Why Children Aren’t Behaving, And What You Can Do About It


Boy completes his chore of raking leaves

Childhood — and parenting — have radically changed in the past few decades, to the point where far more children today struggle to manage their behavior.

That’s the argument Katherine Reynolds Lewis makes in her new parenting book, The Good News About Bad Behavior.

We face a crisis of self-regulation,” Lewis writes. And by “we,” she means parents and teachers who struggle daily with difficult behavior from the children in their lives.

Lewis, a journalist, certified parent educator and mother of three, asks why so many kids today are having trouble managing their behavior and emotions.

Three factors, she says, have contributed mightily to this crisis.

First: Where, how and how much kids are allowed to play has changed. Second, their access to technology and social media has exploded.

Finally, Lewis suggests, children today are too “unemployed.” She doesn’t simply mean the occasional summer job for a high school teen. The term is a big tent, and she uses it to include household jobs that can help even toddlers build confidence and a sense of community.

“They’re not asked to do anything to contribute to a neighborhood or family or community,” Lewis tells NPR in a recent interview. “And that really erodes their sense of self-worth — just as it would with an adult being unemployed.”

Below is more of that interview, edited for length and clarity.

What sorts of tasks are children and parents prioritizing instead of household responsibilities?

To be straight-A students and athletic superstars, gifted musicians and artists — which are all wonderful goals, but they are long-term and pretty narcissistic. They don’t have that sense of contribution and belonging in a family the way that a simple household chore does, like helping a parent prepare a meal. Anyone who loves to cook knows it’s so satisfying to feed someone you love and to see that gratitude and enjoyment on their faces. And kids today are robbed of that.

It’s part of the work of the family. We all do it, and when it’s more of a social compact than an adult in charge of doling out a reward, that’s much more powerful. They can see that everyone around them is doing jobs. So it seems only fair that they should also.

Kids are so driven by what’s fair and what’s unfair. And that’s why the more power you give kids, the more control you give them, the more they will step up.

You also argue that play has changed dramatically. How so?

Two or three decades ago, children were roaming neighborhoods in mixed-age groups, playing pretty unsupervised or lightly supervised. They were able to resolve disputes, which they had a strong motivation to because they wanted to keep playing. They also planned their time and managed their games. They had a lot of autonomy, which also feeds self-esteem and mental health.

Nowadays, kids, including my own, are in child care pretty much from morning until they fall into bed — or they’re under the supervision of their parents. So they aren’t taking small risks. They aren’t managing their time. They aren’t making decisions and resolving disputes with their playmates the way that kids were 20 or 30 years ago. And those are really important social and emotional skills for kids to learn, and play is how all young mammals learn them.

While we’re on the subject of play and the importance of letting kids take risks, even physical risks, you mention a remarkable study out of New Zealand — about phobias. Can you tell us about it?

This study dates back to when psychologists believed that if you had a phobia as an adult, you must have had some traumatic experience as a child. So they started looking at people who had phobias and what their childhood experiences were like. In fact, they found the opposite relationship.

People who had a fall from heights were less likely to have an adult phobia of heights. People who had an early experience with near-drowning had zero correlation with a phobia of water, and children who were separated from their parents briefly at an early age actually had less separation anxiety later in life.

We need to help kids to develop tolerance against anxiety, and the best way to do that, this research suggests, is to take small risks — to have falls and scrapes and tumbles and discover that they’re capable and that they can survive being hurt. Let them play with sticks or fall off a tree. And yeah, maybe they break their arm, but that’s how they learn how high they can climb.

You say in the book that “we face a crisis of self-regulation.” What does that look like at home and in the classroom?

It’s the behavior in our homes that keeps us from getting out the door in the morning and keeps us from getting our kids to sleep at night.

In schools, it’s kids jumping out of seats because they can’t control their behavior or their impulses, getting into shoving matches on the playground, being frozen during tests because they have such high rates of anxiety.

Really, I lump under this umbrella of self-regulation the increase in anxiety, depression, ADHD, substance addiction and all of these really big challenges that are ways kids are trying to manage their thoughts, behavior and emotions because they don’t have the other skills to do it in healthy ways.

You write a lot about the importance of giving kids a sense of control. My 6-year-old resists our morning schedule, from waking up to putting on his shoes. Where is the middle ground between giving him control over his choices and making sure he’s ready when it’s time to go?

It’s a really tough balance. We start off, when our kids are babies, being in charge of everything. And our goal by the time they’re 18 is to be in charge of nothing — to work ourselves out of the job of being that controlling parent. So we have to constantly be widening the circle of things that they’re in charge of, and shrinking our own responsibility.

It’s a bit of a dance for a 6-year-old, really. They love power. So give him as much power as you can stand and really try to save your direction for the things that you don’t think he can do.

He knows how to put on his shoes. So if you walk out the door, he will put on his shoes and follow you. It may not feel like it, but eventually he will. And if you spend five or 10 minutes outside that door waiting for him — not threatening or nagging — he’ll be more likely to do it quickly. It’s one of these things that takes a leap of faith, but it really works.

Kids also love to be part of that discussion of, what does the morning look like. Does he want to draw a visual calendar of the things that he wants to get done in the morning? Does he want to set times, or, if he’s done by a certain time, does he get to do something fun before you leave the house? All those things that are his ideas will pull him into the routine and make him more willing to cooperate.

Whether you’re trying to get your child to dress, do homework or practice piano, it’s tempting to use rewards that we know our kids love, especially sweets and screen time. You argue in the book: Be careful. Why?

Yes. The research on rewards is pretty powerful, and it suggests that the more we reward behavior, the less desirable that behavior becomes to children and adults alike. If the child is coming up with, “Oh, I’d really like to do this,” and it stems from his intrinsic interests and he’s more in charge of it, then it becomes less of a bribe and more of a way that he’s structuring his own morning.

The adult doling out rewards is really counterproductive in the long term — even though they may seem to work in the short term. The way parents or teachers discover this is that they stop working. At some point, the kid says, “I don’t really care about your reward. I’m going to do what I want.” And then we have no tools. Instead, we use strategies that are built on mutual respect and a mutual desire to get through the day smoothly.

You offer pretty simple guidance for parents when they’re confronted with misbehavior and feel they need to dole out consequences. You call them the four R’s. Can you walk me through them?

The four R’s will keep a consequence from becoming a punishment. So it’s important to avoid power struggles and to win the kid’s cooperation. They are: Any consequence should be revealed in advance, respectful, related to the decision the child made, and reasonable in scope.

Generally, by the time they’re 6 or 7 years old, kids know the rules of society and politeness, and we don’t need to give them a lecture in that moment of misbehavior to drill it into their heads. In fact, acting in that moment can sometimes be counterproductive if they are amped up, their amygdala’s activated, they’re in a tantrum or excited state, and they can’t really learn very well because they can’t access the problem-solving part of their brain, the prefrontal cortex, where they’re really making decisions and thinking rationally. So every misbehavior doesn’t need an immediate consequence.

You even tell parents, in the heat of the moment, it’s OK to just mumble and walk away. What do you mean?

That’s when you are looking at your child, they are not doing what you want, and you cannot think of what to do. Instead of jumping in with a bribe or a punishment or yelling, you give yourself some space. Pretend you had something on the stove you need to grab or that you hear something ringing in the other room and walk away. That gives you just a little space to gather your thoughts and maybe calm down a little bit so you can respond to their behavior from the best place in you — from your best intentions as a parent.

