Monday, August 31, 2015

How to Navigate the Perils of Creative Success

How to Navigate the Perils of Creative Success
A case for magic, fairies, and gratitude
Posted Aug 12, 2015

From the outside, success seems to be an enviable state of affairs, even a balm for the insecurities that so many of us feel. But for some people, especially for creative types, there are perils that come with success. It is crucial to pay attention to these perils because they are linked to some very painful experiences such as paralyzing creative blocks, performance anxiety, procrastination, depression, relationship troubles, substance abuse, health problems, and even early death.

Highly creative people tend to be highly sensitive people. Plagued by perfectionism and self-doubt, they often struggle to do the work required of success, even though they clearly have the talent for it. We all probably know a talented someone whose progress was thwarted by the debilitating worry that their work wouldn’t be good enough. The underlying belief may go something like this: if it’s not perfect, it’s no good. And then the deeper belief: if it’s not perfect, I’m no good.

After having some success, the inner dynamic lives on but takes a different shape. The successful person may worry that the success he or she has achieved will be taken away. After all, success isn’t static; one doesn’t arrive at success once and for all. You have to keep it going. The debilitating anxiety of this state of mind is linked to an underlying belief that goes something like this: if I can’t do it again, it means that it was a fluke. And then the deeper belief: if I can’t do it again, it means that I am a fraud and was never any good in the first place.

In my experience as a sensitive, creative person and listening to sensitive, creative people, it seems that such personality types have a disproportionate sense of responsibility—they are quick to take the blame for failure and crave the admiration that comes with the success. This is a perilous place because one’s good sense about oneself then depends on the success. It’s too much pressure, especially for the creative process which requires so much vulnerability, risk taking, and courage.

There are two ideas from psychoanalysis that may help us move forward in better navigating these perils. The first is the idea of separateness, which involves the capacity to not take things so personally. Easier said than done, I know! But it is so helpful to be able to step back from one’s work—even from one’s relationships, audience, and critics—and to claim some separateness from it. In other words, you are not your work, I am not my blog. We are connected to them, yes, but that is different than being them. To my mind, the capacity to be separate is the Holy Grail of mental health.

The second idea that may be useful in navigating the perils of success is to understand the pressures of omnipotence. While at one level, perfectionism is driven by anxiety rooted in low self-confidence and esteem, in another sense it is rooted in an inflated sense of personal power and self-importance. Omnipotence fuels the belief that I am the center of the universe and that everything depends on me. It fails to recognize that there are other people and other forces at play in our lives. The appealing upside is that, in this state of mind, when we succeed, we deserve all the credit. The miserable downside is that when we fail, we then deserve all the blame.

Elizabeth Gilbert (link is external), author of the freakishly successful memoir, Eat Pray Love, explores these dynamics in her 2009 Ted Talk (link is external), Your Elusive Creative Genius. With her new podcast, Magic Lessons (link is external), and her forthcoming book, Big Magic (link is external), Liz is on a mission to help creative people live longer, more stable lives of ongoing creativity by helping them find some separateness from their work and lifting the burden of omnipotence.

In her TED Talk, Liz pitches a radical idea as an antidote to the perils of creative genius. She makes the case for bringing back our belief in fairies. She tells of a time in our collective history when creative people were not so burdened by the pressure of success because they did not believe that they had earned the success alone. There was a cultural understanding that great genius came from the other side, the work of another genius in the form of fairies or the gods. The artist was seen as a conduit, a vessel. It meant that neither success nor failure belonged to the artist him or herself alone. The burden of both success and failure was shared.

It might surprise you that a psychoanalyst would be inclined to think of such an idea as helpful but, in fact, I do. I think that there is something liberating about the idea that our work is not entirely our own. After all, as a psychoanalyst, I believe in the mysterious unconscious with its myriad figures and phantasies that influence us profoundly. Then, there is Carl Jung’s idea of the collective unconscious with the awareness that we are impacted by all that has come before, that we are connected to the universe in real, transcendent ways. In his later writings, psychoanalyst Wilfred Bion tried to convey this sense of the numinous in his idea of “O”—an ineffable presence within and beyond, the source of truth and life.

