Archive for January, 2013

January 31, 2013

Leslie Morgan Steiner: Why domestic violence victims don’t leave

by Dave P.
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January 31, 2013

Susan Cain: The power of introverts

by Dave P.
January 31, 2013

Live in the present

by Dave P.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

January 30, 2013

Happy New Day!

by Dave P.

Every day should be celebrated as a holiday. It’s a new chance to improve the self, the country, and the world. We have the choice of either being happy, sad, angry, or anxious. It’s an easy choice.

So go up to your neighbor or co-worker and wish them a Happy New Day! Or at least share a smile.

January 30, 2013

Respect yourself (Part 2)

by Dave P.

Even in the most dire circumstances, we have far better chance of faring well if we maintain our dignity. Many of those who survived the Holocaust did so because of their mental toughness more so than their physical strength. Many of them did what they could to help others, which allowed them to maintain their self-respect. They had meaning in their lives and reason to keep on trying.

Viktor Frankl wrote about meaning in life. Meaning was the central theme of his Logotherapy, which became Existential therapy. We can find meaning in even the most trivial of events. A walk around the park can be a mindful experience. Picking up a loaf of bread can be an opportunity to brighten up someone’s life with a smile. Self-respect comes from doing good things — from making the world a better place.

We tend to lose self-respect when we’re self-focused. When we’re in that state of mind, we’re self-absorbed and sensitive to criticism. We don’t want to be bothered with other people’s problems when we’re desperately trying to deal with our own. We pity ourselves, which destroys self-respect. It makes us feel inferior — that we’re victims.

If you were playing the role of yourself in a movie about your life, you wouldn’t want your character to be a weak, self-absorbed, vindictive character. You’d want that person to be strong willed, noble, honorable, and to have impeccable integrity. You’d want your character to stand up for what’s right and to fight wrongs.

We can aspire to be good, decent people. It’s not that difficult. Doctors take an oath to practice medicine honestly and ethically call the Hippocratic Oath. At it’s core is the message: “First, do no harm.” It’s equivalent to the negative version of the Golden Rule that states: don’t do bad things. But that’s not enough. We need to also do good things when we can, but at the very least, don’t do bad things.

January 29, 2013

Respect yourself (Part 1)

by Dave P.

“If you don’t respect yourself ain’t nobody gonna give a good cahoot.”
~ The Staple Singers (written by Luther Ingram and Mack Rice)

Often, when we feel sad, depressed, angry, or anxious, we do things we would not ordinarily do. Rather than show appreciation for the people in our lives, we take out our frustrations on them. A factory worker who was chewed out at work might go home and abuse his wife. A sales person who didn’t make his or her quota might go out to the bar and drink too much, and then drive home drunk. When we should be relying on our social support network to help us manage life’s stressors, we often do things to hurt them. We don’t want pity. When people feel sorry for you, they lose respect for you. No, we want to be strong, and strong people deal with stress by being aggressive towards others or by drinking. Or so goes the common attitude.

Our self-respect can be damaged in a number of ways. The most common is promising to do something and not following through. Obviously, if you do that at work, there will be repercussions. But people do that all the time outside of work. I’ve had many people sign up for my workshops and then just not show up. I could usually get a pretty good estimate of the number of people who would show up by dividing the number who signed up in half.

Many of my workshops were for people who suffered from anxiety. Anxiety depletes the dopamine levels in the brain, and dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for motivation. That explains why people didn’t show up. If I could have offered a pill to help them with their social anxiety or fear of public speaking, those numbers would have been a lot higher. But overcoming those issues requires work, self-discipline, and confronting your fears head-on. You have to really want to overcome your problems in order to put yourself through that, and sometimes we’d rather just play it safe. Sometimes our desire to avoid pain is stronger than one of experiencing joy.

People often mean well but don’t follow through. They might volunteer to help out at the local home owners association with the best intentions and then realize they don’t want to be inconvenienced. Or they volunteered because they thought others would respect them or like them more because of their offer. By not adhering to their promises and obligations, they’ve lost the respect of others, but more importantly, they’ve lost self-respect.

I was out for an evening walk with our dog last summer when I heard muffled screams. I looked ahead and saw a car moving slowly down the street. People were having a fight inside. I walked quickly towards the commotion and they sped up and turned the corner. Some ten minutes later, the car re-appeared — the screams more intense. The car pulled over to the curb and the passenger side door flew open. A woman fell out of the car, screaming and crying. I ran towards her and could see a large man pushing her away. I yelled, “Hey! What the hell’s going on there!” as I ran towards them. He saw me, gunned the engine, and drove away, leaving the woman laying in the road, sobbing.

