Monday, January 25, 2010
If you read a lot of book reviews, there are certain words that tend to crop up with comforting, or maybe it’s dismaying, regularity. Lyrical. Compelling. Moving. Intriguing. Absorbing. Frustrating. Uneven. Disappointing. But there is one word you seldom encounter: boring. It occurred a mere 19 times in the Book Review in 2009, and rarely as a direct description of the book under review.
This isn’t because books sent out to reviewers never turn out to be boring. (Trust me on this one.) Rather, boredom — unlike its equally bland smiley-faced twin, interest — is something professional readers, who are expected to keep things lively, would rather not admit to, for fear of being scolded and sent back to the Weekly Reader. As a general state of mind, boredom is morally suspect, threatening to shine its dull light back on the person who invokes it. “The only horrible thing in the world is ennui,” Oscar Wilde once wrote, suggesting that boredom doesn’t feel much better in French. “That is the one sin for which there is no forgiveness.”
And yet boredom is woven into the very fabric of the literary enterprise. We read, and write, in large part to avoid it. At the same time, few experiences carry more risk of active boredom than picking up a book. Boring people can, paradoxically, prove interesting. As they prattle on, you step back mentally and start to catalog the irritating timbre of the offending voice, the reliance on cliché, the almost comic repetitiousness — in short, you begin constructing a story. But a boring book, especially a boring novel, is just boring. A library is an enormous repository of information, entertainment, the best that has been thought and said. It is also probably the densest concentration of potential boredom on earth.
Boredom, like the modern novel, was born in the 18th century, and came into full flower in the 19th. The Oxford English Dictionary’s first recorded use of “to bore” dates to a 1768 letter by the Earl of Carlisle, mentioning his “Newmarket friends, who are to be bored by these Frenchmen.” “Bores,” meaning boring things, arrived soon after, followed by human bores. By the time of the O.E.D.’s first citation of the noun “boredom” in 1852, in Dickens’s “Bleak House” (where it occurs six times by my count), everyone, or at least everyone in the novel-reading middle classes, seemed to be bored, or worried about becoming bored.
Boredom, scholars argue, was something new, different from the dullness, lassitude and tedium people had no doubt been experiencing for centuries. In her ingenious study “Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind” (1995), Patricia Meyer Spacks describes it as a luxury — and a peril — born of the Industrial Revolution, reflecting the rise of individualism, leisure (especially female leisure) and the idea of happiness as a right and a daunting personal responsibility. “Boredom presents itself as a trivial emotion that can trivialize the world,” Spacks writes. “It implies an embracing sense of irritation and unease. It reflects a state of affairs in which the individual is assigned ever more importance and ever less power.”
In Saul Bellow’s “Humboldt’s Gift,” the narrator — a writer who spends the “final Eisenhower years” trying to write the definitive treatise on boredom — describes it as “a kind of pain caused by unused powers, the pain of wasted possibilities or talents, . . . accompanied by expectations of the optimum utilization of capacities.” But boredom may itself be a highly useful human capacity, at least according to some psychologists and neuroscientists, who have begun examining it not just as an accomplice to depression and addiction but as an important source of creativity, well-being and our very sense of self.
Researchers have discovered that when people are conscious but doing nothing — for example, lying in an f.M.R.I. scanner, waiting to be given some simple mental task as part of a psychology experiment — the brain is in fact firing away, with greater activity in regions responsible for recalling autobiographical memory, imagining the thoughts and feelings of others, and conjuring hypothetical events: the literary areas of the brain, you might say. When this so-called default mode network is activated, the brain uses only about 5 percent less energy than it does when engaged in basic tasks. But that discrepancy may explain why time seems to pass more slowly at such moments. It may also explain the agitated restlessness that compels the bored to seek relief in doodling or daydreaming.
It’s common to decry our collective thaasophobia, or fear of boredom, manifested in our addiction to iPhone apps, the cable news crawl and ever mutating varieties of multitasking. One cellphone company has even promoted the idea of “microboredom,” which refers to those moments of inactivity that occur when we’re, say, stuck waiting in line for a latte without our BlackBerry. But novelists, for all their own fears of being dismissed as boring, continue to offer some bold resistance to the broader culture’s zero-tolerance boredom eradication program.
In April 2011, the limits of literary boredom will be tested when Little, Brown & Company publishes “The Pale King,” David Foster Wallace’s novel, found unfinished after his suicide in 2008, about the inner lives of number-crunching I.R.S. agents. An excerpt that appeared last year in The New Yorker depicts a universe of microboredom gone macro: “He did another return; again the math squared and there were no itemizations on 32 and the printout’s numbers for W-2 and 1099 and Forms 2440 and 2441 appeared to square, and he filled out his codes for the middle tray’s 402 and signed his name and ID number. . . .”
For all the mundanity of its subject matter, the excerpt presents boredom as something more strenuous and exalted than the friendly helper depicted by the neuroscientists, keeping our minds revved up even when we think we’re idling. Boredom isn’t just good for your brain. It’s good for your soul. “Bliss — a second-by-second joy and gratitude at the gift of being alive, conscious — lies on the other side of crushing, crushing boredom,” Wallace wrote in a note left with the manuscript. “Pay close attention to the most tedious thing you can find (Tax Returns, Televised Golf) and, in waves, a boredom like you’ve never known will wash over you and just about kill you. Ride these out, and it’s like stepping from black and white into color. Like water after days in the desert. Instant bliss in every atom.”
It remains to be seen whether “The Pale King” will break through to the ecstasy beyond boredom, or just put readers to sleep. (Or perhaps cause serial brain injury, like the unreadably dense experimental novel that keeps laying waste to readers in “The Information,” by Martin Amis.) But if Wallace’s last work turns out to be unbearably dull, perhaps we should be grateful. After all, if it weren’t for all the boring books in the world, why would anyone feel the need to try to write more interesting ones?
Sunday, January 24, 2010
· We prefer stories to statistics.
· We seek to confirm, not to question, our ideas.
· We rarely appreciate the role of chance and coincidence in shaping events.
· We sometimes misperceive the world around us.
· We tend to oversimplify our thinking.
· Our memories are often inaccurate.
— Richard Wiseman
Many of us who try to live an examined life find something lacking, though usually nothing so serious that it requires professional help. This has given rise to an entire genre of books aimed at indulging our urge to open up our own psyches and tinker with the wiring. But the genre’s lack of scientific rigor drives University of Hertfordshire psychologist Richard Wiseman to distraction.
“If you apply [the standards of self-help publishing] to the drug store,” Wiseman says, “you go in and say ‘Oh, I’ve got a headache, and ah well, none of this stuff is tested, but what the hell, I’ll just try the green one and see if that works,’ people would think that’s utterly absurd and unacceptable.”
So Wiseman has written a self-help book of his own, a collection of techniques built on findings from academic research in psychology.
Call it evidence-based self-help. The book is called 59 Seconds, for the time it’s supposed to take to practice each of the bits of advice Wiseman lays out within: Looking to seduce someone? Take your date to an amusement park or on a vigorous run, for research shows that attraction increases along with heart rate. Think someone’s prone to telling you white lies? Correspond more with them by e-mail, for research shows people are less likely to prevaricate when there’s a written record that could trip them up later.
Wiseman has agreed to answer some questions here about his new book and his research.
So much of the book seems to be based on the idea that you can trick yourself into being more attractive, happier, more successful. A simple touch on someone’s upper arm makes them more responsive to requests, for example; smiling will trick your brain into being happier; being conscious of the amount of exercise you get just walking around going about your everyday life can make you healthier. Are we not as cohesive in our personality as we imagine ourselves to be? Are we more changeable than we think?
