Friday, 30 November 2012

The Psychology Behind Anorexia

The psychology of anorexia is complex and convoluted. There are many ways in which anorexia may present and many precipitating factors that may contribute to the development of this disorder. Although the psychology of anorexia cannot be clearly delineated there are various thought patterns, experiences, personality traits, and biological factors that seem to be present in a large proportion of anorexics.
One of the main influences in the psychology of anorexia is family dynamics. The families of many anorexics are rigidly structured with a large amount of control exerted by some family members over others. Anorexia may develop as a way for a person to assert his or her independence from this suffocating family situation.
Alternatively, if the family dynamic is one of over protectiveness and closeness, children may only identify as their role in the family rather than as a unique individual. Such people may develop anorexia as a way to maintain their role as the child in the family due to a fear of becoming an adult.
Families that overemphasize appearance, fitness, thinness, and are overly critical can also influence the psychology of anorexia.
Many anorexics have personality traits that contribute to the psychology of anorexia. These traits include low self-esteem, rigid thought patterns (black or white thinking), a need to control life, being an overachiever, being a perfectionist, being overly self-critical, and a need to avoid conflict.
Traumatic experiences may also contribute to the psychology of anorexia. Many anorexics have experienced sexual, physical, or verbal abuse. Trauma may also include the death of a loved one, the transition of adolescence, starting a new job, losing a job, starting a new school, failing as school, or the end of a relationship.
Often the results garnered from anorexic behavior garner positive reinforcement. The psychology of anorexia becomes self-perpetuating as peers and family members make positive comments about the anorexic's appearance. This positive reinforcement can lead to a feeling of power, self-control or virtue.
Finally, there are biological factors that may also contribute to the psychology of anorexia. Many anorexics also have concomitant mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder. Serotonin imbalances may also play a role in the psychology of anorexia.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

What Is Deja Vu?

All of us have experienced being in a new place and feeling certain that we have been there before. This mysterious feeling, commonly known as déjà vu, occurs when we feel that a new situation is familiar, even if there is evidence that the situation could not have occurred previously. For a long time, this eerie sensation has been attributed to everything from paranormal disturbances to neurological disorders.

However, in recent years, as more scientists began studying this phenomenon, a number of theories about déjà vu have emerged, suggesting that it is not merely a glitch in our brain’s memory system. A new report by Colorado State University psychologist Anne M. Cleary, published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, describes recent findings about déjà vu, including the many similarities that exist between déjà vu and our understanding of human recognition memory.

Recognition memory is the type of memory that allows us to realize that what we are currently experiencing has already been experienced before, such as when we recognize a friend on the street or hear a familiar song on the radio. The brain fluctuates between two different types of recognition memory: recollection and familiarity. Recollection-based recognition occurs when we can pinpoint an instance when a current situation has previously occurred.

For example, seeing a familiar man at a store and realizing that we’ve seen him before on the bus. On the other hand, familiarity-based recognition occurs when our current situation feels familiar, but we don’t remember when it has happened before. For example, we see that familiar man in the store, but we just can’t remember where we know him from. Déjà vu is believed to be an example of familiarity-based recognition—during déjà vu, we are convinced that we recognize the situation, but we are not sure why.

Cleary conducted experiments testing familiarity-based recognition in which participants were given a list of celebrity names. Later on, they were shown a collection of celebrity photographs; some photographs corresponded to the names on the list, other photographs did not. The volunteers were told to identify the celebrities in the photographs and indicate how likely it was the celebrity’s names were on the list they had seen previously. The findings were surprising. Even when the volunteers were unable to identify a celebrity by photo, they had a sense of which names they had studied earlier and which they had not. That is, they couldn’t identify the source of their familiarity with the celebrity, but they knew the celebrity was familiar to them. Cleary repeated the experiment substituting famous places (such as Stonehenge and the Taj Majal) for celebrities and got similar results. These findings indicate that the participants stored a little bit of the memory, but it was hazy, so they were not able to connect it to the new experience.

Cleary also ran experiments to figure out what features or elements of situations could trigger feelings of familiarity. She had participants study a random list of words. During a word recognition test, some of the words on the test resembled the earlier words, although only in sound (e.g. lady sounds similar to eighty), but the volunteers reported a sense of familiarity for the new words, even when they could not recall the earlier-presented, similar-sounding words that were the source of this familiarity. Previous research has also shown that people feel familiarity when shown a visual fragment containing isolated geometric shapes from an earlier experience. This suggests that familiar geometric shapes may create the sense that an entire new scene has been viewed before.

These results support the idea that events and episodes which we experience are stored in our memory as individual elements or fragments of that event. Déjà vu may occur when specific aspects of a current situation resemble certain aspects of previously occurring situations; if there is a lot of overlap between the elements of the new and old situations, we get a strong feeling of familiarity. “Many parallels between explanations of déjà vu and theories of human recognition memory exist”, Cleary concludes, “Theories of familiarity-based recognition and the laboratory methods used to study it may be especially useful for elucidating the processes underlying déjà vu experiences.”

Do you agree? I have always had the strong suspicion Deja Vu comes from my own dreams... but how to prove such a thing??

