Thursday, February 27, 2014

Workplace Bully Bashers of Bellingham

By Brad Broberg, Puget Sound Business Journal

Pity the bully who picks on Gary Namie.

I’m bully-proof,” he says.

That’s easy to say when you’re built like a bear, but it’s Namie’s nature, not his stature, that makes him immune from bullies. Pitch him any you-know-what, and he’ll pitch it right back.

I’m a really nice guy,” he says, “until you cross me.”

If everyone were like Namie, workplace bullies would be starving for targets. But many people aren’t wired for conflict and are unable to rebuff a bully — usually their boss but sometimes a co-worker.

Insults, intimidation and isolation are just some of the tactics a bully employs. The toll on the target’s health — everything from clinical depression to high blood pressure to post-traumatic stress disorder — can be devastating.

The issue exploded into the headlines last year when the editor of a University of Virginia literary magazine killed himself after complaining of alleged bullying by his boss — an extreme response but a testament to bullying’s destructive potential.

Such devastation is why Namie and his wife, Ruth founded the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI). Based in Bellingham, the institute is the hub of an anti-bullying enterprise that combines nonprofit advocacy and education with a money-making consulting and speaking practice.

What I’m most proud of is the breadth and depth of what we do,” says Namie, who was a college teacher and corporate manager before bully-busting became his life’s work.

WBI is a virtual institute with a website  full of news and data about workplace bullying, including tips on how to respond, advice on how to get help and forums to share experiences. The nonprofit institute also offers telephone coaching sessions that — for a fee — provide bullying targets with emotional support and personalized strategies for dealing with their plight.

Media coverage of workplace bullying frequently features the Namies, who’ve been cited and quoted by the likes of CNN, and USA Today and authored articles in peer-reviewed publications such as the International Journal of Communication.

The institute commissioned what it says was the first national survey of workplace bullying in 2007 and followed that with another survey in 2010. In both surveys, one out of three respondents said they’d been bullied at work.

While the institute anchors their efforts, the Namies have many oars in the water. Their network includes:

Healthy Workplace Campaign, which leads their nationwide push for anti-bullying legislation
Work Doctor, home base for their consulting and speaking business
WBI University, which provides training in how to spot and stop bullying
Bully Busters, an online store selling mugs, buttons and T-shirts as well as their book, “The Bully at Work.” Another book, “The Bully-Free Workplace,” is due out this spring.

The Namies aren’t the only people addressing workplace bullying in the U.S., but they’ve been doing it longer than just about anybody else and are unique in combining advocacy, consulting and research, said Sarah Tracy, an associate communications professor at Arizona State University who studies workplace bullying.

Everybody knows Gary and Ruth,” she said.

Although Ruth is retired and no longer plays an active role in the WBI, her story is the ongoing inspiration for the organization’s mission. Flash back to 1995. The Namies were living in San Francisco. Gary, a social psychologist with a doctorate from the University of California, Santa Barbara, was teaching at local universities and consulting. Ruth, with a doctorate from the California School of Professional Psychology, was working for a health maintenance organization.

Both were blissfully ignorant of workplace bullying until Ruth found herself in the crosshairs of a female superior who berated her, spread rumors, disrupted her work and generally made her life miserable.

As the Namies searched for remedies, they were surprised to learn two things: Bullying is usually not illegal, and there was nowhere to turn for support and advice.

But they didn’t curse the dark. They lit a candle — the Campaign Against Workplace Bullying. Through a toll-free hotline, a website and seminars, their ad hoc crusade helped bring the largely unacknowledged issue to light, letting targets know they were not alone and were not to blame.

We didn’t set out to create a (business),” Gary Namie says. “We set out to fill a need that wasn’t being met.”

Gary Namie compares the lack of recognition given to workplace bullying at the time of Ruth’s episode to the lack of recognition once given to domestic violence.

This is domestic violence where the abuser is on the payroll,” he says.

The Namies moved to Bellingham in 2001 when Gary Namie landed a job teaching psychology at Western Washington University. That’s where the Campaign Against Workplace Bullying morphed into the Workplace Bullying Institute. Gary Namie, who retired from teaching in 2003, began pouring all of his energy into eliminating workplace bullying.

The WBI defines workplace bullying as repeated verbal abuse, offensive conduct and/or sabotage of the target’s work that harms the target’s mental/physical health.

