Brain and Behavior

The Long and the Short of It: Answering Questions in a Complex World

Last week, I was driving home from work at a local university, where I teach freshman writing. As usual, I was listening to NPR. A story came on about how Alaska Airlines had struck a deal to buy Virgin America. I wasn’t really paying attention to the details until someone asked the reporter a question about the takeover. The reporter said “The short answer is -- ” and then proceeded to answer the question.

At that phrase, my ears perked up. “What a wonderful way to frame information!” I thought. Life is complicated. There are short answers, and there are long answers. It struck me as very smart to begin explanations by saying either “the short answer is” or “the long answer is.”

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General

Making History with The National Museum of Psychology & How You Can Help

The history of psychology is filled with famous and inventive figures, significant discoveries and fascinating research -- everything from Sigmund Freud and talk therapy to the birth (and demise) of dementia praecox to Phil Zimbardo’s prison experiment to Stanley Milgram and the shock heard around the world.

At first glance, these might seem like highly specific subjects only relevant to people in the psychology field. After all, who really needs to know about antiquated illnesses, decades-old experiments and psychology theories?

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Brain and Behavior

19 Ways You are Emotionally Abusing Yourself

He is a multimillionaire client of mine. Handsome. Accomplished. Respected. Gentle. Reflective. Kind.

And I was examining every angle of why he was allowing a clearly destructive woman (borderline personality disorder) out of his life. He agreed over and over again that she was bad for him, that she felt no remorse, that suddenly abandoning partners was her longtime modus operandi, and yet, he couldn’t let go.

With enough digging, a story emerged.

“I was small as a kid. I was the last guy picked for all the teams. I guess I’m afraid nobody will pick me again if I can’t get her back.”
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Books

4 Tips for Really Hearing Someone Even When It’s Hard

How often do we actually listen to other people when they’re talking? I mean listening without focusing on how we’re going to respond, without interrupting, without debating what they’re saying, without getting defensive. Probably less often than we like to think, even though listening is incredibly important. It’s important for building beautiful relationships and for navigating every area of our lives.

We need to listen carefully at work to our bosses and colleagues. We need to listen carefully to our clients. We need to listen carefully to our partners and our kids and to all of our loved ones. This is how we gain a deeper understanding of the people we’re interacting with. This is how we avoid misinterpretations and miscommunication. It’s how we resolve conflict. And it’s how we genuinely connect and strengthen our bonds.
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Bipolar

Genes and Mental Illness: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

During my long and narrow-eyed search to find information online regarding having a schizophrenic mother, I have often been faced with information which is a complete and utter downer. Something like this:

Hey, you know how your mother is schizophrenic? Well, guess what? That means you have more chance than other people of being schizophrenic yourself! You also have more of a chance of being depressed! And of living in poverty!

I’ve read statistics about how likely the child of a schizophrenic is to develop the same illness. It’s like Death knocking at your door.
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Brain and Behavior

Understanding the Fascinating World of Dreams

“I was walking down a dark street, whistling and enjoying the darkness. Suddenly, I heard footsteps. Somebody was following me. I tried to run but my legs were cement. I couldn’t budge. I screamed. Nobody heard me. My heart was beating so fast. I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do.”

Maria continued: “I woke up in a cold sweat, shaken by the dream and wondered what it meant. I couldn’t figure it out. I have no enemies. There’s nothing that’s scaring me in real life. So, I kind of just tried to get it out of my mind by telling myself it’s just a dream.”

Dreams are mysterious. We’re both fascinated and perplexed by them. When they frighten us, we try to push them aside, saying “it’s just a dream.” Too bad. We can learn a lot from our dreams once we learn to speak their language.
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Friends

Facebook Fame, Real-Life Shame

“People aren’t posting about their Pinto breaking down on I-80 or their glamorous work trip to Walla Walla,” a friend wryly observed.

No. No, they aren’t. Instead, we are treated to a barrage of adorable baby photos, beaming couples, and far-flung destinations. If Tinder requires every attractive female to proclaim their love of (insert hometown) sports team, Facebook stipulates that every couple proclaim their undying devotion in mushy status updates. Maybe Facebook should sponsor Prozac -- or, at the very minimum, provide every singleton with a complimentary bouquet of flowers.

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Brain and Behavior

The Making of a Happy Mind

The mind, just like any other entity in nature, follows some specific laws. The mastery of these laws can be immensely helpful in improving mental health and generating happiness.

Long before the discipline of psychology was established, philosophers started providing answers to the question of how to reach happiness. Tested by science, some their claims have been refuted, while others were confirmed, such as the following statement made by Epictetus in The Art of Living:
Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control and some things are not. It is only after you have learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility become possible.
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General

Reconnecting to Yourself Every Day

We can get disconnected from ourselves regularly. Even on a daily basis. This can happen because we’re fully focused on checking off tasks from our to-do lists. Or because we’re fully focused on taking care of everyone else.

It can happen because we’re stuck in our heads -- “leaning too far into the future or obsessing about things that didn't go well for us in the past,” said Kelly Rose, LMFT, a psychotherapist who helps people reconnect to their authentic selves in Wayzata, Minn. Because when we’re disconnected from the present moment, we’re really disconnected from ourselves, she said.

Rose shared this quote from Eckhart Tolle: “Most humans are never fully present in the now, because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now."

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Addiction

Psychology Around the Net: April 23, 2016


Earlier this week, a recently unemployed friend of mine began a round of several interviews for a new job that, if all goes well, potentially could be the perfect fit for him. During the first interview he was asked, "What is your strongest attribute and how would it benefit our company?"

My friend is a quick thinker and delivered an answer that, after talking about it later, we both decided indeed summed up his strongest attribute; however, the interviewer's question made us both start thinking more deeply about our attributes -- especially as they relate to employment and personal relationships.

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Depression

U.S. Suicide Rates Go Up & Up: What Does It Mean?

For the past 15 years, the suicide rate in the United States has gradually inched upwards year after year, reaching its highest point ever. This according to new research just published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Starting in 2006, it's gone up about 2 percent per year, rising 24 percent in the study period from 1999 to 2014. Women fared worse than men, with women's suicide rates rising 63 percent versus men's 43 percent.

What does it all mean? Why are suicide rates increasing at all, instead of falling?

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