Monday, April 28, 2014

How Far We'll Go to Feel in Control: When we don't have a sense of control, we just make it up.

How Far We'll Go to Feel in Control
When we don't have a sense of control, we just make it up.
Published on April 24, 2014 by Joseph T. Hallinan in Kidding Ourselves

Earlier this year, Amy Robach, a 40-year-old ABC News journalist, appeared on Good Morning America with a startling new look: short hair. The veteran broadcaster was diagnosed with breast cancer last October, and has since undergone a double mastectomy and two of eight total planned rounds of chemotherapy.

“I decided I was going to take control of one thing away from the cancer,” she explained, “so I got my hair cut.”

Haircuts, of course, don’t give us control over anything (except, perhaps, our hair). But they can provide us with something just as important—a sense of control.

In the early 1970s, the late Stephen Sales, a psychology professor at Carnegie-Mellon University, examined how people react during times of great societal stress, such as the Great Depression. When Sales compared the membership records of various churches, for instance, he noticed a stark difference: When it came to authoritarian churches, the Depression was good for business. During the Depression, every one of them added converts. But this was not true of the non-authoritarian churches. Denominations like the Presbyterians and the Episcopalians foundered. During the depths of the Depression, for instance, the Presbyterian Church in the United States attracted about 30 percent fewer converts than it did during more prosperous times. The Seventh-day Adventist Church, by comparison, drew flocks of new parishioners—about 68 percent more during the Depression than it had during good times.
This kind of response was not isolated. The 1930s also spawned a desire for power and toughness not only in religion, but also in one of that era’s predominant media forms: the funny pages. Sales found that only two of the 20 comic strips initiated in relatively placid 1920s—Buck Rogers and Tarzan—stressed the power of the main character. But in the decade that followed, this number soared—12 of 21 comic strips started in the 1930s emphasized the power of the protagonist. Among them were characters like Superman, Dick Tracy, and The Lone Ranger.

In uncertain times, people even turn to tougher dogs. During the relatively calm period of 1959-1964, Sales found that “attack dogs” like Doberman Pincers, German Shepherds, and similar breeds accounted for only 9.8 percent of all dogs registered by the American Kennel Club. During the tumultuous period of 1967-70, this rose to 13.5 percent. The breeds that suffered the greatest drop in popularity during this period were the weak and the puny—lap dogs like Pomeranians, Boston Terriers, and Chihuahuas.

More recently, other researchers have documented just how essential a sense of control is for mind and body alike. Having a sense of control, for instance, has been consistently linked with physical health. People who feel in control of their lives report better health, fewer aches and pains, and faster recovery from illnesses than other people do. They also live longer.

Indeed, having a sense of control is so important that if we don’t have it, we make it up. In 2008, Jennifer Whitson and Adam Galinsky demonstrated that when people are made to feel as if they have no control they will literally see things that don’t exist, such as patterns where there are no patterns. A lack of control, they found in their experiments, actually increases the need to see structure and patterns. And where none exist, we will manufacture them. Experiencing a loss of control led the people in their experiments not only to desire more structure, but to perceive illusory patterns.

“The need to be and feel in control is so strong,” they wrote, “that individuals will produce a pattern from noise to return the world to a predictable state.”

Add it all up, and we find that when times are tough, people turn to unlikely sources to help them regain a sense of control—authoritarian religions, bigger dogs, tougher comic book characters, even shorter hair.

As silly as that may sound, there’s a moral to the story: It’s important for us to feel in control—even if we’re not. And if it takes a little self-deception to get us there, it’s a trip we’ll happily take.


Sales, S.M. (1972). Economic threat as a determinant of conversion rates in authoritarian and nonauthoritarian churches. J Pers. Soc. Psychol., 23, 420–8.

Sales, S.M. (1973). Threat as a factor in authoritarianism: an analysis of archival data. J Pers. Soc. Psychol., 28(1): 44-57.

Schulz, R. (1976). Effects of Control and Predictability on the Physical and Psychological Well-Being of the Institutionalized Aged. J Pers. Soc. Psychol., 33(5): 563-73.