I can imagine skeptics out there, who say, “But kids need to figure out how to live in a world that really doesn’t care what they want. You’re pampering them!” In fact, you admit your own mother sometimes feels this way. What do you say to that?

I would never tell someone who’s using a discipline strategy that they feel really works that they’re wrong. What I say to my mom is, “The tools and strategies that you used and our grandparents used weren’t wrong, they just don’t work with modern kids.” Ultimately, we want to instill self-discipline in our children, which will never happen if we’re always controlling them.

If we respond to our kids’ misbehavior instead of reacting, we’ll get the results we want. I want to take a little of the pressure off of parenting; each instance is not life or death. We can let our kids struggle a little bit. We can let them fail. In fact, that is the process of childhood when children misbehave. It’s not a sign of our failure as parents. It’s normal.

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That Obscure Subject of Desire


Let’s talk about pleasure. I keep hearing a particular gripe about this cultural shift, and maybe you have too. Some people have been calling this movement Puritanical or a return to Victorian values, where men can’t behave or speak sexually around dainty, delicate, fragile women. To these people I want to say:

The current system is Puritanical. Maybe men can say and do whatever they want, but women cannot. The current system inhibits women from expressing our desires, wants and needs, from seeking our pleasure. Let me tell you about my own experience:

I turned 12 on the set of my first film, The Professional, in which I played a young girl who befriends a hitman and hopes to avenge the murder of her family by a corrupt DEA officer. The character is simultaneously discovering and developing her womanhood, her desire, and her voice. At that moment in my life, I, too, was discovering my own womanhood, my own desire, and my own voice.

I was so excited, at 13, when the film was released and my work and my art would have a human response. I excitedly opened my first fan mail, to read a rape fantasy a man had written to me. A countdown was started on my local radio show to my 18th birthday, euphemistically the date I would be legal to sleep with. Movie reviewers talked about my “budding breasts” in reviews. I understood very quickly, even as a 13-year-old, that if I were to express myself sexually, I would feel unsafe, and that men would feel entitled to discuss and objectify my body, to my great discomfort.

I quickly adjusted my behavior. I rejected any role that even had a kissing scene, and talked about that choice deliberately in interviews. I emphasized my bookishness and seriousness and cultivated a way of public dressing that was stereotypically “elegant and refined.” I built a reputation for basically being prudish, conservative, nerdy and serious — in an attempt to feel that my body was safe and my voice would be listened to.

At 13 years old, the message from our culture was clear to me. I felt the need to cover my body, and to inhibit my expression and my work, in order to send my own message to the world that I’m someone worthy of safety and respect. The response to my expression- from small comments about my body to more threatening, deliberate statements, served to control my behavior, through an environment of sexual terrorism — where even a woman who is not directly subject to assault, feels threatened by the environment of violence to inhibit her behavior.

A world in which I could wear whatever I want, say whatever I want, and express my desire however I want, without fearing for my physical safety or reputation — that would be the world in which female desire and sexuality could have its greatest expression and fulfillment. That world we want to build, is the opposite of puritanical.

One of my girlfriends from school used to joke: “sometimes it’s easier to just kiss the guy than explain to him why you don’t want to.” We would all laugh, but the message was clear — we were more worried about offending the guy, or being uncomfortable with him, or hurting his feelings, than about doing what we wanted to do.

As girls, we were socialized to spend our time making ourselves look attractive to guys- our hair, our makeup, our bodies. We learned our best angles for them, the things boys liked us to say — and the things they didn’t like us to. We were able to see ourselves through their eyes, and dictate our behavior by what they wanted us to be like. And it made us sometimes forget to ask what we, ourselves, wanted. And often made us unable to even know what we, ourselves wanted, because we were so caught up in thinking about what they wanted.

Well let’s not make our new world about we and they, about us and them. Considering what someone else desires isn’t a bad thing. Actually, it’s a form of empathy. The consideration just needs to be reciprocal, and not at the expense of one’s own desire.

So I’d like to propose one way to continue moving this revolution forward: Let’s declare loud and clear: This is what I want. This is what I need. This is what I desire. This is how you can help me achieve pleasure.

To people of all genders here with us today, let us find a space where we mutually, consensually look out for each other’s pleasure, and allow the vast, limitless range of desire to be expressed.

Let’s make a revolution of desire.

Marriage Has Become a Trophy


A wedding is no longer the first step into adulthood that it once was, but, often, the last.

The decline of marriage is upon us. Or, at least, that’s what the zeitgeist would have us believe. In 2010, when Time magazine and the Pew Research Center famously asked Americans whether they thought marriage was becoming obsolete, 39 percent said yes. That was up from 28 percent when Time asked the question in 1978. Also, since 2010, the Census Bureau has reported that married couples have made up less than half of all households; in 1950 they made up 78 percent. Data such as these have led to much collective handwringing about the fate of the embattled institution.

An illustration of husband and wife figurines on a cake, with a stroller, graduation caps, and a mailbox full of money

But there is one statistical tidbit that flies in the face of this conventional wisdom: A clear majority of same-sex couples who are living together are now married. Same-sex marriage was illegal in every state until Massachusetts legalized it in 2004, and it did not become legal nationwide until the Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. Two years after that decision, 61 percent of same-sex couples who were sharing a household were married, according to a set of surveys by Gallup. That’s a high take-up rate: Just because same-sex couples are able to marry doesn’t mean that they have to; and yet large numbers have seized the opportunity. (That’s compared with 89 percent of different-sex couples.)

The move toward marriage has not been driven by young gay and lesbian couples rushing to the altar. In both the year before and the year after Obergefell, only one out of seven people whom the Census Bureau classified as in a same-sex marriage was age 30 or younger, according to calculations I’ve done based on the bureau’s American Community Survey. In fact, half of them were age 50 or older. The only way that could have happened, given that same-sex marriage has been legal for less than 15 years, is if large numbers of older same-sex couples who had been together for many years took advantage of the new laws. In other words, changes in state and federal laws seem to have spurred a backlog of committed, medium- to long-term couples to marry.

Why would they choose to do so after living, presumably happily, as cohabiting unmarried partners? In part, they may have married to take advantage of the legal rights and benefits of married couples, such as the ability to submit a joint federal tax return. But the legal issues, important as they are, appear secondary. In a 2013 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 84 percent of LGBT individuals said that “love” was a very important reason to marry, and 71 percent said “companionship” was very important, compared to 46 percent who said that “legal rights and benefits” are very important.

Yet the emphasis on love and companionship is not enough to explain the same-sex marriage boom. Without doubt, most of the middle-aged same-sex couples who have married of late already had love and companionship—otherwise they would not have still been together. So why marry now? Marriage became for them a public marker of their successful union, providing them the opportunity to display their love and companionship to family and friends. One reason, of course, was the desire to claim a right so long denied, but that only further underlines the way in which marriage today signals to the wider community the success of a long-standing relationship.

In this sense, these gay couples were falling right in line with the broader American pattern right now: For many people, regardless of sexual orientation, a wedding is no longer the first step into adulthood that it once was, but, often, the last. It is a celebration of all that two people have already done, unlike a traditional wedding, which was a celebration of what a couple would do in the future.

