Monday, July 28, 2014

Pay It Back and Pay It Forward

Pay It Back and Pay It Forward
Or the emergence of positive evolutionary psychology
Published on July 23, 2014 by Glenn Geher, Ph.D. in Darwin's Subterranean World

One of the single greatest advances in the evolutionary behavioral sciences in the past several decades can be described as the intellectual bursting of the “selfishness” dam. In 1976, renowned biologist, thinker, and writer, Richard Dawkins published The Selfish Gene (with Oxford University Press). This book is, essentially, a highly accessible and powerful summary of Darwin’s ideas on evolution — applied largely (but not fully) to several classes of animal behavior (such as the mating habits of the praying mantis, the murderous nature of emperor penguins, and the helpful nature of vampire bats). This book is truly awesome and you should put it near the top of your list if you have any interest in the world around you and haven’t yet read this significant work.

One intellectual consequence of Dawkins’ provocative title was a focus on the many connotations of the term selfish. Dawkins meant this term in a very specific sense, literally meaning that a “selfish gene” is a gene that codes for qualities of an organism that increase the likelihood of survival and/or reproductive success. In short, replicating genes out-exist non-replicating (or poorly replicating) genes in the future of a species. This is really all he meant. But folks who followed his work elaborated. It made sense to many to think of an animal such as a human, then, as a primarily selfish being. After all, the reasoning goes, if genes that exist are selfish, then products of genes, such as humans, must be too. And this fallacious reasoning drove much in the way of (a) how evolutionary science has progressed since the publication of The Selfish Gene and (b) how evolution (now seen by many as espousing a “red in tooth and claw” take on our kind), has taken on something of a cold angle on what it means to be any kind of organism, including a human.

There is good news and bad news that follow up on The Selfish Gene. The bad news is that this misinterpretation (or overly applied extension) of Dawkins' metaphor has not helped work in the evolutionary sciences with PR issues. People from the outside looking in often think, “Oh, that evolution stuff - isn’t that the stuff that says we are animals and that we all want to kill each other for our own selfish gain?” Not so pleasant a portrait. I can see why someone might not like that!

The good news follows: An amazing thing about this field in the past several decades has been the landslide of research that sheds light on the positives of human nature from an evolutionary perspective (See Geher, 2014). We can almost think of this as the dawn of a potential field we could call Positive Evolutionary Psychology (yup, PEP!). Here are just a few directions that the science in evolutionary psychology has taken which paints humans as loving, helpful, and self-sacrificing:

1. Paying It Back: Or giving back to others who have given to you in some important way, is hugely significant from the perspective of evolutionary psychology. Trivers’ (1971) landmark work on the topic of reciprocal altruism demonstrated that in relatively long-lived species, such as our own, the tendency for altruism among-non kin may evolve - and it may take the form of people helping others, even strangers. Sometimes this kind of help is “paying it back,” or reciprocating altruistic acts that have come to would-be altruists in a small-social community. Not paying back altruism is socially dangerous — in your social ecosystem, my social ecosystem, and in the social ecosystems of pre-agrarian humans all around the globe. We’ve evolved to pay it back.

2. Paying It Forward: This is a term that’s been thrown around a lot in recent years, and I love it! It essentially says to give to others — not to reciprocate them for having helped you in the past, but to help them proactively so that they are on good footing moving forward. Maybe they will help you in the future. Maybe they will help others close to you (kin, friends, etc.), in the future. Maybe they will help the broader community in the future. Your helping them proactively sets the stage for any of these outcomes, all of which have potential to positively influence you and your kin and your social network. Paying it forward is seen positively in social communities; it helps people develop reputations as altruists or helpers or, more simply, as folks whom can be relied upon. And, without question, such a reputation is adaptive and leads to be positive outcomes (even if indirectly) for the individual who chooses to pay it forward.

Think of joining a Big Brother / Big Sister program when you’re in your mid-20s (as I did when I was a graduate student in NH). In these kinds of programs, you find a young child (usually around 7 years old) who just needs a little boost, a little help, some older figure to lean on and talk to. For instance, when I lived in NH in the 1990s, I met regularly with 7-year-old Jacob. Great kid, dad not so much in the picture; benefited from having some kind of young adult male role model.

