Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Reduction in Pregnancy? What?

I've struggled with whether to put this article link on intelligentwomenonly.com, but decided to do it after a couple of weeks of pushing and puling the topic around in my head. It's one of the most disturbing articles I've read — won't evaporate from my mind.

"The Two-Minus-One Pregnancy" is the title of the NYTimes Magazine article, August 14th, 2011. The topic theoretically is the old and new medical practice of "reduction of pregnancy" or in the article's lingo, a procedure similar to half of an abortion. The new practice, reducing a pregnancy with twins to a pregnancy of a single child, has been an old practice (I didn't know this information previously) with larger multiple births; reducing triplets to twins, sextuplets to quintuplets and so on.

The concurrent topic is women's right to choose. That's what has caused my cognitive dissonance and distress.

• Multiple births most often occur when women have chosen fertility treatment/procedures. They know this when they start the process.
• When they get pregnant they can choose, not with all MDs of course, not easily of course, to reduce the number of infants in their uterus to whatever number they think will work best for them and their families.
• They can choose which infant to keep or they can choose to have the doctor make the selection(s) for reduction.
• The reduction procedure usually occurs at about 12 weeks of gestation.

Do I think women have the right to choose? I do.

Do I think women should have the right to choose fertility treatments which may well produce multiple viable embryos and then choose to eliminate some of these 12 week old embryos? No, I don't. I'm horrified.

What do you think?  Here's the link:

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Have Compassion for Yourself

Goria Steinem, dubbed the "most familiar face of the women's movement" in a recent  NYTimes article,  says while talking about her own retrospective view of herself;  "I saw how uncertain, how vulnerable I seemed.. . . In the moment, women are more likely to be self-critical. Looking back you have compassion for yourself."

Whether you're a negative self-talker or not, start the week this Monday by letting up on the constant self-evaluation which ends up as rumination sometimes. Instead, if there is a problem that does need to be solved, e.g. "I shouldn't have said that to Evita. She probably felt criticized," make a plan: apologize or plan to not speak to your colleague in a judgmental way again.

Do the same thing for yourself. Compassion is empathy and kindness. The antonym is coldness, which produces nothing for us or others.
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Friday, August 26, 2011

Preventing An "Undignified State" of Inaction

"To understand worry is to know it calmly and clearly for what it is: transient, contingent and devoid of intrinsic identity. Whereas to misunderstand it is to freeze it into something fixed, separate, and independent. Worrying about whether a friend still likes us, for example becomes an isolated thing rather than a part of a process emerging from a stream of contingencies. This perception induces in turn a mood of feeling psychologically blocked, stuck, obsessed. The longer this undignified state persists, the more we become incapable of action. The challenge of the first truth is to act before habitual reactions incapacitate us."

The message from Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor reflects a form of preventive detachment which I found useful. I needed  a couple of read-throughs of the paragraph to absorb what he was saying. E.g. A worry of the negative self-talk variety can easily become a seemingly real and solid structure in our mind, arresting our ability to function effectively. I really like his use of the phrase, "undignified state", to describe the result of being stuck and obsessed.

A copy of the paragraph on the bedside table, a handy quick visual image representing the "undignified state" can help us all move quickly to a dignified state of action over the weekend.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Basics/Addiction to Negative Self-Talk

Back to the basics of intelligentwomenonly origins — eliminating the negative self-talk habit, with habit the key word.
•  Women and girls are the primary addicted group — addicted to self put downs.
• The NaSTy habit results in low self-esteem, high stress, decreased productivity.
• Breaking the habit is difficult and results in higher self-esteem, lower stress, increased productivity.
• Many techniques are available to dump NST altogether, or decrease it's insistence markedly.

For more about the basics of negative self-talk, check out July 25, 2010 post:


Also a recent post on addictions from Psychology Today  http://www.psychologytoday.com/collections/201108/addiction-how-people-really-recover/the-new-quitter 
has some useful thoughts about addictions/habits minor and major. The main message? Relapses move you toward breaking the habit. The importance thing with negative self-talk is to not pile it on!