Consistent with this shift in meaning, different-sex couples, like the many of the same-sex couples who have married recently, are starting their marriages later in their lives. According to the Census Bureau, the median age at first marriage—the age at which half of all marriages occur—was 27.4 for women and 29.5 for men in 2017. That’s higher than at any time since the Census began keeping records in 1890. It is six years higher than when I got married in 1972 (at the typical age of 24). In my era, a young couple usually got married first, then moved in together, then started their adult roles as workers or homemakers, and then had children. (I scandalized my parents by living with my future wife before I married her.) Now marriage tends to come after most of these markers are attained.

The main distinction in marriage patterns today is between Americans who have attained at least a bachelor’s degree and those with less education. The college-educated are more likely to eventually marry, even though they may take longer to get around to it. In addition, nearly nine out of 10 wait until after they marry to have children, whereas a majority of those without college educations have a first child before they marry. Rates of divorce have been dropping across the board since about 1980, but the drop has been steeper for the college-educated. In the mid-20th century, people’s educational level had less impact on when, whether, and for how long they married. Today, marriage is a much more central part of family life among the college educated.

Nevertheless, the last-step view of marriage is common across all educational groups in United States. And it is being carried to the nth degree in Scandinavia. In Norway and Sweden, a majority of the population marries, but weddings often take place long after a couple starts to have children, or even after all of their children are born. The median age at first marriage in Norway is an astounding 39 for men and 38 for women, according to a recent estimate—six to eight years higher than the median age at first childbirth. In Sweden, one study found that 17 percent of all marriages had occurred after the couple had had two children. Why do they even bother to marry at such a late stage of their unions? Norwegians told researchers that they view marriage as a way to demonstrate love and commitment and to celebrate with relatives and friends the family they have constructed. This is capstone marriage: The wedding is the last brick put in place to finally complete the building of the family.

Americans have tended to rank marriage as more important than Europeans do for as long as there have been Americans. The transatlantic difference extends back to the Calvinist settlers who believed in the exalted place of marriage found in Martin Luther’s theology. And the difference has persisted: Between 2005 and 2009, the World Values Survey asked samples of people in various Western countries whether they agreed with the statement, “Marriage is an outdated institution.” Just 12.6 percent of Americans agreed, which is smaller than the proportion who agreed in any of the Western European nations surveyed, including heavily Catholic Italy (where 18.1 percent agreed) and Spain (31.6 percent).

Justice Anthony Kennedy reflected this high American regard for marriage when he wrote for the majority of the Court in Obergefell, “Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations.” Although many on the cultural and political left applauded the Court’s decision, Kennedy’s language was quite traditionalist. In fact, plenty of Americans view marriage as, at best, one of many lifestyle choices and, at worst, a deeply flawed heterosexual institution that should be transcended. Some go as far as to argue that families headed by married couples should be replaced by networks of friends and past and present romantic partners.

The alternative visions are far from replacing marriage. It is an open question, however, how much longer marriage will continue to dominate American family life. According to the General Social Survey, a national survey of Americans conducted every other year, the percentage of Americans who agreed with the statement, “It is alright for a couple to live together without intending to get married,” increased from 41 percent in 1994 to 57 percent in 2012, the last time the question was asked. Moreover, the material foundations of marriage have weakened. America is well past the heyday of the farm family in which a husband and wife united in labor and raised children to help work the land. Marriage seems to operate best today for parents who pool two incomes and invest heavily in their children’s development. Yet these investments could be made by parents in long-term cohabiting relationships. The dominance of marriage may simply be due to what the sociologist William Ogburn called “cultural lag”: the tendency of attitudes and values to change more slowly than the material conditions that underlie them.

There may soon be a slowdown in the proportion of same-sex couples who choose to marry. Sometime soon, the backlog of same-sex couples wishing to marry will be depleted. At that point, marriage rates among same-sex couples will depend largely on what younger people in recently formed relationships do. Many of them may do the same things that younger different-sex couples are doing: live together in cohabiting relationships, postpone marriage, and ultimately choose marriage less frequently than their parents’ generation did. If that happens, the rate of same-sex marriage will slow. But it will surely persist—more, to be sure, as a common last step into adulthood than as a first.

How to Heal Emotional Trauma


Why is it so difficult to heal emotional trauma? Maybe it is because we do not understand what our emotional wounds really are, and therefore we go about healing in ways that can never work.

When I was young, I was in a horrifically abusive relationship for over a year. Even though I was able to eventually “get out” and save myself, it took me many years to figure out how to heal the deep emotional wounds.

trauma

Understanding Emotional Wounds

We tend to think of an emotional wound as the original traumatic experience – as the “thing” that happened to us, but the wound is actually the dis-empowering belief that we developed as a result of the traumatic experience.

In the search for emotional security, our natural response to any traumatic event is to make sense of it. We “make sense” of things by creating beliefs. Beliefs that we develop in response to traumatic experiences are Traumatic Beliefs. Because Traumatic Beliefs are disempowering and painful, they become emotional wounds.

The reason many people don’t heal is because they try to heal the original traumatic experience and not the Traumatic Belief. By understanding that emotional wounds are actually the Traumatic Beliefs that we hold about ourselves and/or the world, we have the power to heal.

When a child experiences himself as abandoned, for example, that child forms beliefs around abandonment in order to explain why he was abandoned. The child may answer the question, “Why?” by creating a belief that he was not good enough. The abandonment is the not the wound. The wound is the belief in unworthiness. In this case, healing involves releasing the Traumatic Belief of unworthiness.

Two people can experience the same trauma and have completely different responses, because they develop very different beliefs about the experience.

Traumatic Beliefs Create Emotional Needs

Traumatic Beliefs always create corresponding emotional needs which must be met in order to heal. The catch is that a Traumatic Belief also creates an invisible barrier that keeps the emotional need from being met. For example, if the Traumatic Belief is, “I am not worthy,” the emotional need is feeling worthy. If you could feel unconditionally worthy, the wound would heal. The problem is, if you believe that you are not worthy, you will block the feeling of worthiness because it does not align with your beliefs about worth. This is also why healing is so challenging.

Traumatic Beliefs are Self-fulfilling and Self-Sabotaging

When we have been wounded, we feel justified in holding onto Traumatic Beliefs. Part of us may even think that these beliefs keep us from getting hurt again, and the thought of releasing them makes us feel very vulnerable – without these beliefs, what will protect us? But, Traumatic Beliefs do not protect us in the first place. In fact, these beliefs are self-sabotaging by being self-fulfilling. When we look closely, it becomes apparent that these beliefs actually cause, attract and create more of what we do not want. All beliefs effect the quantum field that creates our reality, but Traumatic Beliefs have an even stronger influence on reality because they are fueled with intense emotional energy. Therefore, if we believe we are powerless, we attract situations to us that support that belief.

Take Full Responsibility

An essential key to healing is taking complete responsibility for your life and for your wounds. As long as you blame the outside world for your pain, you give away your power to heal. This is not about letting others off the hook who have harmed us. This is about empowering yourself to be whole. If you cannot find a way to take responsibility for your life experiences, then begin by taking responsibility for your beliefs. Regardless of what transpired in the outside world, you are the only one who thinks your thoughts and therefore you are responsible for creating and believing any Traumatic Beliefs. This means that you also have the power to release these beliefs, and, therefore, you can heal yourself.

