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June 15 2017


Web-Based CBT Can Help Military Personnel Manage Insomnia

Web-based CBT Helps Military Personnel Manage Insomnia

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a proven approach for treatment of chronic insomnia with therapy traditionally provided during regular, and often weekly, visits to a clinician.

Emerging research suggest that for military personnel, internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy appears to be an effective alternative to meeting regularly with a therapist, although it is about half as effective as traditional methods.

These study findings come from research conducted by Dr. Daniel Taylor, University of North Texas professor of psychology and director of UNT’s Sleep Health Research Laboratory.

Taylor received a $1.16 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense for the study, which was affiliated with the STRONG STAR Consortium, a federally funded network of national experts seeking the best ways to treat behavioral health problems impacting post-9/11 service members and veterans.

The study appears in SLEEP, the official journal of the Sleep Research Society.

Chronic insomnia is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as sleeping poorly at least three nights a week for a month or longer, despite adequate opportunity for a full night’s sleep.

It is “a significant problem in the military,” said Taylor, who noted that military personnel often develop insomnia because of rapidly changing schedules and deployments that keep them constantly on alert.

Chronic insomnia is a strong risk factor for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and substance abuse, absenteeism and occupational accidents, Taylor said. Treatment of insomnia may not only improve sleep in these soldiers, but also improve these other conditions, he said.

“About 10 percent of deployed military personnel take sleep medications, which are effective for short-term treatment of insomnia in civilian populations. For deployed military personnel, the side effects such as grogginess, slowed cognitive processing, and slowed reaction time can be dangerous,” Taylor said.

One hundred soldiers at Fort Hood who had chronic insomnia were recruited for Taylor’s study. All completed one week of sleep monitoring by keeping sleep diaries and wearing activity monitors.

One third of the participants met with clinicians at Fort Hood for cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia once a week for six weeks, while another third received the therapy via the Internet once a week for six weeks.

Both the in-person and Internet therapy had the exact same content, with the Internet lessons presented as audio recordings accompanied by visual graphics and animations. A third control group of participants was contacted by the researchers every other week during the six weeks, but did not receive cognitive behavioral therapy.

Taylor discovered that the study participants who received in-person cognitive behavioral treatment for their insomnia reported significantly greater improvements in sleep quality — as determined by the sleep diaries and activity monitors — than those who received the Internet therapy. Both groups had greater improvements in sleep quality than those who did not receive cognitive behavioral therapy.

He noted that that cognitive behavioral therapy is “a multifaceted intervention that can be difficult to administer without the benefit of a therapist.” Additional training in the therapy for behavioral health providers in all branches of the military is needed, he said.

In a previous study of civilians with insomnia, Taylor and his research team discovered that cognitive behavioral therapy led to significant improvements in sleep efficiency, with the research subjects’ use of sleep medication declining from 87.5 percent before therapy to 54 percent afterward, although the subjects weren’t required to stop taking their medication.

Dr. Kristi Pruiksma, a STRONG STAR collaborating investigator and clinical psychologist, served as a clinician on Taylor’s study. She said the benefits of the online therapy include easy access to the treatment and flexibility in times for completing the sessions, which “is really helpful for those juggling work and family demands.”

“The online program can also be done from home rather than at a military behavioral health clinic, which some service members may avoid due to concerns about stigma,” said Pruiksma, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

“Successful treatment has a real impact on patients’ daily lives. An important next step will be to figure out who is able to achieve good benefits from the online program and who is likely to need additional assistance from a therapist,” she said.

Source: University of North Texas


New Protocol Predicts Effectiveness of Interventions for Adult Autism

Researchers have created a protocol to predict individual treatment effectiveness for adults on the autism spectrum.

Investigators from the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas and George Washington University used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify if a virtual environment-based training program lead to changes in brain areas that are associated with social skills.

Researchers discovered that adults on the autism spectrum with greater activity in the social brain network prior to the training improved more in emotion recognition than those who showed less activity.

“We found that when participants showed more brain activation in certain regions within the social brain network, while viewing digitally represented biological motion — motion that symbolizes something a human might do, such as playing pat-a-cake — the intervention was more beneficial to the participants,” explained Dr. Daniel Yang, assistant research professor at George Washington University and Children’s National Health System.

“Whereas if these social brain network regions did not show much activation, we observed that the person may not benefit from the intervention at this particular time but, as the brain is constantly changing, could benefit in the future, for example, by increasing pretreatment activation in these regions.”

The U.S. Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) named  Yang’s finding utilizing this predictive method with pediatric populations in a separate study one of the top 20 advances in autism research of 2016.

“This study advances us one step closer toward the goal of targeted, personalized treatment for individuals with autism,” said Dr. Yang.

“We are very happy that this predictive method may be potentially able to help children, as well as adults on the spectrum, know which training might be worth their time and money based on their current brain function.”

For the study, seventeen participants between the ages of 18 and 40 years diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder were recruited from the Center for BrainHealth and the Yale Child Study Center at Yale University where Yang worked at the study’s inception. Participants completed a five-week training program that met twice a week for one hour.

The clinician-led, strategy-based intervention allowed participants to role play social interactions in a virtual environment.

“The training focuses on three core social strategies: recognizing others, responding to others and self-assertion,” said Tandra Allen, head of virtual training programs at the Center for BrainHealth, who provided the trainings.

“We use avatars to make the complex social situations such as dealing with confrontation, job interviews, or a blind date feel more approachable to practice while still drawing on the same emotions that a person would experience in the real world.”

Before the 10 hours of training, participants underwent brain imaging. While in the fMRI scanner, the participant passively viewed a series of animations. Some of the images represented a human in motion, such as a person playing pat-a-cake, while other images were scrambled and did not represent something a human would do.

Two clusters of activity stood out as significantly correlating with training success. The first is an area on the left side of the brain responsible for language processing, specifically conflicts in meanings.

The other resides on the right side of the brain and is responsible for processing non-verbal social-emotional cues, for example, being able to look at a person’s facial expression and ascertain emotional states such as fear, anger or joy.

Treatment effectiveness was measured by behavioral changes in two distinct domains of social abilities:

  1. emotional recognition, or the change in socio-emotional processing abilities and;
  2. theory of mind, or the change in socio-cognitive processing abilities.

“There is very limited intervention research for adults on the autism spectrum, so being able to help make a leap forward in creating individualized treatment programs for them is very important to the field,” said Yang.

Source: Center for Brainhealth


Bilingual Children May Recognize Voices Better

Bilingual Children May Recognize Voices Better

A new study provides yet another example of the cognitive benefits of learning another language. The findings, published in the journal Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, show that bilingual children are better than their monolingual peers at recognizing voices, including those speaking in a known language (with a foreign accent) as well as an unknown language.