Change is traditionally very difficult. Most people will have already failed in their New Year’s resolutions by now. But I think that’s mostly because people are trying the wrong things. I think some of these techniques are powerful because there’s a particular type of psychology at play. What it shows is that we do have a lack of insight into why we do certain things. We think we eat unhealthy foods for one reason, but it turns out we do it for another. We don’t have much insight into our motivations, which is totally consistent with the mind/brain research coming out now, saying that conscious thought has to be the result of brain activity over which we don’t have very much control. We are far more like somebody watching ourselves than somebody in charge of ourselves. Some of these techniques bypass that conscious awareness and just play straight to the idea of: “this is why you do something, and this is what you can do to change it.”
Much of the surprising research in the book came from experiments, in the lab and in the real world. Among the experiments you’ve conducted, what’s your favorite?
The wallet study. We dropped 200 or so wallets, and tried to see if certain types of content would make people more likely to return them. That was funny, in part because it turns out dropping wallets is an absolute nightmare. It’s a social psychology nightmare, because you have to drop them quite a distance from one another. You don’t want someone walking down the street, finding five wallets. So you have to walk about half a mile between each drop, and timing that by 200, it turns into quite a drawn-out study.
And then you discover how difficult it is to drop a wallet these days. You drop a wallet, and you walk off, and then there’s someone behind you going “excuse me, you dropped this wallet.” And you’re, kind of, “Back off, it’s science. Put it back exactly where I dropped it.” And the drop zones are very carefully calculated, so that they’re not too close to bins and letterboxes, so you’ve got to walk around the block and drop it again, and if the same person sees you, they think you’re insane. So those things were quite good fun. I dropped one wallet, and sort of stood nearby to see if anyone picked it up. A policeman came along, picked it up, looked at it, walked over to a litter bin and dropped it inside.
Is there an experiment you wish you could do but, for whatever reason, can’t?
Oh, those occur to me every day! I just tweeted out something about how I was considering starting an institute for unethical studies, and is anyone interested in participating. And loads of people got back to me and said, “Oh yeah! Let me know what you’re doing.” Because today it’s so hard to get anything past the ethics boards, compared to the good old days, when you could just electrocute people and call it science. You can hardly do anything these days!
What would I want to do? I quite like the idea of the random giving of animals. There’s a study where they took two groups of people and randomly gave people in one group a dog. But I’d quite like to replicate that with a much wider range of animals — including those that should be in zoos. I like the idea of signing up for a study, and you get home and find you’ve got to look after a wolf … .
Or a Tasmanian Devil…
Exactly! Or a giraffe. I think there’s a lot more fun to be had in psychology. We’ve kind of sucked the fun out of it a little bit. I’m a huge fan of Stanley Milgram’s work. He was just so good at seeing stuff that was relevant, and yet, these really funny studies.
You write in the book about research showing that “retail therapy” is a poor road to happiness. A recent survey found that Americans are shopping less and doing more activities with friends and family. Could the recession be making us happier?
The research on happiness shows almost no relationship between income and happiness, after a certain point, and I think that’s the key issue. You need to have enough money to live reasonably comfortably, but after that it doesn’t really matter. So if people are losing their jobs, and that’s giving them stress on their relationships, and if their relationships break up, that’s another source of unhappiness. For that group it’s clearly a problem. For other people–maybe one partner in a couple has lost their job, so it’s a reduction in income, but not catastrophic — I actually think you may see an income in happiness. You’re not buying so much, you’re spending more time with friends. In that sense, a recession might be good for us.
What are you working on now?
I do quite a lot online, coming up with viral videos and other things. The blog is starting to take some nice shape now. A lot of my focus is going to be online. It represents a very interesting challenge.
As a psychologist, what makes the Internet interesting to you?
It’s bringing together groups of people who I think would have had trouble finding each other in the past. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s not so good, but I find it fascinating. In terms of things like Facebook—I’m a big fan of self-presentation theory, Erving Goffman’s idea that we have a private, backstage self, and a public, front-stage self, and of course Twitter and Facebook and blogs are all an extension of that front-stage presentation. And what I find funny is how many people are just so bad at hiding what they actually think of themselves. You know, on Facebook, some people can’t stop posting self-taken photos of themselves looking beautiful, as if that’s going to impress anyone.
What’s your take on the debate over the strength of social networking connections, and their ability to have a real impact on our lives?
The number of close friends hasn’t gone up over the years. I think what’s changed is the geography of those friends. You may have close friends who aren’t physically that close to you. It is the case that people have extended networks of more shallow networks, but I guess I find it more interesting in the dissemination of information, just how quickly information spreads among those sub-groups, and gets them to come to events, where so many people are meeting up face to face in ways they weren’t several years ago. So my hope would be groups would be getting together more, at some point, which leads to more interaction.
You set up the book by recounting a lunch you once had with a friend named Sophie, who was sort of unhappy at the time, and challenged you to come up with some self-help techniques backed by academic psychology. Now that the book’s out, is she any happier?
[laughs] It’s funny you should ask that — Sophie’s kind of vanished, and I’m not sure how to find her! She’s gone to India. That meeting was quite a while ago, probably three and a half years ago. I’ve tried to find her. She actually doesn’t know yet that she’s sort of the catalyst for the book. So as soon as she comes back from traveling, she’ll probably sue me — no, no, no, she’ll get a copy.
He gets what he does.
- We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.
- Have something to bring to the table, because that will make you more welcome.
- I probably got more from that dream and not accomplishing it than I got from any of the ones that I did accomplish.
- You’ve got to get the fundamentals down because otherwise the fancy stuff isn’t going to work.
- When you see yourself doing something badly and nobody’s bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a very bad place to be. Your critics are your ones telling you they still love you and care.
- Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.
- Head fake learning is absolutely important, and you should keep your eye out for them because they’re everywhere.
- The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.
- It’s pretty easy to be smart when you’re parroting smart people.
- It’s very important to know when you’re in a pissing match. And it’s very important to get out of it as quickly as possible.
- Until you got ice cream spilled on you, you’re not doing field work.
- I can’t tell you beforehand, but right before they present it I can tell you if the world (his students project work) is good by the body language. If they’re standing close to each other, the world is good.
- If you’re going to do anything that pioneering you will get those arrows in the back, and you just have to put up with it. I mean everything that could go wrong did go wrong.
- Somewhere along the way there’s got to be some aspect of what lets you get to achieve your dreams. First one is the role of parents, mentors, and students.
- And he (Andy Van Dam) said, Randy, it’s such a shame that people perceive you as so arrogant. Because it’s going to limit what you’re going to be able to accomplish in life.
- You just have to decide if you’re a Tigger or an Eeyore.
- I have a theory that people who come from large families are better people because they’ve just had to learn to get along.
- Loyalty is a two way street.
- Syl said, it took me a long time but I’ve finally figured it out. When it comes to men that are romantically interested in you, it’s really simple. Just ignore everything they say and only pay attention to what they do. It’s that simple. It’s that easy.
- You can’t get there alone. People have to help you and I do believe in karma. I believe in paybacks. You get people to help you by telling the truth. Being earnest.
- I’ll take an earnest person over a hip person every day, because hip is short term. Earnest is long term.
- Apologise when you screw up and focus on other people, not on yourself.
- Don’t bail. The best of the gold’s at the bottom of barrels of crap.
- Get a feedback loop and listen to it. Your feedback loop can be this dorky spreadsheet thing I did, or it can just be one great man who tells you what you need to hear. The hard part is the listening to it.
- Don’t complain. Just work harder. That’s a picture of Jackie Robinson. It was in his contract not to complain, even when the fans spit on him.
- Be good at something, it makes you valuable.
- Find the best in everybody. Just keep waiting no matter how long it takes. No one is all evil. Everybody has a good side, just keep waiting, it will come out.
- Be prepared. Luck is truly where preparation meets opportunity.
- It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. It’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.