How do you distinguish a jerk or a tough manager from a bully? A tough boss is tough on everybody,” Gary Namie said. “A bully dumps all the misery on the few.”

The WBI provides lots of information about surviving being bullied, but none about how to confront bullies. Gary Namie believes that if targets were capable of confronting their tormenter, they already would have.

The employer has to stop it,” Gary Namie says.

The problem is that employers often ignore or even tolerate bullying, he said.

Bullying sounds a lot like illegal harassment, but it’s usually not. Canada and some European countries have anti-bullying laws, but bullying typically is not against the law in the U.S. unless it involves harassment based on a person’s race, religion, sex or other legally protected status.

Namie and a volunteer network of state coordinators are working hard to change that through their grassroots Healthy Workplace Campaign. They have yet to pass a bill, but they’ve introduced bills in 20 states — including Washington — and are convinced it’s only a matter of time until one state and then another and then another makes workplace bullying illegal.

The proposed laws put the onus on employers to prevent workplace bullying. While employers aren’t wild about anti-bullying laws, they’re starting to prepare for their “inevitable” passage, Namie says.

That’s a bullish development for people like Namie who help employers assess and eliminate bullying in their organizations. The phone at Work Doctor is ringing more than ever, he says. Ditto for WBI University, which will hold its first out-of-state session this spring in Chicago.

There’s good money to be made fighting workplace bullying. Tuition for WBI University, which provides three days of intense training in a class of five to 10 people, is $3,600. The price tag for five days of on-site consulting by Namie and his team averages $45,000. He says he gets one to two on-site consulting gigs, plus up to 10 speaking engagements, every month.

Critical of Competitors

Namie is openly critical of the credentials of many of his competitors — including one who called him a bully in a BusinessWeek magazine article after he questioned her abilities. He shrugs off the accusation.

I’m not considered a bully (but) that’s OK. It doesn’t matter.” His point, he said, is that people should have “some background and experience” in the field before billing themselves as experts.

If Namie has a fault, it’s that he might be too passionate about his work, said Pam Lutgen-Sandvik, an associate communications professor at the University of New Mexico who interned at the WBI in 2003 and studies workplace bullying. She suspects some might find Namie’s devotion — and decibel level when he gets on a roll — disconcerting.

He cares about it so much,” said Lutgen-Sandvik. “I’m sure that someone may look at him and think, ‘Wow! Why is he getting so excited?’ But that’s the way it is for people who have a life’s mission.

As for being a bully, “I’ve never heard anybody talk about him like that or call him a bully,” she said.

The question facing the Namies is whether to continue growing — they’re up to four employees — or start licensing their trademarked system for assessing, correcting and preventing workplace bullying dubbed the Work Doctor Blueprint. Either way, they’re pleased what they’ve achieved so far.

It was born in misery with Ruth’s plight,” Namie said, “but out of that has come the ability to help a lot of other people.

Linda Woods Blog: Committed Suicide or Died by Suicide?

by Linda Woods

When I hear the phrase, committed suicide, I cringe at the words. It always sounds to me like someone has committed a crime. Not so many years ago in Canada it was a criminal offense to take your own life. In some states, it is still a crime. I have met parents who have been shattered by the death of their child by suicide, and then, to add insult to injury, their dead child was charged with a criminal offense after the death.

Our 13-year-old son Greg died by suicide on January 25, 1990, so I have had a lot of time to come to terms with (and educate myself about) the subject of suicide. When a person has depression or a mental illness, and it is not treated, they sometimes go on to die by suicide. They were in horrific indescribable pain, and suffered beyond our comprehension, and now we persecute them further, by suggesting that they are committing a crime. Suicide is not about dying; it is about ending the pain.

My grief journey has introduced me to many, many survivors of suicide — parents, siblings, grandparents, spouses, other relatives, and friends. The ripple effect is not like any other death, because of the “what if’s, if onlys, what did I miss, why didn’t I see that behavior as suicidal?”doubts and on and on. When a survivor, through story telling and reminiscing, introduces me to the person who died, there are often many similarities -- a person who is ~ overly sensitive, intelligent, compassionate, and so on. These people often believe they are a burden to those around them, and that we'd be better off  if they were gone.

What I also came to understand was, when we are physically tired from a hard day’s work, a short nap or a shower will refresh us -- but when we are mentally tired -- nothing helps to refresh us. For those who are depressed and suicidal, they are tired and exhausted all the time — there is no apparent relief in sight  for the pain and exhaustion. They just barely make it through each day and night, and then one day -- they don’t have the strength to carry on. 