Why are Traumatic Beliefs so Painful?

Traumatic Beliefs disconnect you from who you really are because your true self could never believe that you are powerless or unworthy. When you accept these disempowering beliefs, you experience separation from your true self and this is the cause of pain and suffering. The pain is your inner guidance system alerting you to the disconnection so that you can heal by releasing incongruent beliefs.

The Higher Purpose of Traumatic Experiences

The higher purpose of traumatic experiences is to point our attention to hidden or underlying beliefs that already exist in our psyche. The traumatic experience activates the hidden belief so that we are aware of it, in order to heal. This is the point. You cannot heal something that you are unaware of. The pain directs your attention to the belief that needs to be healed in order for you to awaken.

Four Traumatic Beliefs

In order to heal, it is important that you uncover the Core Traumatic Belief(s) of the wound. There are four Core Traumatic Beliefs: Victimhood, Powerlessness, Worthlessness and Loss. All Traumatic Beliefs fall into one or more of these four categories.

Victimhood

When I was in that horrifically abusive relationship, the greatest of the wounds was the belief that I was a victim; causing me to live in great fear for many years, even after the abuse had ended. Because I was desperate to heal and have my life back, I finally looked deep into my own self. Eventually, what I understood was that I was feeling like a victim well before that relationship had ever manifested. The relationship overtly demonstrated my inner beliefs in the outer world in a way that I could not ignore.

Later, as an adult, the healing was remembering, at the deepest level, that I was responsible for my own life, and that my life was a reflection of all my beliefs. I discovered that the opposite of victim is not survivor. The opposite of victim is creator. When I remembered that I was the creator of my life, victimhood could no longer exist – and the wound was permanently healed.

The key to healing the Traumatic Belief of victimhood is waking up to who you really are and remembering that you are the creator of your life. Maybe you don’t understand how you created something, and you would certainly not consciously create a traumatic event that would make you feel victimized, nonetheless, we unconsciously create from hidden subconscious beliefs, and physical events in our lives give us clues to these underlying beliefs.

Once we become aware of theses disempowering beliefs, we have the opportunity to consciously heal them, by over-turning them, declaring their falsehood and turning toward a higher truth. In this case, the higher truth is I am the creator of my life. True power comes from learning to be a conscious creator, but this can only happen as we flush out unconscious beliefs and we align with the truth of who we really are.

Powerlessness

Even before we experience any traumatic events, most of us are socialized to believe that the world has power over us. So, when a traumatic experience does unfold, the idea of being powerless is already in our belief system, therefore, powerlessness seems an appropriate way to make sense of a negative event.
Healing from the Traumatic Belief of powerlessness is embracing ones intrinsic power – not the power that comes from control, but rather the power that originates in the core of your being and connects you to the universe and all that is. Healing the Traumatic Belief of powerlessness is an emotional journey from powerless to powerful.

Worthlessness

Of all the Traumatic Beliefs, worthlessness runs the deepest. We are programmed to believe that we are unworthy from the time we are very young. So when we experience trauma, and we search internally for a belief that will make sense of the experience, unworthiness quickly answers the question, “Why did this happen to me?”

Of course, unworthiness is a false belief and therefore it must be exposed in order to be released. When it is hidden, there is no need to pay attention but once it causes pain, you must do something about it. The good and bad news is that the pain will not go away until the false belief of unworthiness is released and you cease seeking proof of your worth in the outside world. The world cannot give or take away your worth because your worth is intrinsic and guaranteed. Absolute healing is attained when you discover and claim your unconditional worth.

Loss

Often, when we have an emotional wound, we believe that someone has taken something from us. No matter how hard we try, it appears impossible to retrieve what has been stolen. This search often keeps the wound alive – believing that we have lost something and it must be retrieved keeps us locked in a vicious cycle of perpetual hurt.

Loss does not necessarily create an emotional wound. We all experience loss – loss of an aging parent or loss of a relationship, for example. Loss is part of the flow of life. Grieving is a natural response to loss and it is the process of letting go. However, if we do not let go, loss can turn into an emotional wound. This occurs when a Traumatic Belief is formed about the loss; for example, beliefs like, “no one will ever love me again,” or “everyone I care about leaves me.” Again, it is the Traumatic Belief that creates the emotional wound and not the loss itself.

When loss creates an emotional wound, we often close down and cut ourselves off from the very thing that could heal us. If we develop a Traumatic Belief around losing love, we not only block potential new relationships, we cut ourselves off from self-love and even higher love. In other words, we do to ourselves what we fear others might do to us.

The healing is remembering that the Source of who you really are provides all that you need, if only you ask, allow and receive – by trusting something greater than the physical self, you align with the rhythm of the universe where the idea of loss does not exist. Inherent in all Traumatic Beliefs is the absolute truth of your existence.

How do we actually heal Traumatic Beliefs?

Release Identification with the Wound

When we develop and feed wounds with our attention over the course of years, we begin to identify with the wound, or, better said, we create an identity around the wounded-self. So, now we are not just releasing a wound, we are letting go of our identity. The thing is, you are not and can never be a wounded identity. This is a false belief and a false identity. In order to heal, it is important that you begin to release the identification with the wound, and that you begin to see yourself as whole – not the wounded self, but the whole self. Who are you without this wound? This is who you really are, and this is who you must become again.

Meet Your Own Emotional Needs

Emotional wounds are often left open because we continue to look to others to meet our emotional needs. In order to heal, we must take responsibility for our own emotional needs and we must find ways to meet them. So, instead of looking to others for love, for example, we must love ourselves. By giving ourselves love, we fill the wound, and we heal.

Transformational Forgiveness

Transformational Forgiveness is not about forgiving another or forgiving ourselves, as much as it is about letting go of the beliefs that keep us trapped – as the prisoner of unhealed wounds. Ask yourself, “Do I want to heal more than I want to hold onto these beliefs?” If the answer is yes, it is time to let go of disempowering false beliefs.

Allow Emotions to Process Through

In order to heal an emotional wound, emotions must be able to “process through” until completion. If we allow our emotions to come up over and over again without resolution, we are actually reactivating the wound and each time we do, it magnifies. Healing requires resolution. This means feeling your emotions completely and not pushing them down or away. The healing comes when you allow your emotions space to be experienced until the process is complete. In order to allow emotions to “process through” you must get in your body. Emotional wounds are stored in the body, and therefore the way to release them is by getting in your body and feeling your emotions until the process feels complete.

Revision

Since the mind does not know the difference between real and imagined, it is possible to go back to a past event and revise it in such a way that the wound automatically heals. The key to successful revision is giving your past-self a new set of beliefs that empower him or her to know your worth, power and connection to who you really are. In this way, you can revise your past-self to speak the truth, set a boundary or exercise personal power in a way that allows your past-self to rise up; ultimately avoiding the emotional trauma or responding to the traumatic event in a way that no wound was created.

Look for a Deeper Truth

For me, my complete healing came from the realization that the person whom I thought hurt me was actually in my life to save me, by physically demonstrating the emotional abuse that I was imposing on myself. Without him serving me in this way, how would I have been able to identify my feelings of victimhood, worthlessness and powerlessness that I carried from childhood? By understanding this deeper truth, my emotional pain transmuted into gratitude. There is always a deeper truth. If you haven’t uncovered a truth that sets you free, go deeper, and keep going until you find it.

