Love may seem magical, whimsical, steered by the forces of fate, timing and chemistry…but, in fact, love thrives when people behave well towards one another and withers when they treat one another badly. (Duh!!)
I make my living working with kids, and it’s my impression that most of them have little clue as to what they want to do with their lives, and that they find the very question terrifying.
People use words as weapons, to defend themselves. It is common for people to attack with anger when they are afraid and to become insulting when they are hurt or jealous. -Dr. Shirley Glass
When we are anxious or angry we can’t think straight. This means we ought to avoid taking action or having heavy conversations while immersed in these mood states.
The emotions of fear and anger trigger our internal fight-or-flight mechanism, which sends epinephrine (adrenalin) gushing through our bloodstream. Our heart races, our blood pressure shoots up, our platelets ready themselves to clot in case we are injured…and our higher-level thinking skills shut down. After all, it doesn’t take a lot of brainpower to run from a saber-toothed tiger.
If I ever write my memoirs, I’ll devote one chapter to each of the books that changed my life, by authors including Dan Ariely, Judith Rich Harris, Steven Pinker, Martin Seligman, Shirley Glass, John and Julie Gottman and Haim Ginott.
I’ve always been a reader and a learner, and it’s no coincidence that I wound up in the education field. I believe in the power of knowledge to solve problems and make life comprehensible and happier.
I love this time of the year; time to think about a fresh start and renewed goals. For the past two years I’ve curated collections of favorite TED talks, which you can view here:
Last week I wrote about the demonstrably positive effects of longer-term studying. Kids who begin studying several days before a test and who study consistently and to the point of mastery get high grades.
This seems like a no-brainer, right? So why don’t more kids do it?
One reason is that fear and anxiety hamper people’s ability to think straight and organize themselves. (We talk a lot about executive function issues in kids, but these are problems all people of all ages experience)
As part of his research with couples, John Gottman attached heart monitors to his subjects, and he discovered that when people become emotionally agitated, their systems “flood” with adrenaline and their heart rates elevate. A heart rate above 95 beats per minute signals that a person’s listening, planning and reasoning skills have broken down.
Why don’t they listen to us?
Along with academic tutoring and test preparation, I teach study skills: how to study for a biology test, how to write a term paper, how to learn vocabulary words.
Parents are eager for these lessons, and also jaded.
…it is possible to process at most 126 bits of information per second…It is out of this [limited amount of available attention] that everything in our life must come – every thought, memory, feeling, or action…[and] in reality it does not go that far.
-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow, pg 29
Two PsychCentral bloggers have written recently about emotional infidelity, and I want to throw in my own two cents.
Like Beth, there was a time in my past when I was involved with a lovely and lovable man who insisted on maintaining close “friendships” with other women, including several of his exes.
And that’s a good thing, right?
Joe was super-smart, responsible, kind, scrupulously honest, family-oriented, conscientious, and like me, more focused on doing valuable work than on making tons of money.
The relationship itself, however, was stupefyingly difficult, for reasons Joe and I struggled to figure out.
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?
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: