Monthly Archives: June 2013

Book Review

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Just got done reading Too Bright To Hear Too Loud To See, the first novel by author Juliann Garey.  I really liked this book, although you really have to read it in its entirety before you can fully appreciate and understand it.  This isn’t a spoiler as it’s made clear that the main character has Bipolar Disorder.  Initially, as you begin reading, you see him as a seemingly successful and well functioning man.  Then maybe you think–okay, he’s a little eccentric.  Then, well, maybe does impulsive things sometimes.  I love how the author does such an excellent job of portraying the tangential nature of his mind and his decompensation as the book progresses.  Even though the book constantly jumps time periods, it’s easy to follow because the sections are always clearly marked by date, and you begin to learn what the character’s life is generally like during that particular decade.

So, for those of you who like books related to mental illness or family dramas, I’d highly recommend this read.

Finding Happiness: Today’s post

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Happiness is not only about our perception of things, but is also significantly influenced by how we cope with challenges and problems in our lives.  The term “coping” does not inherently mean that you are doing something adaptive to manage a situation in your life.  Rather, there are positive, adaptive and appropriate coping mechanisms as well negative, maladaptive or inappropriate methods of coping.  Unfortunately, many people do not recognize that the action they are taking to handle an issue is maladaptive, and ultimately will only make their problem worse.  True, it may provide short-term relief, but in the long-term these coping techniques are never ideal.

A recently published book Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study by George Vaillant, M.D. details the long-term study of a group of men, beginning in 1938 and still active today.  These men have been studied in detail and at length when it comes to their physical and emotional health.  In his book, Vaillant discusses the types of coping mechanisms that he’s observed these men using.  He talks about how many men use “immature” coping techniques such as refusing to acknowledge that they have a problem (i.e. denial, and then there is its close relative repression), blaming others, displacing their anger, escaping into a fantasy world, and passive-aggressive tactics.  He describes these kinds of mechanisms as being “narcissistic” in that they may make the user feel good (again, only in the short-term) but ultimately they only serve to “drive people away.”

In significant contrast, Vaillant has identified many adaptive and successful methods of coping.  In the study, he’s observed men who “displayed an ability to take life’s hardship and ‘turn it into gold.’”  These people tend to use mechanisms such as: humor; not taking oneself too seriously; anticipation, defined as “the ability to forsee future pain and prepare for it; stoicism, or “the ability to endure hardships”; and altruism, “a concern for others.”

This ties into the key elements that have been identified by one of positive psychology’s gurus: Martin E.P. Seligman.  I’ve cited some of his other works on this website before, but specifically his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being discusses these elements of positive emotion or well-being.  Seligman has stated that “People who have the most positive emotion, the most engagement, and the most meaning in life are the happiest, and they have the most life satisfaction.”  He has identified these elements as:

Positive Emotion:  feelings that contribute to the feeling of a happy, pleasant life and include pleasure, warmth, comfort, rapture, and ecstasy

Engagement: being so absorbed in an activity, or so engaged in a task that you are one with it, and self-consciousness is suspended

Relationships:  Seligman emphasizes that we are social creatures, and that we need others.  He also believes that are highest and happiest emotional states occur when we are in the presence of others

Meaning:  Seligman believes that people inherently desire to find meaning and purpose in life, stating that we want the feeling of “belonging and serving something that you believe is bigger than you are.”

Accomplishment:  Achieving something, reaching our personal goal(s), greatly contributes to a sense of well-being.

So, today’s happiness homework assignment:  Go through these above areas and journal the thoughts, feelings, activities, etc. that come to mind for each area.  For example, what are some of the things that bring you comfort?  What things are you proud of accomplishing? 

[information taken from this month’s issue of WebMD magazine]

 

 

Follow Up to previous post

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As an addedum to my previous post, I also wanted to mention that in Brown’s book Daring Greatly she includes a “Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto.”  She shares a portion of it in the Oprah magazine article.  Here it is:

“Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and loveable.  you will learn this from my words and actions… You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see me practice self-comparssion and embrace my own imperfections…. We will laugh and sing and dance and create.  We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other.  No matter what, you will always belong here.  As you begin your Wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.”