Rise Above

Every thought and belief has a coinciding vibration. Fear is at the low end of the vibratory spectrum while love is at the high end. Emotional wounds are low vibratory beliefs about oneself and/or the world. The wound exists at a low vibration and it keeps you stagnated at this low vibration. If you were to consistently raise your vibration to a higher vibration and keep it there, the wound could not exist. In other words, if you turned your full attention toward love and forgiveness, the wound would dissolve because it cannot exist at a high vibration.

The Commitment to Heal

Healing requires commitment and consistency. Because trauma wires your brain for disempowering beliefs, emotional healing requires the re-wiring of your brain for empowering beliefs; this involves the development of new conscious thought patterns that are consistently practiced over a period of time.

Enlisting the help of a healing professional to assist you may exponentially quicken the healing process, but in the end you must do it for yourself. In healing yourself you discover the strength, courage and power to live your life the way it was intended to be lived. If you are here to help others heal, maybe you access the skills to do so, that could not have been acquired in any other manner than going through the process yourself.

The ultimate healing is the awakening to your power and worth. You cannot remember that you are unconditionally worthy and intrinsically powerful and still maintain emotional wounds. There is nothing that cannot be healed through the power of knowing your Real Self.

People Don’t Actually Know Themselves Very Well


Chances are, your coworkers are better at rating some parts of your personality than you are.When Donald Trump tweeted that he was a “very stable genius,” he was accused of lacking self-awareness by journalists and comedians. But the truth is that no one has perfect self-awareness—you probably believe more than a few things about yourself that are false.

Whether it’s in trying to land a job or impress a date, people spend a staggering amount of time making claims about themselves. It makes sense: You’re the only person on Earth who has direct knowledge of every thought, feeling, and experience you’ve ever had. Who could possibly know you better than you? But your backstage access to your own mind sometimes makes you the last person on Earth others should trust about it. Think of it like owning a car: Just because you’ve driven it for years doesn’t mean you can pinpoint when and why the engine broke down.

Sixteen rigorous studies of thousands of people at work have shown that people’s coworkers are better than they are at recognizing how their personality will affect their job performance. As a social scientist, if I want to get a read on your personality, I could ask you to fill out a survey on how stable, dependable, friendly, outgoing, and curious you are. But I would be much better off asking your coworkers to rate you on those same traits: They’re often more than twice as accurate. They can see things that you can’t or won’t—and these studies reveal that whatever you know about yourself that your coworkers don’t is basically irrelevant to your job performance.

Humans’ blind spots are predictable: There are certain types of traits where people can’t see themselves clearly, but others where they can. The psychologist Simine Vazire asked people to rate themselves and four friends on a bunch of traits, ranging from emotional stability and intelligence to creativity and assertiveness. Then, to see if they had predicted their own personalities better than their friends had, they took a bunch of tests that measured these traits.The good news: You have some unique insight into your emotional stability. In the study, people outperformed their friends at predicting how anxious they’d look and sound when giving a speech about how they felt about their bodies. But they did no better than their friends (or than strangers who had met them just eight minutes earlier) at forecasting how assertive they’d be in a group discussion. And when they tried to predict their performance on an IQ test and a creativity test, they were less accurate than their friends.

People know themselves best on the traits that are tough to observe and easy to admit. Emotional stability is an internal state, so your friends don’t see it as vividly as you do. And although people might not want to call themselves unstable, the socially acceptable range is fairly wide, so we don’t tend to feel terribly anxious about being outed as having some anxiety. With more observable traits, we don’t have unique knowledge. If you’re a raging extrovert or a radical introvert, we don’t need to ask you—we can pick it up pretty quickly from your impromptu karaoke performances or your complaints that your husband types too loudly. And with the most evaluative traits, you just can’t be trusted. You probably want to convince everyone—and yourself—that you’re smart and creative.

This is why people consistently overestimate their intelligence, a pattern that seems to be more pronounced among men than women. It’s also why people overestimate their generosity: It’s a desirable trait. And it’s why people fall victim to my new favorite bias: the I’m-not-biased bias, where people tend to believe they have fewer biases than the average American. But you can’t judge whether you’re biased, because when it comes to yourself, you’re the most biased judge of all. And the more objective people think they are, the more they discriminate, because they don’t realize how vulnerable they are to bias.Any time a trait is easy to observe or hard to admit, you need other people to hold up a mirror for you. Romantic partners and close friends might be more informed, because they’ve observed you more—but they can also have blurrier vision, because they chose you and often share that pesky desire to see you positively. You need people who are motivated to see you accurately. And I’ve come to believe that more often than not, those people are your colleagues. The people you work with closely have a vested interest in making you better (or at least less difficult). The challenge is they’re often reluctant to tell you the stuff you don’t want to hear, but need to hear.

Over the past few months, I’ve learned a lot about how to overcome those barriers. While recording a podcast, I invited myself into some unconventional workplaces. I was surprised that in each workplace, they made a it big priority to help people gain self-awareness—sometimes it was even part of their performance evaluations. And I walked away with new insights on how people can see themselves more clearly.

One: If you want people to really know you, weekly meetings don’t cut it. You need deep dives with them in high-intensity situations. When I talked with a crew of astronauts who went to the International Space Station together, I found out that NASA prepared them by sending them into the wilderness for 11 days together. Their guides promptly let them get lost, and they said they came out of that experience knowing each other better than colleagues they’d worked with for years. At Morning Star, a leading tomato-paste plant that has operated successfully for decades without a single boss, I was stunned to discover that the founder often interviews job applicants at their own homes for three to five hours.Two: Looking under your own hood at what makes you tick and writing it down can provide a useful reference. I’ve seen a growing number of managers write their own user manuals to help people understand what brings out the best and worst in them. But it’s even better to have the people who know you well write your user manual for you. On a visit to the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, I got to see people rate each other daily on up to 77 different dimensions. It sounds intense, but it forces people to be honest with themselves. And at Morning Star, employees get to write their own job descriptions based on how they plan to contribute to the company’s mission that year. But they have to get their closest colleagues to buy in on it, and then their coworkers rate their performance and determine their salary.

Three: Put yourself in situations where you can’t ignore feedback from multiple sources. In studies, one friend is only a little better at gauging a person’s intelligence and creativity than they themselves are; four friends are significantly better. When I infiltrated the writers’ room at The Daily Show, the host, Trevor Noah, told me he makes up 90 percent of his stand-up comedy on stage. He just starts riffing on topics and gets instant input on what’s funny from a whole crowd. And at Bridgewater, the ratings are weighted by how believable your colleagues have proven themselves to be in each domain. When five of your close colleagues have a track record of being highly organized and they all say you’re not, it’s tough to argue that you’re right and they’re wrong.

Imagine if the White House were organized this way. Presidents are rated all the time in public-opinion polls, but they’d learn a lot more if their own teams evaluated them. Since stability is an internal state, as long as he’s not clinically unstable, President Trump might be able to weigh in on it accurately. But he—like everyone—probably can’t see himself clearly when it comes to traits that are clearly desirable or undesirable, like intelligence.

