Archive for March, 2012

How Quickly Do You Process Your Emotions?

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

There’s a dead dog lying in the middle of the road, and we both see it.

As if jolted by a cattle prod, my highly sensitive companion rears in her seat and wails. Ooooooohhhh Nooooooooo!!!! She trembles and her eyes well up.

Meanwhile, I just keep on driving. I’d been deep in our conversation, and the meaning of that inert, furry heap in the center of the roadway hasn’t  yet registered in me.

So by now we’ve driven right past the dog and quite a distance beyond, and I still haven’t said a word or even slowed down, and my friend is choking on tears.

We’re easily a quarter of a mile away when I mutter We need to go back.

I turn the car around and return to where the dog still lies, and I pull over and step out and look both ways before walking out and dragging the dog’s body to the curb.

Lessons From the Empty Room

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

The critical person enters the room, feeling irritable…and he scans the room, looking for something or someone to point to as the cause of his irritability.

I’m paraphrasing John Gottman from a wonderful 3-minute YouTube clip entitled The Best Predictor of Divorce.

I think it’s instructive to the critical person to enter the room…and find it empty. What will he do with his irritable feelings now?

Perhaps he’ll fill it right away with another lover, or with material objects. Perhaps she’ll clutter it with work or other busy-making activities.

But what if the critical person simply sits in the empty room and experiences the irritability? What might he learn about himself? Perhaps she’ll find that her feelings aren’t deadly and that, in fact, she is fine just the way she is.

And doesn’t this go for all of us? Spending some stretch of time alone, with no other person to affix our moods to and no external factors to blame for the way we feel…what might that teach us about our worries?…our melancholy?…and our happiness?


Permission to Be Quiet

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

Here comes spring, and I’m eager to get outside. There’s nothing I enjoy more than Central Park on a sunny weekend afternoon.

I go for the fresh air and sunshine and pretty surroundings and exercise. I bring a book and I sit on a bench by myself and read…

…which is the sort of behavior that leads extrovert pals to frown in concern and ask me questions like this: Why don’t you socialize more? Why don’t you take a break from the books and get out and make some more friends? 

And it casts a shadow of self-doubt. Is there something wrong with me?

Four Study Tips You Might Not Expect!

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

I gave this talk today for the PTA at my local high school:

1. Consider Location: Where Does Your Child Do His or Her Homework?
The bedroom is often the worst place in the house!

  • It’s lonely (no companionship or support)
  • It’s full of distractions, electronic and other
  • And there’s that sleep-inducing effect of staring at or studying on one’s warm, cozy, tempting bed

Better choices:

  • Dining room table
  • Kitchen table or counter (especially for younger students)

My very favorite study location: The public library

The Crippling Fear of the Unwise Choice

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

In the fall of my senior year of high school, I applied to one college. I was accepted. I attended.

This was waaaay back in 1977, and many of my peers report similar experiences. Most of us somehow wound up attending institutes of higher learning. “Choice” doesn’t necessarily feel like the right word to describe the processes that got us there.

In the abstract, I can imagine having searched more thoroughly and located  a school that would have been a better fit for me. But, I can’t actually name that school. And this is despite my being in a line of work that acquaints me with the features of hundreds of colleges and universities.

For better or worse, I truly never thought in terms of selecting the “right” college.

Ana Homayoun describes the angst that I and my similarly clueless peers were spared:

Can Limiting Choice Make Writing Flow?

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Do we need other people in order to understand ourselves better?

Take just a few seconds to consider this question.

OK, now: unless you were too rushed or distracted to actually invest those few seconds, you found that your mind automatically began forming a reply.

Questions can be great for kicking the brain into a productive mode, because:

  • Questions stimulate thinking, and…
  • Questions provide focus.

Can Too Much Choice Be a Bad Thing?

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

I haven’t been blogging a lot lately, and the main reason is because I stare at that blank computer screen and I’ve got SO MUCH to say, I can’t decide what to write about first.

I’m like a mule stuck between at least twenty intriguing potential-subject haystacks, paralyzed by the sheer number of interesting things I’ve been reading and discussing, all of which I long to express in print.

None of which is happening.

It’s wonderful to have variety and selection. Who doesn’t enjoy freedom and flexibility and a cornucopia of options? Who doesn’t thrill to a banquet spread before them?

In fact,  too much choice can be absolutely stultifying.

I see this in my students all the time. I live and work in one of the most affluent areas of the country, and the kids I tutor have every sort of choice. We all believe these kids “should” be grateful for all their privileges, yet often they are paralyzed by them.

What to wear? What sports to play? What friends to hang out with? What to do with one’s free time? What music to listen to?…and, of course, those truly terrifying questions:



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