“Bilingual children have a perceptual advantage when processing information about a talker’s voice,” said study author Dr. Susannah Levi, assistant professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University’s (NYU) Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

“This advantage exists in the social aspect of speech perception, where the focus is not on processing the linguistic information, but instead on processing information about who is talking. Speech simultaneously carries information about what is being said and who is saying it.”

Figuring out who is speaking is an important social component of communication and begins to develop even before birth. The researchers investigated how children process information about who is talking and sought to determine whether differences exist between monolingual and bilingual children.

The study involved 41 children, composed of 22 monolingual English speakers and 19 bilingual children. The bilingual children all spoke English and either spoke or were exposed to a second language (other than German) on a daily basis. The children were divided by age into two groups: nine years and younger and 10 years and older.

The children completed a series of tasks listening to different voices. For example, in one task, they listened to pairs of words in a language they knew (English, spoken with a German accent) and an unfamiliar language (German). They were then asked to determine whether a pair of words was spoken by the same person or two different people.

In another task, the young participants learned to recognize the voices of three speakers represented by cartoon characters on a computer screen. After listening to these characters speak a series of words, a hidden character spoke a word and the children had to identify the speaker.

The experiments revealed that older children performed better than their younger counterparts, confirming prior research showing that perceiving information about who is talking improves with age.

The findings also show that bilingual children performed better than monolingual children in recognizing and processing voices speaking in both English and German. When listening to English, bilingual children were better at discriminating and learning to identify voices. They were also faster at learning voices. When hearing German, bilingual children were better at discriminating voices.

“The study is a strong test of the benefits of bilingualism because it looked for differences in both a language familiar to all participants and one unfamiliar to them. The bilingual advantage occurred even in a language that was unfamiliar,” Levi said.

Levi suggests several possible reasons for this bilingual advantage: Bilingual children may have more experience listening to accented speech (as the English was spoken with an accent) and multiple languages, may have better cognitive control and focus for the tasks, or may have better social perception — an important tool for perceiving voices.

“While we need more research to explain why bilingual children are better and faster at learning different voices, our study provides yet another example of the benefits of speaking and understanding multiple languages,” said Levi.

Source: New York University


Podcast: What Is Persistent Depressive Order Like?

In this episode of the Psych Central Show, host Gabe Howard interviews his co-host, Vincent M. Wales, about living with persistent depressive disorder (formerly known as dysthymia).  Vincent speaks candidly about how he came to realize that he had chronic depression, the mistakes he made in treating it, his suicidal years in college, and how living with depression affected his writing, especially with regard to the creation of his character, Dynamistress.

 Listen as Our Hosts Explain Certified Peer Support:

“There’s pretty much not a day that goes by that I don’t have depressive symptoms. The irony about this is that it took me an awful long time to realize that I had this.” ~ Vincent M. Wales


About The Psych Central Show Podcast

The Psych Central Show is an interesting, in-depth weekly podcast that looks into all things mental health and psychology. Hosted by Gabe Howard and featuring Vincent M. Wales.

The Psych Central Show Podcast iTunes
Google Play The Psych Central Show


Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. In addition to hosting The Psych Central Show, Gabe is an associate editor for Gabe is a prolific writer and his work can be found all over the internet. He also runs an online Facebook community, The Positive Depression/Bipolar Happy Place, and invites you to join.  To work with Gabe, please visit his website,




Vincent M. Wales
 is a former suicide prevention counselor who lives with persistent depressive disorder. In addition to co-hosting The Psych Central Show, Vincent is the author of several award-winning novels and the creator of costumed hero Dynamistress. Visit his websites at and


Previous episodes can be found at




Living with Chronic Disease Ups Risk of Suicide

Living with Chronic Disease Ups Risk of Suicide

The suicide rate has increased by 24 percent over the last 15 years, with more than 45,000 people dying from suicide each year.

Now, new research finds that 17 physical health conditions, such as back pain, diabetes, and heart disease, are associated with an increased risk of suicide. Two of the conditions — sleep disorders and HIV/AIDS — represented a greater than twofold increase, while traumatic brain injury made individuals nine times more likely to die by suicide.

The research appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

While the rates of other causes of death have declined in recent years, suicide continues to trend upwards across all ages and genders. Many people who die by suicide do not have a prior mental health diagnosis, which means that patients at an increased risk for self-harm are somehow being missed by the mainstream healthcare system.

This understanding led researchers to examine whether there is a link between physical illness and suicide risk. Investigators believe new knowledge surrounding the rise in suicide rates can help them develop novel interventions to prevent the tragic outcomes.

“These data represent among the first findings from areas across the U.S. documenting an increase in suicide risk for people with a variety of major physical health conditions,” said lead investigator Brian K. Ahmedani, Ph.D., L.M.S.W., director of psychiatry research for the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.

This study included 2,674 individuals who died by suicide between 2000 and 2013 along with 267,400 controls matched on year and location in a case-control study across eight Mental Health Research Network health care systems.

Seventeen of 19 medical conditions investigated were linked to an increased suicide risk: asthma, back pain, brain injury, cancer, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, diabetes, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, heart disease, hypertension, migraine, Parkinson’s disease, psychogenic pain, renal disorder, sleep disorders, and stroke.

While all of these conditions were associated with greater risk, some conditions showed a stronger association than others.

For example, people with a traumatic brain injury were nine times more likely to die by suicide, while those with sleep disorders and HIV/AIDS were at a greater than twofold risk. Along with varying rates among conditions, having multiple physical health conditions also substantially increased risk.

“Although suicide risk appears to be pervasive across most physical health conditions, prevention efforts appear to be particularly important for patients with a traumatic brain injury, whose odds of suicide are increased nearly ninefold, even after adjusting for potential confounders,” Ahmedani said.

“This is the first large, multisite study conducted within the general U.S. population demonstrating a significant, large-magnitude relationship between brain injury and suicide.”

According to this study, targeted interventions in primary care and specialty care may be the key to preventing suicides. It’s reported that 80 percent of individuals who die by suicide make a healthcare visit in the year before their death and that 50 percent go to the doctor within four weeks of dying by suicide.

Because most these patients do not have a diagnosed mental health problem, limiting suicide prevention efforts to standard behavioral healthcare settings may miss many of the individuals at risk.

“Several conditions, such as back pain, sleep disorders, and traumatic brain injury were all associated with suicide risk and are commonly diagnosed, making patients with these conditions primary targets for suicide prevention,” said Ahmedani.

“Given that nearly every physical health condition was associated with suicide, widespread suicide prevention efforts in all health care settings seem warranted.”