So when I hear suicide described as a cowardly act, I shake my head. The person who is suffering has been so brave to live with their pain for as long as they have; we should find them courageous at some level for doing that. To think about the final act of taking one’s own life, I believe, is an act of desperation.

For me this is not about being politically correct, it is about honoring the family left behind and the person who died by describing it as, “died by suicide." They were in pain and they died, and we loved them, and we will always miss them.

Forever Greg’s mom,

Linda Woods
Kelowna, BC

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Margaret Paul Ph.D.: Nine Ways to Love Yourself

By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.

The focus of my work is helping people to stop abandoning themselves and learn to love themselves. One of most common statements I hear from my clients, as well as from my workshop and intensive participants and from members of my website, is, "I don't know how to love myself."

Of course they don't -- they had no role models for loving themselves. Few of us had parents who role modeled personal responsibility for their own well-being.

Yet often when I ask these same people what a child needs to feel loved, they have no problem articulating what this would look like. They may even have children to whom they are loving parents but can't conceive of what it would look like to love themselves -- to love their inner child.

Below are nine actions that, if they come from a genuine place in your heart, will make you feel very loved.

1. Listen within to your own feelings.

Many people easily tune into others' feelings yet have no idea what they feel. If you ignore a child's feelings, that child will feel unloved. Ignoring your own feelings has the same result -- your inner child feels rejected, abandoned and unloved by you.

2. Be compassionate with your feelings.

If you judge your feelings, telling yourself you are wrong for having them, your inner child will feel rejected and abandoned by you. If you are kind, gentle, tender, understanding and accepting of your feelings, your inner child will feel loved by you.

3. Open to learning about what your feelings are telling you.

Just as an actual child feels loved when you are compassionately interested in why he or she is hurting, your inner child will feel loved when you explore what your feelings are telling you. All feelings are informational. Just as physical pain alerts you to a problem that needs attention, so does emotional pain. Painful feelings are telling you that you are abandoning yourself, or that someone is being unloving to you, or to themselves or to others, or that a situation is not good for you. Compassionately attending to your feelings, learning what they are telling you, and then taking action to remedy the situation, will make you feel loved. 

4. Create a solid connection with a spiritual source of love, wisdom and comfort.

Love is not a feeling we generate from our mind. It comes from the heart when our heart is open to our source of love. When you open to learning with your higher power about loving yourself and others, love flows into your heart and you feel loved. 

5. Choose to be around loving people.

We don't always have a choice -- such as in work relationships -- but when we do have a choice -- such as in personal relationships -- choosing to be around caring, supportive and accepting people will make you feel loved. If, when you have a choice, you consistently engage with unkind, judgmental or abusive people, the message you are sending to yourself is that you are not worth loving. 

6. Take loving actions for yourself around others.

When you are around someone who is being unkind, speak up for yourself, letting the person know that you don't like being treated that way, and then either open to learning about what is going on, or lovingly disengage from the interaction. Allowing others to treat you badly sends a message to your inner child that he or she is not worth loving.

7. Take care of your body, your time, your space and your finances.

You will feel loved and lovable when you feed yourself healthy food, and get exercise and sleep. When you ignore your health, you are giving yourself the message that you are not worth loving.

If you are always late and disorganized regarding your time and your space, again you are giving yourself the message that you are not worth taking care of. When you respect your own and others' time and space, you are letting yourself know that you are worth it.

When you overspend, putting yourself in unnecessary debt, you are not taking loving care of yourself, and your inner child will feel scared, alone and unloved. Just as an actual child needs to feel safe regarding the necessities of life, your inner child needs to feel the same way.

8. Find work you love

Since work takes up a big part of your day, finding or creating work that fulfills you is vitally important. If you continue to force yourself to stay at jobs you hate, the message to yourself is that you are not worth doing whatever it is you need to do, to create a fulfilling work life.

9. Create balance

All work and no play, or all play and no work, creates inner anxiety rather than inner peace. We need balance in our life to feel loved and lovable. We need time to work and time to rest and rejuvenate. We also need time to nurture our body and soul through activities that bring us joy.

Expecting others to make you feel loved while you are abandoning yourself will never lead to feeling loved and lovable. When you learn to take responsibility for yourself emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually, organizationally and relationally, then you will feel loved and lovable. Taking responsibility for loving yourself fills your heart with love, which you can then share with others.