The first rule of intelligence: Don’t talk about your intelligence. It’s something you prove, not something you claim. As comedian Patton Oswalt quipped about humor, the only person who goes around saying “I’m funny” is a not-funny person. If you were really funny, you’d just make people laugh.

So if I wanted to know how smart political candidates were, I wouldn’t bother with an IQ test. I’d just ask one question: How intelligent do you think you are?

The real geniuses will know it’s not their place to judge.

A psychologist explains the best way to rewire the brain to let go of worrying


Sometimes it seems like everyone we know suffers from some sort of anxiety. Our brains are literally hardwired to worry about things, but in this digital and modern age, it can be hard for our brains to pick and choose the things it needs to focus on.

Obviously, you don’t have to worry about being chased down by a cheetah…well, most people don’t. But our brains like to recall the times when we did have to worry about those things.

It can mean that we overreact and overcompensate for many other areas of our lives when worry and anxiety kicks in.

Worrying is not natural, and there’s no physical or physiological benefit to it these days.

Before, it saved our lives, but now, it can rob us of life.

However, according to psychologist Deborah L. Davis in Psychology Today, there are 10 proven steps to calming our mind to let go of our worry.

We’ve summarized her 10 steps below.

1) Make Yourself Comfortable

When you start to feel thoughts of anxiety creeping into your brain, take a minute to sit down and make yourself comfortable in your favorite chair, or a quiet place away from people. Put your feet up and get yourself into a position that makes you feel at ease.

2) Close Your Eyes

Once you are feeling comfortable, close your eyes and let your body relax. This will be hard at first because you are feeling anxious about something, but give your body time to catch up to your brain. By closing your eyes, you are literally closing off the world, and this can make it easier to focus on yourself.

3) Sense Your Body

As you lay there with your eyes closed and your feet up, feel your body moving as you breathe. Pay attention to how your arms and legs feel. How does your hair feel on your head? How do your jeans feel on your legs? Feel your arms and legs if it helps you visualize what you are doing.

Not only can this action help to refocus your energy away from whatever is causing you anxiety, it can help center your body to make you feel better.

4) Pay Attention to Your Breathing

Sometimes when you pay attention to how fast we are breathing we start to breathe faster, so tell yourself about how slow you are breathing and allow your body to slow your breathing naturally.

Take deep breaths and don’t force yourself to slow down until your body is ready to do so. Relaxing and closing your eyes can shut the world out so you can focus on your breathing to get it under control faster.

5) Listen to Your Breathing

Our bodies are an amazing thing, and not only is it important to pay attention to your breathing, but pay attention to how your breathing sounds. Listen for the sounds of air going in and out of your lungs. Listen for how the air sounds being expelled into the space around you.

You don’t have to change the way you breathe, it could happen naturally as you start to shift your focus on what’s important here: reducing anxiety.

6) Feel Your Stomach Rise and Fall

Place your hands on your stomach and feel how your belly moves up and down as you breathe. This can help you channel energy into your body and remove anxiety from it as well.

As you pay attention to the muscle movements and nuances of how your body breathes on its own, you’ll start to feel better about what’s on your mind.

7) Let Your Mind Wander

Now that you have all of these jobs to do: look, listen, and feel for your breathing, you will start to notice that your mind is wandering to other things.

Perhaps you are thinking about solutions to whatever is causing you this anxiety. Let your mind wander to and fro for some time. You might find that this open communication with your brain creates solutions for you.

8) Redirect Your Mind

After a few minutes, though, redirect your thoughts to your breathing. By focusing on your breathing, you are most likely to reduce your stress levels and help induce calm into your brain so you can get on with your day.

9) Be Patient

This process can take time, and it might be difficult for you to initially relax and focus on your breathing.

If you are serious about changing the way stress enters your life, you’ll keep trying to get better at this process. After all, practice makes perfect.

10) Think Calm

Above all else, the mind believes what it can conceive, so if you think calming thoughts, your brain will eventually catch up.

Don’t waste time worrying about the things you can’t change. Focus on making yourself feel better with what you’ve got, and work at it everyday.

This Is How Much Money You Need to Be Happy, According to Science


But not too much!

They say money can’t buy happiness, but let’s be honest, they say a lot of things – and they’re not always right.

When it comes to income, scientists say there actually is an ideal yearly amount we can earn to feel emotionally content and satisfied – and believe it or not, if you have too much money, you may actually start creeping back into unhappy territory.

“That might be surprising as what we see on TV and what advertisers tell us we need would indicate that there is no ceiling when it comes to how much money is needed for happiness, but we now see there are some thresholds,” explains psychologist Andrew T. Jebb from Purdue University.

Jebb and his team analysed data from the Gallup World Poll, an international survey of more than 1.7 million individuals from 164 countries.

When they examined participants’ responses on questions relating to life satisfaction and well-being – measures of what’s called subjective well-being (SWB) – they discovered the magic number for ‘income satiation’ is a global phenomenon, but one that varies considerably around the world.

Nonetheless, when you average the results out, we now have a rough idea of just how much $ = 🙂 in US dollars.

“We found that the ideal income point is $95,000 for life evaluation [overall life satisfaction] and $60,000 to $75,000 for emotional well-being [day-to-day happiness],” Jebb says.

“Again, this amount is for individuals and would likely be higher for families.”

Of course, the global average masks how satiation points are significantly higher in some countries than in others, broadly associated with how wealthy each nation is comparatively.

Life satisfaction costs $125,000 in Australia, $105,000 in North America, and $100,000 in Western Europe – but only $70,000 in Southeast Asia, $45,000 in Eastern Europe, and $35,000 in Latin America.

Globally, it’s cheaper for men to be satisfied with their lives ($90,000) than women ($100,000), and for people of low ($70,000) or moderate education ($85,000) than people with higher education ($115,000).

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the study is how it highlights that once you’ve hit income satiation, you may want to freeze your earning capacity right there.

“Another important phenomenon within our data was the presence of turning points at which income levels after satiation saw consistent decrements in happiness,” the authors explain.

“It has been speculated for some time that very high incomes may lead to reductions in SWB.”

The authors detected this phenomenon in their own results, but noted it was only evident in terms of life evaluation (not emotional well-being), and limited to just five of the nine regions considered in the study: Western Europe/Scandinavia, Eastern Europe/the Balkans, East Asia, Latin America/the Caribbean, and Northern America.

As for why the pattern isn’t found elsewhere, we don’t know for sure, but the researchers speculate it’s associated with the demands that come with higher wages.

“Theoretically, it is presumably not the higher incomes themselves that drive reductions in SWB, but the costs associated with them,” the researchers write.

“High incomes are usually accompanied by high demands (time, workload, responsibility, and so on) that might also limit opportunities for positive experiences (for example, leisure activities).”

If that’s the case, it gels with a lot of other research that’s shown money buys happiness but only if you have free time to enjoy it, by spending it on the right things, and not prioritising money over time.

There’s lots of ways to encourage feelings of happiness in your daily existence, but make sure you don’t buy into the most common misconceptions about where smiles come from.

There’s no enjoyable shortcuts here folks, but the good news is we’re all getting more happy all the time – in a manner of speaking, anyway – because old folks are some of the happiest folks around.

Source:  Nature Human Behaviour.