"There I go again, dumping on myself the whole morning." "What an idiot. I know better but I just keep on repeating the stupid behavior."
"I give up. I just don't have what it takes to get rid of the negative self-talk."

Just as when you are dieting and eat an ice cream cone, it doesn't mean mean you're "bad", you slipped, you failed, you're a jerk, you have no willpower. It means you're dieting and you ate an ice cream cone and you can find a way to accommodate to that choice within your eating plans. Same with negative self-talk. Sliding into a habitual NST pattern doesn't mean anything more than, "Oh, I'm doing it again. I'll keep it limited, unexpanded."
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Monday, August 22, 2011

Decision Fatigue

Here's the link to the NYT Magazine article, "To Choose is to Lose", August 21st. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=To%20Choose%20is%20to%20Lose&st=cse  Here's my take-away for me and you. Readers may already know about the research results. I didn't and found it useful so I'm passing it on as a good way to start the week.

"Decision Fatigue is the newest discovery involving a phenomenon called ego depletion. . . " according to author John Tierney. The underlying concept is based on a long ignored and not totally accurate conception that all mental activities require the transfer of energy, which at some point gets used up. The term "brain dead" applies to that point perhaps? "Once you're mentally depleted, you become reluctant to make trade-offs, which involve a particularly advanced and taxing form of decision making."

The most relevant research finding for a Monday is this:
You may not even know you have low mental energy in the same way that you notice low physical energy, but we can end up by day's end being an impulsive decision maker, to short cut energy output.  Or we can just avoid making a decision for the same reason. Neither outcome is good.  So, based on the research, the author recommends:

• Make all the tough decisions earliest in the day, or delay if possible til the next morning, after a good breakfast.

• Immediately after lunch for a short time is OK too.

• By the end of the day your mental energy to make decisions, to hang on to your will power is often low. Not good to schedule important meetings, hiring interviews, decisions about job changes, housing, kids schooling and all after dinner with a glass of wine.

The authors say this is not a personality trait, but instead a universally applicable phenomenon. H-m-m-m. I 'm going to test it out this week. I'm writing this post late in the afternoon. Uh-oh.
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Friday, August 19, 2011

More on Saying No

Saying "no" is an art. It's also a great stress reduction technique. And it also can produce stress via the negative self-talk produced by thinking:

Will she think I'm insensitive, uncaring, mean?
Will he retaliate when I ask him to do something?
Will she reject me from the "no" point forward?
Will they think I'm rude, selfish?

And people might think or do any of these things. And they might do them eventually even if you say "yes" to something you really don't want to do, and don't have to do.

So if you're going to start "no-ing", check out your negative self-talk first and try some cognitive restructuring.
"I have the right to say no."
"Saying 'no' is taking good care of myself."
"Better to say 'no' now then have to back out later."

If just saying "no" is difficult for you, or even if it's not, there are many direct, definitive ways you can state your response.
"That week won't work for me."
" I'm overloaded today. Please check back with me tomorrow."
"I'm not able to take on that project right now."

At most add 1 reason. No more. Follow with broken record.

"Sorry, Joe, I'm not available to take over as chair of the neighborhood committee. My weekends are already over scheduled, as I'm sure you understand."

If Joe pushes, then you say, "I appreciate your vote of confidence, but I don't have time to do it," or "I'm working on doing less, rather than more right now Joe."

I'm sure you get it. Now try it! It's a joyful feeling when you find that you can do it easily and escape another burden that you don't have to take on.
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Equity in the Gender Division of Labor — Reality/Perception

 The article, "Chore Wars" Time magazine, Aug. 8, 2011, generated lots of thoughts and commentary. I can't link to it because I'm not a subscriber, but if you google Chore Wars you'll see articles/commentary about the Time article. The "surprise" point is that contrary to current popular opinion, leftover from a few decades ago, working men and women are doing approximately equal amounts of work, running the home/kids show. The message to women? Let go of the perception and resentment that goes with the belief that you are the one who does most of the work and has the most stress. An interesting comment illustrating one possible source of the change.
"Women expect more of men, and men expect more of themselves."

