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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday's Psychology Research: Note 2 Younger Self Part !V: Are You a Social Learner an Action Taker or Both?

Thought for Today: Somehow the fall has been exceptionally busy for me. I will be spending time again on a critical incident today, so that my writing time is minimal. Therefore, I decided to write about two of the typical groups of responses to people's notes to their younger self. (If you have not read the previous segments, you may want to take a look. Part I: Results From Advice To Your Younger Selves: What Makes Us Regret Our Youth?Part II: What Makes One Person Survive And Thrive & Another Bend & Surrender? & Part 3: Mind Games Or How Do We Learn To Trust Ourselves?). These two groups, "Social Learners" and "Action Takers" raise multiple questions. If you see yourself In either of these groups, I would love to hear from you. What or who taught you these life lessons?

The 1st group are "Social Learners." They were a relatively small segment of the responders. Only 4 of the 72 responses mentioned improving social relationships as their advice to their younger selves. Their advice includedBe Kind, Love More, Love only Who Treats You Right, Be More Social. Unfortunately, these responders did not elaborate on their choices. I can only guess that they were more socially isolated or awkward and learned over time that friendships and relationships were important for their emotional well being. Perhaps they had a few broken hearts in the process.

The second much larger group, included a little under 1/3 of the responses to the question of what 2 word advice you would give to your younger self.. In the "Action Takers" group, action is the key to finding the path to health and happiness. Their advice sounds like a cheer leading squad encouraging their younger selves to take action, "Focus Deeply, Chill Out, Take Action,  Eat Healthy, Keep WritingKeep Active, Love Yourself, Be Love, Leave Home, Take Risks, Set Goals (2), Dream, Let Go, Be Brave, Be Real, Lighten Up, Pay Attention, Enjoy Today, Go On, & Think Ahead." These responders did not share what led to their 2 word conclusions. Therefore, they leave me with multiple questions. Were the people in this group always risk takers? Their advice does not connote the kind of painful learning processes that the "Survivors" or "Mind Gamers" seemed to have gone through to reach their conclusions. Did these people grow up in families that encouraged them to take risks, dream and be brave, making it easier for them to mature and accomplish things in their lives? If you are inclined to confront challenges in this way, I would love to hear more about how you became an "Action Taker."

I hope to complete this series this week, but your comments will help me develop additional topics that interest you. Thanks in advance for any comments and suggestions. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

#FF 10/19/14 Wonderful Weekend Review: #Psychology, ##Songs 4 the Soul and #Comics

Click here to view the magazine 
Thought for the Day: This weekend's review includes some interesting articles on #mentalhealth and gun control; how to have fun, a wonderful new movie, "Skeleton Twins," that deals with the difficult topic of suicide in a sensitive;  thought provoking way, #Inspirational #Music from +Carrie Underwood   and a creative, colorful video with music from +The Rolling Stones . Then there's lots of #comics and #quotes for your enjoyment on this beautiful fall weekend.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday: Note 2 Younger Self Part 3: Mind Games or How Do We Learn to Trust Ourselves?

Thought for the Day: I had a very busy day Wednesday which began by helping out at a bank following a robbery. Whenever I can, I go to companies after critical incidents, but it often turns my schedule upside down for a few days! Two full days working with clients left no room for writing and posting. Therefore, today I'm trying to catch up and share the third set of results from the mini-research project based on your 2 word notes to your younger selves. This series of posts is leading to some very interesting questions. How and when did you learn to trust yourself?

There has been a great deal of interest in the results of this research project. It has certainly provided food for thought. I called the group of responses that I want to talk about today "Mind Gamers." I must admit that I chose it thinking that the name would get your attention. Usually mind games have negative connotations. In this case, there is nothing negative about these responses. These “mind games” have an extremely positive impact on those who use this approach to reach out to their younger selves. It was therefore really important to hear about when the members of this group acquired this knowledge and what prompted to offer this advice to their younger selves. Unfortunately, only a few subjects told their stories.

When we are confronted with adversity, what we say to ourselves makes a big difference in how we handle the situation. Our thoughts impact how we perceive and cope with the challenge. Positive psychology research has shown that truly the saying ,"Mind over matter" is true. Since as I reported in an earlier post, negative thoughts lead to depression (Which Comes First Depression or Low Self Esteem?), positive thoughts are important for our mental health and well being. The “mind gamers” were by far, the largest group in this study one third of the respondents chose positive self talk as what they would say to themselves. This may have been due to the large number of therapists who responded to this survey on a LinkedIn group for psychologists and other therapists. Close to half of the therapists chose positive self comments for their two word advice. Here's the kinds of things they said to their young selves and why...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Thoughtful Tuesdays: Note 2 Younger Self Part II: What Makes One Person Survive and Thrive & Another Bend & Surrender?