Friday, January 22, 2010
I think she is interesting.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
A pair of sociologists think they may have an answer: typecasting. Conjure up the classic image of a humanities or social sciences professor, the fields where the imbalance is greatest: tweed jacket, pipe, nerdy, longwinded, secular — and liberal. Even though that may be an outdated stereotype, it influences younger people’s ideas about what they want to be when they grow up.
Jobs can be typecast in different ways, said Neil Gross and Ethan Fosse, who undertook the study. For instance, less than 6 percent of nurses today are men. Discrimination against male candidates may be a factor, but the primary reason for the disparity is that most people consider nursing to be a woman’s career, Mr. Gross said. That means not many men aspire to become nurses in the first place — a point made in the recent Lee Daniels film “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” When John (Lenny Kravitz) asks the 16-year-old Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) and her friends whether they’ve ever seen a male nurse before, all answer no amid giddy laughter.
Nursing is what sociologists call “gender typed.” Mr. Gross said that “professors and a number of other fields are politically typed.” Journalism, art, fashion, social work and therapy are dominated by liberals; while law enforcement, farming, dentistry, medicine and the military attract more conservatives.
“These types of occupational reputations affect people’s career aspirations,” he added in a telephone interview from his office at the University of British Columbia. Mr. Fosse, his co-author, is a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard.
The academic profession “has acquired such a strong reputation for liberalism and secularism that over the last 35 years few politically or religiously conservative students, but many liberal and secular ones, have formed the aspiration to become professors,” they write in the paper, “Why Are Professors Liberal?” That is especially true of their own field, sociology, which has become associated with “the study of race, class and gender inequality — a set of concerns especially important to liberals.”
What distinguishes Mr. Gross and Mr. Fosse’s research from so much of the hubbub that surrounds this subject is their methodology. Whereas most arguments have primarily relied on anecdotes, this is one of the only studies to use data from the General Social Survey of opinions and social behaviors and compare professors with the rest of Americans.
Mr. Gross and Mr. Fosse linked those empirical results to the broader question of why some occupations — just like ethnic groups or religions — have a clear political hue. Using an econometric technique, they were then able to test which of the theories frequently bandied about were supported by evidence and which were not.
Intentional discrimination, one of the most frequent and volatile charges made by conservatives, turned out not to play a significant role.
To understand how a field gets typecast, one has to look at its history. From the early 1950s William F. Buckley Jr. and other founders of the modern conservative movement railed against academia’s liberal bias. Buckley even published a regular column, “From the Academy,” in the magazine he founded, The National Review.
“Conservatives weren’t just expressing outrage,” Mr. Gross said, “they were also trying to build a conservative identity.” They defined themselves in opposition to the New Deal liberals who occupied the establishment’s precincts. Hence Buckley’s quip in the early 1960s: “I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.”
In the 1960s college campuses, swelled by the large baby-boom generation, became a staging ground for radical leftist social and political movements, further moving the academy away from conservatism.
Typecasting, of course, is not the only cause for the liberal tilt. The characteristics that define one’s political orientation are also at the fore of certain jobs, the sociologists reported. Nearly half of the political lopsidedness in academia can be traced to four characteristics that liberals in general, and professors in particular, share: advanced degrees; a nonconservative religious theology (which includes liberal Protestants and Jews, and the nonreligious); an expressed tolerance for controversial ideas; and a disparity between education and income.
The mismatch between schooling and salary complements a theory that the Harvard professor Louis Menand raises in his new book “The Marketplace of Ideas.” He argues that the way higher education was structured by progressive reformers in the late 19th century is partly responsible for the political uniformity of today. In the view of the early reformers, the only way to ensure that quality, rather than profit, would be rewarded was to protect the profession from outside competition. The tradeoff for lower salaries was control; professors decide who gets to enter their profession and who doesn’t.
The tendency of people in any institution or organization to try to fit in also reinforces the political one-sidedness. In “The Politically Correct University: Problems, Scope and Reforms,” a collection of essays published by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group, Daniel B. Klein, an economist at George Mason University in Virginia, and Charlotta Stern, a sociologist at Stockholm University, argue that when it comes to hiring, “the majority will tend to support candidates like them in the matter of fundamental beliefs, values and commitments.”
Other contributors to the book, Matthew Woessner and April Kelly-Woessner, who are husband and wife, also found that conservatives are less interested in pursuing advanced degrees than liberals.
Mr. Gross and Mr. Fosse have not yet published their results, but experts in the field have vetted their research and methods. Michèle Lamont, a Harvard professor and the author of “How Professors Think,” said, “I think their paper is very, very sophisticated and quite original.” She added that the theory better fits some disciplines, like literature and sociology, than others, like business or economics.
Mitchell L. Stevens, a professor of education at Stanford University, who also reviewed the research, finds the theory promising. Choosing an occupation is part of fashioning an identity, Mr. Stevens said, noting that people think of themselves as a “corporate type” or a free spirit, which is why you might find highly educated graduates working as bartenders instead of in an office.
He added that the gender-typing of a field like physics might also partly explain the dearth of women in it, another subject that has provoked heated disputes.
To Mr. Gross, accusations by conservatives of bias and student brainwashing are self-defeating. “The irony is that the more conservatives complain about academia’s liberalism,” he said, “the more likely it’s going to remain a bastion of liberalism.”
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Supposed I am a man,
- I want to be called Mary. But my mom told me that Mary is for women. I am deprived of the right to be called Mary.
- I like pink color and wear pink clothes. The female teacher in the kindergarten told me that pink color is only for girls. I am deprived of the right to enjoy being pink.
- I am very scared of darkness. My girlfriend in junior high school told me that a guy can't be scared of darkness.
- I like to cry whenever I feel I want to. The girls in the church tell me that men don't cry. I am deprived of the right to cry whenever I want to.
- I want to stay at home and cook. My wife told me that a man is useless if he can't make money and bring back home breads.
- I want to give birth to children. My female doctors tell me that I am insane because men can't give birth to children.
- I want to have sex with men. My female neighbors say that I am a disgusting person. Men can only have sex with women, not men.
- I want to wear skirts. My female friends say that I have psycho problems.
- I am short and thin. Girls I date online doubt whether I am a real man, although I do have a penis.
Research on adult attachment is guided by the assumption that the same motivational system that gives rise to the close emotional bond between parents and their children is responsible for the bond that develops between adults in emotionally intimate relationships. The objective of this essay is to provide people who are new to the field--or people who may simply be interested in learning more about research on adult attachment--a brief overview of the history of adult attachment research, the key theoretical ideas, and a sampling of some of the research findings.
Background: Bowlby's Theory of AttachmentThe theory of attachment was originally developed by John Bowlby (1907 - 1990), a British psychoanalyst who was attempting to understand the intense distress experienced by infants who had been separated from their parents. Bowlby observed that separated infants would go to extraordinary lengths (e.g., crying, clinging, frantically searching) to either prevent separation from their parents or to reestablish proximity to a missing parent. At the time, psychoanalytic writers held that these expressions were manifestations of immature defense mechanisms that were operating to repress emotional pain, but Bowlby noted that such expressions are common to a wide variety of mammalian species, and speculated that these behaviors may serve an evolutionary function.
Drawing on ethological theory, Bowlby postulated that these attachment behaviors, such as crying and searching, were adaptive responses to separation from with a primary attachment figure--someone who provides support, protection, and care. Because human infants, like other mammalian infants, cannot feed or protect themselves, they are dependent upon the care and protection of "older and wiser" adults. Bowlby argued that, over the course of evolutionary history, infants who were able to maintain proximity to an attachment figure (i.e., by looking cute or by expressing in attachment behaviors) would be more likely to survive to a reproductive age. According to Bowlby, a motivational-control system, what he called the attachment behavioral system, was gradually "designed" by natural selection to regulate proximity to an attachment figure.
