Thursday, November 27, 2008

It's That Time Again

I've written about gratitude before, here, and in my newsletter. I hate to belabor it, but it is Thanksgiving in this part of the world. So here's something you may find useful. Emmons wrote about it in his book Thanks!, having borrowed it from the Buddhist meditation technique Niakan. Reflect on these three questions:

  • What have I received from ...?

  • What have I given to ...?

  • What troubles and difficulty have I caused ...?

By means of these questions we focus on the gifts we receive, those we give and those we, perhaps, have chosen not to give. This last, of course, is about being ungrateful. The idea is to focus on these questions daily for some period of time, or at greater length while considering a particular relationship. Of course, you can use them in any way that seems helpful in your life.

And thanks, again, for reading my blog.

Imagine all the people, sharing all the world...John Lennon, Imagine

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Uncommon Law

A common law marriage is one in which the partners are not legally married via the “right” kind of ceremony, but which is recognized in many jurisdictions as a legal marriage. Individuals in common law marriages may have the same legal rights as those married in the more common way.

Psychology Today reported a study in which expert chess players were more likely to use a longer but common strategy, overlooking a shorter strategy that was less common but better in certain situations. In other words, the experts tended to get in ruts.

So where am I going with this? We have many common ways of doing things in life. Sometimes the common ways get us in ruts. But sometimes we do the uncommon things, and they turn out quite fine. In doing the uncommon, we avoid falling into a rut.

People are always asking me what the “right” move is, meaning, the more common move. It’s not good to get into a relationship on the rebound, right? I shouldn’t get involved with this guy because he’s still talking to his soon-to-be ex-wife, right? I shouldn’t take my dream job because I’ve just changed jobs and it doesn’t look good to change too often, right? I’m too old to change careers, right? People don’t start running at 50, right? Divorce will hurt my kids, right? Remarriage will hurt my kids, right? Staying single will hurt my kids, right? Oops, wait a minute. Is nothing right?

In psychology, there are classic experiments that demonstrate diametrically opposed truths. Like birds of a feather flock together vs opposites attract. Out of sight, out of mind vs distance makes the heart grow fonder. We can find evidence to support any of these views. Is nothing right?

So, should you get into a relationship on the rebound, i.e., soon after you end a relationship? Common wisdom tells us not to. I think it depends. It depends on the relationship you just ended, the one you just started, and most of all, on you. What do you want? What do you need? What works for you? What doesn’t work for you?

I like reading about people who start med school in their 50s, law school in their 60s or writing in their 80s. Look at Grandma Moses. She was in her 70s when she started painting. All very uncommon.

Think about it. What have you put on the back burner? What’s something you’ve really always wanted to do. What have you thought might be fun to do, or good to do, but you didn’t do, thinking that some will think that you should not do it.

I’m here to tell you, there’s no right or wrong for many choices we make. We just have to do the best we can. Consider whether you might have to do the uncommon thing at times, to find the right path for you. And if it doesn’t work, there’s always the road not taken.

Have a listen to Fanfare for the Common Man (Aaron Copeland). Nothing common about it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Before you pick up your Louisville Slugger

I’ve talked about anger a lot this week. It’s funny I’ve never blogged about it, since I used to do anger management groups, I’ve written about it and it’s certainly something that lots of us have difficulty with.

These are Judy’s tips for managing anger, before you have to resort to your Louisville Slugger.

Like most things, first you have to identify the problem. For example, you notice you feel like screaming, punching someone out or kicking something. It’s probably anger, right? Even noticing that you’ve been sarcastic or snippy is a pretty good indicator. Sometimes wanting to withdraw is a signal.

Then you look at the ABCs. For most emotions, an ABC analysis is helpful. A is for antecedent, B for behavior and C for consequence.

I really wanted to say something I know I’d later regret. This registered as anger when I thought about it.

What was the antecedent or trigger? What got you upset?

My friend said something I thought was unnecessarily mean.

What was the behavior, the thing you did in response to the antecedent?

I was short and left abruptly. [Let’s note here that another typical behavior is to internalize the anger, not saying anything.]

What was the consequence?

The immediate consequence was my friend was left with her mouth sort of hanging open. A subsequent consequence may be that she’s angry with me for my rudeness. Perhaps I’ll lose a friend. [Again, let’s note that in not saying anything or doing anything, you may avoid this consequence but there are other consequences. In not responding to something that hurts or angers you, you wind up feeling angry or resentful perhaps.]

As part of noting the consequences, it’s also useful to evaluate them. Is it a good outcome? How else could you have handled the situation? What would be preferable next time?

Other helpful tips:
  • Not all anger is worth acting on. Ask yourself if it will matter in two weeks, two months, etc. Or will you just forget about it and write it off as no biggie. If so, then it may be okay to do nothing.
  • To rely on an old adage, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. If you’re going to say something, say it calmly and politely. You’ll probably feel less angry, and the other person may actually be able to hear you.
  • When you practice change - for some it’s controlling their anger, for others, expressing it - it gets easier the more you do it.
  • When you’re having a bad day, self-control is not as good. Your anger management will not be as good. You might just as well wait until tomorrow to confront someone you’re angry with. It’ll probably go better

So before you pick up your Louisville Slugger, listen to Carrie Underwood, Before He Cheats, or the Bartender Song, Rehab.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Do girls just wanna have fun?

For the past few weeks I’ve been searching the internet here and there, looking for articles about fun. What I’ve found have been articles and sites for games and gaming, “how to” pieces incorporating fun (e.g, how to have fun learning), some personals (looking for fun woman), and sites making fun of various things, including psychology. Nothing on fun itself. I finally found “fun with serotonin,” on the psychology today site, although I didn’t really get the fun part of it.

So where do you go when you can’t find something? Wikipedia, of course. When you search for fun, you’re redirected to recreation. First off you see that the article can’t be edited without special approval due to “vandalism.” A small irony here, perhaps. You note at the end that you’re referred, among other things, to a site explaining recreational drugs. But the gist of it is:
Recreation or fun is the expenditure of time in a manner designed for therapeutic refreshment of one's body or mind. There’s a small section entitled “legal restrictions.” Some recreational activities are made illegal in many jurisdictions because of the perceived immorality of certain forms of "fun." Need I say more?

Then there’s Merriam-Webster on fun: what provides amusement or enjoyment; and on play: recreational activity; especially: the spontaneous activity of children.

So if we keep this in mind and focus on ourselves (after all, what’s more important?), what’s fun to us? In other words, what do you do to have fun? I’ll bet you can think of a few things. Now ask yourself, how much time do I spend, in a given day, having fun? Be selective. Even if you love your work, you can’t really count it as fun, can you? Do you need to spend more time having fun?

Why do I care about fun? I find that a lot of people don’t seem to value it much, but it appears that having more is related to being happy. It’s just something to think about. Have fun with it.

And have a listen to Girls Just Want To Have Fun (I like Cyndi Lauper’s version, although apparently Miley Cyrus’ Girls Just Wanna… is quite popular according to iTunes).