We did what he wanted to do — movies, sledding, mini-golf, swimming, etc. We talked and we stay in touch still. He’s now a graduate of the University of Vermont and is an ace at computers; for him, the sky is the limit. My helping him when he was young was paying it forward; and when I see how well he’s done, I’m pretty darn glad that I put my time in to get to know Jacob.

3. Loving Selflessly: An enormous body of work on the evolutionary psychology of love that has come out in the past two decades (e.g., Fisher, 1993) has demonstrated how strong our love for another can be. And this kind of love can be selfless. Further, this kind of love is an important part of our evolutionary heritage.

Human offspring are altricial (helpless), and acquiring help from multiple adults (think monogamous pair of adults) is hugely beneficial to successful development. And when the adults in that pair are fully aligned in their vision of family, which benefits from them being truly in love with one another, parenting will thrive. Love, an inherently selfless act, is a foundational part of the human evolutionary story.

Did Dawkins' juggernaut of a term, Selfish Gene, imply that all features of all organisms are selfish in the colloquial sense? Absolutely not. He simply meant that qualities of organisms that lead to gene replication are likely (mathematically) to out-exist qualities that do not facilitate such replication. In complex, socially oriented, and long-lived critters like us, it’s very often the case that selfless, other-oriented behaviors (such as paying it back, paying it forward, or loving another in a selfless manner) are exactly the highly evolved things that make us human - and these are the qualities we share with humans in all corners of the globe.

To some extent, selfish genes have, in the case of our kind, created altruistic apes who focus largely on what they can do to help others and to build strong and positive communities. This sounds a little like positive evolutionary psychology* to me!

References

Dawkins, R. (1976). The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fisher, H. (1993). Anatomy of Love - A Natural History of Mating and Why We Stray. New York: Ballantine Books.

Geher, G. (2014). Evolutionary Psychology 101. New York: Springer.

Keltner, D. (2009). Born to be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. New York: Norton.

Trivers, R. L. (1971). The evolution of reciprocal altruism. Quarterly Review of Biology, 46, 35–57.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Why Toxic Friends Are a Bad Investment

Why Toxic Friendships Are Bad Investments
Are you a savvy investor or are your friendships bleeding you dry?
Published on February 27, 2014 by Suzanne Degges-White, Ph.D. in Lifetime Connections

When others do you wrong, where do you draw the line? Just about everyone likes to be liked. Whether we are afraid of ticking off the server at a restaurant or of irritating the people behind us in line when we can’t find our credit card in our wallet, most of us feel bad when our actions or words create distress for others. We all are taught to “play fair” from our earliest social situations. Which is why it can be hard for some of us to handle “friends” who play by their own rules and ignore the social niceties that we hope would prevail.

How many of us have blocked off time on our calendar – while living over-scheduled lives already – to meet a friend for coffee, shopping, a double date, or a w(h)ine-and-dine session, and then, at the last minute, received a text, call, or email from the friend apologizing that they have to cancel? This is as irritating, for many, as a flat-out betrayal.

Friendship development is often likened to an economic exchange: We give to others on faith that they will give back to us, if needed. We choose whom to befriend and how much to invest in the relationship with an eye towards “ROI,” or return on investment. This happens at an unconscious level for most people. We don’t necessarily size up someone and think, “She would be a shrewd investment of my attention and support.” But we may be thinking, “I enjoy spending time with her and although she can be a little (your pet peeve here), it’s worth it in the end, because I really think she is (your favorite trait here).”

And so we tolerate a friend’s habit of canceling at the last minute because we really dig hanging out with her when we are able to connect.

Sticking with this economics-based perspective, it may be that we seek the “break-even point” in each relationship, and this be different among different friends. If you value humor over thoughtfulness, you may tolerate a friend’s habit of forgetting your birthday or your partner's name if she can consistently conjure fits of sidesplitting laughter that help you forget the hassles of your day. Or you may tolerate a friend’s miserly way of calculating every restaurant tip to the last penny, and never going over 15 percent, if she's also always there when you need someone to listen to you kvetch about your job, family, or life in general.

The thing is, each of us has a line in the sand which no one we consider a true friend should cross. And we each value a different set of character traits and unique personalities, so one person’s “bad investment” may attract us. Learning how to draw our own line means learning about who you are and what you value.