Another quote —"Inequity in the gender division of labor gets rediscovered in pop culture every seven to 10 years as a new generation of women enters early parenthood and that's the issue they see,"  caught my attention. I wondered if the same issue of equity in the division of labor doesn't come to the fore in many times of life transition.

• When the children are first all in school.
• When either or both parents change jobs, start to work at home, stop working outside the home.
• When teen kids start driving.
• When the nest is empty.
• When grandchildren are part of everyday life.
• When one or both partners retire.

The patterns may look and feel different, requiring recharged flexibility, while reminding us that the more things change the more they stay the same. The article reinforced the belief that we have to constantly adapt our perception to new realities. It also reminded the reader that resentment doesn't work well. Yes, we all know that, but . . .

What are your beliefs about equity of gender division of labor and life transitions? I'd really like to know. I think that I will always think I do more, during all of life's transitions. I hope that I also always recognize that I have made that choice for my own reasons,  rather than build resentment about  actual inequity.
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Monday, August 15, 2011

OOPS! A missed post.

Sorry, I was driving home from Portland today after the Providence Bridge Pedal bike ride on Sunday. Lots of fun, but I expected to be home earlier than I actually arrived and hadn't brought any electronic devices with me. I was focused on the ride, having fun, being relaxed and saying "NO" to electronic responsibilities. I hope you're all doing extremely well without me and I'll be back in gear on Wednesday.
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Friday, August 12, 2011

Say No — Once this Weekend

I recently read a brief article about busyness as a way to escape from thinking about things we don't want to think about; also as a reason  why people avoid meditation. Then I ran across the article ( link below) about busyness from a PT blogger, who suggests therapy might be needed in serious cases of busyness. I think there are other ways of dealing with busyness, and other ways to think about thinking.

Here are some quick thoughts for the weekend — or next week — or next year for that matter.

• Try saying "no" to a request made of you this weekend, when it is something you don't want to do and don't have to do.
e.g. your friend asks you to watch her two children for a couple of hours Saturday afternoon so she can get work done since she has a Monday AM deadline. You don't have plans, but you're exhausted and hoping to catch a needed nap when your kids are resting. "Sasha, I'm really sorry, but I just can't handle 4 kids tomorrow. I'm so tired and behind myself. I do understand your dilemma, but I'm going to say no this time."

If she's a good friend, she'll not take it personally and be empathetic. If she's not, she might take it personally and then become annoyed and bad mouth you. Oh, well.

Read more in Chapter 5, "Saying No and Meaning It," in my oldie but goody book, Say What You Mean Get What You Want (AMACOM), or let me know you want it and perhaps I can scan it and e-mail it to you.

• Not thinking about things you have control over isn't bad practice. e.g. most of us have no control over the current economic chaos in the world. Yes, we can give some thought to how we can best take care of our own financial situation under these chaotic circumstances but to dwell on the gloom, doom, despair of the future world doesn't do anything for us or the world.  Psychological research has noted that repression, suppression and denial serve useful purposes when used in moderation — just like red meat, sunlight, and use of electronic devices. Therapy isn't needed as a busyness solution from my perspective. It's a phase of most people's lives. It can be competitive. It can be exhausting. But it isn't a diagnosis. It's an ordinary, everyday behavior in the 21st century.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Conflict for Strong Women? Dependence vs. Independence

Marcia Reynolds Psy.D, a PT blogger, and former colleague posted a provocative article about the greatest weakness of strong women. Here's the link if you want to read it.

I definitely identified with Reynolds' viewpoint and recalled an old research study, which of course I now can't find, that very independent women often were compensating for deep, strong dependency needs. I'll keep looking, but in the meantime, I commented on the post and Marcia answered.