The attachment behavior system is an important concept in attachment theory because it provides the conceptual linkage between ethological models of human development and modern theories on emotion regulation and personality. According to Bowlby, the attachment system essentially "asks" the following fundamental question: Is the attachment figure nearby, accessible, and attentive? If the child perceives the answer to this question to be "yes," he or she feels loved, secure, and confident, and, behaviorally, is likely to explore his or her environment, play with others, and be sociable. If, however, the child perceives the answer to this question to be "no," the child experiences anxiety and, behaviorally, is likely to exhibit attachment behaviors ranging from simple visual searching on the low extreme to active following and vocal signaling on the other (see Figure 1). These behaviors continue until either the child is able to reestablish a desirable level of physical or psychological proximity to the attachment figure, or until the child "wears down," as may happen in the context of a prolonged separation or loss. In such cases or helplessness, Bowlby believed the child experiences despair and depression.
Individual Differences in Infant Attachment PatternsAlthough Bowlby believed that the basic dynamics described above captured the normative dynamics of the attachment behavioral system, he recognized that there are individual differences in the way children appraise the accessibility of the attachment figure and how they regulate their attachment behavior in response to a threat. However, it wasn't until his colleague, Mary Ainsworth, began to systematically study infant-parent separations that a formal understanding of these individual differences was articulated. Ainsworth and her students developed a technique called the strange situation--a laboratory paradigm for studying infant-parent attachment. In the strange situation, 12-month-old infants and their parents are brought to the laboratory and, systematically, separated and reunited. In the strange situation, most children (i.e., about 60%) behave in the way implied by Bowlby's "normative" theory. They become upset when the parent leaves the room, but, when he or she returns, they actively seek the parent and are easily comforted by him or her. Children who exhibit this pattern of behavior are often called secure. Other children (about 20% or less) are ill-at-ease initially, and, upon separation, become extremely distressed. Importantly, when reunited with their parents, these children have a difficult time being soothed, and often exhibit conflicting behaviors that suggest they want to be comforted, but that they also want to "punish" the parent for leaving. These children are often called anxious-resistant. The third pattern of attachment that Ainsworth and her colleagues documented is called avoidant. Avoidant children (about 20%) don't appear too distressed by the separation, and, upon reunion, actively avoid seeking contact with their parent, sometimes turning their attention to play objects on the laboratory floor.
Ainsworth's work was important for at least three reasons. First, she provided one of the first empirical demonstrations of how attachment behavior is patterned in both safe and frightening contexts. Second, she provided the first empirical taxonomy of individual differences in infant attachment patterns. According to her research, at least three types of children exist: those who are secure in their relationship with their parents, those who are anxious-resistant, and those who are anxious-avoidant. Finally, she demonstrated that these individual differences were correlated with infant-parent interactions in the home during the first year of life. Children who appear secure in the strange situation, for example, tend to have parents who are responsive to their needs. Children who appear insecure in the strange situation (i.e., anxious-resistant or avoidant) often have parents who are insensitive to their needs, or inconsistent or rejecting in the care they provide.
Adult Romantic RelationshipsAlthough Bowlby was primarily focused on understanding the nature of the infant-caregiver relationship, he believed that attachment characterized human experience from "the cradle to the grave." It was not until the mid-1980's, however, that researchers began to take seriously the possibility that attachment processes may play out in adulthood. Hazan and Shaver (1987) were two of the first researchers to explore Bowlby's ideas in the context of romantic relationships. According to Hazan and Shaver, the emotional bond that develops between adult romantic partners is partly a function of the same motivational system--the attachment behavioral system--that gives rise to the emotional bond between infants and their caregivers. Hazan and Shaver noted that infants and caregivers and adult romantic partners share the following features:
- both feel safe when the other is nearby and responsive
- both engage in close, intimate, bodily contact
- both feel insecure when the other is inaccessible
- both share discoveries with one another
- both play with one another's facial features and exhibit a mutual fascination and preoccupation with one another
- both engage in "baby talk"
Three Implications of Adult Attachment TheoryThe idea that romantic relationships may be attachment relationships has had a profound influence on modern research on close relationships. There are at least three critical implications of this idea.
First, if adult romantic relationships are attachment relationships, then we should observe the same kinds of individual differences in adult relationships that Ainsworth observed in infant-caregiver relationships. We may expect some adults, for example, to be secure in their relationships--to feel confident that their partners will be there for them when needed, and open to depending on others and having others depend on them. We should expect other adults, in contrast, to be insecure in their relationships. For example, some insecure adults may be anxious-resistant: they worry that others may not love them completely, and be easily frustrated or angered when their attachment needs go unmet. Others may be avoidant: they may appear not to care too much about close relationships, and may prefer not to be too dependent upon other people or to have others be too dependent upon them.
Second, if adult romantic relationships are attachment relationships, then the way adult relationships "work" should be similar to the way infant-caregiver relationships work. In other words, the same kinds of factors that facilitate exploration in children (i.e., having a responsive caregiver) should facilitate exploration among adults (i.e., having a responsive partner). The kinds of things that make an attachment figure "desirable" for infants (i.e., responsiveness, availability) are the kinds of factors we should find desirable in adult romantic partners. Importantly, individual differences in attachment should influence relational and personal functioning in adulthood in the same way they do in childhood.
Third, whether an adult is secure or insecure in his or her adult relationships may be a partial reflection of his or her attachment experiences in early childhood. Bowlby believed that the mental representations or working models (i.e., expectations, beliefs, "rules" or "scripts" for behaving and thinking) that a child holds regarding relationships are a function of his or her caregiving experiences. For example, a secure child tends to believe that others will be there for him or her because previous experiences have led him or her to this conclusion. Once a child has developed such expectations, he or she will tend to seek out relational experiences that are consistent with those expectations and perceive others in a way that is colored by those beliefs. According to Bowlby, this kind of process should promote continuity in attachment patterns over the life course, although it is possible that a person's attachment pattern will change if his or her relational experiences are inconsistent with his or her expectations. In short, if we assume that adult relationships are attachment relationships, it is possible that children who are secure as children will grow up to be secure in their romantic relationships.
In the sections below I briefly address these three implications in light of early and contemporary research on adult attachment.
Do We Observe the Same Kinds of Attachment Patterns Among Adults that We Observe Among Children?The earliest research on adult attachment involved studying the association between individual differences in adult attachment and the way people think about their relationships and their memories for what their relationships with their parents are like. Hazan and Shaver (1987) developed a simple questionnaire to measure these individual differences. (These individual differences are often referred to as attachment styles, attachment patterns, attachment orientations, or differences in the organization of the attachment system.) In short, Hazan and Shaver asked research subjects to read the three paragraphs listed below, and indicate which paragraph best characterized the way they think, feel, and behave in close relationships:
A. I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others; I find it difficult to trust them completely, difficult to allow myself to depend on them. I am nervous when anyone gets too close, and often, others want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being.Based on this three-category measure, Hazan and Shaver found that the distribution of categories was similar to that observed in infancy. In other words, about 60% of adults classified themselves as secure (paragraph B), about 20% described themselves as avoidant (paragraph A), and about 20% described themselves as anxious-resistant (paragraph C).
B. I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don't worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to me.
C. I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often worry that my partner doesn't really love me or won't want to stay with me. I want to get very close to my partner, and this sometimes scares people away.
Although this measure served as a useful way to study the association between attachment styles and relationship functioning, it didn't allow a full test of the hypothesis that the same kinds of individual differences observed in infants might be manifest among adults. (In many ways, the Hazan and Shaver measure assumed this to be true.) Subsequent research has explored this hypothesis in a variety of ways. For example, Kelly Brennan and her colleagues collected a number of statements (e.g., "I believe that others will be there for me when I need them") and studied the way these statements "hang together" statistically (Brennan, Clark, & Shaver, 1998). Brennan's findings suggested that there are two fundamental dimensions with respect to adult attachment patterns (see Figure 2). One critical variable has been labeled attachment-related anxiety. People who score high on this variable tend to worry whether their partner is available, responsive, attentive, etc. People who score on the low end of this variable are more secure in the perceived responsiveness of their partners. The other critical variable is called attachment-related avoidance. People on the high end of this dimension prefer not to rely on others or open up to others. People on the low end of this dimension are more comfortable being intimate with others and are more secure depending upon and having others depend upon them. A prototypical secure adult is low on both of these dimensions.