Sharing love is the most fulfilling experience in life, but you need to be filled with love in order to have love to share. Learning to love yourself is what fills you with love.

Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert and best-selling author.

Monday, February 17, 2014

17 Signs You're An Overachiever

by Amanda L. Chan

"I just don't know how he/she manages to do it all!"

If people are always saying this about you, you may be an overachiever.

But while the title of "overachiever" often has a positive connotation -- think back to your elementary school days, when being an overachiever basically meant being the teacher's pet -- it's not always all it's cracked up to be.

Overachievers are more likely, for instance, to feel anxious. And their motivations for, well, over-achieving, often stem from the need to avoid negative judgment, explains Robert Arkin, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at The Ohio State University.

If you're an overachiever, a lot of the following signs are probably true for you:

1. It's all about the outcome.
And it better be a good one. Arkin explains that one of two hallmark traits of an overachiever is the staking of identity on outcomes. "They believe that people around them, and they themselves, judge their worthiness based upon how well they do," he says.

Overachievers view failure more as a personal reflection on themselves, whereas a high performer is more likely to embrace failure as "part of the process," says John Eliot, Ph.D., a clinical professor in human performance at Texas A&M University and author of Overachievement.

2. You live your life in a state of perpetual relief. 

Overachievers are far more focused on avoiding failure than they are at achieving a good outcome -- a key differentiator between an overachiever and a high performer. But there is a downside to this: "When you avoid a bad outcome, your emotional life is experienced more as relief than it is experienced as joy, and that's just not as rewarding," Arkin says. "If people are walking around feeling anxious and tightly wound, trying to avoid bad things, then they're really not tuned into life. They're thinking about the past and the future, mostly, instead of living in the moment and enjoying its pleasures."

3. You secretly think you're not good enough. 

The other hallmark trait of an overachiever is feelings of self-doubt about one's own competence or ability, Arkin says. While some people will "self-sabotage" when they feel inadequate, overachievers stake their identities on performance in order to conquer self-doubt.

4. There is a short list of things you want to be good at -- and that list only includes things you know you'll be judged on. 

People who do things for the love of it may have a wide range of things on which they stake their identities, such as hobbies, relationships, work, and the like. "But overachievers narrow that list of things, and they tend to want to be good at all of those things," Arkin says.

5. Your significant other is tired of hearing, "I'm sorry honey, but I have to stay at the office late again."
While everyone has to cancel on commitments because of work from time to time, overachievers are more likely to do this than others. And it doesn't even have to be a social event with friends or family -- an overachiever may also be more likely to skip something as simple as exercise in order to finish what they feel they need to do, Eliot says.

6. Criticism is the worst.

It all goes back to the fear of failure -- overachievers' public enemy No. 1 is criticism, because it implies that they failed at something, Arkin says.

7. You're very future-focused.
Because overachievers are constantly trying to avoid bad outcomes, they are heavily focused on the future -- and as a result, often neglect the present.

8. You feel anxious a lot.
If there's one mental trait that's highly correlated with being an overachiever, it's anxiety. It goes back to the future-focused mindset: Constantly worrying about what the future holds and achieving everything that needs to be achieved is a recipe for stress.

9. You just got promoted, but you're already thinking about how you'll achieve the next promotion.

Because it's so hard for overachievers to just live in the present, the joy that comes from something like a job promotion can be cut short by thoughts about what's next. "They're never satisfied," Eliot says.

In addition, overachievers are more likely to value being promoted regardless of how they got it, "even if it's at the expense of a coworker or if they didn't really earn it," Eliot says. "Maybe they talked their way into it, or they took their boss out for dinner enough times. People look at that and say, 'You didn't really earn that.' But a classic overachiever doesn't care -- only achievement matters."

10. You're a perfectionist.
There's a strong correlation between being a perfectionist and being an overachiever -- and this doesn't only apply to the workplace. Overachievers may also be concerned about being a perfect spouse or parent, or having a perfect home, Eliot says.

11. You're the first one in the office, and the last one to leave.
Overachievers are more likely to work long hours -- sometimes without people knowing about it -- because they want to be perceived as capable of doing it all, Arkin says.

12. In high school, you were the one in 15 clubs.
Many overachievers share similar backgrounds: They had an A in every class, participated in every club and went to music lessons and sports practices -- all in the name of a strong college application. "That's a classic kid getting into an overachievement mindset," Eliot says.