Thought for the Day: Yesterday, I  began sharing the results from my mini research project. I am excited to let you know that people have already written responses to some of the questions I posed. By doing so, I hope that the posts will become even richer. Thank you in advance for your thoughtful comments. Today, I want to address another type of two word notes of advice to your younger selves which reflects a group of inspirational people, I called “survivors.”  This group is in many ways the one we can all learn the most from since they have learned from and overcome painful life experiences. Even without knowing the stories behind their two word advice my heart could feel that there lives had not been easy. They learned their lessons from the school of hard knocks. They reach out to their younger selves with messages like:
      "So Sorry, Tell Someone, Set Boundaries, Grow Anyway, Waste Your Youth, Why God?, Don’t Worry, Behave Yourself. Quit Drinking, Stop Crying, Choose Happiness, You’re Not to Blame, Endure.

A few of these brave survivors shared their stories. I will cautiously tell you about their journeys without giving details that could identify them. There were thirteen people from the 72 in the study whose responses seemed to fit this category. One person explained, "because I am not where I want to be in life. I could never have imagined that my life would turn out like it has. Essentially, I feel drained, beaten, and slighted by fate. I turn to God and ask why.” They went on to say that they chose a question for their younger self which they could interpret on their own. It had taken ten years, but somehow they trusted that their younger self would find the answers. 

Another person from this group who is only in their twenties would advise their teenage self "not to worry." They had learned that worrying made it harder to cope with raising three young children. Becoming a parent may be a fast track to wisdom beyond your years. 

It was interesting to learn that many of the survivors in this study were in their teens when they broke away from a painful life experience. Literally, some “burned” their path to freedom when they stopped trying to fit into someone else’s expectations or were forced to build boundaries between themselves and someone who was abusive to them. One of these “survivors" took only 90 minutes to escape, moved away, started a business and made a “fresh start” when she had barely entered adulthood. 

For others the journey would take much longer with the issues coming back to haunt them after 40 years. Some found their strength through therapy, others through volunteer work with young adults coping with similar difficulties. For some the death of the person who abused or the loss of a loved one reopened wounds that they had considered buried and resolved.

The conclusion to “Choose Happiness" came to one of the members of this group after “spending a lot of (their) life letting clinical depression get the better of (them) and taking a long time to realize that (they) had to decide to get the better of it.” 

Only one woman (now just in her early 20’s) from all the participants in the study had different messages for herself at different ages. Her progression and development were reflected in the shift in the advice she would give to her younger selves. Although she did not say what led to her tears and fears, her first comment to her 18 - 20 year old self, "stop crying.” would place her in the survivors group.  As she matured and found more strength, her self talk would bring her into one of the other groups with words of self encouragement: “Go On” and finally to the recognition of “You’re right.” 

This young woman’s journey is similar to others in the survivor’s group. They needed to learn that they were not to blame for things that happened to them or those they loved. One participant’s touching powerful words would be applicable to many of the others in this group,  "I was reminded that.... I needed to forgive myself. Not because I thought I could have done something differently, but because I kept blaming myself for what others had done to me. This left me consumed with rage and anger and as a result, I was NOT living life to the fullest." 

Although the survivors have suffered and made mistakes, they, unlike those who surrender, seem to intuitively have gained wisdom and found resilient ways to overcome adversity. What gives these people the strength and wisdom to break away and save themselves from the tenuous situations even when they are barely adults? One of the threads that they seem to have in common is that they were forced into roles of responsibility in order to survive and stepped up to the plate. Some had to fend for themselves at a young age. Others became young parents. It could be that being forced to learn to parent yourself at a young age, even if your parents were neglectful, acts as a catalyst for growth, self awareness and wisdom. One of my readers, +Sidra Luna,  sent me a link to an article on the positive aspects of the twentysomething brain. When tragedy befalls someone at a young age, their developing brain may have some unique qualities which are advantageous and help them cope. For some of these young survivors, their youthful passion, fearlessness in the face of risk and curiosity about human nature, may help them discover solutions to their dilemmas.

I have worked with people who are survivors throughout my career and am always impressed by their strength, wisdom and bravery. My guess is that somewhere along the way there was someone, a parent, grandparent or teacher who loved them and helped them know they were worthy of having a better life. What do you think? What allows one person to survive and thrive when another bends and surrenders?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Motivational Mondays:: Part I: Results From Advice to Your Younger Selves: What Makes Us Regret Our Youth?

Thought for the Day: I am starting a new series of post. Each will include a number of questions. I hope you will share your thoughts and comments to enrich the learning that can result from posts like the one which stimulated the current series. I look forward to your thoughts and comments as I explore a new format for the blog. Thanks in advance for your help!

