Archive for the ‘feelings’ Tag

Fear of Fear

Fear is a permanently formed neuronal circuit in all creatures.  Young children fear because they are vulnerable and unable to protect themselves.  Men fear fear because they associate such emotions with a dangerous lack of control over the self and world.  To avoid this, men gravitate away from the emotional world of fear and anxiety toward a more analytical and objective life in which logic rules over feelings.  Fear, kept unexamined and dammed up for too long, will then manifest in excess when a crisis really arrives.  In humans and in all animals, the purpose of fear is to promote survival.  Our will and reason are powerless against the imagination of a danger which has never been experienced.

We feed our fears in five patterns.  We are always looking for things to support our fear when they are not there.  We have recognize fear for what it is, and challenge the thought.  We sometimes decide there is nothing we can do to get over the fear, that we are just going to be stuck with it. ‘Don’t give in. You are in control.  Automatic thoughts take over when you let the chatterbox in your head run riot, change the voice or tell it to shut up.  Some of us imagine our demise in glorious technicolor. Now you run the scary movie in your head in black and white so you drain the color, turn the sound down, mess around with the image in your head until it has less power to affect you.

The solution for the fear of fear is to recognize the patterns for what they are and then break them.


Posted July 5, 2017 by dranilj1 in Brain Myths

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Daydreaming and Attention Lapses

It is common in many everyday situations to suddenly notice that, for some time, we have been focusing on thoughts and feelings that are unrelated to what we are doing. These often unintentional mental states are examples of daydreaming, attention lapses, or mind wandering. During mind wandering, performance of the primary task ceases to be supervised by our attention and, instead, proceeds automatically. Our attention switches from the primary task, and our private thoughts become the focus of awareness. Because mind wandering involves a focus on internal information, these episodes involve a state of decoupled processing, as indicated by its relation to encoding. The experience of catching mind wandering indicates that we often lack awareness that one is off task. The failure to recognize that one is off task suggests that mind wandering involves a temporary failure in the ability to reflect upon the content of one’s own mental state.

If we are unaware that we are off task, we cannot acknowledge that we are mind wandering. In the absence of awareness that one is mind wandering, we cannot instantiate the control processes necessary to remedy the consequences of off-task episodes on performance. However, if we are aware that we are mind wandering, our behavior becomes more flexible, because we can strategically account for some of the negative consequences of off-task experiences.

Thinking about thinking mean you are in a conscious state thinking about your situational awareness. It may not come intuitively or automatically for us to be consciously thinking about our situational awareness while fulfilling all our duties and responsibilities at an emergency scene, but if we are able to elevate awareness to the conscious level, then awareness becomes as important as anything else we may be doing or thinking about. Situational awareness is an individual’s ability to perceive clues and cues about what is happening in his or her environment and to understand the meaning of those clues and cues in the context of how time is passing and then be able to make accurate predictions about future events to avoid bad outcomes.

Rejection Assists Entrancing Our Unknown Creative Selves

In 2006, Stefani Germanotti had hit a turning point in her career. She had quit a rigorous musical theatre program at an elite college to focus on her musical passion and, after a year of hard work and little income, had signed a deal with Def Jam records. But this promise wouldn’t last. Just three months after signing, Def Jam changed its mind about Stefani’s unusual style and released her from her contract.

Rejected, Stefani went back the drawing board, working in clubs and experimenting with new performers and new influences. These experiments produced a new sound that was drawing positive attention from critics and fans. Within a year, there was another offer; this one from Interscope Records. Nearly two years after her initial rejection, Stefani was finally able to introduce her sound and her self to the world – as Lady Gaga.

Rejection happens and, when it does, how we respond to it matters. Lady Gaga responded by experimenting with new influences and making her sound more unique. Just as Gaga experienced, recent research suggests that when most of us experience rejection, it can actually enhance our creativity, depending on how we respond to it.

In a series of experiments, researchers led by Sharon Kim of Johns Hopkins University sought to examine the impact of rejection on individuals’ creative output. In the first experiment, participants were given a series of personality questions and told they would be considered for participation in several group exercises in the future. Rejection happens and, when it does, how we respond to it matters.

When the participants returned to the laboratory a week later, some of them were asked to complete a few tasks before joining their group (inclusion), others were told that the none of the groups had chosen them and they would need to complete their tasks independently (rejection).

The tasks in the experiment were a series of Rapid Associative Tests, a common measurement of divergent thinking. A Rapid Associative Tests question works by presenting three seemingly unrelated words like fish, mine, and rush and asking participants to think of a single word that can be added to all three to create a meaningful term, for example, gold; goldfish, gold mine, gold rush. The Rapid Associative Tests question is a useful measurement because it requires both elements of creative thinking, novelty and usefulness.

When they calculated the results, the researchers found that "rejected" participants significantly outperformed those that were included in a group. But that wasn’t all the researchers found. Embedded in the personality questions was a measurement of how individualistic or collective participants viewed themselves; independent or dependent self-concept. Those who had test results that labeled them as independent showed even greater gains in creativity after feeling rejection. Consider the difference between those who respond to rejection by sulking versus those who respond by rolling up their sleeves and thinking "I’ll show them."