However, this isn't necessarily the most healthy background. "When you look at the kids who are the most successful who did well in high school and college, the ones with the thriving careers -- they're the ones who got good grades. Maybe not 4.0s, they didn't belong to every club -- maybe just one or two -- but the ones that they did, they really made a difference with them," Eliot says.

13. Being able to provide your child with all the opportunities in the world has more to do with your fear of being a bad parent, and less to do with helping your child realize his or her interests and passions.
All parents, to some extent, feel the need to "do it all" for their kids. But overachievers tend to do it big -- attending every PTA meeting, making goodies for the bake sales, volunteering in class, constantly checking up with the child's teacher -- because they care so much about being the best parents. "It's a sort of self-worth exercise for parents in being valued as good parents," Eliot says. "There's a feeling of, 'I have to do all this stuff so I feel good about myself as a parent, so my self-esteem as a parent is high.' But they don't realize that when they care so much about wanting to be the best parents, they get into this frenzied state."

14. You gravitate toward commission-based jobs.
This includes real-estate agents, stock-traders and salespeople. "It's push, push, push sort of work," Eliot says. That's not to say overachievers are exclusively in commission-based jobs. In any field, an overachiever is the one taking on extra work as an indicator of productivity. If you're a lawyer, for instance, this may translate to taking on a larger caseload than anyone else in the firm; an academic, whose productivity is measured in publications, may work longer or harder into the night to get more done, Arkin says.

15. You keep score in your relationship.
You may not be writing it down, but you're probably keeping track of who's doing what to contribute to a relationship, Eliot says.

16. Crunch-time is the worst time.

That's because you as an overachiever are often your own worst enemy. When the stakes are high, "the overachiever tends to make mistakes in that situation, and are more out to choke because they're so concerned with the outcome," Eliot says.

17. You may be more likely to stay in an unhappy marriage.
Overachievers hate failure, and failure is failure, whether it's work or a relationship. For that reason, overachievers are more likely to stay in a marriage they know is doomed because they're concerned about how they'll be perceived if their marriage were to fail, Eliot says.

For Those With Chronic Pain to Consider: Orthokine/Regenokine

From Wiki:

Orthokine is an experimental medical procedure in which a patient's own blood is extracted, manipulated, and then reintroduced to the body as an anti-inflammatory drug to reduce chronic pain and osteoarthritis.

Known in the United States as Regenokine, the process removes about two US fluid ounces (59 ml) of blood from a patient's arm, which is then incubated at a slightly raised temperature.

The liquid is then placed in a centrifuge until its constituent parts are separated. The middle yellowish layer is dense with agents that are believed to stop an arthritic agent known as interleukin-1, which causes degeneration of the joints and the breakdown of cartilage.

That serum is injected into the patient's affected area. The procedure reduces pain and discomfort in the joint. The treatment generally lasts five days, with six shots of the serum into the affected area. It is normal for a patient to receive annual injections to ease the joint discomfort.

Orthokine is a patented method developed by molecular biologist Dr. Julio Reinecke and Dr. Peter Wehling, a spinal surgeon in Düsseldorf, Germany.

A two-year study of osteoarthritis of the knee, published in the medical journal Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, confirmed the safety and effectiveness of the therapy.

Orthokine is less invasive than most, if not all, other forms of knee surgeries available.
It focuses on treating the inflammation as opposed to mechanical problems in the joints. Orthokine was first approved for widespread use in Germany in 2003. Most patients have reported positive results.

Orthokine differs from a similar procedure with platelet-rich plasma (PRP), where platelets are targeted instead of the interleukin antagonist. Platelets are thought to speed the healing process. Also, PRP does not require the blood to be heated as Orthokine does. The heating increases the anti-inflammatory proteins as much as 100 times.

As of August 2012, about 60,000 patients worldwide have received the treatment. Americans have traveled to Germany for the treatment, which has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Two offices, one in New York and another in Los Angeles, have licenses to provide a similar treatment, but they cannot advertise due to the lack of FDA approval. Dr. Freddie Fu, a professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, said more high-quality independent trials proving the procedure's effectiveness are needed before the FDA approves.

Wehling said the procedure has a 75% success rate and follows all regulations set by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

National Basketball Association star Kobe Bryant, who traveled to Germany to have the procedure performed by Wehling, is one famous case based on his recovery from his previously poor knees. Some basketball fans refer to the procedure as the "Kobe Procedure."

