Psych Central

My Long Relationship with Anger as a Motivator

By Shannon Cutts

halfThe other day I went out walking with my mom and her hiking club.

The walk leader promptly proceeded to get us lost in the urban woods. For TWO HOURS.

At first I took it well – it was a pristine day, just the right degree of sunshine and warmth, and the company was good.

But as we walked and walked, and it dawned on me that we were walking in circles yet again, my temper finally frayed. Once it began fraying, it wasn’t long before it completely unraveled.

When we got back to the car, I apologized to my mom and her friends, saying I didn’t know why I had gotten so angry. My mom said, “Yes, usually you aren’t like that.”

The truth is, that particular combination of events represented a particularly heinous pet peeve of mine – trusting someone else to lead me and getting lost as a result. As such, I was angry at myself first and foremost, and as my anger towards me built, it simply spilled out and over onto everyone in the damage path.

Through this experience – and a few similarly irritating others that piggybacked on it in days to come – I have recently come to realize just how much I have often depended on the internal combustion of unexpected (and frequently humiliating) anger to push me towards positive change.

For instance, I still remember my childhood best friend telling me I was “too fat to be friends with” – too fat to even be seen with, for that matter. 

Continue reading… »

What Corvids and Humans Have in Common (or why we both grieve and like potato chips)

By Shannon Cutts

MindRavenRight now I am reading “Mind of the Raven” by Bernd Heinrich.

It is great bedtime reading, because instead of attempting to go to sleep while worrying about my bank balance or whether I’ll be single forever, I can go to bed worrying about whether I can finish this 350+ page tome before the library sends the angry check-out police to my door.

Plus, corvids just fascinate me. According to Science Magazine, corvids (crows, ravens, magpies, jays) are capable of mental time travel, social cognition (whatever that is), and tool manufacture. According to fellow corvid enthusiast and author Candace Savage,

Crows, ravens, magpies, and jays are not just feathered machines, rigidly programmed by their genetics. Instead, they are beings that, within the constraints of their molecular inheritance, make complex decisions and show every sign of enjoying a rich awareness.

Cooooool. Plus – I just have to say it – I rather think I already knew that.

PBS’ “Ravens – Discover the Brainpower of the Bird in Black” features studies by Heinrich and others that prove corvids are as smart as canines. Not only that, but Heinrich has observed how his ravens (those he raises and those he studies in the wild) have distinct dining preferences – for instance, these meat-loving avians turn up their beaks at a snack of fresh raw beef liver, but hone right in on scattered potato chips. 

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Identifying the Moment Positive Self Talk Begins

By Shannon Cutts

voicesI get so many questions from recovering people about how to replace the mean voices inside their heads with something kinder.

For many years I didn’t know how to answer this question. This, of course, was because the voices inside my own head were still quite mean.

Today, the voices in my head have gotten much kinder. Unfortunately, this does not mean I am any closer to answering those who ask me how it is done.

What I can say is – when the shift occurs, you will KNOW it.

Although, truthfully, you might not know it all at once – for me, significant changes like this often “sneak up” on me – like they are afraid I will run them off if they just show up with too little advance warning.

So I will never be one of those people you want to ask, “So what was the exact, precise, on-the-second moment when you knew such-and-so had changed?”

But I will tell you HOW I changed the positive self-talk in my head, and how you can know your own efforts are starting to work.

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Three Types of Effort You Must Make to Achieve Your Goals

By Shannon Cutts

penOver the years I have come to realize that making an effort is not something I really understand all that well.

In the meditation course I subscribe to, this thought recently arrived in my inbox:

There is no reason that what is meant by self-effort should be vague. It’s just a matter of doing it. If we don’t do anything, then no self-effort is being applied.

What I learned from this – initially – is that there are two different types of effort. I also learned that both are essential if I want to achieve my goals.

Setting a goal is the first type of effort. Doing the actual work required to achieve that goal is the second type of effort.

Truthfully, I am mostly already quite good at the former – goal clarification. I am even good at plotting out the steps towards achieving a goal. But I’m still not good at all at following my own plan by actually doing each of those steps.

In another installment of my meditation course, I received this additional insight on how to get better at goal achievement.

Continue reading… »

You are You for a Reason

By Shannon Cutts
The me I am decided that getting blue and purple streaks in her hair was the perfect way to celebrate the festive holidays and a once-in-a-lifetime 43rd birthday!

The me I am decided that getting blue and purple streaks in her hair was the perfect way to celebrate the festive holidays and a once-in-a-lifetime 43rd birthday!

There is nothing like taking 43 years to figure this out.

But I will be honest – it wasn’t until just this month – and just a few days ago, in fact, that I finally convinced myself to stop worrying so much about whether who I am, how I act, what I prefer, and how I live is the “right” way to be.

Can you relate?

For 43 years, I have logged daily high quality time lecturing myself about how I need to do more of this, less of that, adjust my preferences or habits “or else”…..and yet after all those years of well-meaning and well-composed self-lectures, here I am.