Lachman & Weaver (1998). The Sense of Control as a Moderator of Social Class Differences in Health and Well-Being. J Pers. Soc. Psychol., 74(3): 763-73.

Whitson & Galinsky (2008). Lacking Control Increases Illusory Pattern Perception. Science; 322(5898):115–7.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Paradox of Change: An Open Letter to Change Seekers

The Paradox of Change: An Open Letter to Change Seekers

When our intention to change is met by the difficult realities of self-work
The Paradox of Change

I hear you say things aren’t quite right these days, that you’re eager for change. And underneath that eagerness lies some fear. And underneath that fear, something deeply unknown.
I recognize the courage it has taken you to tell me. Remember that courage when parts of you resist the changes you seek. Change is full of paradox like that.

I hear you say you’re ready to take that risk. You’ll be challenged around every turn. But accepting that challenge is some of the most meaningful work you will ever do. And it is work. There are no shortcuts. Seven days a week. 365 days a year.

Because the real work isn’t a place you go each day or a series of motions you’ve been tasked with completing. The real work follows you everywhere you go and fills each of your motions with an intention. The work is always about intention.
Get ready for changes to happen quickly, and for parts of you to slow it all down. And just when you think things are running smoothly again, you will encounter setback. That is when you do the work.

You will love doing the work. And hate it with every cell of your being. You will feel rested doing the work. After you feel exhausted. You’ll have glorious warm days of inspiration and accomplishment. And it won't feel like work at all.

Please remember to celebrate your small changes, and have faith that they will grow into your biggest intentions. Please remember to be forgiving with your setbacks and mistakes, for they too will grow into your intentions.

Always be kind to yourself. And be tough. They both take work. And remember to take breaks. To rest your soul and soften the hard edges. Then, keep working.
Brad Waters MSW, LCSW provides career-life coaching and consultation to clients in Chicago and internationally via phone and Skype. He helps people explore career direction and take action on career transitions. Brad holds a Master's degree in social work from the University of Michigan and Master's certification in Holistic Health Care from Western Michigan University. Brad is also a personal development writer whose books are available on Amazon and

Copyright, 2014 Brad Waters. This article may not be reproduced or published without permission from the author. If you share it, please give author credit and do not remove embedded links.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Why Are Feelings Important?

Good Morning Bloggers!

Today I want to share an article with you on why feelings are important. Sometimes people get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of life and overlook their true feelings, or disregard how someone else may feel. Check out this great article on why they are important!

Why Are Feelings Important?

Feelings Reinforce Creativity
Humans enjoy creativity. Our brains have evolved the marvelous capacity to interweave many different sensory inputs and to register their emerging patterns. These patterns can evoke other patterns we have stored as images, fantasies and memories. The mixing of patterns can generate “super-patterns” that can be fashioned into new images and linked together into new narratives. Language and movement provide avenues for conveying these narratives into the world, where they can stimulate and gather responses that fuel the evolving creative process.

Feelings motivate and guide this creative process at each step. Furthermore, all of this is enjoyable — whether at the level of a child’s impromptu game or at the level of planning the weekend or developing a business strategy.

Ask yourself what do my feelings tell me about the creative processes that are gathering momentum in my life and in my relationships with others? What new patterns seem to be emerging?

Feelings Connect Us with All Living Beings
Feelings have evolved over millions of years and across a whole range of species. They are our most ancient of characteristics and our deepest commonality with all living beings. When we see an amoeba suddenly contract, we can sense the cellular beginnings of fear. When we see an elephant trying to revive its dead comrade, we can be affected by this moment of grief. When we are greeted or even comforted by our dog, we feel such a marvelous bond. When we see whales breaching, or hear birds singing, or catch a glimpse of a doe and her fawn, we intuit something of joy and pride and love.

Beyond this sense of emotional connection, we are now learning more about the amazing similarity between the biology of our feelings and the biological processes in other species, including even the simplest of organisms. This biological similarity supports our sense of connection with all living beings.

Ask yourself how are my feelings similar to those experienced by all living beings? Am I wrapped up in myself? Can I experience my feelings wanting to break out to achieve a sympathetic and compassionate connection with others?