Source: Elsevier/EurekAlert

June 14 2017


Even Therapists Get the Blues

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them — every day begin the task anew.” -Saint Francis de Sales

My first depressive episode came at the age of 19, again at 23 and then again at 27. A decade later I would graduate with a Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. In that time came pharmacology and psychotherapy.  I also found what behaviors and beliefs helped me take care of myself and have allowed me to maintain my mental health ever since.

It was in the middle of my last depressive episode, at the age of 28, when I realized yoga was more than just a wonderful way to exercise, for example. Over the years, I have found Yoga Studios to be harbors of community, generosity and solace and return to them whenever I feel myself drifting too far out to sea.

As a Clinical Psychotherapist, I understand the patterns, chemistry and treatments for Depression. I also understand the resistance and denial that can come between my patients and their care. I resisted the same insight I give to others: meditation, medication, exercise, gratitude, support. I tried to deny, numb, or diffuse the symptoms just like everyone else.  

A mood disorder doesn’t care about a wall of certificates and diplomas. When I recognize the signs that depression is lurking, I must return to a self-care discipline which I know will bring me back into balance.

Sometimes I sit across from patients and want to say, “Me TOO!” Of course, I don’t. I’d never say just how much I understand, but I do know it gets better and what has helped me. 

A Psychotherapist is trained to separate their reactivity and bias from their work. I often tell my patients “I am clinically trained to not take stuff personally.” I encourage their honesty and we explore their transference onto my neutrality in our sessions. By remaining unknown beyond a few obvious or innocuous personal details, my life, past and present, remains outside of my office.  

But clinical orientation has not made me immune to circumstances or genetics.  A life separate from the work exists after my last appointment, and within that space lie relationships, politics, disappointments, loss; the messy stuff of life.  Maintaining my own psychotherapy and mental health check-ups are not just best practice (to ensure counter-transference does not interfere with my work) but the best choices for my personal growth and relationships.

While our own challenges make us more relatable to others, if we insisted upon shared experience (as a condition for accepting support) we would certainly exhaust much of the help that is offered. A professional does not have to experience something to know about it. Many male doctors have delivered babies. Nevertheless, we all have a unique version of a universal struggle, even those who help and heal. That is both my professional and personal opinion.

The signs and symptoms of Major Depression include the following:  

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness for more than two weeks
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

If you or someone you know is struggling with any of these symptoms for longer than two weeks please contact your doctor or a mental health professional and ask for an evaluation.


Very Popular Drink Linked To Brain Damage

The drink was linked to shrinkage in the hippocampus, an area critical for memory and other mental functions.

• Try one of PsyBlog's ebooks, all written by Dr Jeremy Dean:


The Upside of Chance

Many people fear chance because to them it means unpredictability, uncertainty, and loss of control. These horrors may be overstated. Chance can contribute to creativity and fun.
Making the theoretical practical: Engaging undergraduate students in research methods by Hannah Mohammad

Occupational Health News Roundup [The Pump Handle]

At the Guardian, Krithika Varagur interviewed workers inside the Indonesian factory that manufactures clothing for Ivanka Trump’s fashion line, finding poverty wages, anti-union intimidation and unreasonably high production targets. The story includes interviews with more than a dozen workers, who asked that details about their identities be changed to avoid being fired. Varagur writes:

Alia is nothing if not industrious. She has worked in factories on and off since leaving her provincial high school, through the birth of two children, leading up to her current job making clothes for brands including Ivanka Trump at the PT Buma Apparel Industry factory in Subang, West Java.

Throughout her marriage to her husband, Ahmad, one or both of them has always worked. And yet, says Alia, the couple can never think about clearing their debts. Instead, what she has to show for years of work at PT Buma is two rooms in a dusty boarding house, rented for $30 a month and decorated with dozens of photos of their children because the couple can’t dream of having enough money to have them at home. The children live, instead, with their grandmother, hours away by motorcycle, and see their parents just one weekend a month, when they can afford the gasoline.

Alia makes the legal minimum wage for her job in her province: 2.3 million rupiah, or about $173 a month – but that legal minimum is among the lowest in Indonesia as a whole, and as much as 40% lower than in Chinese factories, another labour source for the Ivanka Trump brand.

PT Buma, a Korean-owned garment company started in Indonesia in 1999, is one of the suppliers of G-III Apparel Group, the wholesale manufacturer for prominent fashion brands including Trump’s clothing.

Many Buma workers know who Ivanka Trump is. Alia noticed her labels popping up on the clothes about a year ago.

Read the full story at the Guardian.

In other news:

Denver Post: Ethan Millman reports that Colorado’s newly adopted Uninsured Employer Act will creates a fund for injured workers whose employers lack insurance. Under the law, the state will still be able to fine employers who don’t have proper workers’ comp insurance, however the fines will now go toward injured employees. A spokesman for the state’s department of labor said: “Essentially in the past, if a worker was to be injured, the worker was left in a very precarious position. If an employer didn’t have insurance, a number of problems would come up for the employee. Unpaid medical bills and other complications arose. With the signing of this bill, employees can get what is needed even if the employer doesn’t have it.”

BuzzFeed News: Cora Lewis reports that the Trump administration is withdrawing Obama-era labor guidance that defined parent companies as “joint employers” alongside their franchisees, making them liable for unfair working conditions at franchise locations. Also being withdrawn is guidance that said gig economy workers should be considered employees of the corporations they work for, as opposed to independent contractors. Lewis reports: “While there are few immediate consequences of the change, it will almost certainly affect the outcome of cases now before the National Labor Relations Board, which concern whether parent companies like McDonald’s are responsible for labor conditions at franchise locations, and what rights and benefits companies like Uber owe their drivers.”

Huffington Post: Emily Peck reports that Walmart’s sick leave policy is especially difficult for women, who typically serve as the main caregivers for their families. Walmart workers accrue points every time they have to miss a scheduled shift — accrue a certain number of points and a worker can be fired. A company spokesman said points aren’t mandatory if an employee has a good reason for missing work, but a new report from the legal advocacy group A Better Balance found that the giant retailer “regularly punishes people for taking time off because of a disability or serious illness.” According to the Better Balance report, Walmart has a policy of not keeping or even looking at a worker’s doctor’s note. Peck reports: “Employees say the system effectively scares them from taking sick time and adds stress to already stressful situations. Women, who are often responsible for children at home, are in a particularly tight spot. You can’t always plan in advance for when your child gets an ear infection or needs to be picked up early from school.”

CNBC: Ester Bloom reports that no full-time minimum wage worker in the U.S. can afford a two-bedroom apartment in any state. Reporting on research from the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Bloom reported that workers in a number of states would have to make between $20 and $35 an hour to afford such housing. In fact, an American worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 would have to work more than 94 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom rental. At the same time, federal housing assistance funds have been declining. Bloom writes: “Some business owners argue that raising the minimum wage will lead to higher prices for consumers, and some economists argue that it could depress job growth or even end up eliminating positions as it leads to more automation. A comprehensive 2016 study from the National Employment Law Project, however, found that the economists’ fears aren’t justified.”