Your personal values inform all the relationships decisions you make, for better and worse. You have to use your own intuition and gut feeling to know when to pull out of a relationship before you lose more emotional capital than you can afford to spend. If you've reached the point that you're maintaining a balance sheet in your head about a specific friend, chances are the relationship has already sapped more energy than you can afford.

We should value and save keep our intangible worth as well as we do our tangible resources. Only through valuing our own assets and strengths will be able to encourage like esteem from others or be able to let go of friendships in which we get robbed. Protect your inner wealth from shady friends just like you protect your external wealth from shady deals.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Letting Go of What You Cannot Change

Good afternoon! 

Today we are sharing an article about seeing the glass not half-empty, but half-full by learning to let go of what you cannot change. Enjoy!

Letting Go of What You Cannot Change
Turn what you cannot change into peace and contentment with this very moment.
Published on October 13, 2011 by Toni Bernhard, J.D. in Turning Straw Into Gold


I've been chronically ill since I failed to recover from a viral infection in 2001. When someone asks how I'm doing, I've got my glass-half-full and my glass-half-empty answers. My glass-half-full answer is that I'm now able to be up and about for several hours in the morning and then—usually—again in the afternoon.

My glass-half-empty answer is that I can't make a daylong commitment because, around noon, my body collapses on the bed in flu-like fatigue. If I'm able to fall asleep, then I can be up and about in the afternoon. By evening, I'm too sick to be anywhere but on my bed.

At first glance these two descriptions may seem to conflict with each other, but they don't. They're just two different ways to describe my life.

Glass-half-full/glass-half-empty is an idiom used to describe how people think of their lives. People who see their lives as a glass that's half-full are thought to have an optimistic and joyful outlook on life—they're looking at what's in the glass. By contrast, those who see their lives as a glass that's half-empty are thought to have a pessimistic and negative outlook on life—they're looking at what's missing from the glass.

When I think of my glass as half-full, I feel grateful and look forward to the day. When I think of it as half-empty, I'm sad or irritable and my mental suffering intensifies.

In September, I discovered a way to change that half-empty glass into one that is half-full. My son and his wife held a birthday party for my four-year old granddaughter. It started at 10:30 in the morning at a park near their home, which is a little over an hour from where I live. Factoring in my "collapse schedule," and given the roundtrip driving time (even with someone else driving), I knew I couldn't stay for the whole party. Still, I decided to push myself and go for about an hour and a half.
When I got there, I felt such joy—that glass-half-full feeling. Yes, I couldn't stay for the whole party, but I was so happy to see my granddaughter, her little friends and their parents, my daughter-in-law's parents and her brother, and even an old friend who was there with her granddaughter.

At one point, I asked my son if his best friends were coming—a couple I dearly love but rarely get to see. He said apologetically (knowing I wouldn't be able to attend) that they were coming over to their house along with other friends for the "adult party" that evening. Whoa. That glass-half-full was suddenly half-empty. The desire to go to the party was so strong, I could feel it physically in my body. Then envy and resentment began to rear their ugly heads.

Not wanting others to see how I felt, I took myself off to the restroom to regroup. Was I going to let this information ruin the rest of my time at the party? I didn't want it to, but the envy and resentment felt like they were eating me alive.

Then I remembered the Buddha's teachings on suffering and unhappiness. When we're caught up in painful thoughts and emotions, we have a choice. We can choose to feed them by going over and over our grievances: "This isn't fair"; "Tonight is when the real fun will start." By repeatedly conjuring up images or thoughts that evoke envy and resentment, we, in effect, become an envious and resentful person, which keeps our attention on the empty part of the glass.

But we can make a different choice. We can resolve to mindfully observe the painful thoughts and emotions without feeding them with stress-filled commentary. The Buddhist teacher S.N. Goenka called this "learning to observe [unpleasant sensations] objectively." An objective, mindful observation might take this form: "Ah, envy and resentment are present." (Compare this to repeatedly saying, "This isn't fair.") Observing painful thoughts and emotions objectively loosens their grip on us. This gives us some breathing room in which we can make a conscious choice not to continue to feed them.

