . . . " article are a bit depressing.

    "While everyone is focused on the glass ceiling phenomenon, she continued, few realize how disparities in pay and rank among men and women when they’re in lower level positions ends up dooming many women later in their careers because they may never catch up."

    And then,"Nicole Stephens, assistant professor of management and organizations at Kellogg who co-authored the report, said women have the choice today to either stay in the workforce or opt out for personal reasons, and that choice may be lulling them into a false sense of career equity."  She goes on to say, “By calling something a choice,” she added. “It makes people think there really isn’t a problem here that needs to be fixed.” ARGH! I get it and you do too. There is a problem that needs to be fixed, but no one  knows how to fix it — even if they wanted to. And lots of people don't want it fixed or don't care if it's fixed so where does that leave us?
    A New/Old Take on Women and Men at WorkSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    The Big Picture — Eliminate Negative Self-Talk

    If you are a negative self-talker, and you understand NST, and you've read tips and tried some of your own techniques, and you're still dragging the inner critic and the subsequent bummed out feelings around with  you — it's time to STOP.  There are three primary categories of proven ways to eliminate or reduce negative self talk.

    • Problem-solving thinking — A good place to start getting rid of NST

    You may be a classic logical problem-solving thinker and use a step-wise, cyclical process.
    1. Identify the problem
    2. Gather information
    3. Propose solutions
    4. Implement a solution
    5. Evaluate and move on — or go back to step 1 or 4: redefine the problem or implement a different solution.

    Or, you may be an intuitive problem-solver, which seems to be more common among women than men.
    1. In a quit place, with a quieted mind, look inward and wonder the solution to yourself. e.g. "How can I get a traditional publisher for my book?" " What would be a good title for this article?" "How can I get more traffic to my blog?"
    2. Leave your question alone and incubate it , along with a couple of other questions/problems, connected or not. "Would biking be a good addition to my exercise routine?" or " Is Asian food healthier than a Mediterranean diet for me?" and "What city is best for the setting of my story?"
    3. Make no concerted effort to solve the problem. Anxiety and trying hard become obstacles to the intuitive problem-solving process.
    4. Relax and give yourselves opportunities for intuition: staring into space, walking, running, napping, swinging, time alone, daydreaming.

    Research says:

    Regardless of your most comfortable mode of problem-solving thinking, logical or intuitive, being able to use both increases the chance of original, practical solutions.

    You can also find other information about problem-solving under the subjects of "Ramp Up . . . ."

    • Cognitive restructuring-more in the near future under Eliminate Negative Self-Talk subject

    • Detachment and distraction-more in the near future under Eliminate Negative Self-Talk subject
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    Friday, October 14, 2011

    Ramp Up Your Problem-Solving Thinking

    I'm working on a chapter for Handbook#1 for Intelligent Women Only: Break the Negative Self-Talk Habit and preparing for a presentation on problem-solving thinking, so I'm immersed. I have a one question poll that you can respond to about problem-solving, anonymously, on Twitter. Go to @drtingley on Twitter or tohttp://t.co/1JMbOs6v http://t.co/1JMbOs6v to take the survey. I would greatly appreciate your taking the time to respond before you read the rest of this post!

    Here's some of the latest research of interest on problem-solving.

    There are two kinds of problem-solvers: logical/analytical and intuitive/insightful. And there are gender differences as you might guess. More men use the classical sequential, cyclical process:
    • Identify the problem
    • Gather information
    • Propose some solutions
    • Implement a solutions
    • Evaluate effectiveness

    More women than men use the intuitive/insightful process, which is more of a non-conscious "aha" mode of problem-solving.

    Being able to use both methods increases the originality and practicality of solutions. For women adding classic step-wise problem solving  requires a learning process like learning and practicing any new skill. You can find Dewey's original sequence online or I'll send it to you via e-mail if you're interested. Or you can ask someone you know to help you learn the logical/analytical system.

    Learning the intuitive method of problem-solving is more difficult because it is a non-conscious process. It involves lateral thinking, making remote connection in neurons, and certain conditions under which it works best.

    • Quiet environment, reduced brain activity
    • A calm, pleasant mood
    • A state of being inside your brain, rather than externally focused
    • An attitude of NOT trying too hard, of not making a concentrated effort to solve a problem

    e.g When I was trying to figure out a name for my first book (Genderflex) I quietly incubated the question, "What shall I call my book about male-female communication in the workplace?" every night before I went to sleep. I generally ran very early in the morning when it was quiet and I was alone and in a daydreaming state. One morning the word genderflex just popped into my head. It seemed miraculous at the time;long before before neuroscience could confirm the reality of the intuitive process.

    It's hard to explain it to men, but with this new research using brain imaging, maybe they'll buy it. Let me know if you'd like me to e-mail the original journal article that I'm quoting.
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    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Wisdom and Detachment — WOW

     Here's a short youtube video about improving problem-solving skills by moving away from the problem; a type of detachment. Ethan Kross is the University of Michigan research and assistant professor of psychology. You can find more on detachment by looking under Try Some Techniques. Here are a couple of links to earlier (1/14 and 1/19/2011) posts on the topic.