There is another, perhaps less mystical, psychoanalytic perspective that may help us here as well. Psychoanalyst Melanie Klein developed her model of mental health and well-being around the idea of gratitude. She believed that a satisfying, full life is rooted in the capacity to view one's life fundamentally as a gift. She suggested that gratitude can help liberate us from the chains of omnipotence because we give credit where credit is due: to our parents and their parents and their parents before them—parents both literal and figurative. In so doing, we recognize that others share both our success and our failure. Such perspective has a way of turning down the pressure.

If we can slowly shift our mindset from seeking success in order to prove our worth to seeking to use the gifts we have been given, we have more reliable protection from the perils of success. Gratitude brings awareness of the other, which helps us to be separate. Gratitude puts us in a position of helpful dependency and humility, which are antidotes to omnipotence. It opens up the possibility that we might be able to better enjoy and use the gifts we have been given.

Copyright 2015 Jennifer Kunst, PhD

Like it! Share it!

To view the original article click here:

Monday, August 24, 2015

Brené Brown on How to Reckon with Emotion and Change Your Narrative

Good Morning!

Today we are sharing an article from Brené Brown where she talks about how the most powerful stories may be the ones we tell ourselves. But beware—they're usually fiction.

How to Reckon with Emotion and Change Your Narrative 

My husband, Steve, and I were having one of those days. That morning, we'd overslept. Charlie couldn't find his backpack, and Ellen had to drag herself out of bed because she'd been up late studying. Then at work I had five back-to-back meetings, and Steve, a pediatrician, was dealing with cold-and-flu season. By dinnertime, we were practically in tears.

Steve opened the refrigerator and sighed. "We have no groceries. Not even lunch meat." I shot back, "I'm doing the best I can. You can shop, too!" "I know," he said in a measured voice. "I do it every week. What's going on?"

I knew exactly what was going on: I had turned his comment into a story about how I'm a disorganized, unreliable partner and mother. I apologized and started my next sentence with the phrase that's become a lifesaver in my marriage, parenting and professional life: "The story I'm making up is that you were blaming me for not having groceries, that I was screwing up."

Read more:

Monday, August 17, 2015

Sutures With A Soundtrack: Music Can Ease Pain, Anxiety Of Surgery

Good Morning!

In continuing with the theme of last week's blog (hint: music if you missed it!) This week's article is from and it talks about how studies are showing that listening to music can help ease pain after surgery.

Sutures With A Soundtrack: Music Can Ease Pain, Anxiety Of Surgery

Hospitals have a free and powerful tool that they could use more often to help reduce the pain that surgery patients experience: music.

Scores of studies over the years have looked at the power of music to ease this kind of pain; an analysis published Wednesday in The Lancet that pulls all those findings together builds a strong case.

When researchers in London started combing the medical literature for studies about music's soothing power, they found hundreds of small studies suggesting some benefit. The idea goes back to the days of Florence Nightingale, and music was used to ease surgical pain as early as 1914. (My colleague Patricia Neighmond reported on one of these studies just a few months ago.)

Dr. Catherine Meads at Brunel University focused her attention on 73 rigorous, randomized clinical trials about the role of music among surgery patients.

Maria Fabrizio for NPR:
To Ease Pain, Reach For Your Playlist

"As the studies themselves were small, they really didn't find all that much," Meads says. "But once we put them all together, we had much more power to find whether music worked or not."

She and her colleagues now report that, yes indeed, surgery patients who listened to music, either before, during or after surgery, were better off — in terms of reduced pain, less anxiety and more patient satisfaction.

Maybe most notably, patients listening to music used significantly less pain medication. Meads says, on average, music helped the patients drop two notches on the 10-point pain scale. That's the same relief typically reported with a dose of painkilling medicine.

Some hospitals do encourage patients to listen to music, but Meads says the practice should be more widely adopted, given the evidence of its effectiveness.

In many of these studies, she notes, the patients chose the music they listened to. "It could be anything from Spanish guitar to Chinese classical music."

And, unlike drugs, she says, music "doesn't seem to have any side effects."