She was okay, but shoe-less, without a phone, and without anywhere to go. Her face was battered from the fight. I told her I was going to call the police, but she pleaded with me not to. Instead, she asked to use my phone to call a friend. I walked her down to a corner store where she could wait safely until her friend arrived. I told the clerk to keep an eye on her and to call the police if her assailant came looking for her. She hugged me after I told her to give me a call if she needed anything.

I could have easily just ignored the woman’s cries and gone home, but I would have had to live with that. I would have lost faith in my own eyes of the man I aspire to be. Sure, we all screw up once in a while and don’t do what’s right. The only way to restore our self-respect is by acting in ways that reinforce it. The question we should ask ourselves is, “What would you want others to do if you were in that situation?” The cost for not acting is far greater than any inconvenience you may experience.

In Buddhism, the forth element of the Noble Eightfold Path is Right Action, which is to act ethically in all situations. Our actions have consequences or karma. Not helping those in need has negative karma. Helping those, or at least trying to help, has positive karma. The Buddha called that Right Intention. Sometimes we try to do what’s right but fail and sometimes even cause the situation to become worse. When we have Right View, which involves an accurate understanding of the situation, the risk that we will cause harm is minimized.

Most of you have probably heard of the Golden Rule. In Christianity and many other religions, the golden rule states that one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. The problem with that is, people sometimes feel that if they do some good things, the bad things they do don’t matter. The negative form of the Golden Rule is that one should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated, which is the Jewish form. If we combine the two, we get self-respect.

Self-respect also involves our dignity. It’s about not allowing people to take advantage of us. Have you ever gotten a call from an acquaintance who all of a sudden became friendly because he or she wanted you to help them move? Or maybe someone decided your home would be a good place for a party, even though you’re not close to anyone who will be attending. Or maybe someone just is using you to get a ride somewhere. We have a right to say no when someone is trying to use us. Those kinds of friendships are toxic. We don’t need them in our lives.

But what about if you’re lonely and don’t have any close relationships? Fear of being alone is sometimes greater than the strength needed to keep toxic people at a distance. If that’s the situation you’re in, only self-improvement can get you out of that rut. Self-improvement is important for everyone, whether you’re a dishwasher at the corner diner or the CEO of a major corporation. Successful people continually work to improve themselves. Happy people generally do the same. Self-improvement gives our lives meaning, and meaning is one of the five elements of happiness as defined by positive psychologist Martin Seligman.

You shouldn’t Have Took More Than You Gave
~Dave Mason

Self-respect involves working to make the world a better place. That doesn’t have to involve something like saving the whales or eliminating hunger in Africa. We make the world a better place by smiling at someone who looks like she might be having a bad day. It might be helping the clumsy kid at school pick up his books. It could be letting someone into your lane in rush-hour traffic. It’s also about offering something of value when speaking to people. Offer a little humor, an interesting story, or just an interest in what the other person has to say.

Depression is believed to be learned helplessness. It’s about not having a feeling of control over your life. It’s about feeling like you’re a victim. When you have that victim mentality, you lose your self-respect.

Many social scientists believe that welfare and affirmative action generate a victim mentality. The entitlements were originally designed to provide a safety-net for, when, though no fault of your own, you run on hard times. It became a way of life for too many people and created a continuous cycle of dependency on government rather than personal responsibility. The reform of the 1990s eliminated many of the problems.

End of part 1

January 28, 2013

Can’t sleep due to ruminations or worry? Try this.

by Dave P.

Most people suffer from occasional sleepless nights. When the problem becomes chronic, it’s time to take action, but what do you do? You can get a prescription for sleeping medication, but they often leave you feeling worse the next day. You can try counting sheep or visualizations, but those techniques are limited in their effectiveness.

A fairly new technique that has proven to be effective for stopping unwanted thoughts is called Rapid Eye Oscillation Technique (REOT). You simply close your eyes and move them back and forth with varying degrees of rapidity depending on the context.

To help with sleep when you can’t turn your brain off, simply get into a comfortable position and slowly oscillate your eyes (move them back and forth) until you fall asleep. Doing so has the effect of clearing your working memory and clearing your unwanted thoughts, which allows you to fall asleep. It’s almost impossible to think of anything else while you’re oscillating your eyes, which is why it works.