The procedure cost €6,000 (about $7,400) as of July 2012. The treatment is not covered by health insurance.

Chris Renna, a preventive medicine specialist who has referred American patients to Wehling since 2003, said that "because of its expense and status, the treatment is for the one and two percent of our society."

People who have received treatment

Orthokine is sometimes referred to as the "Kobe Procedure" after Kobe Bryant.

 Gilbert Arenas, former NBA guard
 Lindsey Berg, volleyball player
 Andrew Bogut, NBA center
 Sidney Rice, NFL wide receiver
 Kobe Bryant, NBA guard
 Andrew Bynum, NBA center
 Gosder Cherilus, NFL offensive tackle
 Adam Cooney, Australian rules football player
 Fred Couples, golfer
 Ari Emanuel, talent agent
 Brent Guerra, Australian rules football player
 Grant Hill, retired NBA guard
 Jeff Kwatinetz, entertainment production company   president
 Tracy McGrady, NBA guard/forward
 Greg Oden, NBA center
 Jermaine O'Neal, NBA forward/center
 Pope John Paul II, former Pope
 Nick Riewoldt, Australian rules football player
 Alex Rodriguez, MLB third baseman/shortstop
 Brandon Roy, NBA guard
 Wes Short, Jr., golfer
 Vijay Singh, golfer
 Brian Urlacher, former NFL linebacker
 Dana White, President of the UFC
 Ryan Sheckler, pro skateboarder
 Joe Rogan, professional actor, comedian and UFC commentater.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Maintain Your Equilibrium in the Face of Stress

By Jan Bruce

You can think of living your life and chasing your ambitions as stressful, or you can think of it as thrilling

When you think of it as thrilling, you are doing what psychologists call "reframing" -- and it's critical to shifting your experience of stress. 

After all, a life without thrill is a boring life indeed. It may be safe, but offers you no opportunity for growth. Facing your fears isn't easy -- but your ability to reframe it as a positive is key. 

But while you want to be thrilled, you also want to feel sane. This is where the rubber meets the road. Maintaining sanity while chasing these lofty ambitions, though, is anything but easy. Growing a career, finding and maintaining love, raising children, building financial security and nurturing a passion are just a few of the enormous undertakings that make up your life's work, and trying to do it all can be overwhelming. 

The question then, is how we turn a situation of constant pressure into one of productivity and -- more importantly -- pleasure.

I teach people the tools and techniques for confronting life's challenges in a responsive, not reactive way -- by identifying the thoughts and emotions that derail your attention and energy. 

By looking below the surface of your own conscious thought process, you can unearth unseen motivations and beliefs that are driving your behavior and limiting your growth. By helping you become an expert on your own thoughts, actions, behaviors, you can stop trouble before it starts, and keep stress under your control.

Your goal isn't to change what's "out there" so you don't feel stressed. It's to build your resilience so that you can stay strong in the face of anything. 

That means not just replacing negative thought patterns and behaviors with positive, supportive ones, but shifting your perspective so that you feel connected to something bigger than your to-do list

All of your physical, mental and emotional behaviors together create who you are and how you'll fare in the face of stress. So let's make that version of you the best it can be.

Here are the key strategies for maintaining equilibrium so that you're not entirely thrown off by your efforts, nor mired in anxiety or indecision:

Try to manage your stress, not eliminate it. When I talk about maintaining balance, I mean maintaining the ability to find your balance on shifting ground. 

The goal isn't to eliminate stress from your life, but rather, to make sure that you have tools to handle whatever comes your way so that stress doesn't get the best of you.

Recognize that it's hard work. Though there us an approach that offers an easy, accessible framework for addressing stress and thinking traps, the work can be daunting. 

Making time to exercise or summoning the will to eat correctly, not to mention having the humility to ask for help when you need it, are no small tasks. 

If you can approach your challenges with respect for the difficulty of the task at hand, you might find that you're more accepting with yourself as you try to meet these challenges and more proud of yourself when you succeed.

Consider it practice. There's no final competition, event or performance with this work, no final test of whether you "beat: stress or not. 

Instead, it's something you'll come up against every day. If you view every day as an opportunity to revisit and improve this approach, however, you'll find that you accumulate lots of victories.