Women's dependence/independence conflict

Provocative – all over again. We seem to deal with the same issues repeatedly, in different forms and with varying intensity. Maybe it's just that the issues e.g. body image, self-confidence, balancing roles, dependence/independence conflict are always with us but are brought into focus prominently at different stages of life by different women of influence.
Here's a quote from a book by Rosalyn Meadow and Lilly Weiss, psychologists in Phoenix.
"When women have denied their needs for affiliation and 'interdependence' by trying to fit into a man's world, they have severed the roots of their identity."
That may be the problem, but how to prevent it for younger generations of women?

Need for affiliation

Great question Judy. I never equated the issues strong women face with their need for affiliation, though their high need for recognition and their difficulties when people don't accept their ideas could stem from this. Hopefully, as the workplace becomes more collaborative, this will help the younger generations of both men and women. Yet it will impact their need to stand out. I guess the first step is awareness and dialogue.

Bottom line from my perspective is that the whole issue of dependence/independence and gender, at work and at home, produces almost impossible to answer questions — at least not generalizable answers. Every situation is different depending on your self-awareness/approach/experience with the issue of dependence/independence — and the other person's too.

•  If I am open/closed about my needs/wants in this professional/personal relationship with a man/ woman, will it increase or decrease the chances of a good outcome? The matrix of variables, known and unknown, specific and vague, will be too huge and unmeasurable.

OK. I'm not going to pursue this further and I imagine your glad to read that.

Last thoughts on the topic for the day.

 Even if some women have severed the roots of their identity, by either denying their needs for affiliation, or denying their needs for independence, we can reground ourselves if we choose: transplant some thinking, regrow, reroot, and reblossom into a more comfortably balanced hybrid. Women have amazing capabilities of flexibility.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

One Step at A Time — Problem-Solving for Monday

Moving on today to problem-solving from — detachment, creating space, backing off and letting go techniques. The detachment category of stress reduction is often the best way to deal with negative self-talk as well as external stressors,  and it's hard to learn. For some people, any staring into space, mind emptying techniques produce an onslaught of unwanted stressful thoughts and feelings at first. Overwhelming at times. There's something to be said for denial, suppression, and repression occasionally.

A focus on a problem, over which you have some control, helps to move us forward with thinking and action, while leaving some of the emotion effectively behind. This morning when the world is confronting all kinds of problems over which most of us have NO control, pick out one small nagging work problem to take action on today. For example:

• I've asked George three times for the files that I need and I haven't heard anything back from him.
Problem? How can I get the files from George without creating conflict for either of us?

• I'm supposed to give a short presentation on Wednesday and I don't have time to even start on it today.
Problem? Where can I find 15 minutes to at least start thinking and making notes for the presentation?

• The paperwork I need to use for the meeting tomorrow afternoon is totally disorganized.
Problem? Can I run the meeting even if the paperwork is disorganized or do I have to get it in order first?

 Next step in the process is gathering information. I usually go to prioritizing next: Of these 3 small problems, what one will produce the most immediate satisfaction, reduction of stress for me?

• Even though I'm annoyed with George, I don't really need those files right away. Lowest priority.

• If necessary, I can give a decent off the cuff presentation if I've spent a little time thinking through and writing down a structure.
This is high priority for today so my thoughts will have time to incubate.

• I know if the paperwork is disorganized, I tend to be too, and it shows. Best to get those papers in order. Highest priority.

Then I start looking for solutions.

• Let the George thing go for now?
• Jot down some notes about the speech right this minute?
• Delegate the paperwork organizing today? Assistant? Daughter? Friend?

We all have bigger and much more complex problems than these 3 examples, but small nagging stresses are often what drag us down, according to Hans Selye, the noted theorist.
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Friday, August 5, 2011

Create Space by Being in the Moment

Although weekends can be stressful in their unique way, focusing on here and now, a tricky achievement, can help.