Brennan's findings are critical because recent analyses of the statistical patterning of behavior among infants in the strange situation reveal two functionally similar dimensions: one that captures variability in the anxiety and resistance of the child and another that captures variability in the child's willingness to use the parent as a safe haven for support (see Fraley & Spieker, 2003a, 2003b). Functionally, these dimensions are similar to the two-dimensions uncovered among adults, suggesting that similar patterns of attachment exist at different points in the life span.
In light of Brennan's findings, as well as taxometric research published by Fraley and Waller (1998), most researchers currently conceptualize and measure individual differences in attachment dimensionally rather than categorically. The most popular measures of adult attachment style are Brennan, Clark, and Shaver's (1998) ECR and Fraley, Waller, and Brennan's (2000) ECR-R--a revised version of the ECR. [Click here to take an on-line quiz designed to determine your attachment style based on these two dimensions.] Both of these self-report instruments provide continuous scores on the two dimensions of attachment-related anxiety and avoidance. [Click here to learn more about self-report measures of individual differences in adult attachment.]
Do Adult Romantic Relationships "Work" in the Same Way that Infant-Caregiver Relationships Work?There is now an increasing amount of research that suggests that adult romantic relationships function in the same ways as infant-caregiver relationships, with some noteworthy exceptions, of course. Naturalistic research on adults separating from their partners at an airport demonstrated that behaviors indicative of attachment-related protest and caregiving were evident, and that the regulation of these behaviors was associated with attachment style (Fraley & Shaver, 1998). For example, while separating couples generally showed more attachment behavior than nonseparating couples, highly avoidant adults showed much less attachment behavior than less avoidant adults. In the sections below I discuss some of the parallels that have been discovered between the way that infant-caregiver relationships and adult romantic relationships function.
Cross-cultural studies suggest that the secure pattern of attachment in infancy is universally considered the most desirable pattern by mothers (see van IJzendoorn & Sagi, 1999). For obvious reasons there is no similar study asking infants if they would prefer a security-inducing attachment figure. Adults seeking long-term relationships identify responsive caregiving qualities, such as attentiveness, warmth, and sensitivity, as most "attractive" in potential dating partners (Zeifman & Hazan, 1997). Despite the attractiveness of secure qualities, however, not all adults are paired with secure partners. Some evidence suggests that people end up in relationships with partners who confirm their existing beliefs about attachment relationships (Frazier et al., 1997).
Secure base and safe haven behavior
In infancy, secure infants tend to be the most well adjusted, in the sense that they are relatively resilient, they get along with their peers and are well liked. Similar kinds of patterns have emerged in research on adult attachment. Overall, secure adults tend to be more satisfied in their relationships than insecure adults. Their relationships are characterized by greater longevity, trust, commitment, and interdependence (e.g., Feeney, Noller, & Callan, 1994), and they are more likely to use romantic partners as a secure base from which to explore the world (e.g., Fraley & Davis, 1997). A large proportion of research on adult attachment has been devoted to uncovering the behavioral and psychological mechanisms that promote security and secure base behavior in adults. There have been two major discoveries thus far.
First and in accordance with attachment theory, secure adults are more likely than insecure adults to seek support from their partners when distressed. Furthermore, they are more likely to provide support to their distressed partners (e.g., Simpson et al., 1992).
Second, the attributions that insecure individuals make concerning their partner's behavior during and following relational conflicts exacerbate, rather than alleviate, their insecurities (e.g., Simpson et al., 1996).
Avoidant Attachment and Defense MechanismsAccording to attachment theory, children differ in the kinds of strategies they adopt to regulate attachment-related anxiety. Following a separation and reunion, for example, some insecure children approach their parents, but with ambivalence and resistance, whereas others withdraw from their parents, apparently minimizing attachment-related feelings and behavior. One of the big questions in the study of infant attachment is whether children who withdraw from their parents--avoidant children--are truly less distressed or whether their defensive behavior is a cover-up for their true feelings of vulnerability. Research that has measured the attentional capacity of children, heart rate, or stress hormone levels suggests that avoidant children are distressed by the separation despite the fact that they come across in a cool, defensive manner.
Recent research on adult attachment has revealed some interesting complexities concerning the relationships between avoidance and defense. Although some avoidant adults, often called fearfully-avoidant adults, are poorly adjusted despite their defensive nature, others, often called dismissing-avoidant adults, are able to use defensive strategies in an adaptive way. For example, in an experimental task in which adults were instructed to discuss losing their partner, Fraley and Shaver (1997) found that dismissing individuals (i.e., individuals who are high on the dimension of attachment-related avoidance but low on the dimension of attachment-related anxiety) were just as physiologically distressed (as assessed by skin conductance measures) as other individuals. When instructed to suppress their thoughts and feelings, however, dismissing individuals were able to do so effectively. That is, they could deactivate their physiological arousal to some degree and minimize the attention they paid to attachment-related thoughts. Fearfully-avoidant individuals were not as successful in suppressing their emotions.
Are Attachment Patterns Stable from Infancy to Adulthood?Perhaps the most provocative and controversial implication of adult attachment theory is that a person's attachment style as an adult is shaped by his or her interactions with parental attachment figures. Although the idea that early attachment experiences might have an influence on attachment style in romantic relationships is relatively uncontroversial, hypotheses about the source and degree of overlap between the two kinds of attachment orientations have been controversial.
There are at least two issues involved in considering the question of stability: (a) How much similarity is there between the security people experience with different people in their lives (e.g., mothers, fathers, romantic partners)? and (b) With respect to any one of these relationships, how stable is security over time?
With respect to this first issue, it appears that there is a modest degree of overlap between how secure people feel with their mothers, for example, and how secure they feel with their romantic partners. Fraley, for example, collected self-report measures of one's current attachment style with a significant parental figure and a current romantic partner and found correlations ranging between approximately .20 to .50 (i.e., small to moderate) between the two kinds of attachment relationships. [Click here to take an on-line quiz designed to assess the similarity between your attachment styles with different people in your life.]
With respect to the second issue, the stability of one's attachment to one's parents appears to be equal to a correlation of about .25 to .39 (Fraley, 2002). There is only one longitudinal study of which we are aware that assessed the link between security at age 1 in the strange situation and security of the same people 20 years later in their adult romantic relationships. This unpublished study uncovered a correlation of .17 between these two variables (Steele, Waters, Crowell, & Treboux, 1998).
The association between early attachment experiences and adult attachment styles has also been examined in retrospective studies. Hazan and Shaver (1987) found that adults who were secure in their romantic relationships were more likely to recall their childhood relationships with parents as being affectionate, caring, and accepting (see also Feeney & Noller, 1990).
Based on these kinds of studies, it seems likely that attachment styles in the child-parent domain and attachment styles in the romantic relationship domain are only moderately related at best. What are the implications of such findings for adult attachment theory? According to some writers, the most important proposition of the theory is that the attachment system, a system originally adapted for the ecology of infancy, continues to influence behavior, thought, and feeling in adulthood (see Fraley & Shaver, 2000). This proposition may hold regardless of whether individual differences in the way the system is organized remain stable over a decade or more, and stable across different kinds of intimate relationships.