In fact, as I describe in the chapter in my book How to Be Sick titled, "Getting Off the Wheel of Suffering," we can do more than just not feed them. We can actively counter them by cultivating wholesome mental qualities—what Buddhists call the four sublime states.

Right there in the restroom, I made a conscious choice to move my mind toward one of those sublime states: karuna, or compassion. I gently said to myself, "It's hard to have to skip a party that I want to go to so badly." Immediately, I could feel the envy and resentment begin to slip away because I'd shifted my attention from them to an open-hearted acknowledgement of my unhappiness and to the cultivation of compassion for myself over the suffering I was experiencing.

Then I moved to another sublime state: metta, translated as kindness or friendliness. Metta is the simple act of well-wishing toward oneself and others. In this instance, I was the one in need of well-wishing! So I said to myself, "May I be happy hanging out with my family and the party guests for the rest of my time here."

My heart having been softened by evoking karuna (compassion) and metta (kindness and friendliness) for myself, I took up the third sublime state: mudita, or joy in the joy of others. I pictured my son and daughter-in-law together that evening, along with other friends, enjoying each other's company. As I did this, I tried to feel joy for the good time they'd be having. It took awhile—at first the residue of envy was still there. But I took a deep breath and kept at it, visualizing even more strongly the good time they'd be having. Eventually, joy arose. I was beginning to see my glass as half-full again.

As I walked back to the party, I felt the fourth sublime state arise: upekkha, or equanimity, which refers to feeling content and at ease with whatever life brings. "Yes, my body is sick and that limits what I can do," I thought, "but this is how my life is and I'm at peace with its joys and its sorrows." I rejoined the party with my glass half-full and with the realization that perhaps the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

Note: The theme of this article is expanded on in Chapter 19 ("Intentionally Turning Your Mind to the Sublime States") of my book, How to Wake Up: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide to Navigating Joy and Sorrow.

© 2011 Toni Bernhard www.tonibernhard.com

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Neuroscience of Regret

The Neuroscience of Regret
How our brains learn to let go of regret as we age — and why some people don't

Published on June 1, 2012 by Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. in The Mindful Self-Express

A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.  ~John Barrymore

We often associate regret with old age – the tragic image of an elderly person feeling regretful over opportunities forever missed. Now, groundbreaking new brain research shows how this stereotype may be true, at least for a portion of the elderly who are depressed. On the other hand, healthy aging may involve the ability to regulate regret in the brain, and move on emotionally when there is nothing more that can be done. If we can teach depressed, older people to think like their more optimistic peers, we may be able to help them let go of regret. Read on to find out how the human brain processes regret.

No Regrets

Yes, I Have No Regrets, says the song
How Our Brains Process Regret

Studies have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brain in real time while participants performed computer tasks that asked them to choose between different options for investing money. When participants were shown how they could have done better with alternative strategies (to prime regret), there was decreased activity in the ventral striatum, an area associated with processing rewards. There was also increased activity in the amygdala, part of the brain’s limbic system that generates immediate emotional response to threat. Interestingly, when the experiment was done with a computer making all the choices, these regret patterns were not found, suggesting that a sense of personal accountability is necessary for regret.

 Do Age and Depression Affect Regret?

A new study conducted by researchers at the University Medical Center – Hamburg, in Germany provides an exciting demonstration of how healthy older people may actively disengage from regret when nothing can be done. Young people, who, presumably have more life opportunities for change and depressed elderly, who, presumably, have a deficit in emotional processing, were more regretful when confronted with missed chances for financial gain.

These researchers scanned the brains of three groups of subjects using fMRI technology: Young people with average age 25, healthy older people with average age 66, and depressed older people, also 66 on average. All participants worked on a computer game during the brain scan in which they had to decide whether to keep opening boxes or rest. Each box could contain an amount of money or could contain a devil emblem that meant they lost all their money and ended that round of the game. To prime regret, researchers showed people after each round how far they could have gone to earn more money.