A suggestion was made at yoga this morning that we create more space between each negative thought, so that rather than one negative thought, e.g. "I never should have said that," bursting in air into twenty negative thoughts,  "I always say the wrong thing," "I'm an idiot sometimes," "People must think I'm brain dead," the original thought slowly disintegrates from inattendance.

Like any skill, cooking fish on the grill, creating a budget, parenting toddlers and teens, it takes time and mistakes, learning and improvement, before we reach a comfortable level of accomplishment.

I'm working on creating space this weekend. What are your thoughts, your experiences?
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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Intelligent Women and Courage

 Psychology Today blogger Steven Kotler has an interesting article about courage on his site. He mentions the lack of research about the topic and starts his own examination of the understudied concept. He says, "Considering the massive spike in anxiety-disorders in the past few decades, this dearth seems especially troublesome." I agree, thinking particularly of past  posts titled, "Anxiety is the Enemy of Intelligence", Nov. 17 and 21, 2010.

Anxiety is also the enemy of courage, although I don't have research findings to validate that belief.

As a start, Kotler has developed 12 categories of courage, which in a way is a good start, but in another way seems like an obstacle to understanding of the characteristic.  The two categories that most interest me at the moment, as related to intelligent women are:

"4. Intellectual Courage: Obviously, this is the willingness to come out in favor of an idea that others find patently ridiculous. I think there are probably a few subset [sic]  in here as there seems to be some kind of fundamental difference between, say, Galileo’s courage to argue that the earth revolves around the sun (based on scientific evidence) and the courage to defend an idea like creationism (that flies in the face of scientific evidence), but how to tease them apart further is not yet clear."

"9. Emotional Courage: This is a willingness to do something like get divorced or break up with your boyfriend and the like, where on knows that you will feel emotionally wretched for a considerable period of time afterward, yet you’re still willing to suffer those consequences for a greater emotional (ie. chance at happiness) pay-off later."

I applaud Kotler's  attempt to get a handle on courage, although I would have different definitions and different examples.  E.g. Intellectual courage is much more than willingness to come out in favor of an idea that others find ridiculous. It is courage to take time and energy to think first rather than react, to gather information rather than make up stuff, to know your facts, even if they disagree with your beliefs. What Kotler calls intellectual courage, I would call integrity, but now I'm heading for a tangent.

I see what Kotler talks about as emotional courage as courage to take action, based on decisions you've arrived at through your intelligence and your emotional moderation. What are your thoughts about courage, intelligence, negative self-talk, stress and women in particular?

I'm going to follow Kotler as he keeps on this topic of courage. Here's the link to the post:
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Monday, August 1, 2011

A Monday and the First Day of the Month is a Great Time to Detach

All the best advice I've received from friends in the last few days has been focused on detachment as the solution to stress problems that involve lots of people, anger, frustration, controversy, accusations and conflict. Theoretically, I'm an expert on detachment because of my long-term experience with meditation. In practice however I can over-engage, which is sort of a synonym for too intense, too close, too focused. From three very different people, I got the same advice, stated in different words, but highly similar. Back off, reduce the heat, slow the train, pull off the road to a rest stop, smell the roses, leave town, take a break, take a nap etc: all examples of detaching.

Here are some thoughts that I had yesterday as advice for me and to others in my current conflict-filled environment.
The principles are easy. Application is hard.

• Assume to start with that people with whom you are involved, even if they tick you off, don't have bad intentions. They may have made an error in judgment or in communication, but they haven't intentionally meant harm.

• Adopt a willingness to compromise, to acknowledge a mistake.

• Be willing to apologize, forgive, if not forget, or forget, if not forgive.

• Contribute your time and energy to making your specific social system work if you're not currently doing so.

• Continue to be a person of integrity even when you think others are not.

More articles on/about/related to detachment can be found on intelligentwomenonly.com

Older: Jan 14, Jan. 26, and June 28, 2010
Newer: June 13, June 20, June 27, and July 8, 2011
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