Well, there may be one side effect. A few studies (such as this one) have noted that operating rooms are very noisy places, and music played in the room can make it harder for the surgical staff to hear what's going on. Doctors sometimes have to repeat their commands, creating opportunities for misunderstanding or error.

"If surgeons are listening to music, it can be a bit of a distraction," Meads says. "So it may be it's not such a wise idea to have it during the operation itself."

That was not, however, something Meads analyzed in her study of music and medicine. Many surgeons listen to music during a procedure; discouraging that habit could be a tough sell.

To listen to the original broadcast, or to view the original article click here:

Monday, August 10, 2015

What Your Favorite Songs Can Tell You About The Way Your Brain Works

Are you an empathizer or a systemizer?

Today we are sharing this article from The Huffington Post about how music and your favorite songs can reveal ways that your brain works. How neat is that?

What Your Favorite Songs Can Tell You About The Way Your Brain Works
Are you an empathizer or a systemizer?
By Carolyn Gregoire, Senior Health + Science Writer, The Huffington Post
Posted: 07/23/2015 03:23 PM EDT | Edited: 07/23/2015 03:45 PM EDT

Why do you love certain types of music and hate others? It may come down to the way your brain processes information.

Psychologists already know that music preferences are linked to personality, but a new study finds that your taste in music is also associated with the way you think.

The University of Cambridge study, which was published Wednesday in the online journal PLOS One, found that people who are high in empathy prefer "mellow" music -- including R&B/soul, adult contemporary and soft rock -- while those with more analytical minds tend to prefer more "intense" music -- such as punk, heavy metal and hard rock.

Taylor Swift or AC/DC?
For the study, U.K. researchers recruited over 4,000 participants using a Facebook app. The participants filled out personality questionnaires, and then were asked to listen to and rate 50 different songs from a variety of genres.

The researchers found that empathetic individuals ("empathizers") tended to prefer more emotionally driven music, while analytic minds ("systemizers") gravitated toward music with greater sonic complexity.

"Empathizers, who have a drive to understand the thoughts and feelings of others, preferred music ... which featured low energy, negative emotions (such as sadness) and emotional depth," David Greenberg, a Ph.D. candidate at Cambridge and the study's lead author, told The Huffington Post in an email. "On the other hand, systemizers, who have a drive to understand and analyze the patterns that underpin the world, preferred music ... which not only features high energy and positive emotions."

Why? The researchers hypothesize that people seek out music that reflects and reinforces their own mental states.

"People’s musical choices seem to be a mirror of who they are," Greenberg said.

How it could help
A next step for the research would be to determine whether music with emotional depth can actually increase empathy.

If so, therapies using music to boost empathy could be devised. In particular, these could help individuals with autism, who often rank below average in empathy but have heightened levels of systemizing.

"Findings from this line of research can be applied to music therapies, clinical interventions, and even computer-based interactive programs designed to teach emotions and mental states via music to individuals on the autistic spectrum," the study's authors write.

Or the results might just be used to optimize your Spotify "discover" recommendations.

"Not only can these findings be useful for clinicians in various therapeutic [settings]," Greenberg added, "but it can also be useful for the music industry and for music recommendation platforms such as Pandora and Apple Music."

To view the original article, click here.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Help unlock your child's best self with a few tried-and-true strategies.

Harvard psychologists have been studying what it takes to raise 'good' kids. Here are 6 tips.
Help unlock your child's best self with a few tried-and-true strategies.

A lot of parents are tired of being told how technology is screwing up their kids.
Moms and dads of the digital age are well aware of the growing competition for their children's attention, and they're bombarded at each turn of the page or click of the mouse with both cutting-edge ideas and newfound worries for raising great kids.

But beneath the madness of modernity, the basics of raising a moral child haven't really changed.
Parents want their kids to achieve their goals and find happiness, but Harvard researchers believe that doesn't have to come at the expense of kindness and empathy. They say a few tried-and-true strategies remain the best ways to mold your kids into the morally upstanding and goals-oriented humans you want them to be. To find out about six practical tips that can help, check out today's article we're sharing from