    Here's the link to youtube: http://tinyurl.com/3qjkaub
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    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Rumination is NOT Problem-Solving

    "Rumination: Problem-Solving Gone Wrong — How Rehashing the Situation Can Ruin Your Mood" is the title of Eddie Selby's post on his PT blog, Overcoming Self-Sabotage. Here's the link: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/overcoming-self-sabotage/201002/rumination-problem-solving-gone-wrong

    Selby points out astutely that we all can label our endless rehashing of relationship problems, work issues, chronic sources of stress as attempts to solve the problem, but they're not.  He notes that, "While it's true that problem solving and planning are essential to overcoming a difficult problem, people who ruminate tend to take these activities too far and for too long. They will often spend hours analyzing the situation, even after they've developed a plan for dealing with the situation. Sometimes people will ruminate about the problem so much so that they never even develop a solution to the problem. This is where rumination becomes really problematic. If the situation has you in a bad mood, rumination will keep that bad mood alive, and you will feel upset for as long as you ruminate. If you ruminate on the problem for days, chances are you'll remain upset for days."

    Right on. Negative thoughts bring on negative emotions which bring on a bad mood, with brings on more negative self talk etc. etc. Rumination or "overthinking" is never the way to go. So how do you interrupt the process quickly and get out of a funk? Here's my suggestion for women in particular.

    1. Tell the whole long stressful story, in minute detail to a trusted friend within a few hours of the most recent event associated with the stress or within 24 hours max.
    2. Ask him or her to help you define the problem, as they see it. E.g. John isn't interested in a future with you. Your boss chose someone else to lead the project that you thought was locked up — for you. You hired a new associate and she's not a good fit with the rest of the team. You work together to find a problem definition that fits and can lead to a solution. Here are some problem-definitions that don't usually work well. E.g. John is a two-timing jerk. My boss screwed me over. I should have known better than to hire Rhonda. Big mistake.
    3. Start talking about possible solutions and write them down without discussion or evaluation. Tolerate the uncertainty of incubating the ideas and maybe generating some more in the next 24-48 hours.
    4. Commit to focusing on solutions, not the problem. You agree to not tell anyone else the whole grim story in detail, but rather to be vague if someone asks how you are or what's wrong. E.g. "I'm not feeling my best." "The job situation is sticky right now." "I'm preoccupied with work stuff right now."
    5. Plan to make a plan within 48 hours if possible, even if that plan is inner action. E.g. "I don't have to do anything right now as long as I'm not ruminating, rehashing, and miserable. If I start down that path again, I have a plan and I'll take action.

    Like many suggestions I make, techniques I suggest, plans I propose, they're hard to implement, practice is required, and they don't work out perfectly but usually the alternative is much worse!
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    Saturday, October 8, 2011

    OOPS! A missed post.

    Friday was a missed post day.  I was  traveling to a writer's retreat in Nevada which basically took up my day and my strategic allocation of attention. But now that I'm here I should have plenty of time to write.
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    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    Fail to Succeed?

     A recent article in the NYTimes Sunday magazine, although focused on children, had ramifications for adult women, and seemed connected with the October 3rd post http://intelligentwomenonly.blogspot.com/2011/10/eliminate-disclaimers-and-overripe.html. Paul Tough, author of "The Character Test", quoted the headmaster of a private Eastern school.  ". . . there was this idea in America that if you worked hard and you showed real grit, that you could be successful. Strangely, we've now forgotten that." He goes on to say that children are no longer developing or expected to develop characteristics of grit, gratitude, and self-control; characteristics that are needed to bounce back from failure. Mr.  Randolph, the headmaster, views failure as key to success in achieving a meaningful, productive life. Because he feels children now are protected from failure by parents in particular, his curriculum is laced with learning and lessons of character building.

    I wondered how this might apply to women. I'll check to see if research exists that says that adult women have more grit, gratitude and self-control than men.  I believe we do, although it seems that we have a greater perception of failure than men and a lower  perception of success. Or is that just another face of perfectionism? I wonder if all the negative self-talk that women engage in is a major roadblock to seeing ourselves as resilient and successful regardless of some true and real failures we've experienced. I wonder if the talking out loud approach to problem-solving http://intelligentwomenonly.blogspot.com/2011/09/problem-solve-out-loud-and-alone-even.html might also work to increase our beliefs that we have strong character and are successful.
    E.g. "I  can explain complex concepts clearly and briefly and that is working well with my team."
            " I've learned a better way to handle conflicts with Sam and he's more productive because of it."
            " I like the way I just accept compliments without disclaimers. And my daughter is starting to do the same thing. So good."
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    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    Eliminate Disclaimers and Overripe Apologies

    A recent experience in a group discussion reminded me of a "the more things change, the more things stay the same." The topic was the status of education in the U.S. A frequent contributor and articulate woman prefaced half of her comments with disclaimers. E.g. "I don't have anywhere near the experience you do in this area, but . . . " or "I haven't studied this topic extensively but . . . " or "You're all more expert on this subject . . . "  Many intelligent women have the disclaimer habit, just as they have the negative self-talk habit. And we over apologize. Another example, not from the discussion participant I mentioned,: "I'm sorry to bother you with this, and maybe I should have figured this out for myself, but since I'm new to the job . . . ." Why do women engage in  that crazy behavior? What's more important is how  can we change it? We don't have to be braggarts or narcissists. All we have to do is accept a compliment, recognition, appreciation.

    I saw the following quote in a Psychology Today blog, Wander Woman. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wander-woman/201109/how-women-can-embrace-their-power It seems to match up.

    Therefore, if you are a woman, consider these questions:
    1. What will it take for you to admit that you have talents, skills and wisdom that people admire and recognize?
    2. What will it take for you to feel pride for the effect you have on others?
    3. What will it take for you to acknowledge that you might be a role model?
    The response is simple and clear.

    Say, "Thank you."
            "I appreciate your comment."
            "I agree that I do a good job running a meeting."
             "I've worked hard to be more diplomatic and I'm glad you noticed.'

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