Archives for March, 2010


Living Down to Expectations? A Life-Lesson from Tutoring

A lot of my work is with kids identified as learning disabled. Often, these students have been tested, found to have particular difficulties in certain subject areas, and then "accommodated."

This might mean that they receive extra test-taking time, or they are allowed to type instead of write, or they might be given a reader to read them test questions. I don't necessarily have any problems with these sorts of testing adjustments, which are intended to level the playing field on an exam.

But often, accommodations are made to a student's day-to-day school workload. Commonly, the student is excused from certain requirements expected of the rest of the class. It doesn't appear that the student can handle the level of work, and so expectations are reduced. One of the rationales for this is that giving a kid more than he can succeed at will damage his self-esteem.

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Emotions and Feelings

Two Big Problems With The Blame Game

I've been talking a lot recently about "not-blaming." This is an important theme for me.
I see two big problems with The Blame Game:

Blaming others makes them defensive and less likely to hear the message or take action.
Blaming others dumps all the responsibility on them and deflects it from ourselves; it allows us to feel OK about copping out.

I truly believe that very few people set out to deliberately, purposely do harm. And yet, of course, harm happens all the time. But why does this mean somebody must be blamed?

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Emotions and Feelings

In a Good Relationship, Partners Enhance Feelings of Control

Control is one of the most important of all psychological issues. Starting at birth and continuing throughout our lives, we grapple with the question: What do we have control over, and what don't we?
The dilemmas of consciousness and of Self have control at their center. What is my "Self"? It is this thing that I am in command of, the ship that I steer, the life that I direct.
Feelings of control are critical to psychological health. Locus of control and learned helplessness are central developmental and therapeutic topics. A recent Scientific American article points out that "Feelings of control are essential for our well-being." Even something as small as giving nursing-home patients control over watering the plants in their rooms (vs. not giving them the means to care for their plants), resulted in patients' increased physical health and emotional contentment.

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Emotions and Feelings

In Troubled Relationships, Fantasy Makes Us Feel Less Helpless

I found a fascinating article in Scientific American; a study was done showing that when people feel helpless they become more superstitious:
Feelings of control are essential for our well-being -- we think clearer and make better decisions when we feel we are in control. Lacking control is highly aversive, so we instinctively seek out patterns to regain control -- even if those patterns are illusory.
Apparently, any event which makes us feel helpless, from getting...
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Emotions and Feelings

Lovers Who Leave Our Psyches Starving

Yesterday I wrote about one psychological benefit of healthy relationships: empathic mirroring.

I am grateful for Vickie's reply:
Knowing in general what the theory of "mirroring" means, it never occurred to me before to place it in the category of one of the benefits of a good marriage. It always seems that we are constantly on the lookout for the fore-warnings of where our marriage might take a turn for the worse that we...
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In A Good Relationship, Partners Provide Mirroring

I'm taking a break from talking about mental illness, but I'll be back to it soon!

I've been in a good, committed love relationship for a while now, and though I've also been happy during my single periods, being half of a couple makes me feel especially good in so many ways.

This weekend, I recalled the following reply from a happily married man when he was asked what was great about being married (though I can't recall what book it came from):
The best thing about having a partner is that I don't have to reinvent myself every morning.
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A Better Name for Personality Disorder?

Delving deeply into the confusion surrounding "personality disorders," I wonder: Aren't they really self-perception disorders? Or could we say identity disorders?

Personality is the set of behaviors we show to others. Those behaviors come from the interaction between our self-perception (our experience of who we are), the coping strategies we've developed, and the situation we're in.

For example, if I perceive myself as competent and likable, and I've learned that approaching others with a confident smile and an open manner has worked well in the past, then I'm likely to stride into the next job interview or date exhibiting a warm, friendly, direct personality.

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Deep, Sensitive…Or Mentally Ill?

I've become very interested in the difference between ego-syntonic and ego-dystonic disorders.

A person with an ego-syntonic disorder does not believe he is ill; he experiences his disorder as an inherent part of his identity.

In contrast, an individual with an ego-dystonic disorder feels afflicted, feels that something is wrong. These individuals are far more likely to seek and accept help and to do well in treatment.

Some disorders seem to fall clearly into one category or another. Many of the personality disorders are ego-syntonic, making them especially difficult to deal with. But some PDs are less so than others.

And depression seems to go either way.

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Clarifying "Personality Disorder"

I’ve been writing a lot lately about personality disorders.

Linda F had an excellent comment, part of which I’ve reprinted below (the rest will be shared in a later post). She correctly notes that not all the personality disorders as listed in the DSM-IV share the characteristics I’ve been describing.
I appreciate that you have written on the "pain" one suffers, as well as friends and family, when they have a Personality Disorder (PD), however, the way...
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