There were substantial differences in brain functioning between the healthy elderly and the other groups. On both appearance of the devil and being shown lost opportunities, the young and depressed elderly showed decreased neural activity in the ventral striatum, the area associated with reward processing. The healthy elderly did not, however, show this regretful pattern when they were shown how far they could have gone; only when they actually lost all their money. Instead, when faced with their missed alternatives, this group actually showed increased neural firing in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex, an area involved in emotional regulation and control. This is a new discovery, and suggests that their brains were actively working to successfully regulate the pain of regret
Behavioral strategies differed between the groups in a way that was consistent with the brain findings. Whereas the young and depressed elderly took more risks on subsequent rounds, the healthy elderly did not change their strategies across 80 rounds on average. When participants’ physiological functioning was assessed in another similar study using the same conditions, the healthy elderly showed less increase in blood pressure and skin conductance (a measure of sweating) than the other groups. Overall, the riskier strategy did not lead to more money, suggesting that the young and depressed elderly took on extra stress for no gain.

Can Our Brains Actually Improve Their Emotional Processing With Age? 

An exciting implication of this study is that brain functioning does not merely deteriorate in old age, but that aging can result in better emotion-regulation and stress management. This is consistent with other research showing old people have less intense negative emotions and are happier than middle-aged people on average.

Can Mindfulness Help?

The researchers are now working on developing interventions to help depressed people regulate regret by showing them how much chance or outside factors played a role in their choices, versus their own actions. This should result in decreased self-blame and regret.

Research on Mindfulness has also shown that Mindfulness-based interventions can increase activity and even change brain structure in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex and other midbrain regions involved in emotional processing and regulation. Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy is one of the few treatments shown to be effective at treating chronic, intractable depression. Although the research has not yet been done, Mindfulness training emphasizing keeping one’s focus on the present moment and reducing self-judgment and reactivity may be an alternative and potentially even more effective way of helping depressed elderly let go of destructive and chronic regret.

 Final Thoughts

In summary, regret is a negative emotion that may be adaptive if it motivates action to learn from mistakes and become a smarter or better person. However, getting stuck in regret where there is nothing that can be done to change the situation can be damaging to mind and body.  For the elderly, the developmental task may be to learn to live with and accept the life they have had, focusing on the positive aspects and forgiving themselves both for mistakes made and opportunities not taken. Feeling that one has done the best one can, given the circumstances and letting go of regret can lead to self-compassion and peace.

Read my companion post about the Psychology of Regret and learn how to harness your regret to make better choices when things can be changed.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201205/the-psychology-regret

 About The Author

Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist, and expert on Mindfulness and Positive Psychology.  Dr Greenberg provides workshops and speaking engagements for organizations,  life, weight loss, or career coaching, and psychotherapy for individuals and couples.

Visit my website:

http://melaniegreenbergphd.com/marin-psychologist/

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Learning to 'wait to worry'

Hello everyone!!

I wanted to share with you an extra article this week, which may help you get through to the weekend. (Hopefully for most of you, it's a three-day weekend ahead!) This author talks about how he found the best anti-anxiety drug was guided imagery and learning to ‘wait to worry.’ Taken fromThe Washington Post...enjoy!

A bout with cancer taught the author to “wait to worry” — a mantra for life that he tried to teach his father. (Bigstock)
BY STEVEN PETROW May 26 


Last fall, at precisely the same hour my 81-year-old mother was being handed a lung cancer diagnosis at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, my 84-year-old father was calling 911 for a pesky nosebleed. An ambulance rushed him to the emergency room of another hospital, where he was promptly turned away; it doesn’t admit patients for run-of-the-mill maladies such as nosebleeds. Uptown with my mother, I knew I’d lost the battle of helping Dad manage his anxiety.

It’s been a long struggle. Ten springs ago, Dad saw five neurologists, including the world-famous Oliver Sacks, because no one could tell him why he had increasing difficulty with his articulation and balance. Soon after, he e-mailed me: “I have some sort of degeneration in the cerebellum, cause unknown, no treatment, no cure. Thank God it’s so slow moving.”

Since then I’d been trying to get Dad to stay rooted in the here and now and not obsess on all the pitfalls and pratfalls that may come with his condition. My personal mantra — whether facing a health issue, a relationship problem or a work dilemma — has been “wait to worry.” I wanted it to be his, too.

Dad’s inclination toward premature worry was nothing new. Even before he was diagnosed, he always expected the worst, especially when it came to his mother. For more than 60 years, Grandma had lived in a two-story walk-up, with a narrow flight of stairs leading to her foyer. One false wobble and . . . well, you get the idea, at least from my dad’s perspective.