Feelings Are Continually Refined by Our Consciousness
In the evolution of feelings, one of the most remarkable developments has been the partnering of feelings with the expanded consciousness of human awareness. For most of us, awareness of feelings is initially experienced as a “mixed blessing.” We fight against awareness of painful and upsetting feelings. We try to ward off “dangerous feelings.” We want to cling to “good” feelings. One of the challenges of maturation is to stop fighting against certain feelings and to stop trying to cling to other feelings. Only then can a whole new level of feelings emerge — feelings that have been refined by consciousness.

Do you know someone who, through years of experience, has achieved a new sense of love, a strength of character, a wisdom about anger, a sensitivity to suffering, a mature appreciation of responsibility and guilt, a pervasive happiness? Their smile glows with a soft strength. They are so welcoming and kind. They seem so deeply and wonderfully human. They give us a hint of how feelings can evolve, beyond serving simple survival and beyond the immature confusions with which we all start life, to a fullness of being.

Ask yourself how are my feelings becoming more refined? What would be a “wiser” version of my present feeling state? Can I feel the difference it would make to welcome feelings that are unwelcome in my life now? Or what it would be like to release the feelings I continue to hold inside? How would it feel to be less hung-up, less “stuck?” How would the adventure of emotional growth carry me toward a fuller and more vital life experience?

In the midst of painful and confused feelings, we can ask ourselves whether we would be better off without feelings. Does my anxiety serve any purpose? Does my depression have meaning, or is it just biological bad luck? What benefit can there be to obsessive love, unrelenting guilt, repeating seasons of grief? Why do feelings have to be so painful and last so long?

As we seek answers to the problems posed by our feelings, it may be helpful to appreciate the positive role feelings are meant to play in our life. The more we can align our feelings with a positive understanding of what they can do for us, the more we can try trusting them to carry us forward in our lives.

Feelings Help Us To Survive
Feelings evolved in humans for the purpose of alerting us to everyday threats to our survival. We constantly scan our environment for dangers and opportunities, to satisfy our most basic needs. We get a constant body-mind report about the state of the world through our feelings. They give us a quick assessment about whether something is good for us or bad for us and they motivate us to take action accordingly.

Ask yourself in what way are my feelings trying to protect me or help me to survive? If you can understand and acknowledge this positive role of feelings, then you can reason with your feelings about how best to accomplish your goals.

Feelings Promote Emotional Attachment and Social Interaction
What are the dangers we face? What are our survival needs? Our experience as infants offers the earliest answer to these questions. The most basic need of a human infant is to engage its parents in an emotional attachment that will serve as the foundation for care, comfort, stimulation and interaction. Without emotional attachments, infants fail to thrive and die. This danger is never far from our minds at any age. Are we being abandoned? Who will care for us? Is our human environment intellectually and emotionally stimulating? Are feelings accessible for interpersonal connection and interplay? Are people available enough that being alone can be pleasurable?

Ask yourself what are my feelings telling me about my relationships? Do I feel like I could be abandoned or not loved? Do I feel like I have to earn love? Are the major people in my life trustworthy or treacherous?

Feelings Support Growth
It is clear that infants feel enjoyment as they practice and master new skills while exploring their environment and their interpersonal world. They are incessant learners, and not because they “have to be.” It is what they do spontaneously, spurred on by feelings of accomplishment. It is amazing to watch a baby progress toward crawling and then walking. It is as if the next stage of life is pulling them forward. If they are blocked, they become emotionally upset.

This enjoyment of growth is available to us at any age. We can keep exploring, challenging ourselves, mastering and enjoying new competencies.

Ask yourself am I allowing my feelings a chance to support new growth and learning in my life? Toward what new challenges in life do my feelings want to take me?

Feelings Move Us Toward Health and “More Life”
Beyond their origins in the infant’s experience, feelings emanate from adult sources — the energy of health, the satisfaction of exercising our full adult capacities, the enjoyment of our sexuality, the integrity of ethical living, the pride of parenthood, a deepening sense of the intergenerational succession of family life, the payoffs of work that produces useful products and supports family and community life, and the evolving appreciation of wholeness and wellness and holiness. If we trust that the deepest movement and motivation of all our feelings is toward health and “more life,” then we can access and rely on their intelligence and wisdom.

