Archives for communication
Laura and I sometimes amuse ourselves by noticing how language and expressions gradually morph over time. For example, have you ever taken note of how often people preface something they’re about to say with the single word, “Look!”? I think in the past, folks used to call attention to what they were about to say with “Listen.” Why the change? Go figure (another one of my favorite phrases). And then there’s the ever popular “Seriously?...Really?” I like that one a lot. Why? I really don’t know. It just conveys a tone that I like. Perhaps it’s my sarcastic streak. At any rate, I find myself wanting to say “Seriously?....Really?” pretty often when I confront the thoughts that constantly bombard the minds of people who have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Today is quiet. The southern Rockies that I see out my windows are dusted with snow and the sun peeks in and out between broken clouds. The wind is picking up and the temperature is below 50—it’s a pretty typical winter day. Later as it cools, I think I’ll make a fire. My goals for today are modest, sort through the recycles, do a few loads of laundry, and write a blog. I’m trying not to get a cold so I’m drinking lots of juice and I am spending most of the afternoon reading, one dog sleeping below me and the other curled up on the couch. It’s a bit chilly so I cover myself with an afghan that my mother knitted years ago. Pretty cozy.
No doubt you’ve encountered or even read numerous blogs, articles, and/or books that extoll the virtues of optimism. Some research has shown that optimists tend to have better relationships, happier lives, and greater accomplishments. Some authors suggest that you can never be too optimistic and that, by implication, you should worry if you tend toward the pessimistic side of things. I suppose I should be concerned about all of this hoopla over optimism. You see, as my wife will readily verify, I rather often take a different approach. It’s something that Dr. Julie Norem calls “defensive pessimism.” Sounds sort of awful doesn’t it? Does this mean that I walk around morose and glum and project nothing but doom and gloom? Not at all. However, I do frequently imagine “worst case scenarios.” I run various “what if” scenarios through my mind such as:
I’m pretty sure that I came out of the womb as a cognitive behavioral therapist. Well, maybe a behavioral therapist—I guess I wasn’t using language those first few months. But, I’ve always been acutely aware of how rewards, lack of rewards, and thinking all interact and influence feelings and behavior. In my early training, I considered myself a radical behaviorist. I still do pretty much. I believe that the words we use and the thoughts we think can be considered verbal behavior. But, those beliefs are much more complex than what I wish to discuss today.
Drs. Francesca Gino and Dan Ariely (the latter is an author of several fascinating social psychology books) recently published a highly creative article on the potential dark side of creativity. Obviously, creativity is a highly valued ability, especially in today’s rapidly evolving, complex world. Creative products sell better and creative companies thrive in competitive environments. Who could argue about the value of creativity? Certainly not Apple and probably not most of its customers. But Drs. Gino and Ariely questioned whether creativity always leads to good outcomes. Specifically, they proposed that creativity may actually lead to greater dishonesty and cheating because creativity helps people justify and rationalize their unethical choices and behaviors. In other words, a creative mind can more easily search for inventive ways to engage in dishonest behavior yet maintain a positive, moral view of one’s self.
It’s report card time here in New Mexico and I am getting lots of phone calls from parents who have recently had parent teacher conferences. By far, the biggest referral I get is for kids who are suspected of having attention deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD). Almost 20 years ago, I began collecting material for my dissertation which was about the relationship between ADHD, empathy, and perspective taking (the ability to understand that other people have thoughts and feelings). At that time, I was curious to learn more about a disorder that appeared to be increasing within the population. The majority of researchers believed that ADHD was, in most cases, related to genes or a problem during the pregnancy or birth.
I remember when e-mail started to become one of the primary ways people communicated with one another, and my mother refused to even consider learning how to use it. Sure, she was getting older, but she still had a very sharp, highly intelligent mind. I wondered why in the world she wouldn’t embrace this new, obviously more convenient way of communicating. She wouldn’t even consider looking at a totally simplistic device that had but one function: sending and receiving e-mail. She was also a rather stubborn person so I thought perhaps that was the problem. But, upon more reflection and observation, I realized that she simply was fearful, almost phobic about anything that even remotely seemed “technological” in nature. I also concluded that she wasn’t going to listen to me and that she would spend the remainder of her days on this earth avoidant of and resistant to new technologies. Oh well, I figured that was her right, even though I thought she should probably find a way to deal with her fear.
No one really knows why there seems to be an incredible rise in the rates of people with autism. Conservative estimates point to a 300% increase. Some of the increase is likely due to better diagnosis. And we know that autism runs in families and appears to have a genetic component. Others point to environmental stressors such as increased exposure to pesticides and hormones. But there is little certainty in the scientific community about what is happening. Children and people with mild autism sometimes appear to others as self-contained and aloof. Others may assume that those with autism are pretty calm, cool, and collected. However, they are likely very wrong. Those with autism may suffer increased levels of anxiety and stress because of interpersonal isolation. They feel different from other people and worry that they may be disliked or misunderstood. This may lead the child or adult with autism to withdraw or avoid. This lack of contact with others can lead to more awkwardness and lack of opportunities to practice social interactions.
We’ve written about the fact that certain therapies work well for the treatment of anxiety whereas other approaches have little support in the literature for their effectiveness. Therefore, we always encourage you to ask for treatments that are backed by solid research. But getting the right therapy is just the first step. Another issue arises when you start working with a therapist. Namely, how do you know that you’ve found the right match for you? Usually, people feel comfortable with their therapists. They feel connected with and heard by the professional they’ve chosen to work with. That’s because “most” therapists are reasonably kind, skillful, and good at listening.
I don’t generally watch television during the day. However, I have an injury that requires me to sit down with an ice pack a few times a day. So, I ended up watching a bit of the hearings with James and Rupert Murdoch (the family that runs News Corporation--a mega media conglomerate) at the English Parliament. During the time I was watching, someone in the audience threw, what appeared to be a plate of shaving cream, into Mr. Murdoch senior’s face. After a break in the proceedings to clean up, the hearings continued. Mr. Murdoch was praised for his bravery in continuing after the trauma he experienced. The reason for the hearing was to establish who was responsible for hacking into phones of crime victims (including a young murder victim), deceased soldiers, politicians, celebrities, and possibly 9/11 victims.