Still, Grandma was managing those ups and downs quite capably, well into her mid-80s, when my father decided she had to move to the downstairs apartment. Otherwise, he predicted, she’d become “a prisoner at home.” I imagined other scenarios: Perhaps she’d die suddenly of a heart attack or choose to move to an assisted living facility ahead of a crisis or. . . . So many possibilities, so hard to predict. Why worry now about a “prisoner scenario” that might never unfold?

Dad entreated me to join forces with him, which was when I first explained my “wait to worry” concept. My father — a left-brain academic — understood it intellectually, although he couldn’t quite internalize it.

Honestly, the lesson hadn’t come to me easily, either. Years ago when as a cancer patient I was finishing chemotherapy, my previous worry (“Will I survive?”) took a back seat to my new one (“Will I relapse?”). My oncologist did his best to alleviate my fear by reminding me that I had a good prognosis. He also threw out a free life lesson: “Although you can’t control whether or not your cancer recurs, you can control how much you let the fear of recurrence affect your life.”

Easier said than done, as I (like my dad) tended to worry, excessively. Finally, a good friend asked rhetorically: “Why spend the time worrying about what might happen when you can only control what’s happening right now? I say throw it in the ****bucket and have a glass of wine.” I had no problem with the wine suggestion, but it was hard for me to throw my worry into any kind of bucket.


At wit’s end, I reached out to Marion, a friend of my mother’s who had long been fighting her own cancer battle. I dumped all my fears on her, especially my recurring nightmare of relapsing. “It’s all so out of my control,” I complained. When I was done, Marion — who’d been through the wringer — was ready. She acknowledged my feelings but then dispensed a pithy piece of advice: “Wait to worry.” In other words, don’t start worrying now about something that hasn’t happened.

I thought it was crap, and worry I did, constantly. I “self-medicated” daily and refused to shop in bulk. (Surely I couldn’t eat that much mustard before reaching my personal expiration date.) Then one day I passed out, the result of too much Scotch, marijuana and prescription meds. A few days later, I confessed what had happened to my psychotherapist, who minced no words in saying, “You’re an addict.” I replied: “Thank you for your professional opinion, doctor. Now go screw yourself.”

Even as I said it, though, I knew the therapist was right. So when Marion suggested I start practicing guided imagery to calm myself, I couldn’t say no. Three times a day for 10 or 15 minutes, I lay on my sofa, closed my eyes and created a mental image of Pac-Man warriors devouring my nasty cancer cells as I told myself: “My cancer cells are weak and confused. I’m imagining them falling apart like ground hamburger.” I ended each session with: “My body is healthy and free of disease, and I’m reaching my goals and fulfilling my life’s purpose.”

It took weeks, but I slowly regained a sense of self-mastery, and with it a certain peace. I grew less afraid of the what-ifs and stopped dwelling on them — and started to enjoy the right-now again. I even found myself beginning to accept Marion’s advice. Yes, I could “wait to worry.”


Marion’s mantra paid off big-time for her. Initially, she’d been given six months to live, but she proved all the doctors wrong by living 11 years longer. During those years her two daughters and son married and she became a grandmother, three times over. Her final years were spent joyfully in the moment, not mired in worried what-ifs.

My grandmother eventually did indeed suffer a bad fall, but it was in the subway, not at home. The injuries left her hospitalized for most of her last days, and she only once had to navigate the stairs my father had so worried about. That was to come home one last time, from the hospital. Two days later she passed away where she wanted to — in her bed, overlooking her rose garden from the second floor.

As for my dad, his condition has indeed worsened with time and now with my mom’s illness, I know it’s especially hard for him to “wait to worry” as much as I think he has tried and as much as he has tried to remain independent.

It’s been two years since he e-mailed me this note: “My condition has worsened very slowly over the past decade, but even a turtle gets there eventually.” He and I both know he is much closer to his destination now.

I may have found a better mantra for him anyway — and in his mother’s papers, of all places. Eight years before she passed away, she penned: “If can’t change the situation, I must change my attitude for my own peace of mind.” And, now, that may be even better advice for Dad than waiting.

Petrow writes the “Civilities” advice column for The Post. He can be reached at www.facebook.com/
stevenpetrow and www.twitter.com/
stevenpetrow.