Although the social and cognitive mechanisms invoked by attachment theorists imply that stability in attachment style may be the rule rather than the exception, these basic mechanisms can predict either long-run continuity or discontinuity, depending on the precise ways in which they are conceptualized (Fraley, 2002). Fraley (2002) discussed two models of continuity derived from attachment theory that make different predictions about long-term continuity even though they were derived from the same basic theoretical principles. Each model assumes that individual differences in attachment representations are shaped by variation in experiences with caregivers in early childhood, and that, in turn, these early representations shape the quality of the individual's subsequent attachment experiences. However, one model assumes that existing representations are updated and revised in light of new experiences such that older representations are eventually "overwritten." Mathematical analyses revealed that this model predicts that the long-term stability of individual differences will approach zero. The second model is similar to the first, but makes the additional assumption that representational models developed in the first year of life are preserved (i.e., they are not overwritten) and continue to influence relational behavior throughout the life course. Analyses of this model revealed that long-term stability can approach a non-zero limiting value. The important point here is that the principles of attachment theory can be used to derive developmental models that make strikingly different predictions about the long-term stability of individual differences. In light of this finding, the existence of long-term stability of individual differences should be considered an empirical question rather than an assumption of the theory.
Outstanding Questions and Future Directions for Research on Adult AttachmentThere are a number of questions that current and future research on attachment needs to address. For example, it is probably the case that, while some romantic relationships are genuine attachment relationships, others are not. It will be necessary for future researchers to find ways to better determine whether a relationship is actually serving attachment-related functions. Second, although it is clear why attachment behavior may serve an important evolutionary function in infancy, it is not clear whether attachment serves an important evolutionary function among adults. Third, we still don't have a strong understanding of the precise factors that may change a person's attachment style. In the interest of improving peoples' lives, it will be necessary to learn more about the factors that promote attachment security and relational well-being.
Monday, January 18, 2010
that the most helpful focus of psychology is the experiential present moment and that everyone is caught in webs of relationships; thus, it is only possible to know ourselves against the background of our relation to other things
Hypnosis Is Not Mind Control
Then What Is Self-Hypnosis?
- receive information from your subconscious about yourself, and discover your true needs. You are also able to search for answers and examine specific goals.
- instruct your subconscious on changes you wish to make and behavioral patterns you would like to change through positive, constructive suggestions.
Being in the peaceful "trance" induced by hypnosis allows you to examine and change areas of yourself that your conscious mind can't normally reach. Often, permanent life changes may only be made by entering the world of your subconscious and "re-programming" your mind. Self-hypnosis targets and channels your natural inner resources for problem solving and healing.
- Relax: If you can't relax, the hypnotic state will be impossible to achieve. Lie down, close your eyes (but stay awake), listen to music, do whatever it takes to get you to relax.
- Deepen the Relaxation: Continue relaxing. Suggest to yourself that you're really tired and are falling asleep. A good technique to use at this point, once you're relaxed, is to count down. Pick a number and count down. The speed at which you count down should be natural, not too fast, not too slow. Natural.
- Suggestions: Once you're at this stage, your mind and body are open to suggestions. You can suggest to yourself that you're going to start eating more fruits and vegetables or you can suggest that the next self-hypnosis session will be easier. It's up to you. Of course you're not going to change overnight. You will need to continue your suggestions each session.
- And then: Once you're done making suggestions, notify yourself that the session is over. Your mind and body will slowly gain consciousness. If you're feeling really sleepy and want to take a nap, go ahead and do so.
It's easier to get angry than it is to work out a solution. Anger provides us with the self-satisfaction of knowing that we are the injured party, that we, and not the poor grocery clerk we just snarled at, or the friend we just argued with, are the ones who have been wronged, injured, and who deserve better.
The trouble is that anger ultimately proves destructive both to our relationships and to ourselves. For many of us, it's become the first line of interpersonal defense. Often, emotional anger spills over into physical rage. The fact that terms like road rage even exist proves that.
A stressful short-term relationship can seem to last forever, and can't be dismissed as easily as, say, the rude waiter who served you last week. They're not the type of relationships in which you interact constantly, but you see these people enough that problems with them can take up a pretty big chunk of your life. Who wants a surly neighbor?
It's important to keep these relationships in perspective. You and your neighbor may disagree on the property line, but that doesn't have to spill over into your relationship with, say, your daughter. Try to see problems in these relationships as limited in scope—they shouldn't eat up your life.
It might not be too bad. Some people are lucky enough to have wonderful families (nuclear and extended). These people enjoy spending time with their family and sharing wonderful times.
For others, it may be a different story. Some families have difficulty coexisting with one another because of bad blood, bad history…you name it. As mentioned before, people are the cause of bad relationships. So just because you're related doesn't mean you have to like each other. But the problem with family is that if you don't interact with them on a daily basis you will at least see them at most family events. It's nearly impossible to invite one member of the family and exclude the others.
The easy solution would be to just avoid family functions. That way, you won't have to listen to embarrassing stories of your childhood being told by your most hated cousin. The problem with this solution is that you would miss out on seeing everyone else in the family (the people you do like). So what to do?
General Relationship Ideas
- Relationships take time. You're not going to be best friends from the moment you meet (though that does occasionally happen).
- Enter any relationship (love, family, friend) with an open mind. These people you interact with are different from you, so they will have different habits, abilities, traits, etc.
- Communication is vital to a successful relationship. Suppressed emotions can fester and you may eventually find yourself shouting at people (not good for building up relationships).
- It takes about five positive experiences to erase one negative one.
- To err is human, to forgive divine.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
* Emotional and physical space between you and another person.
* Demarcation of where you end and another begins and where you begin and another ends.
* Limit or line over which you will not allow anyone to cross because of the negative impact of its being crossed in the past.
* Established set of limits over your physical and emotional well-being which you expect others to respect in their relationship with you.
* Emotional and physical space you need in order to be the real you without the pressure from others to be something that you are not.
* Emotional and/or physical perimeter of your life which is or has been violated when you were emotionally, verbally, physically and/or sexually abused.
* Healthy emotional and physical distance you can maintain between you and another so that you do not become overly enmeshed and/or dependent.
* Appropriate amount of emotional and physical closeness you need to maintain so that you and another do not become too detached and/or overly independent.
* Balanced emotional and physical limits set on interacting with another so that you can achieve an interdependent relationship of independent beings who do not lose their personal identity, uniqueness and autonomy in the process.
* Clearly defined limits within which you are free to be yourself with no restrictions placed on you by others as to how to think, feel or act.
* Set of parameters which make you a unique, autonomous and free individual who has the freedom to be a creative, original, idiosyncratic problem solver.
Signs of ignored boundaries
You can tell boundaries are being ignored if there are one or more of the following characteristic symptoms:
Over Enmeshment: This symptom requires everyone to follow the rule that everyone must do everything together and that everyone is to think, feel and act in the same way. No one is allowed to deviate from the family or group norms. Everyone looks homogeneous. Uniqueness, autonomy and idiosyncratic behaviors are viewed as deviations from the norm.
Disassociation: This symptom involves blanking out during a stressful emotional event. You feel your physical and/or emotional space being violated and you tell yourself something like: "It doesn't matter." "Ignore it and it will go away soon enough.'' "No sense in fighting it, just hang on and it will be over soon.'' "Don't put up a struggle or else it will be worse for you.'' This blanking out results in your being out of touch with your feelings about what happened. It also may result in your inability to remember what happened.
Excessive Detachment: This symptom occurs when neither you nor anyone else in the group or family is able to establish any fusion of emotions or affiliation of feelings. Everyone is totally independent from everyone else and there doesn't seem to be anything to hold you and them together in healthy union. You and they seem to lack a common purpose, goal, identity or rationale for existing together. There is a seeming lack of desire from you and the other members to draw together to form a union because you fear loss of personal identity.
Victimhood or Martyrdom: In this symptom, you identify yourself as a violated victim and become overly defensive to ward off further violation. Or it can be that once you accept your victimization you continue to be knowingly victimized and then let others know of your martyrdom.