Now that you have these tools and perspectives, get to it -- there's no better time than now to start.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Meditation 101: The Neuroscience of Why Meditation Works

By Ashley Turner

As yogis have known for centuries and scientists can now prove, the benefits of meditation are profound. Meditation is perhaps the most crucial instrument to harness the power of thought, cultivate more peace, clarity and happiness. 

Learning to train the brain and focus our attention is crucial to thriving and cultivating a peak performance in any endeavor. Long-time psychotherapist Dr. Ron Alexander, author of Wise Mind, Open Mind, speaks of the resiliency, efficacy and emotional intelligence that arise as we begin the process of controlling the mind. 

Mind strength is one of the most empowering tools we can employ to impact and improve all aspects of life. There are five major categories of brain waves, each corresponding to different activities. 

Meditation enables us to move from higher frequency brain waves to lower frequency, which activates different centers in the brain. Slower wavelengths equals more time between thoughts equals more opportunity to skillfully choose which thoughts you invest in and what actions you take. 

Five Categories of Brain Waves: Why Meditation Works 

1. Gamma State: (30 - 100Hz) This is the state of hyperactivity and active learning. Gamma state is the most opportune time to retain information. This is why educators often have audiences jumping up and down or dancing around -- to increase the likelihood of permanent assimilation of information. If over stimulated, it can lead to anxiety. 

2. Beta State: (13 - 30Hz) Where we function for most of the day, beta state is associated with the alert mind state of the prefrontal cortex. This is a state of the "working" or "thinking mind" -- analytical, planning, assessing and categorizing. 

3. Alpha State: (9 - 13Hz) Brain waves start to slow down out of thinking mind. We feel more calm, peaceful and grounded. We often find ourselves in an "alpha state" after a yoga class, a walk in the woods, a pleasurable sexual encounter or during any activity that helps relax the body and mind. We are lucid, reflective, have a slightly diffused awareness. The hemispheres of the brain are more balanced (neural integration). 

4. Theta State: (4 - 8Hz) We are able to begin meditation. This is the point where the verbal/thinking mind transitions to the meditative/visual mind. We begin to move from the planning mind to a deeper state of awareness (often felt as drowsy), with stronger intuition, more capacity for wholeness and complicated problem solving. The theta state is associated visualization. 

5. Delta State: (1-3 Hz) Tibetan monks that have been meditating for decades can reach this in an alert, wakened phase, but most of us reach this final state during deep, dreamless sleep. 

How to Meditate: A simple meditation to use to begin the transition from Beta or Alpha to the Theta State is to focus on the breath. The breath and mind work in tandem, so as breath begins to lengthen, brain waves begin to slow down. 

To begin the meditation, sit comfortably in your chair with your shoulders relaxed and spine tall. Place your hands mindfully on your lap, close your eyes and as much as possible eliminate any stimulus that may distract you. Watch your breath. Simply notice your breath flowing in. Flowing out. Don't try to change it in any way. Just notice. Silently repeat the mantra: "Breathing In. Breathing Out.

As your mind begins to wander, draw it back to your breath. Notice that as your breath begins to lengthen and fill your body, your mind begins to calm. 

Consistency is key. Try to do this breath meditation first thing in the morning and/or at night. Be consistent with your meditation. Shorter meditations on a regular basis are more productive than long sessions every few weeks. Aim for five minutes a day and add one minute each week.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Psychological Pain

From yee Wiki:

Psychological pain is an unpleasant feeling (a suffering) of a psychological, non-physical, origin.

A pioneer in the field of suicidology, Edwin S. Shneidman, described it as "how much you hurt as a human being. It is mental suffering; mental torment."

There is no shortage in the many ways psychological pain is referred to, and using a different word usually reflects an emphasis on a particular aspect of mind life.
It may be called mental pain, emotional pain, psychic pain, social pain, spiritual or soul pain, or suffering. It is sometimes also called psychalgia.

While these clearly are not equivalent terms, one systematic comparison of theories and models of psychological pain, psychic pain, emotional pain, and suffering concluded that each describe the same profoundly unpleasant feeling. Psychological pain is believed to be an inescapable aspect of human existence.
Other descriptions of psychological pain are "a wide range of subjective experiences characterized as an awareness of negative changes in the self and in its functions accompanied by negative feelings", "a diffuse subjective experience ... differentiated from physical pain which is often localized and associated with noxious physical stimuli", and "a lasting, unsustainable, and unpleasant feeling resulting from negative appraisal of an inability or deficiency of the self."