Exploding Fear in 5 Steps – How to Liberate Yourself from Fear in Any Situation


Fear is what so frequently holds people back on the spiritual path. Fear of what might happen if you take a certain step. Fear of completely letting go and where that might lead. Fear of hurting others by being truly authentic.

Fear invades the mind, emotions and body. But to simply ‘over-write it’ with positive intentions or infusing ‘love and light’ can lead only to more layers of identity. The liberated flow of the soul is not something to intention, or create by a veneer of gloss. It just is, and it simply arises when we open the space for it. When the soul invites authentic choice, fear can often also arise.

So how do you deal with it most effectively?

Fear only ever comes up because it is ALREADY within.

Firstly, it’s important to say that you cannot ‘spread fear’ by raising the topic of something fearful — like fear of death for example. In a fully self-realised being, there is no fear, because there is always realisation of the One Self, which lives on through eternity. So fear can only activate where it already lies.

In other words, fear only ever comes up because it is already within. People carry it, often subconsciously. And while it exists, it’s always going to be limiting, even if the tendency is to temporarily white-wash over it with some positive gloss.

In the Openhand Approach, the only truly effective and lasting way to overcome fear (to dissolve it), is by the direct confrontation of it; to get into it, and deeply explore it.

Evolutionary Growth Through Learning and Expression

In spiritual circles and mainstream motivation groups, it’s so often the case to “imagine the best possible outcome of any given situation”. Then to work to create that. But whose creating? Who is imagining the “best possible outcome?” To me, it can only be an ego wanting a particular result.

In the Openhand perspective on the soul, there is only evolutionary growth through learning and expression. When the soul encounters a crossroads in life, with one direction marked ‘hell’ and the other ‘heaven’, the choice is made not based on what the most beautiful or desirable outcome might be; it is based on what can most be learned. And if that’s in some temporary kind of ‘hell’, then so be it. When the soul confronts some kind of situation, which causes it to contract in tightness, there represents a golden opportunity to deal with unrealised limitation.

In so doing, when the realisation through the challenge happens, it always comes with the most incredible expansion. As you shake off that which previously held you back, then your soul soars like an eagle. There’s immense joy that you reclaimed a lost aspect of Self.

How do you achieve this most effectively next time you encounter fear?

Bringing Fear to the Surface: Imagine the Worst Possible Outcome

To me, I witness that fear mostly arises because in some way, we’ve unconsciously distanced ourselves from the worst possible outcome of a given situation. Because it’s apparently too difficult to deal with, even to contemplate, the tendency is to sweep it under the rug. This has a very limiting internal effect — it creates polarity. In other words, it creates a small “I” identity, which is living in fear of that possibility and can now be victimised by it; in which case you are not being The One, which can be completely okay in ALL situations. People live their lives and shape whole realities based on such avoidance — like leaving an unfulfilling relationship for example, or ending a job which doesn’t serve.

Fear represents a golden opportunity, but only if we’re prepared to turn right into it, at the time it is arising, and work deeply through it. And the most effective way I’ve found of doing that is to contemplate the worst possible outcome from any given situation. So you literally imagine what could likely happen if you take the step your soul is guiding you into.

Explode Your Fear in 5 Steps:

Here’s how to effectively deal with your fear in 5 steps…

1. Locate your internal tightness: When you contemplate the worst possible outcome, then all your subconscious fear and constriction come up. What you’re really looking for is the internal tightness — maybe it’s in your head, your solar plexus or sacrum? Feel it, work into it, and above all, express it out into the world. This might be crying, screaming, shouting, or vigorous movement.

2. Become as-one with the pain: Now what’s happening, is you’re actually becoming as-one with the pain, with the fear. If you keep working with it, then there comes a point where you tire of it, where you’ve had enough of it, where you realise the baggage itself that you’re carrying around, is far worse than the worst possible outcome. And you might as well let it go. Thus, you’re empowering yourself by becoming The One in it.

3. Be prepared to completely fall apart: You must be prepared to completely fall apart. It’s like you’ve been controlling who you are, hanging onto who you should be — to what is expected of you. If you’re to truly penetrate through this, it will often feel like falling apart. And here’s the paradox of a liberated soul — that’s entirely okay!

4. Become The One: As you fall apart in it, as you really let go, then feel deeply through it into the sense of emptiness — into the Void. It feels like you’re touching the pure presence of complete acceptance. You’re now opening into infinite potential — the Source, from which authentic soul arises.

5. Unleash the freedom of the Soul: Finally, and here’s the great part, look for the natural expression of joy, expansiveness and rightness of the soul that wants to come through. Dance with it; sing and shout with it; give it wings by expressing it out into the world.

A Practical Example…

I recall giving a presentation to a crowded hall in Glastonbury several years ago. I tend not to plan such presentations other than the production of some slides and maybe the odd video or two. I always knew, that in coming from the source, all I needed was a thread — just a word or a feeling — from which to begin. This particular time I began with a video and as it drew to a close, I was watching for the first words to drop into mind, a place to begin, a thread to pick up. Usually they came but this time nothing — nothing at all. As the credits to the film rolled, still nothing. As the silence and expectation of the audience grew louder in my awareness still nothing. As I stood up, still nothing. All the while I was watching my inner feelings, any arising tightness — and softening into them. Yes I was feeling nervous, realsing a subconscious subtle desire for the people to appreciate me and my point of view. As that penny dropped, why would I limit myself by needing some kind of appreciation or outcome? What was wrong with how I was being? Even if nothing came? Even if I stood there in complete silence?

Time seemed to stretch right into eternity. Without need of outcome at all, any sense of fear, doubt and disbelief disappeared. I was infinitely vulnerable, and it felt completely blissful. So blissful that it felt humorous. And so I felt to begin by cracking a joke about the Pope, who just happened to be visiting the UK at the time. After the slightly uneasy silence, the audience fell about laughing and the presentation then flowed effortlessly.

Increasingly empowered, joyful and harmonious

I’m not saying it’s necessarily easy to approach your fears in this way. There will always be a myriad of opt-outs — comfortable other solutions that placate the fear rather than dealing with it. There’ll be lots of distractions and plenty of people advising how to make the best of the situation. But if you have the courage to turn into your fears in this way, you will explode the myth that they are.

Because you are The One, which has created everything by which to know itself, and therefore ultimately, fears nothing.

So, work to become the One within your fears, and they will surely burst like an exploding balloon. And your soul will expand out with empowered and joyful liberation. And what’s more, you won’t have to keep re-manifesting those fearful situations. By working through your fears, your life becomes increasingly empowered, joyful and harmonious. I wish you an empowered journey!

These Are The Factors That Can Help Predict if Your Spouse Might Cheat on You


Certain behaviours to watch out for.

If you’re preoccupied with infidelity, new research may help set your mind at ease.

Two longitudinal studies have revealed some of the factors that correlate with cheating – and, on the flipside, with fidelity, at least in the short term.

 Over 3.5 years, researchers at Florida State University followed 233 newly married couples across two longitudinal studies, comparing certain behavioural tendencies to the couple’s fidelity over time, and whether they were still together.

The team focussed on two psychological processes we may engage when assessing potential romantic partners: ‘attentional disengagement’ and ‘evaluative devaluation’.

Attentional disengagement happens when when you’re able to tear your attention away from something – in the case of the research, the participants were shown pictures of attractive people who could be considered a romantic option.