REOT can also help with emotionally charged ruminations. Try to recall the stress inducing memory while oscillating your eyes fairly rapidly. You’ll find that doing so removes some of the emotion from the memory, which makes it less vivid and less likely to disrupt your day.

January 14, 2013

Have fun when you’re giving a talk or presentation

by Dave P.

“Life should be lived as play.”
~Plato

When you fear public speaking, there is little chance you’re going to enjoy yourself when you do get up in front of an audience. Most other methods designed for overcoming glosophobia try to get you to put up with your anxiety. That’s like trying to get someone to put up with a thorn in his or her foot. Why not just pull out the thorn!

Part of learning to have fun with being the center of attention is changing your attitude. This is your life; be the star of your life. Don’t settle for a bit part. When you’re up on stage, that is your chance to shine. This is your opportunity to show the world (or at least your co-workers) what you’re made of.

I used to have severe anxiety at work meetings when we’d have to introduce ourselves. If I was first, I didn’t have time to get nervous, so it wasn’t bad. But when there were several people ahead of me, I’d get more and more nervous as we took our turns around the conference table. What was I so afraid of?

Here are a few tricks I learned to reduce the anxiety.

  • Take a look at the people around the table. Chances are, on average, they’re not any smarter, articulate, capable, or better looking than you are. They’re not better than you, so why do you feel intimidated? Recognizing that you’re as good, if not better at what you do than the rest of the people there can help you relax.
  • Recall what you know about the person currently speaking. What is that person’s name and position at the company? Pay attention to what that person is saying. It might actually be interesting and you could mention something about it after the meeting as a conversation starter. He or she will be impressed that you were actually listening. Being generous with your attention will lessen your worrying.
  • As it gets closer and closer to your turn, imagine an hors d’oeuvre tray coming around the table with some tasty treats. You can’t wait until it gets to you.
  • Practice ahead of time. You know there are going to be times when you are required to introduce yourself, so be prepared. Practice at home and have something interesting to say. Maybe even have something humorous ready. Almost everyone appreciates humor at work, including the managers.

Introductions at meetings are probably the most basic of public speaking tasks, but they can be extremely important if your managers are there listening. That may be the only time they get to hear from you, so make the most of it.
Read more…

January 9, 2013

Stop the negative thinking

by Dave P.

Much of the anxiety we experience when speaking in public is self-induced. We see people in the audience as a threat. Most people are not a threat. Unless you happen to be speaking at a psychopath convention, the threat you perceive is all in your head.

Too often, we’re overly concerned with what others think of us. We want people to like us, to think we’re intelligent, competent, honest, and hard-working. And we’re devastated when they don’t. We try to live up to other people’s expectations. Some people are forced into careers chosen by their parents, spouse, or even society. We want to be respected for what we do, and our occupations define who we are to a great extent.

Many people work at a job just to pay the bills and just bide their time until retirement age when they can finally do what they want. That’s not living. That’s wasting time. Sure, we need to earn a living and provide a good life for our families, but we also need to be authentic. When we’re trying to be someone we’re not, we’re not living up to our potential. We only have a brief time on this earth and not living up to your potential can create existential anxiety.

When we devote an abundance of our time to negative thinking and worrying what others think about us, it becomes a bad habit. The way we think affects the actual structures of our brains. The parts of the brain used for negative thinking grows and the parts used for positive thinking shrinks. The brain is like the muscles in our bodies; the parts that are exercised grow strong and increase in size, and the parts we don’t use tend to wither away.

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January 5, 2013

Fear of Public Speaking: Develop Your Public Speaking Skills

by Dave P.

The “D” in the DISH method is for developing your public speaking skills. Obviously, you’re not going to give a good talk or presentation if you don’t know how to construct a good speech. Knowing that you don’t have good skills will make almost anyone anxious. You wouldn’t jump out of a plane without knowing how to open your parachute. Likewise, you shouldn’t attempt a talk in front of an audience without knowing how to construct a speech. If you just get up and start rambling, that’s not going to be a good experience for anyone!

When you give any kind of a speech or presentation, you’re telling a story. Stories need to have a distinct introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction should tell the audience what you’re going to say, the body is where you say it, and tell them what you said in the conclusion.

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