Chip on the Shoulder: This symptom is reflected in your interactions with others. Because of your anger over past violation of your emotional and/or physical space and the real or perceived ignoring of your rights by others, you have a "chip on your shoulder'' that declares "I dare you to come too close!''
Invisibility: This symptom involves your pulling in or over-controlling so that others even yourself never know how you are really feeling or what you are really thinking. Your goal is not to be seen or heard so that your boundaries are not violated.
Aloofness or Shyness: This symptom is a result of your insecurity from real or perceived experiences of being ignored, roved or rejected in the past. This feels like a violation of your efforts to expand or stretch your boundaries to include others in your space. Once rejected you take the defensive posture to reject others before they reject you. This keeps you inward and unwilling or fearful of opening up your space to others.
Cold and Distant: This symptom builds walls or barriers to insure that others do not permeate or invade your emotional or physical space. This too can be a defense, due to previous hurt and pain, from being violated, hurt, ignored or rejected. This stance is your declaration that "I've drawn the line over which I dare you to cross.'' It is a way to keep others out and put them off.
Smothering: This symptom results when another is overly solicitous of your needs and interests. This cloying interest is overly intrusive into your emotional and physical space. It can be so overwhelming that you feel like you are being strangled, held too tightly and lack freedom to breathe on your own. You feel violated, used and overwhelmed.
Lack of Privacy: this symptom is present when you feel that nothing you think, feel or do is your own business. You are expected to report to others in your family or group all the detail and content of your feelings, reactions, opinions, relationships and dealings with the outside world. You begin to feel that nothing you experience can be kept in the privacy of your own domain. You begin to believe you don't have a private domain or your own space into which you can escape to be your own person.
Rational boundary building thinking
These are just a few examples of unhealthy thoughts or beliefs which allow boundaries to be ignored or violated. Following each unhealthy belief is a more healthy, rational, realistic, reality-based affirmation for healthy boundary building.
Unhealthy: I can never say "no'' to others.
Healthy Boundary Builder: I have a right to say "no'' to others if it is an invasion of my space or a violation of my rights.
Unhealthy: It is my duty to hold them together.
Healthy Boundary Builder: I have a right to take care of myself. If they want to stay together as a family or group, it is up to each individual to make such a decision. They all have equal responsibility to create the interdependency needed to keep us a united group.
Unhealthy: I can never trust anyone again.
Healthy Boundary Builder: I have a right to take the risk to grow in my relationships with others. If I find my space or rights are being violated or ignored, I can assertively protect myself to ensure I am not hurt.
Unhealthy: I would feel guilty if I did something on my own and left my family or group out of it.
Healthy Boundary Builder: I have the right and need to do things which are uniquely mine so that I do not become so overly enmeshed with others that I lose my identity.
Unhealthy: I should do everything I can to spend as much time together with you or else we won't be a healthy family or group.
Healthy Boundary Builder: I have a right and a need to explore my own interests, hobbies and outlets so that I can bring back to this family or group my unique personality to enrich our lives rather than be lost in a closed and over enmeshed system.
Unhealthy: It doesn't matter what they are doing to me. As long as I keep quiet and don't complain, they will eventually leave me alone.
Healthy Boundary Builder: I will never again allow my space and rights to be violated. I will stand up for myself and assert my rights to be respected and not hurt or violated. If they choose to ignore me, then I have the right to leave them or ask them to get out of my life.
Unhealthy: As long as I am not seen or heard, I won't be violated or hurt.
Healthy Boundary Builder: I have a right to be visible and to be seen and heard. I will stand up for myself so that others can learn to respect my rights, my needs and not violate my space.
Unhealthy: I'd rather not pay attention to what is happening to me in this relationship which is overly intrusive, smothering and violating my privacy. In this way I don't have to feel the pain and hurt that comes from such a violation.
Healthy Boundary Builder: I choose no longer to disassociate from my feelings when I am being treated in a negatively painful way so that I can be aware of what is happening to me and assertively protect myself from further violation or hurt.
Unhealthy: I've been hurt badly in the past and I will never let anyone in close enough to hurt me again.
Healthy Boundary Builder: I do not need to be cold and distant or aloof and shy as protective tools to avoid being hurt. I choose to open myself up to others trusting that I will be assertive to protect my rights and privacy from being violated.
Unhealthy: I can never tell where to draw the line with others.
Healthy Boundary Builder: There is a line I have drawn over which I do not allow others to cross. This line ensures me my uniqueness, autonomy and privacy. I am able to be me the way I really am rather than the way people want me to be by drawing this line.
By this line I let others know: this is who I am and where I begin and you end; this is who you are and where you begin and I end; we will never cross over this line so that we can maintain a healthy relationship with one another.
How to establish healthy boundariesIn order to establish healthy boundaries between yourself and others, you need to:
First: Identify the symptoms of your boundaries currently being or having been violated or ignored.
Second: Identify the irrational or unhealthy thinking and beliefs by which you allow your boundaries to be ignored or violated.
Third: Identify new, more rational, healthy thinking and beliefs which will encourage you to change your behaviors so that you build healthy boundaries between you and others.
Fourth: Identify new behaviors you need to add to your healthy boundary building behaviors repertoire in order to sustain healthy boundaries between you and others.
Fifth: Implement the healthy boundary building beliefs and behaviors in your life so that your space, privacy and rights are no longer ignored or violated.
Steps to establishing healthy boundaries
In order to motivate yourself to establish healthy boundaries in your life, you first need to do a self-assessment if any symptoms of ignored or violated boundaries exist in your life. In your journal, record which of the following symptoms exist for you. For each symptom identified, detail what was the stimulus in your past for this behavior. Also detail how this symptom affects your current life. Lastly, describe how you feel about this symptom's affect on your life.
The Violated or Ignored Boundaries Symptoms
* Excessive detachment
* Victimhood or martyrdom
* Chip on the shoulder
* Aloofness or shyness
* Cold and distant
* Lack of privacy
Once you have identified the symptoms of your boundaries being ignored or violated and what the stimulus was for these symptoms, then you need to identify in your journal what unhealthy thoughts or irrational beliefs you have which led you to have your boundaries violated or ignored.
After you have the irrational beliefs and unhealthy thoughts identified, then in your journal write down affirmations which are healthy boundary builders. You will need these boundary builders as you begin to take steps to protect your rights, privacy and personal space.
In order to ensure your healthy boundaries are maintained, you next need to add the following behaviors to your healthy boundary builders repertoire. Each healthy boundary-builder behavior is linked to a respective Tools for Coping Series topic. To ensure the healthy boundary-building behaviors are in place, work out in your journal each of the "Steps to" sections of the boundary-builder behavior topics referenced.
Healthy Boundary-Builder Behaviors
* Building Trust
* Handling Insecurity
* Handling Fear of Rejection
* Handling the Need for Approval
* On Becoming a Risk taker
* Becoming Vulnerable
* Handling Intimacy
*Goal Setting in Relationships
* Overcoming Fears
* Improving Assertive Behavior
* Accepting Personal Responsibility
* Handling Conflict
* Handling Guilt
* Overcoming the Role of Victim or Martyr
* Handling the Use of Power and Control
* Handling Confrontation
* Handling Forgiving and Forgetting
* Creating a Healing Environment
* Developing Detachment
* Eliminating Over-dependency
* Eliminating Passive Aggressiveness
* Eliminating Manipulation
* Tempering Survival Behaviors
* Developing Self-Control
Step 5:Once you have completed acquiring the healthy boundary-building behaviors, then begin to implement them as you proceed in your relationships at home, work and in your community. If you find you are still experiencing your emotional and/or physical boundaries being ignored or violated, then return to Step 1 and begin again.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Everyone has his or her psychological "shadow" (Carl Jung). Due to the shadow, instead of dealing with their own shdows (which is too painful), they project their own shadows to other people. People who do not have well developed self-concept tend to introject other people's projections. Thus, most people are living with perceptions projected and introjected from and with each other.