I am still me. I am still the same me. I still act the way I act and think the way I think. I still have certain preferences and other aversions. I still live the way I live, and no amount of lecturing or motivational speeches or dire predictions can sway me from it.

Then it finally occurred to me – mid-way through this second month of my 43rd year – that maybe there is a reason for it.

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Take a Virtual Walk with Us for Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2014

By Shannon Cutts

NEDAMC_VWImage_CropThis week marks the start of the National Eating Disorders Association‘s Annual NEDAwareness Week (Feb 23 – March 1, 2014).

This is a whole wonderful week designated to raise awareness, share education, and generate support for individuals who are affected by eating disorders.

As a person who has recovered from anorexia and bulimia, this is a personally significant week for me.

It is also a week when MentorCONNECT, a NEDA Network partner (MentorCONNECT is the eating disorders nonprofit I founded in 2009), comes together with NEDA to raise awareness and funds for our joint work to ease suffering and spread hope of recovery.

We do this through our “Virtual Walk,” a social media-based effort to get the word out that eating disorders are deadly and isolation kills. With support, with love, with treatment, people DO heal.

This is our 4th year of co-sponsoring the “Virtual Walk” – and we hope you will join in!

Oh, and participating is easy – oh, so easy! And you can participate even if you can’t donate money!

If you are able to make a donation:

You can also share the Virtual Walk link using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other favorite social media apps to invite friends and family to participate.

If you want to share the link with others: 

And if you want to share a picture, feel free to grab the one displayed here and just link it to the walk page URL. :-)

The National Eating Disorders Association and MentorCONNECT both benefit from your donations and your sharing – and we both thank you in advance for your support!




When It Is Hard to Do Right By Yourself

By Shannon Cutts

bedA friend sent me a fabulous article on Tiny Buddha called “What to Do When You Find it Hard to Do What’s Good for You.”

Of course I jumped right on it.

This is because I have that problem all the time, with all kinds of things.

I also have all kinds of (very good sounding) reasons for why I shouldn’t work harder to overcome the many obstacles in my life….especially the ones I sort of suspect I am putting in my own path.

Of course the author of the article talks about “big things” – obvious things – things like trying to quit smoking, trying to start eating better, trying to exercise for your health when you really just want to lay on the couch again – those sorts of things.

But I could easily see how the message relates to the smaller things too – the subtler things – things like talking rudely to yourself in your head, or letting fear creep up and tackle you yet again without even putting up a fight, or saying something mean about someone else because you just feel too lazy to restrain yourself.

The article’s author says that both the big things and the little things are a symptom of the same thing – a lack of self-respect.

I totally agree.

Continue reading… »

Oxytocin, Mirror Neurons, and Sentient Plant Life

By Shannon Cutts

MadeforEachOtherBookIn my last post, I introduced you to a great book called “Made for Each Other: The Biology of the Human-Animal Bond” by Meg Daley Olmert.

Of course, this book addresses the mutual benefits to humans and non-humans of making and maintaining close-knit cooperative bonds.

What I did not expect to encounter within its pages was evidence to support that plants can achieve the same.

I love plants. However, the feeling has never seemed particularly mutual.

Even my highest best intentions has not produced any surefire way to keep the plants in my household either green or alive. So imagine my surprise when I read the following:

Susan Dudley and Amanda File of McMaster University in Ontario found that plants, like humans and animals, are capable of social recognition. Plants actually recognize other plants that are related to them, and when they see another plant as kin, they refrain from competing with it for root territory. It is not known whether plants can extend any sort of social recognition to the humans who care for them, but James Cahill of the University of Alberta and his colleagues found that they do respond to human touch. 

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Why We are Made for Each Other

By Shannon Cutts
Mommy and birdie share some quality time together.

Mommy and birdie share some quality time together.

I just finished another great book – “Made for Each Other: The Biology of the Human-Animal Bond” by Meg Daley Olmert.

Given that it is Valentine’s Day today, and my feathery sidekick and I are celebrating 13 (loud but) blissful years together, I thought the book would make for a perfect post.

The premise of “Made for Each Other” is simple: humans and animals have been bonded together for centuries – until now.

The last 100 years has dramatically changed our ability and need to be connected to our non-human helpmeets in practical ways (think farming, milking, construction).

As this bond slowly breaks down, it is changing us – and not for the better.

Continue reading… »

Free Range Love and How to Find It

By Shannon Cutts

windowFebruary is the “month of love” annually for many people.

Not for me.

And especially not this year.

A month before my birthday (in December) I lost someone who was like a second mom to me and had been slowly passing all during the last year. So….basically, an excruciating wait followed by an even more excruciating loss.

Two months after that (so in January), I went through the breakup of a long-term relationship….and by long-term, I’m talking a decade of not just romance but also true friendship.

It has been a challenging month.

To add insult to serious injury, the dreaded “grief cycle” (thanks but no thanks, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross) quickly returned – with enthusiasm – to “help” me through my twin losses.

What its help has looked like on a daily basis feels similar to what I imagine I might see if I was inside a blender as it was grinding up a few heaping cups of multi-colored Fruit Loops.

Continue reading… »


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