Love this!  But maybe we should all challenge each other to write our own unique and special one for our children.  We can share it with them, maybe even hang it on our fridge like Oprah suggests.  To remind them of how we feel and how much we love them every day.

Finding Happiness: A new book review, deep thoughts, and more…

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I discovered a new book that I am really excited to read.  It is by a female social worker, professer, researcher with a Ph.D.  The book is entitled Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.  There was an article on this woman and her book in Oprah magazine (June’s issue).  Brown defines vulnerability as “being brave enough to ‘show up and let ourselves be seen,'” and talks about vulnerability as the “catalyst for human connection.”  Her book suggests that we need to be more vulnerable in our personal relationships.  We need to be more open, honest and disclosing in order to increase “connection, trust and engagement” with each other.  In the Oprah article, Brown shares a quote she found by Theodore Roosevelt which she found inspirational.  I loved it so much that I have to share it here:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs…[And] if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

I want everyone to think about this quote, and I challenge you not to be deeply moved by it.  Wow… I’m almost at a loss for words. 

Although I consider myself a private person in my personal life, I am very open and disclosing with my friends and those who know me well.  I may be slow to warm up, but when I do, I’m an open book.  For many years, I saw it as a weakness in myself that I was so willing to share with others, including my feelings.  I could easily go on and on to someone about how a certain thing made me feel.  I always found it pretty easy to express to others when I was hurt, sad, in pain, or when I needed help.  I was doing this a lot with a particular friend, while she remained silent and just listened.  She didn’t share back.  Finally, I apologized to her, thinking that she was tired of listening or that she thought I was sharing too much and not giving her time to talk.  But then she said to me how much she admired my ability to express my emotions, to share, and to ask for help when I needed it.  What I saw in myself as a weakness, she saw as a strength.  She said that it takes a lot of courage to be able to open yourself in this way to someone, and she wished that she was able to do it herself; this was a fear of hers.  In Brown’s book she talks about the Latin origins of the word COURAGE, which derived from cor or heart, and originally meant “to share all of yourself, share your whole story, with your whole heart.”  In the article, she adds “An act of courage was an act of storytelling.”

I’m not going to tell you that it’s been easy being like this.  I’ve been hurt many many times in my life, as I’m sure we all have.  Many times I’ve just want to slam shut the cover of my ‘open book’ and not open it back up.  When I met my husband, I told him that I’d built walls around my heart, and that he was going to have to do some serious work if he wanted to break them down.  After he hurt me deeply not long after getting married, I told him that I felt like every time he hurt me, I was building that wall back up again, one block at a time.  Yes, it can be very hard to wear your heart on your sleeve.

And maybe it hurts deeper when you’ve opened yourself up so much to someone, only to be rejected, or have that personal information used against you.  But should we let other people’s flaws/fears/weaknesses prevent us from being who we are, prevent us from being a better person, prevent us from living how we’d prefer to live?  No!  You know that other inspiational quote which has become very popular these days?  Here it is:

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Don’t let fear of being criticized, rejected or hurt hold you back.  If you want to dance, dance.  If you want to sing, sing.  Don’t beat yourself up and stop if someone says you can’t dance well or your voice is terrible.  Do it because you want to and it makes you feel good.  I was told all through high school by a music teacher that I had a bad voice, and for a long time I was afraid to sing.  But now, I sing because I like to and it makes me happy.  And you know what?  People now ask me to sing for them, especially my children.  All those years I stopped singing because some idiot wanted to put me down.

And, tying this into Roosevelt’s quote more, especially don’t let yourself get pulled down by people who aren’t even on the playing field.  If they are the type of person who would do or say these hurtful things, then they are not worth your time, they are not the kind of person you want to surround yourself with, and they are not worth you getting upset over!  Also remember that often we dismiss the notion that people are hateful to us because they are simply jealous!

In all, be true to yourself.  Because when you’re alone, you still have to love and accept yourself.