Meanwhile evaluative devaluation is mentally “downgrading” a potential romantic partner, even if it is one you’d consider especially attractive.

Both studies assessed attention disengagement, and the second one additionally looked at evaluative devaluation as well. The researchers checked in on the couples’ infidelity and relationship status multiple times over the duration of the studies.

The team, led by psychology professor Jim McNulty, showed both members of the couple photographs of very attractive men and women, as well as photographs of average-looking men and women (although it’s not clear by which metric attractiveness was gauged).

 The team found that those partners who disengaged their attention from attractive photos more quickly than average were nearly 50 percent less likely to cheat on their spouses.

Those who looked at attractive photos for longer than average were much more likely to cheat.

And those people who mentally downgraded attractive people, opting to find them less attractive, were also less likely to cheat on their spouses.

It’s also worth noting that none of these behaviours are conscious – but if you’re aware of them, you can nip your roving eye in the bud.

“People are not necessarily aware of what they’re doing or why they’re doing it,” McNulty said.

“These processes are largely spontaneous and effortless, and they may be somewhat shaped by biology and/or early childhood experiences.”

Although not the focus of the study, the results also identified other factors that correlated strongly with the likelihood of infidelity.

Younger people, those less satisfied with their relationships, and those with a satisfactory sex life were more likely to cheat on the partners. The latter is a surprising result, but the researchers hypothesised it could be because those people had a more positive attitude towards sex.

The woman’s attractiveness in a heterosexual couple also played a role. Less attractive women were more likely to cheat themselves – and also to be cheated on by their husbands. However, the man’s attractiveness didn’t seem to make a difference to the likelihood of infidelity.

Finally, sexual history also played a role. Men with a larger number of short-term partners before marriage were more likely to cheat, whereas women with a smaller number of partners before marriage were more likely to cheat.

While the team only looked at a a fairly small pool of newlyweds, insights from these results could potentially help stave off infidelity before it even occurs, the researchers said.

“These findings suggest a role for basic psychological processes in predicting infidelity, highlight the critical role of automatic processes in relationship functioning, and suggest novel ways to promote relationship success,” they wrote in their paper.

The research has been published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

How Seeing and Using Gestures Make Ideas More Memorable


 

A teacher stands at a white board in front of her fourth-grade class and begins teaching one of math’s most fundamental concepts: the meaning of an equal sign in the middle of an equation. This is not easy. Young students tend to think of the equal sign as the endpoint of a problem. Now, instead of the usual 8 + 4 = ?, they are asked to ponder 8 + 4 = ? + 6. Mastering this concept will open the door to algebra and higher math.

Almost any teacher giving this lesson will instinctively move her hands in predictable ways, pointing to the equal sign, sweeping her hand toward the left side of the equation and then sweeping it toward the right. She might hold both hands palms-up in a balancing gesture to suggest equivalency.

Now imagine the teacher giving the same lesson, using the same words, but with her hands flat on her desk or arms at her side. Turns out, her students will be much less likely to grasp the concept.

Susan Wagner Cook, an associate professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Iowa, has conducted numerous studies with scenarios like these – both with live teachers and with animated avatars (see video). Whether it’s a lesson in math, foreign language vocabulary or science, the result is the same: kids learn better with gesture.

“Gesture seems to help build understanding across really abstract things and really concrete things – numbers, words, a whole bunch of stuff,” Cook says.

Why this is so is not entirely clear, but gesture seems to lighten the load on our cognitive systems. Cook has shown, for instance, that if you ask people to do two things at once — explain a math problem while remembering a sequence of letters — they do a far better job if permitted to gesture while explaining.

Research suggests that when we see and use gestures, we recruit more parts of the brain than when we use language alone, and we may activate more memory systems – such as procedural memory (the type that stores automatic processes such as how to type or ride a bike) in addition to our memory for events and experiences.

Cook is among a cadre of researchers who study learning in the context of “embodied cognition” – the theory that our thoughts are shaped by the physical experiences of our body. According to this view, even when we think about abstract ideas, our brains link them to concrete, physical things that we experience through our hands, our senses and other body parts.

Studies that use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and other brain imaging techniques provide fascinating evidence for embodied cognition. For instance, when we hear verbs such as lick, pick and kick, they activate parts of the brain associated with the tongue, the hands and the legs, respectively. When we read about a happy event, there is greater activity in the nerves and muscles that control smiling.

One of the more remarkable findings in this field is that people who get Botox injections to reduce frown lines actually take longer to read sad and angry passages right after the injections than before, although there is no change of pace for reading happy tales.

Arthur Glenberg, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University, one of the authors of the Botox study and many others on embodied cognition, is applying the theory to help struggling readers succeed.

For more than a decade, Glenberg and colleagues have been developing systems that allow novice readers to physically simulate the content of books to enhance their understanding. The latest version is an iPad-based system called EMBRACE in which children can move characters and props around on a touch screen to bring the text alive. Unlike some multimedia picture books in which bells and whistles can distract from the story, the EMBRACE actions are tightly aligned with the text. If the story says that a farmer puts a pig in the pen, the child can slide a finger to do the same. If the text explains how blood flows from the heart’s right ventricle to the lungs, the reader can make it happen onscreen.

Glenberg has tested this system and an earlier version called Moved by Reading with struggling readers, including kids with learning disabilities, and has found sizeable increases in comprehension. The kids begin by acting out what they are reading — with support from a teacher or from the EMBRACE programming. Later they learn to simply “imagine” the physical actions.

The approach works across a variety of content areas — including story problems in math. In a 2011 study with 97 third- and fourth-graders, kids trained in the method solved 44 percent of math problems versus 33 percent for those in a control group. The trained kids were also much less likely (38 percent versus 61 percent) to mistakenly use irrelevant information in their calculations.

Word problems are notoriously hard for many students. “Kids sort of give up on trying to figure out what the meaning is and go right to playing with the numbers,” Glenberg explains. What the embodied approach does, he says, is help them develop “a sensorimotor representation” of the math problem. It “forces you to imagine the situation and that makes doing the math much easier.”

The same is true in reading. Many kids are able to sound out the text, but don’t actually understand it. This is particularly true of English language learners, Glenberg says. He has been testing the EMBRACE system for such students in the U.S. and in China. In a 2017 study with 93 native Spanish-speaking children in Arizona, he reports a “large positive benefit in story comprehension.” An enhanced version of the system offers some basic support in child’s native language.

A big question about the approach is whether kids who learn to read on this platform can make the leap to reading fluently without its support, internalizing the habit of picturing the story in their mind’s eye. Glenberg is in the process of studying this.

Using our bodies and gesture to teach is something parents and preschool teachers do instinctively (just think about rhymes like the “The Eensy-weensy Spider”). But work by Glenberg, Cook and many others indicates that the benefits can go far beyond preschool and extend to teaching advanced and abstract concepts.

Cook’s quick advice to teachers: “Use your hands. Make sure you don’t always have your smartboard controller in your hand. And if the students have their backs to you, it’s not as good.” She hopes that her work with gesturing avatars will eventually improve digital instruction, much of which makes poor use of body language.

As more and more of education comes to depend on technology and virtual instruction, it will be vital to capture under-appreciated aspects of human interaction that engage both body and mind.