Kim Krisberg is a freelance public health writer living in Austin, Texas, and has been writing about public health for 15 years. Follow me on Twitter — @kkrisberg.


Why Men Give Up Their Identity in a Relationship

Over the past 30 years of working as a psychologist with men doing individual and group therapy, I have often seen men struggling to maintain either the romance or friendship or both in their intimate relationships. It’s a subject I’ve been investigating and exploring for much of my professional and personal life. I’ve often noticed my men clients complaining about their relationships in a way that is troubling.  Why is my wife so controlling? I feel like I never do things right by her, and she always finds something to criticize; is there such a thing as the-glass-is-always-half-empty syndrome?  It feels like she doesn’t appreciate me. She controls what restaurants we go to and where we go on vacation. Why doesn’t she value my input on how to raise our kids? I don’t know why I have to send the kids to private school; it puts so much pressure on us financially. I didn’t want to travel for one of my two-week’s vacation with my wife’s parents. I don’t know how to make her happy.  

When these same men come into therapy as a couple, 85 percent of the time, they will turn to their partner and ask, “What did you want to talk about?”  Even though there is usually something bugging or troubling them, they’re reluctant to talk about it. They choose not to mention a recent conflict or an objectionable quality about their partner, and instead, they take to the sidelines, either denying it or avoiding it, faultily thinking it will go away. They have such fear of confrontation, anything but that!  

Despite the progress being made dispelling myths and eliminating stereotypical gender roles, much of society still perpetuates the idea that women are in charge of the child-rearing and dealing with any relationship problems that come up at home and in the therapy office. We see this dynamic played out in movies, sitcoms, TV commercials, and even t-shirts reading “My only boss is my wife.” Many married, heterosexual men feed into this idea by joking about their “old ball and chain” or being kept “on a leash,” or “happy wife, happy life.”  This is not only a distorted and unfair characterization of men and women but a kind or rigid relationship role-playing whose paradigm was supposed to have gone out of style back in the 60’s. 

Good relationships these days are more about equality. They involve give and take, strength and vulnerability, independence and closeness. However, both men and women sacrifice a lot when they give up too much of themselves for “the sake of the relationship.” When either partner forgoes their individuality, the relationship itself loses steam. This lack of vitality in a marriage is what inspires many couples to seek therapy.

While a lot of men complain about deferring to the women in their lives, they don’t always recognize the ways they’re drawn to, seeking out, or contributing to this dynamic. Some men find it more comfortable to feel directed or taken care of by their partner. They ask, “Where do  you  want to go on vacation? Eat? See a movie? etc.” They don’t realize it, but they’re actually actively giving up a part of themselves that is vital, independent, and attractive to their partner.

Writer, poet Robert Bly, offered insight into this phenomenon. He observed from his work with men that many boys growing up are more sensitive and able to care about their partner’s feelings and health. They are better at sharing in domestic responsibilities such as childcare and household chores. They may be more emotionally attentive to others, and yet, they’re not always in tune with their own life energy, the life-giving, wild side of themselves (not to be confused with the savage side of man). He explores this very cleverly in his book  Iron John .  They may lose touch with their unique initiative, ideas, and passion, and ironically, these are often the traits that drew their partner to them in the first place.

David Finch, captures this best in his book titled  How to be a better husband: One Man’s Journal of Best Practices .  A few years after publishing the book, Finch told the following story, while speaking at a conference.  He described how he was just about to take off for a speaking gig and while saying goodbye to his wife, she told him that the marriage was over.  Finch was stunned (and thinking at the time, wasn’t I the guy who had a bestseller on being a great husband?), but he couldn’t address the shock and discouragement he felt at the time. Although he was freaked out, he had to leave on his work trip .Here he was, a guy who really thought he had figured out how to make his wife happy, who believed he was in the “happy wife, happy life” phase of his life, and now he had to face that his marriage was over.  While he was away, he felt pretty bad and obsessed about what had gone wrong in his marriage. 

Finch returned home feeling really deflated. As soon as it was possible, he spoke with his wife. She explained that what she really meant was that their marriage, as it had been, was over, and that she wanted a different kind of marriage.  He was greatly relieved to realize that it was their relationship dynamic that, in his wife’s view, had to change, and the marriage was still alive, even if it was on “life support.” He found out that his wife wanted their relationship to be very different than it had been.  She told him that she found him far too focused on fulfilling her desires and needs and, in the course of doing that, had forgotten aspects of his own identity. She found their marriage had become routine and predictable. It seemed that the more Finch focused on pleasing her, the more she lost touch with her attraction and interest in him. Where was he, the person?  She missed the collaboration, energy, and unpredictability, agreeing and disagreeing, but having two points of view, not having her point of view always trump his. She wanted what mattered to each of them individually, the things they were really passionate about, to go on mattering, and she believed that the dynamic recipe was made up of sharing life and being strong and feeling individuals.  This was the vitality or wildness that was missing for her, the adventure of two people finding their way down and through the stream of life.

Because Finch is such a revealing and entertaining speaker, he was able to present his marital struggles in a humorous light. But what he captures in his personal story is the importance of being alive and true to yourself as well as to another.  The goal for any two people in a relationship, regardless of gender, is to be equal and adult. To be life-generating, involves knowing yourself, your passions, your wants, your feelings, including what you like and dislike. It doesn’t mean being selfish, rigid, or controlling, but it does mean, sometimes saying no and standing your ground. It’s possible to be vulnerable and available without giving up important parts of who you are, and this is the ultimate struggle for any two people who choose to intimately share their lives.

For many people, this disconnect from themselves comes from lessons learned in early childhood. For example, a good number of men I’ve worked with grew up without a father with whom they could identify. Their mother may have been more accessible or felt more emotionally safe. These boys developed a stronger identification and connection with their mothers than with their fathers. In some cases, their mother taught them how to respond and take care of her or the family’s needs. Some of these men described this relationship as giving them more confidence; even feeling they had an advantage over other men, in terms of being able to be more sensitive and attuned to a future girlfriend. 

Of course, any mother-son or parent-child relationship will influence a person’s budding sense of identity and future relationships. One  study  found that a healthy relationship between a mother and son directly affects his sense of morality and ability to have healthy romantic relationships as an adult. However, if that relationship is more strained or the mother has a more critical view of her son or men in general, the son often internalizes these attitudes toward himself.  In addition, if he had a father who seemed weak-willed, emotionally vacant/distant, or too critical and punishing, or if he had no father figure at all, he may struggle with his own identity and the concept or expectations surrounding masculinity.  