The adjective ‘psychological’ is thought to encompass the functions of beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, which may be seen as an indication for the many sources of psychological pain.

One way of grouping these different sources of pain was offered by Shneidman, who stated that psychological pain is caused by frustrated psychological needs.

For example, the need for love, autonomy, affiliation, and achievement, or the need to avoid harm, shame, and embarrassment.

Psychological needs were originally described by Henry Murray in 1938 as needs that motivate human behavior.

Shneidman maintained that people rate the importance of each need differently, which explains why people's level of psychological pain differs when confronted with the same frustrated need. This needs perspective coincides with Patrick David Wall’s description of physical pain that says that physical pain indicates a need state much more than a sensory experience.

In the fields of social psychology and personality psychology, the term social pain is used to denote psychological pain caused by harm or threat to social connection; bereavement, embarrassment, shame and hurt feelings are subtypes of social pain.

Just like physical pain, social pain is thought to serve a function of adaptation and avoidance from what caused the pain.

From an evolutionary perspective, psychological pain forces the assessment of actual or potential social problems that might reduce the individual’s fitness for survival.

The way we display our psychological pain socially (for example, crying, shouting, moaning) serves the purpose of indicating that we are in need.

Neural mechanisms

Research suggests that physical pain and psychological pain may share some underlying neurological mechanisms.

Brain regions that were consistently found to be implicated in both types of pain are the anterior cingulate cortex and prefrontal cortex (some subregions more than others), and may extend to other regions as well.

Brain regions that were also found to be involved in psychological pain include the insular cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, thalamus, parahippocampal gyrus, basal ganglia, and cerebellum.

Some advocate that, because similar brain regions are involved in both physical pain and psychological pain, we should see pain as a continuum that ranges from purely physical to purely psychological.

Moreover, many sources mention the fact that we use methaphors of physical pain to refer to psychological pain experiences.


Research has shown that use of analgesic paracetamol for several weeks reduces neural response to meaning threats, such as thinking about death, and reduces the agitation of people with dementia.

However use of paracetamol for more general psychological pain remains disputed.

Social Pain: Neuropsychological and Health Implications of Loss and Exclusion

Edited by Geoff MacDonald, Ph.D. and Lauri A. Jensen-Campbell, Ph.D.

Social pain is the experience of pain as a result of interpersonal rejection or loss, such as rejection from a social group, bullying, or the loss of a loved one.

Research now shows that social pain results from the activation of certain components in physical pain systems.

Although social, clinical, health, and developmental psychologists have each explored aspects of social pain, recent work from the neurosciences provides a coherent, unifying framework for integrative research.

This edited volume provides the first comprehensive, multidisciplinary exploration of social pain.

Part I examines the subject from a neuroscience perspective, outlining the evolutionary basis of social pain and tracing the genetic, neurological, and physiological underpinnings of the phenomenon.

Part II explores the implications of social pain for functioning in interpersonal relationships; contributions examine the influence of painkillers on social emotions, the ability to relive past social hurts, and the relation of social pain to experiences of intimacy.

Part III examines social pain from a biopsychosocial perspective in its consideration of the health implications of social pain, outlining the role of stress in social pain and the potential long-term health consequences of bullying.

The book concludes with an integrative review of these diverse perspectives.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Max Tegmark: Conciousness as a State of Matter

Consciousness hypothesis by Max Tegmark

We examine the hypothesis that consciousness can be understood as a state of matter, "perceptronium", with distinctive information processing abilities

We explore five basic principles that may distinguish conscious matter from other physical systems such as solids, liquids and gases: the information, integration, independence, dynamics and utility principles. 

If such principles can identify conscious entities, then they can help solve the quantum factorization problem: why do conscious observers like us perceive the particular Hilbert space factorization corresponding to classical space (rather than Fourier space, say), and more generally, why do we perceive the world around us as a dynamic hierarchy of objects that are strongly integrated and relatively independent

Tensor factorization of matrices is found to play a central role, and our technical results include a theorem about Hamiltonian separability (defined using Hilbert-Schmidt superoperators) being maximized in the energy. 

Our approach generalizes Giulio Tononi's integrated information framework for neural-network-based consciousness to arbitrary quantum systems, and we find interesting links to error-correcting codes, condensed matter criticality, and the Quantum Darwinism program, as well as an interesting connection between the emergence of consciousness and the emergence of time.