When I first posted the question:  If you could write a note to your younger self what would you say in only two words?  I never imagined where the results would lead me. The question fascinated me from the moment I read it. Although I had my own response, I held my tongue since I wanted to hear what the people who follow my blog would say. The responses flowed in from across social networks. There were multiple responses from groups on Google+, responses on Facebook, Quora, Tumblr and therapists from a LinkedIn group responded with insightful comments. Although I have over 10,000 twitter followers, I’m unsure why no one tweeted any 2 word advice. As the two word notes to people’s younger selves came in, I began to ask for additional information. How old were they now? When did they realize that these 2 words of advice were important to them? Why did they choose these two words? When people replied the stories behind the notes were fascinating.

To make sense of the results, I began to put the responses into 6 categories. The categories have  a great deal of overlap. At times I was simply guessing as to where the responses belonged since not all people shared their back stories. I did my best to group them together and tried to make sense of what they could teach about gaining insight and wisdom. Using these groupings, I’d like to start to describe what these words of advice mean and how they might help people at any point in their lives.

First let me say that I think the task reflects how people grapple with growing up. It also reflects what I have called the challenge of learning to become one’s own “dream parent.” We have two parents. Most do the best they can to help their children become productive members of society and live good lives, but parents are not perfect. Very few of us are lucky enough to have what I call “dream parents” in my book. However, in addition to our parents, we may have encountered some parenting figures along the way who have helped us cope with life challenges. A “dream parent” can be the combination of our parents, an aunts or uncles, neighbors, coaches or teachers who helped us along the way. These two word messages are signs of what we have learned about self parenting ourselves as adults.

Some people who responded to the questions felt that developing wisdom takes a long time. They see age and experience as necessary to acquire what it takes to offer good advice to their younger selves. I preferred to keep an open mind without preconceived notions of what allows one to gain wisdom. I wanted to find out how and at what age they learned the advice. I also wanted to see whether people developed insights to share with their younger selves or not. The findings may surprise you. Read on to hear more about what your responses have taught me and some additional questions they have raised for me...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

#FF Wonderful Weekend Review: #Psychology, #Songs 4 the Soul & Sunday #Comics

Click HERE to see the whole magazine

Thought for the Day: Today's magazine has more comics than usual. Somehow, I kept finding funny photos, GIFs and video clips, so I kept adding them. Don't miss, the amazing gif on the cover, the walk on water or water skiing that demonstrates how to make the best of a bad situation. Although the funny and inspirational quotes may distract you, interspersed among them are some great serious articles related to psychology. There's a report on why adolescents don't sleep well and a Harvard researcher's findings on "thinking dispositions." The story of the accomplishments of a man with Down's Syndrome can be an inspiration to parents of people with special needs. There is also a touching story of how the Utah Jazz Basketball team helped a young boy with cancer accomplish his dream. Finaly, for songs for the soul, I chose a new song by Neil Young, "Who's Gonna Stand Up." I love the message, but the orchestration doesn't work too well for me. What do you think? I also found a great video clip of Eric Clapton's pick of the best guitar rendition of "Hey Jude."

Have a great end of the weekend! Tomorrow I plan to begin to share the stories behind people's 2 word advice to their younger selves and what we all can learn from their words of wisdom. If you have not shared your 2 cents, I mean words yet, feel free to add them. Here's the initial assignment photo:
 Motivational Monday
Click to read more about this research assignment

Friday, October 10, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday: Making This Blog More Responsive To Your Needs:

Thought for the Day: I know that it is Friday, but I have been really busy communication with my readers. Thanks to their wonderful comments and conversations I have been having with them, this has been an inspiring week for me. There have been over a hundred responses to my post on Monday! I have tried to correspond with everyone who has written a comment. I must admit it has been a bit overwhelming, but exciting at the same time. The question, "What 2 Word Advice Would You Give To Your Younger Self?" hit a chord for many people. As I said yesterday, I want to give people time to write back and tell more of their personal stories. Then I want to take time to understand how they reached their 2 word note to themselves. After I organize and make sense of the responses, I believe I will have several posts on how we grow, develop and learn from our experiences.

I also feel Monday's post may have shifted my approach to this blog. I love having more interaction with you, my readers. I know that the blog is being read since there have been over 133,000 page views since I began writing less than 3 years ago. I also know that many people enjoy the posts, but I want to be sure it really meets your needs. I not only want it to help you learn about yourselves but also show you how psychology can help you improve your lives. In the interim, from now till next Monday, if you have more 2 word notes to yourselves that you would like to share as part of this experiment, feel free to do so. On Monday, I will try to present the first set of results.

If you have ideas or topics you would like me to address, please share them. Thanks in advance for your help and comments as I begin to redesign the structure of this blog and make it more responsive to your needs.