While I’m not personally advocating or even identifying certain characteristics as “masculine” or “feminine,” most people are being raised or have been raised in homes with limiting, even hurtful attitudes or expectations surrounding their gender.  The  distorted views of masculinity that some of the men I’ve worked with were exposed to as young boys left them feeling suspicious of the masculine. Some described adopting their mother’s fear or distrust of men or taking on the guilt of their father’s absence. Many described feeling either guilty or ashamed of their maleness, or on the flip side, thinking they had to constantly prove themselves and become workaholic providers.  As a result, they grew up struggling with their personal identity as a man.  

As adults, most of these men possess important traits of sensitivity and attunement to others, but they lack gumption when it comes to expressing themselves. They’re hesitant or unwilling to be bold or take initiative. They may date people who are more controlling or seek direction from their partner or spouse, even when she or he isn’t trying to take the reins. These men often struggle with connecting to their own convictions or their anger, and they find it especially challenging to express their point of view directly.

The work in therapy, for these men ,has been for them to find their way in their relationships. They have to identify ways they may put themselves down or keep themselves “in their place.” They should explore any negative or distorted associations they have around the concept of “masculinity.” They need to determine for themselves what it means to be who they really are — to feel strong and self-possessed, sensitive and attuned — both toward themselves and toward those close to them.

For me, it was a combination of men’s groups, therapy, male mentors, and my male friendships that helped me come to feel more comfortable and confident as a man. It is from this place that one can experience all that that embodies: being able to access one’s natural wildness, openness to adventure, the capacity for serious focus, the ability to recognize and express the full range of feelings, sensitivity to others, knowing and expressing one’s wants, and saying “no” when one feels like it.



A Letter To The Logging Company That Is Suing Greenpeace [Greg Laden's Blog]

This is interesting.

It is a letter from Hachette Livre, a major international publisher, to Resolute Forest Products, the group that is trying to sue a number of environmental groups into submission. (See these posts: Taking The Axe To The Environmental Movement: Resolute v. Greenpeace and Freedom of Speech, Resolute Forestry, Stand.Earth, Greenpeace: New Developments) Hachette Livre uses Resolute, and seems to be a significant customer of the tree cutting pulp giant. And, they are giving Resolute a little what for:


Richard Garneau Produits forestiers Résolu

Vanves, June 8h, 2017

Dear Mr Garneau,

My company, Hachette Livre, is a customer of Resolute, and has been for many years. Our US subsidiary, Hachette Book Group, buys substantial quantities of FSC-certified ground wood paper from your Canadian mills.

We enjoy a healthy and mutually beneficial relationship. As you probably know, Hachette Book Group, as its parent company Hachette Livre, has very high environmental standards that both companies advertise in their corporate brochures and web sites. We have a history of working productively with various environmental NGOs such as Rainforest Action Network, for instance.

Greenpeace has recently attracted our attention to the conflict between it and Resolute that has erupted into a significant legal battle.

I have no intention of getting involved in the dispute, for as publishers, we have neither the expertise nor the resources to forge an educated opinion as to who is right and who is wrong in what seems to be a complex set of highly technical issues.

I would simply like to respectfully make two points.

The first is that our commitment to FSC is the cornerstone of our Social and Environmental Responsibility policy.

As such, it cannot suffer exceptions to suit a particular situation or a specific vendor. I therefore urge you to do everything in your power to retain the FSC certifications you have in Canada and more specifically, those that are necessary to meet our environmental requirements. It is of vital importance to us.

The other point I would like to make, not as a customer but as a publisher and a citizen, is that the vigor of your legal response to Greenpeace under RICO statutes strikes me as excessive. It is a very disturbing turn of events for publishers like us, who cherish public debate as an essential dimension of our activity and include many conservationists and environmentalists in our list of authors. Indeed, an escalation of the legal dispute could cause some authors to decline having their books printed on Resolute’s paper, further complicating the situation.

Needless to say, we cherish just as much the rule of law and respect the right to seek legal remedy, but I wonder whether there might not be other ways to respond to Greenpeace’s claims.

Let me put it this way: At a time when the United States has decided to turn its back on climate change by reneging on its commitment to the Paris Accord, we believe we need more than ever independent NGOs such as Greenpeace. Without them, who will speak up for the environment in the future?

I hope these suggestions will give you pause, if not meet with your approval.

This letter will be posted on our company web site after you have received it.

Thank you for your attention, and I hope you are able to resolve this dispute soon.


Arnaud Nourry

I do want to go back to this sentence:

I have no intention of getting involved in the dispute, for as publishers, we have neither the expertise nor the resources to forge an educated opinion as to who is right and who is wrong in what seems to be a complex set of highly technical issues.

That is utter bullshit, embarrassingly stupid, and I have no idea why they would say this. I want to know how much this guy pays for his milk. But otherwise, it is a good letter.


Who shot first? [Greg Laden's Blog]

No, this is not about that.

I believe it is true that for decades, shooters and politically violent people (two overlapping categories) in the US were right wingers, almost always. Case in point: the white supremacists who have now all been handed (a little bit of) jail time for emptying a pistol into a crowd of protesters at a #BLM rally outside a police station in Minneapolis (and yes, they were white supremacists).

I’ve also always believed that one of the reasons the right wing has the privileged luxury of hating any kind of sensible gun law and regulation reform is because they know this. They know that they are the ones with the guns, and the libtards are unarmed.

I have no opinion on what happened today in Alexandria, Virginia, where someone opened fire on a group of Republican members of Congress playing softball. I don’t know if this was personal, political, or just “well, he was mentally ill” (I’ll leave it to the anti-ableist language mavens to rewrite that sentence and take it out of quotation marks).

But, now, suddenly, things are a little different, no matter what happened in Alexandria.

Killers with guns intent on mass slaughter are no longer just killing elementary school children. They are also killing Republicans in Congress! Yay! Maybe now Republicans in Congress will realize how the rest of us are feeling, and do something about it!

Sorry the guy got shot, though. At least he will make a rapid recovery, according to a Tweet by Fearfull Leader. The ideal scenario would have been if the shooter was a really bad shot and only hit inanimate objects.

A letter from the organization “States United To Prevent Gun Violence“:

States United to Prevent Gun Violence and our 32 state affiliates are deeply saddened that our elected officials, their staff and Capitol Police detail experienced the horrific mass shooting this morning – joining the unfortunate class of 33,000 Americans who die and 81,000 Americans injured by gun violence every year. This shooting targeting our respected elected officials is a resounding reminder that even a setting filled with the most highly trained and alert “good guys with guns” is no match the lethal and overwhelming firepower of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in the hands of a mass shooter – the same weapons of war used in 28 mass shootings since the massacre of 26 children and school teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School 4 years ago.