Ask yourself how are my feelings guiding me to better health? How are they encouraging me toward the adult satisfactions of a mature life? What deep emotional intelligence is evolving through my experience?

to view the original article click here.

Monday, April 7, 2014

“Grandma Said I Could!” Solving Parent-Grandparent Conflicts

Good morning everyone!

Do you have children and struggle to establish boundaries with your parents? Or your in-laws? Today, I am sharing an article on this struggle and perhaps it can help! Check it out below:

“Grandma Said I Could!” Solving Parent-Grandparent Conflicts
8 Guidelines for Navigating Parent-Grandparent Differences

Even though there is a new order with adult children now heading the family unit, parents should keep in mind that grandparents connect the family. Therefore, whenever possible, a group effort that includes making some decisions together is the strongest way to be sure that your children are cared for the way you want. Patience and respect are critical. When grandparents respect their adult children’s authority over the children, they gain their adult children’s confidence.

A Parent’s Checklist for Working Together

Caring for grandchildren can be frustrating at times, but wise parents and grandparents make the situation manageable by building trust and recognizing that the children’s needs and well being come first. 

Grandparents are usually a pivotal source of love, warmth and support in your child’s development. Many are a key source of relief for stressed-out parents. Nonetheless, conflicts arise, particularly in families with young children. 

Here are steps parents can take to create a unified front:

-Don’t take advantage of a good thing by overburdening grandparents.
-Pay attention to how your parents are holding up. Watch for signs that you may need to lighten the load.
-Listen attentively to what a grandparent has to say or wants to tell you about your children.
-Admit when you are wrong and a grandparent is correct about something pertaining to your children.
-Acknowledge grandparents’ efforts, both large and small.
-Speak favorably about grandparents in front of your children.
-Remind your children that they are to follow their grandparent’s instructions.
-Don’t be jealous of the time grandparents and grandchildren spend together; it helps you tremendously, and is beneficial for all concerned. 

For more information on adult child-parent relationships, see Under One Roof Again: All Grown Up and (Re)learning to Live Together Happily

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How Do You Make Real Changes in Your Life?

How Do You Make Real Changes in Your Life?

Speak to people who have made real changes in their lives and they'll tell you how difficult it was but how much happier they feel as a result of those changes. Research reveals that long-lasting change is most likely when it’s self-motivated and rooted in positive thinking. But still, why does it have to take so long?
That's because change is a process and not an event. It doesn't happen instantly. Let's take a look at the 5 stages of change:
  1. Precontemplation: You have no conscious intention of making a change at this point, but you have an awareness of the issue involved. To get past this stage, you have to realize that the unhealthy behavior is negatively affecting your personal goals.
  2. Contemplation: You realize the behavior is a problem in your life and you're thinking about taking action to deal with it. At this point, you haven't made any commitment to change. Making a list of the pros and cons of changing your behavior can move you onto the next step.
  3. Preparation: You now know that change is important to you and you begin to prepare yourself and put together a plan to make that change.
  4. Action: You've made the change and you've begun to experience challenges without reverting back to the old behavior. You're employing positive coping skills to deal with those challenges. To make that change stick, it's important to be clear about your motivation for changing (Write it down, if necessary. Engage in self-talk, get support.)
  5. Maintenance: Once the new behavior is part of your routine for six months, you need to maintain it. You work to prevent relapse and to integrate the change into who you are. That may require other changes, especially avoiding situations or triggers associated with the old habit. It can be tough, especially if it means steering clear of certain activities or friends while you work to fully assimilate your new, healthier habit.
The most difficult part of making real change in your life is getting discouraged along the way. As you embark on your journey, keep things in perspective. Real change doesn't happen in a linear fashion. There may be bumps along the way. Keep your goal in mind and remember: The fact that you are even trying is progress. Think about how far you've come from stage 1.

To view the entire Healthy Place Newsletter, click here.