Those who had test results that labeled them as independent showed even greater gains in creativity after feeling rejection. The researchers wanted to know if this independent self-concept could be manipulated. Could people be put into a mindset that dealt with rejection in a way that enhanced their creative output? To answer this, they re-ran their experiment with a slight tweak. Instead of embedding the self-concept measurement in their personality questions and examining correlations afterward, participants’ self concept was altered or "primed" through a simple activity designed to focus participants either on themselves or on how they fit into a larger group. Remarkably, even a task as small as circling the singular "I" or plural "we" pronouns in a story was enough to alter their self-concept and affect their response to rejection.

As they expected, participants primed with an independent self-concept solved significantly more Rapid Associative Tests problems following rejection than those primed to think collectively. The results were conclusive. Rejection breeds creativity, especially for those who consider themselves highly independent. In final a follow-up study, the researchers found the same trend using a different measurement of creativity. Taken together, these experiments hold interesting implications for responding to rejection. While it is never a comfortable experience, the feelings of rejection can actually help us access our more creative selves. Free from the expectations of group norms, we can push the limits of novelty. Moreover, we can enhance that ability by changing the way we respond to rejection. Instead of dwelling too much on the pain of being turned down or turned aside, consider the freedom you now have to explore new possibilities and less mainstream options. Feelings of rejection can actually help us access our more creative selves.

Being rejected is often a statement that you or your ideas are too far from the current mainstream to be considered safe or comfortable. This could actually be a good thing. You’re ahead of your time. While the group or client may not believe they need you right away, the world probably does. If you’re too far from the mainstream, you could be the one pushing progress forward.

Consider how Lady Gaga’s work was too unique for Def Jam, but was an international hit just two years later with Interscope. Decades before Gaga, George Bernard Shaw, the Nobel Prize winning writer, weighed in on the same phenomenon, saying "The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him. The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

Nostalgic Reverie

Take a minute and consider a ship that leaves the US and embarks on a journey to sail around the world. Let’s say it takes ten years to make this journey. Along the way, it undergoes many repairs. The side panels have to be replaced; the floorboards are swapped out for new ones, and so on and so on until eventually, by the time it returns to the US, all of the major pieces of the ship have been replaced. Here’s the big question. Is the ship that returned to the US the same ship that left the port ten years ago? On the one hand, if every single piece of the ship is different, then it simply has to be another ship altogether. But, on some intuitive level, it may feel as if this is in fact the same ship that set out on the journey ten years back. To philosophers, this conundrum is known as Theseus’ paradox and it’s prompted a lot of deep thought and controversy ever since at least the first century, and for good reason – it’s a difficult question to answer. Instead of ship, think about a person whether he or she remains the same or changes, things may become a little bit clearer.

We’re motivated to think about ourselves as maintaining some level of continuity between who we were yesterday and who we are today; even if people change a little bit here and there. On an existential level, it can be downright scary to think that you are fundamentally a different person today from the person you once were. This feeling of “discontinuity” can arise from unfortunate life events such as a job layoff, a divorce, death of a loved one, etc. It can be maladaptive to experience a sense of discontinuity.

How can we make the link between who we once were and who we are today feel a bit more seamless? A way to bridge the gap is by conjuring up a feeling of nostalgia. Most people are familiar with this emotional experience. Nostalgia is a sentimental longing for the past that is mostly happy, but also tinged with sadness. When experiencing nostalgia, you may feel happiness thinking about what once was, but also a slight twinge of sadness when you recognize that certain aspects of your life or life in general, are no longer present. Nostalgia is a feeling that arises precisely because something may not be right in the present. When an event occurs that produces a discontinuity in our lives, one way to make ourselves feel better, and more continuous, is by conjuring up a more pleasant past; even if that past wasn’t necessarily as positive as you make it out to be.

So, is there any evidence that feeling nostalgia can actually boost continuity to one’s past self, or can nostalgia grease the communicative pathways within selves? Thinking about a nostalgic event can in fact boost continuity with the past self, but there is an important caveat; this can be true only for people who are feeling happy at this moment. If someone is really feeling low, thinking back to a happy time in the past may ironically make the present seem particularly unpleasant by comparison.

The nostalgic reverie can indeed help, but only if we’re not feeling too low to begin with. This may seem complicated; although, it’s possible that discontinuity leads to sadness, it’s not necessarily the case. Could a job layoff make you feel disconnected from who you once were? Could it also make you languish around and feel sad all the time? Maybe, but maybe not; there are still other causes for being happy. In a scenario like this, feeling nostalgic might help.

What remains to be seen, however, is whether nostalgic reveries can help people who are actually experiencing a sense of discontinuity in their lives or whether or not there needs to be a limit to just how much nostalgic thinking one does; too much may make the contrast between the past and the present too stark, but just the right amount could smooth the connection between the past and present self.

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