It is unacceptable that law enforcement are forced to confront weapons of war in the hand of civilians in their line of duty. It is worrisome that Congress is, today, considering passing a bill that will deregulate silencers – the very instruments that hinder police from identifying locations of shooters – a federal regulation that was designed to prevent ambushing of police. Our Congress needs to stand up to the gun lobby once and for all and ban sales of weapons of war to civilians and say no to deregulating silencers.


Julia Wyman


The Future Of Astronomy: Thousands Of Radio Telescopes That Can See Beyond The Stars (Synopsis) [Starts With A Bang]

“Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer.” -Dave Barry

When we break out the big guns — space telescopes like Hubble or James Webb — we can see the Universe as it was billions of years ago, if we look for long enough. From the first moment that the Universe forms stars and galaxies, so long as that light has a path to our eyes, humanity can view it with the right equipment. This record-breaking approach has brought us in contact with galaxies from as early as when the Universe was just 400 million years old: 3% of its current age.

Only because this distant galaxy, GN-z11, is located in a region where the intergalactic medium is mostly reionized, can Hubble reveal it to us at the present time. James Webb will go much farther, but SKA will image the hydrogen that’s invisible to all other optical and infrared observatories. Image credit: NASA, ESA, & A. Feild (STScI).

Yet no matter how far back we go, we’ll never be able to see the era from before there were stars or galaxies at all using this approach. But a new, ambitious project just might. The Square Kilometer Array (SKA), set to begin construction next year, will map out the invisible hydrogen in the Universe, including during the epochs in where there are no stars at all.

A single dish that’s currently part of the MeerKAT array will be incorporated into the Square Kilometer Array, along with around 4,000 other equivalent dishes. Image credit: SKA Africa Technical Newsletter, 1 (2016).

In the truest sense, these thousands of radio telescopes, working together, will reveal the invisible Universe at long last. Come find out how!


Pain, Suffering, Basic Humanity

As a life-saving alarm system, pain keeps us focused on distress, for the purpose of relieving it, that is, pain motivates behavior that will help heal, repair, or improve.

Study: 10 Years of Data Show Pre-Symptom Early Stage of Alzheimer’s

Study: 10 Years of Data Show Pre-Symptom Early Stage of Alzheimer's

Older adults with elevated levels of brain-clogging amyloid plaques — but otherwise normal cognition — experience faster mental decline suggestive of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study led by USC researchers that looked at 10 years of data.

Keck School of Medicine investigators said just about all researchers see the plaques as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. However, the new study presents the toxic, sticky protein as part of the disease — the earliest precursor before symptoms arise.

“To have the greatest impact on the disease, we need to intervene against amyloid, the basic molecular cause, as early as possible,” said Dr.  Paul Aisen, senior author of the study and director of the USC Alzheimer’s Therapeutic Research Institute (ATRI).

“This study is a significant step toward the idea that elevated amyloid levels are an early stage of Alzheimer’s, an appropriate stage for anti-amyloid therapy.”

Notably, the incubation period with elevated amyloid plaques — the asymptomatic stage — can last longer than the dementia stage.

“This study is trying to support the concept that the disease starts before symptoms, which lays the groundwork for conducting early interventions,” said Dr. Michael Donohue, lead author of the study and an associate professor of neurology.

The researchers likened amyloid plaque in the brain to cholesterol in the blood. Both are warning signs with few outward manifestations until a catastrophic event occurs.

Treating the symptoms can fend off the resulting malady — Alzheimer’s or a heart attack — the effects of which may be irreversible and too late to treat.

“We’ve learned that intervening before the heart attack is a much more powerful approach to treating the problem,” Donohue said.

Aisen, Donohue and others hope that removing amyloid at the preclinical stage will slow the onset of Alzheimer’s or even stop it.

One in three people over 65 have elevated amyloid in the brain, Aisen noted, and the study indicates that most people with elevated amyloid will progress to symptomatic Alzheimer’s within 10 years.

In the study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers reviewed 10 years of data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, an exploration of the biomarkers that presage Alzheimer’s.

Researchers believe the findings clearly support the need for additional studies on the very early stages of Alzheimer’s.

“We need more studies looking at people before they have Alzheimer’s symptoms,” Aisen said.

“The reason many promising drug treatments have failed to date is because they intervened at the end-stage of the disease when it’s too late. The time to intervene is when the brain is still functioning well — when people are asymptomatic.”

Although elevated amyloid is associated with subsequent cognitive decline, the study did not prove a causal relationship. In fact, other studies have shown that some elderly people with numerous amyloid plaques showed no impairment and did not have Alzheimer’s or other signs of cognitive pathology.

For years, researchers have acknowledged age is the biggest risk factor when it comes to Alzheimer’s. For more than 90 percent of people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms do not appear until after age 60, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2014, about 46 million adults living in the United States — 15 percent of the population — were 65 or older. By 2050, that number is expected to expand to 88 million or 22 percent of the population.

For the study, researchers measured amyloid levels in 445 cognitively normal people in the United States and Canada via cerebrospinal fluid taps or positron emission tomography (PET) scans.

They discovered 242 had normal amyloid levels and 202 had elevated amyloid levels. Cognitive tests were performed on the participants, who had an average age of 74.

Although the observation period lasted 10 years, each participant, on average, was observed for three years. The maximum follow-up was 10 years.

The elevated amyloid group was older and less educated. Additionally, a larger proportion of this group carried at least one copy of the ApoE4 gene, which increases the odds that someone will develop Alzheimer’s.

Based on global cognition scores, at the four-year mark, 32 percent of people with elevated amyloid had developed symptoms consistent with the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease. In comparison, only 15 percent of participants with normal amyloid showed a substantial decline in cognition.

Analyzing a smaller sample size at year 10, researchers noted that 88 percent of people with elevated amyloid were projected to show significant mental decline based on global cognitive tests. Comparatively, just 29 percent of people with normal amyloid showed cognitive decline.

Progress is being made on detection and interventions for the disease as until recently, Alzheimer’s could only be detected after death with an autopsy.

Aisen and the researchers at USC ATRI have developed ways to identify early signs of Alzheimer’s by creating a set of cognitive tests called the Preclinical Alzheimer Cognitive Composite.

This battery of tests and variations of it are widely used to detect Alzheimer’s before dementia symptoms emerge, Aisen said.

“Our outcome measures are becoming the standard for early Alzheimer’s disease intervention studies,” Aisen said.

“Drug companies will not invest in early intervention studies without a regulatory pathway forward. ATRI and USC are building a framework for drug development in Alzheimer’s disease.”