Do not manage perceptions. Do not guess or think what other people are thinking. You will never get it right. Because other people even don't know what they are thinking about.
Q. What are some of the most important leadership lessons you’ve learned?
A. After college, a roommate and I started a company called LinkExchange in 1996, and it grew to about 100 or so people, and then we ended up selling the company to Microsoft in 1998. From the outside, it looked like it was a great acquisition, $265 million, but most people don’t know the real reason why we ended up selling the company.
It was because the company culture just went completely downhill. When it was starting out, when it was just 5 or 10 of us, it was like your typical dot-com. We were all really excited, working around the clock, sleeping under our desks, had no idea what day of the week it was. But we didn’t know any better and didn’t pay attention to company culture.
By the time we got to 100 people, even though we hired people with the right skill sets and experiences, I just dreaded getting out of bed in the morning and was hitting that snooze button over and over again.
A. I just didn’t look forward to going to the office. The passion and excitement were no longer there. That’s kind of a weird feeling for me because this was a company I co-founded, and if I was feeling that way, how must the other employees feel? That’s actually why we ended up selling the company.
Financially, it meant I didn’t have to work again if I didn’t want to. So that was the lens through which I was looking at things. It’s basically asking the question, what would you want to do if you won the lottery? For me, I didn’t want to be part of a company where I dreaded going into the office.
So when I joined Zappos about a year later, I wanted to make sure that I didn’t make the same mistake that I had made at LinkExchange, in terms of the company culture going downhill. So for us, at Zappos, we really view culture as our No. 1 priority. We decided that if we get the culture right, most of the stuff, like building a brand around delivering the very best customer service, will just take care of itself.
Q. So how do you do that?
A. About five years ago, we formalized the definition of our culture into 10 core values. We wanted to come up with committable core values, meaning that we would actually be willing to hire and fire people based on those values, regardless of their individual job performance. Given that criteria, it’s actually pretty tough to come up with core values.
Q. Tell me what happened.
A. We spent a year doing that. I basically sent an e-mail out to the entire company, asking them what our values should be, and got a whole bunch of different responses. The initial list was actually 37 long, and then we ended up condensing and combining them and went back and forth and came up with our list of 10.
Today, we actually do two separate sets of interviews. The hiring manager and his or her team will interview for the standard fit within the team, relevant experience, technical ability and so on. But then our H.R. department does a separate set of interviews purely for culture fit. They actually have questions for each and every one of the core values.
Q. Can you give me an example of the value and the question?
A. Well, some of them are behavioral questions. One of our values is, “Create fun and a little weirdness.” So one of our interview questions is, literally, on a scale of 1 to 10, how weird are you? If you’re a 1, you’re probably a little bit too strait-laced for us. If you’re a 10, you might be too psychotic for us.
It’s not so much the number; it’s more seeing how candidates react to a question. Because our whole belief is that everyone is a little weird somehow, so it’s really more just a fun way of saying that we really recognize and celebrate each person’s individuality, and we want their true personalities to shine in the workplace environment, whether it’s with co-workers or when talking with customers.
I think of myself less as a leader, and more of being almost an architect of an environment that enables employees to come up with their own ideas, and where employees can grow the culture and evolve it over time, so it’s not me having a vision of “This is our culture.”
Maybe an analogy is, if you think of the employees and culture as plants growing, I’m not trying to be the biggest plant for them to aspire to. I’m more trying to architect the greenhouse where they can all flourish and grow.
Q. Did the process of developing those core values go smoothly?
A. Honestly, there was a lot of resistance to the core values rolling out, including from me. I was very hesitant, because it just felt like one of those big-company things to do. But within a couple of months, it just made such a huge difference. It gave everyone a common language, and just created a lot more alignment in terms of how everyone in the company was thinking. If I could do it all over again, I would roll out our core values from Day 1.
Q. What other things did you do at Zappos to sort of reinforce and build the culture?
A. Probably the most important thing I did was try to encourage employees to come up with their own ideas for building the culture. The actual ideas that I’ve personally come up with are few and far between.
Q. But what were those?
A. For example, for our offices in Las Vegas, it’s a big building. We’ve probably got 700 employees in Vegas. The previous tenants had multiple doors where you can exit, and the parking lot is in the back. We made the decision to actually lock all the doors so everyone has to go through the front-entrance reception area, even though that means you might have to walk all the way around the building. The reason for that is to create this kind of central hub that everyone has to pass through to help build community and culture.
And the free lunch we provide for employees is really meant less as a benefit in terms of a free lunch, and more to get employees to interact with each other. But most of the stuff that happens in our office is really about some employee coming up with an idea and, whether it’s me or other managers, saying, “If you’re passionate about it, just run with it.”
At some point, it kind of just snowballs, because once employees see other employees just doing stuff, then that lets them feel like they have more permission to run with their ideas.
Q. Any other examples?
A. One of our teams — the outdoor team in our merchandising department — decided to decorate one of the conference rooms, and transform it so that when you’re inside, you feel like you’re in a log cabin. They spent the weekend tearing up the floors and putting in a fake fire and all this stuff. It was pretty cool.
But then, the week after, the team sitting next to them said, we can outdo them. The next thing we knew, within two or three months, all 20 or so conference rooms were all decorated by different teams.
Q. What else is unusual about Zappos?
A. We have a culture book. We put it together once a year and we ask all our employees to write a few paragraphs about what the Zappos culture means to them and, except for typos, it’s unedited, so you get to read the good and bad. It’s kind of like customer reviews you might read on Web sites, but these are essentially employee reviews of the company and our culture. We make it freely available to visitors and anybody who asks for a copy.
Q. If you’re hiring a senior executive, reporting directly to you, what kind of questions would you be asking them?
A. It’s pretty hard to interview senior executives, because they’re in that position for a reason. They do many interviews themselves. It’s hard to tell from an interview. So I’m not sure there’s that much you can get out of the in-office interview. They need the relevant skill set and experience and so on. But far more important is, are they going to be good for the culture? Is this someone we would choose to have dinner or drinks with, even if they weren’t working for Zappos?
Hiring senior-level talent is very hard, it’s hit or miss, and they can do a lot of damage to the culture. We’ve had bad experiences with that. So we have this thing called the pipeline, which is our vision for how we want to grow as a company. We’re hoping five years from now the vast, vast majority of all hires will actually be entry-level, but we’ll provide all the training and mentorship so that, over a five- to seven-year period, they can become a senior leader within the company. That will help protect our culture and also give all the employees a growth path professionally.
Q. But again, if you had to hire someone from the outside for a senior job, what would you do?
A. It’s not just a single day with them and you make a decision. We’ll invite them to barbecues on weekends and they bring their families, and just hang out, or go to dinner or happy hour or whatever. It’s more just about trying to get a sense of who they are outside the office, I guess, and whether you feel like you can actually get to know them on a personal level or if they’re very professional and standoffish.
If it’s the latter, then it’s probably not going to be a good fit for us because, at the end of the day, what matters most is how deep of a relationship you can develop with them. For someone who’s not comfortable being themselves, that kind of puts limits on how close of a relationship you have.
Q. If you could ask only one or two questions to get a sense of a person, what would they be?
A. “If you had to name something, what would you say is the biggest misperception that people have of you?” Then the follow-up question I usually ask is, “What’s the difference between misperception and perception?” After all, perception is perception.
Q. What are you trying to discover with those questions?
A. I think it’s a combination of how self-aware people are and how honest they are. I think if someone is self-aware, then they can always continue to grow. If they’re not self-aware, I think it’s harder for them to evolve or adapt beyond who they already are.
The above red words make sense to me.