Source: USC


Mouse Study Finds Gene Error May Up Risk for Opioid Addiction, Bingeing

Gender Specific Genetics Up Risk for Some Addictions

Emerging research suggest genetic impairment can increase the risk of opioid addiction as well as binge-eating in female mice.

Investigators from Boston University Medical Center discovered dysfunction of the gene, casein kinase1-epsilon (CSNK1E), increases opioid’s euphoric response and produces a marked increase in sensitivity to binge eating.

Interestingly, the enhanced sensitivity was discovered in a female mouse model but not in the male. Findings may imply that a distinct strategy may need to be used for treatment of men and women addictions, even when the addictions are the same.

Investigators explain that similar to opioid addiction, very little is known regarding the genetic basis of binge eating.

These combined findings provide further support indicating that shared genetic factors may underlie behavioral traits associated with the addictions and eating disorders.

Furthermore, they also provide an important clue that the genetic basis of binge eating and eating disorders in women versus men is likely to differ.

The findings appear online in the journal Genes, Brain and Behavior.

Researchers said addiction is a multi-stage process that begins with drug exposure and the initial pleasurable experience. It then progresses toward tolerance, dependence, physiological and emotional withdrawal upon cessation of use, protracted withdrawal that can last years, and finally, relapse to drug taking.

The genes associated with risk for opioid addiction could potentially affect one or more of these stages.

“Because increasing evidence points toward an association between CSNK1E and opioid addiction in humans, our findings indicate that genetic variation in the gene could function as a potential risk factor.

That is, the genetic dysfunction that influences the initial pleasurable/euphoric response to opioids could ultimately have implications for personalized medicine with regard to drug choice for therapeutic treatment (e.g., non-opioid pain relief) and therapeutic dosing of opioids,” explained corresponding author Camron Bryant, PhD.

The researchers also believe the female-specific binge eating property associated with Csnk1e dysfunction suggests genetic impairment on a different part of the chromosome.

Detection of a different genetic loci for binge eating and eating disorders in women versus men may lead to sex-specific treatments for eating disorders.

According to the researchers the gene may also play a role in a subset of patients with alcohol use disorders. Additionally, CSNK1E is known to be a crucial player in regulating circadian rhythms.

“The potential interaction of CSNK1E with circadian biology in affecting addiction is an unexplored area of investigation that could be a crucial piece to the puzzle in fully understanding its role in the addictions,” said Bryant.

Source: Boston University Medical Center/EurekAlert


Doodling Can Trigger Brain’s Reward Pathways

Doodling Can Trigger Brain's Reward Pathways

A new study published in The Arts in Psychotherapy finds that engaging in simple expressions of judgment-free art, such as drawing, doodling or coloring, activates the brain’s reward pathways.

“This shows that there might be inherent pleasure in doing art activities independent of the end results,” said study leader Girija Kaimal, Ed.D., assistant professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions at Drexel University. “Sometimes, we tend to be very critical of what we do because we have internalized, societal judgements of what is good or bad art and, therefore, who is skilled and who is not.

“We might be reducing or neglecting a simple potential source of rewards perceived by the brain. And this biological proof could potentially challenge some of our assumptions about ourselves.”

For the study, researchers used fNIRS (functional near-infrared spectroscopy) technology to measure blood flow in the reward-related brain regions of 26 participants as they engaged in art-making activities, including coloring a mandala, doodling within or around a circle marked on a paper, and free-drawing. Each activity lasted three minutes with rests in between.

During all three activities, there was a measured increase in bloodflow in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, compared to rest periods where bloodflow went back to normal.

The prefrontal cortex helps regulate our thoughts, feelings and actions. It is also associated with emotional and motivational systems and part of the wiring for our brain’s reward circuit. So seeing increased bloodflow in these areas likely means a person is experiencing feels related to being rewarded.

There were some distinctions between the activities in the data collected: Doodling in or around the circle had the highest average measured bloodflow increase in the reward pathway compared to free-drawing (the next highest) and coloring. However, the difference between each form of art-making was not statistically significant, according to analysis.

“There were some emergent differences but we did not have a large-enough sample in this initial study to draw any definitive conclusions,” Kaimal said.

The researchers noted which participants in the study considered themselves artists so their results could be compared to non-artists. In that way, Kaimal and her team hoped to understand whether past experience played a factor in triggering feelings of reward.

Doodling seemed to initiate the most brain activity in artists, but free-drawing was observed to be about the same for artists and non-artists. Interestingly, the set coloring activity actually resulted in negative brain activity in artists.

“I think artists might have felt very constrained by the pre-drawn shapes and the limited choice of media,” Kaimal explained. “They might also have felt some frustration that they could not complete the image in the short time.”

Again, however, these results regarding artists versus non-artists proved statistically insignificant, which might actually track with Kaimal’s previous research that found experience level did not have a bearing on the stress-reduction benefits people had while making art.

Overall, though, the finding that any type of art-making led to an activation of feelings of reward are compelling, especially for art therapists who see art as a valuable tool for mental health.

In fact, based on surveys given to the participants after the activities were complete, respondents indicated that they felt more like they had “good ideas” and could “solve problems” than before making art. Participants even said they felt the three-minute time spans for art-making weren’t long enough.

“There are several implications of this study’s findings,” Kaimal said. “They indicate an inherent potential for evoking positive emotions through art-making — and doodling especially. Doodling is something we all have experience with and might re-imagine as a democratizing, skill independent, judgment-free pleasurable activity.”

Additionally, Kaimal felt that the findings of increased self-opinion were intriguing.

“There might be inherent aspects to visual self-expression that evoke both pleasure and a sense of creative agency in ourselves,” she said.

Source: Drexel University


How to Recognize and Foster Your Ability

“Ability and necessity dwell near each other.” – Pythagoras

What are you good at? If you must stop and think about it, that’s not a dreadful thing. In fact, it’s probably long overdue. The truth is that we get so busy living life and taking care of all the myriad tasks and responsibilities we need to tend to every day that we often don’t take the time to slow down and reflect. In this case, reflect on what we do very well, what really excites and interests us — because those are often intertwined — and what we can do to maximize those abilities.

Give everyday tasks credit — if you’re good at it, there’s a reason for it.

It isn’t always the case that just because you do something all the time that it’s boring, unfulfilling or not a reflection of your innate capabilities. It could very well be that you’ve begun to take such actions on your part as automatic, tending to dismiss their importance or significance in your life. That would be a mistake. There is often a pattern, a strength, underneath the everyday action or behavior that signifies competence and skill.

Determine your inner strengths so you can use them.

The key is to figure out what those hidden traits are, your core strengths  — and then capitalize on them. How does this work? Here are a few examples.

Organizational skills

You juggle the often- conflicting demands of work, family and school. Sometimes this makes you feel overwhelmed or frazzled, but you manage to parcel out the various duties and responsibilities and somehow find the time to get them all done. While on the surface it could look like you’re in over your head, there is a hidden gem of ability here to shine a light on. You’re very good at organizational skills . This is an ability many people would dearly love to have — and you have lots of it. See how you can transition this ability into other parts of your life so that you enhance your enjoyment of experiences, enrich relationships and find peace and meaning of your own.

Identifying what’s important

Others compliment you on your ability to sort through complex details to find the essential facts. Often overlooked, this discerning ability is highly prized by employers, family, friends and others. Everyone has too much to do and too many distractions. It’s often difficult to see what’s right in front of you, like looking at a black and white picture and failing to see the obvious shapes. You, however, can quickly sort through the extraneous, the superfluous, and the unnecessary and get right at the heart of the matter. This is a terrific ability that can serve you well in all aspects of your life, from figuring out the most appropriate gift for a loved one to picking out upholstery or paint colors for a redecorating project to prioritizing work projects to make sure nothing gets dropped.

Physical strength

You have great physical strength. Why is physical strength an ability? Consider the fact that you can lift and move and endure physical exertion perhaps more than others you know. This doesn’t mean you’re a bodybuilder or vain about your appearance. It’s just a fact. You are strong, physically. What this means in everyday life is that you don’t tire as easily as someone with lesser strength. You’re able to consume and digest the appropriate nutrients to maintain your strength. You may be able to do things for loved ones and family members, or at work or school or in the neighborhood that require more physical strength than they’re capable of. How can you use your physical strength to further your goals? Figure out what interests you and how you can make use of your physical strength to your advantage.

Multiple talents

You’re good at puzzles, budgeting, carpentry, baking, writing, and so many other things. Maybe you need some of these abilities at work and they’re a necessity. Maybe you’ve relegated them to that other time when you have time — but never seem to get around to doing. The truth is that ability resides very close to necessity, but in a different sense. If you have an ability, it’s up to you to learn how you can translate that ability into an action and behavior that serves your purposes.

Creative skills

Many employers prize curiosity in their employees. They’ve found, for example, that curious people tend to come up with creative solutions to problems. They’re also motivating to be around, stimulate conversation and help generate ideas in brainstorming sessions. If you’re an intensely curious person, you’re always on the lookout for threads of seemingly extraneous ideas that you can pull together into a cohesive, logical and workable solution. Life is also so much more interesting when you have a drive to learn more, experience more, and be more. Embrace your creative skills. They are much valued.


Feedback Loop Ties Loneliness and Selfish Behavior

Feedback Loop Ties Loneliness and Selfish Behavior

A decade of research indicates that loneliness increases self-centeredness and, to a lesser extent, self-centeredness also increases loneliness.

Investigators at the University of Chicago believe that as people feel lonely, the trait heightens self-centeredness which then contributes further to enhanced loneliness. Intervention, however, can help to break the vicious cycle.

“If you get more self-centered, you run the risk of staying locked in to feeling socially isolated,” said Dr. John Cacioppo, a Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology and director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience.

Findings from the study by Cacioppo and co-authors Dr. Stephanie Cacioppo and graduate student Hsi Yuan Chen,  appear in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

The researchers wrote that “targeting self-centeredness as part of an intervention to lessen loneliness may help break a positive feedback loop that maintains or worsens loneliness over time.”

Their study is the first to test a prediction from the Cacioppos’ evolutionary theory that loneliness increases self-centeredness.

Such research is important because, as many studies have shown, lonely people are more susceptible to a variety of physical and mental health problems as well as higher mortality rates than their non-lonely counterparts.

The outcome that loneliness increases self-centeredness was expected, but the data showing that self-centeredness also affected loneliness was a surprise, Stephanie Cacioppo said.

In previous research, the Cacioppos reviewed the rates of loneliness in young to older adults across the globe. Five to 10 percent of this population complained of feeling lonely constantly, frequently or all the time. Another 30 to 40 percent complained of feeling lonely constantly.

Their latest findings are based on 11 years of data taken from 2002 to 2013 as part of the Chicago Health, Aging and Social Relations Study of middle-aged and older Hispanics, African-Americans and Caucasian men and women.

The study’s random sample consisted of 229 individuals who ranged from 50 to 68 years of age at the start of the study. They were a diverse sample of randomly selected individuals drawn from the general population who varied in age, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

Early psychological research treated loneliness as an anomalous or temporary feeling of distress that had no redeeming value or adaptive purpose. “None of that could be further from the truth,” Stephanie Cacioppo said.

The evolutionary perspective is why. In 2006, John Cacioppo and colleagues proposed an evolutionary interpretation of loneliness based on a neuroscientific or biological approach.

In this view, evolution has shaped the brain to incline humans toward certain emotions, thoughts and behavior. “A variety of biological mechanisms have evolved that capitalize on aversive signals to motivate us to act in ways that are essential for our reproduction or survival,” the UChicago co-authors wrote.

From that perspective, loneliness serves as the psychological counterpart of physical pain.

“Physical pain is an aversive signal that alerts us of potential tissue damage and motivates us to take care of our physical body,” the UChicago researchers explain. Loneliness, meanwhile, is part of a warning system that motivates people to repair or replace their deficient social relationships.

The finding that loneliness tends to increase self-centeredness fits the evolutionary interpretation of loneliness. From an evolutionary-biological viewpoint, people have to be concerned with their own interests.

The pressures of modern society, however, are significantly different from those that prevailed when loneliness evolved in the human species, researchers found.

“Humans evolved to become such a powerful species in large part due to mutual aid and protection and the changes in the brain that proved adaptive in social interactions,” John Cacioppo said.

“When we don’t have mutual aid and protection, we are more likely to become focused on our own interests and welfare. That is, we become more self-centered.”

In modern society, becoming more self-centered protects lonely people in the short term but not the long term. That’s because the harmful effects of loneliness accrue over time to reduce a person’s health and well-being.

“This evolutionarily adaptive response may have helped people survive in ancient times, but in contemporary society may well make it harder for people to get out of feelings of loneliness,” John Cacioppo said.

When humans are at their best, they provide mutual aid and protection, Stephanie Cacioppo added.

“It isn’t that one individual is sacrificial to the other. It’s that together they do more than the sum of the parts. Loneliness undercuts that focus and really makes you focus on only your interests at the expense of others.”

The Cacioppos have multiple loneliness studies in progress that address its social, behavioral, neural, hormonal, genetic, cellular and molecular aspects, as well as interventions.

“Now that we know loneliness is damaging and contributing to the misery and health care costs of America, how do we reduce it?” John Cacioppo asked. That is the next big question to answer.

Source: University of Chicago

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