Monday, 26 November 2012

The Musician' Brain

It’s now official: Music is a mind-altering substance. Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis has seen the evidence first hand, in the form of brain scans. So has Charles Limb, who could easily have given his set of cerebral scans tongue-in-cheek titles. This is your brain. This is your brain on bebop.
Limb and Margulis — a saxophonist and a pianist, respectively, who both segued into science — have just published separate studies of music and the brain. Margulis’ paper suggests that the intense training musicians receive literally changes the way their brains function. Limb’s work examines how jazz players get into a trance-like state of pure inventiveness as they improvise.
Together, their work could help lead to a demystification of the creative process, which many people consider the exclusive domain of the gifted few. “We are still married to antiquated, 19th-century notions of genius and creativity,” said Margulis, an assistant professor of music at the University of Arkansas. “The de-freakification of musical talent could be very powerful.”
Margulis’ study, which was conducted at Northwestern University, attempted to answer what has been, up to now, a chicken-and-egg question. “There are lots of studies showing that musicians’ brains have different networks than those of people who haven’t had formal musical training,” she noted. “But is this due to a genetic predisposition or to the effect of practising an instrument for so long?”
To explore that issue, she and her colleagues rounded up nine violinists and seven flutists, all of whom had started playing their instrument by age 12. While sitting in MRI scanners, the musicians listened to very similar compositions by J.S. Bach — a set of pieces for violin, followed by one for flute.
The results: “Violinists’ brains, when they listen to violin music, look like flutists’ brains when they listen to flute music. That extensive experience with their own instrument resulted in the recruitment of this special network.”
In other words, Margulis’ work confirms the wisdom of the old joke “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.” The fact that one starts working with an instrument at a young age and continues doing so for many years results in the precise configuration of brain activity needed to produce music, including heightened activity in motor regions and auditory association areas.
“This adds further support to the notion that it is training rather than genetic predisposition (that makes a musician),” she said. “People can get the impression that musicians are alien beings whose brains are wired differently. It plays into cultural notions of music being the domain of experts. (Our study suggests) it’s a matter of the experience you have had in your life. It’s not magic!”
Of course, nothing in music seems more magical than the act of improvisation. Jazz players often describe the experience as otherworldly, insisting that the notes emerge from their instrument faster than their conscious minds can process them.
But this, too, is due to a specific pattern of brain activity, which is captured for the first time in Limb’s study. It took place at the National Institutes of Health in Washington D.C., where Limb — a John Hopkins University faculty member who works both in the medical school and in the world-renowned Peabody Institute — served as a research fellow.
One day, Limb recalled, he was discussing his intense interest in music with Allen Braun, chief of the NIH’s language section. “Simultaneously, we talked about how much we wanted to do an MRI study of improvising,” he said.
Fashioning such a study required a significant amount of creativity itself. It took two years to find a way to allow jazz musicians to perform while their brain activity was being photographed.
“There were a lot of constraints,” Limb said. “Some were ergonomic. The musicians would lie on their back in a tube, which came up to their shoulders. There was a coil around their head. They were looking up at a mirror, which looks at another mirror, which pointed at their thighs, where their keyboard sat. So they were able to see their hands on the plastic keyboard.”
Even for musicians used to playing for drunken nightclub patrons, those are difficult conditions — especially since each stayed in that position for about 75 minutes. But Limb had no problem recruiting six professional players to take part.
First, the musicians performed a very simple set of improvisations, based on a C-major scale. Then they moved on to a more complex task, improvising on a blues melody Limb composed.
The results, as seen on the MRI scans, “were virtually identical,” Limb said. Regardless of the level of musical complexity, the same regions of the brain were being activated, “which made us conclude it was the act of improvisation” that created this particular pattern of brain activity.
And what an interesting pattern. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — the region responsible for self-evaluation — shut down completely, while activity increased in the nearby medial prefrontal cortex.
“That’s a very unique combination,” Limb said. “You don’t typically see, in this part of the brain, one part going up and one part going down.
“The medial portion is activated when you do something that’s internally motivated and self-generated — something goal-directed, based on a cognitive understanding of what you need to achieve. When you’re telling a story about yourself, that area is active. That’s very interesting, because in a jazz improvisation, you’re telling your own musical story.
“What makes it really intriguing is that activity is surrounded by a broad expanse of deactivation. (That area is the source of) your inhibitors, your censors — all those inhibitory behaviors. They’re turned off, I think, to encourage the flow of new ideas. You’re not analyzing or judging what’s coming out. You’re just letting it flow.”
Limb and Braun were both cautious about over interpreting their findings. “It’s pretty clear we aren’t looking at creativity per se,” Braun said. “Another part of the creative process is revision and polishing; that’s a part we haven’t looked at. We’re looking at one aspect of creative, spontaneous behavior.”
Nevertheless, as Limb noted, creativity — which is, after all, “fundamental to human advancement” — has traditionally been considered off-limits to scientific study. This study suggests one fundamental part of the creative process can be traced to specific brain activity. Indirectly, it also confirms Margulis’ belief that the development of talent — practice, practice, practice — is crucial to creativity.
“I have no idea how to promote getting into (the jazz musicians’ creatively fertile) state,” Limb said. “But our study suggests that the notion of ‘letting go’ is meaningful. That’s why amateur musicians can’t get there. They can’t let go — they’re far too concerned with the execution of the notes, the mechanics of playing their instruments. That’s too much at the forefront of their consciousness.
“When you’re masterful at what you’re doing, it becomes second nature (and the self-censoring part of the brain can switch off). Then you can focus on ideas.”

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Famous Hypnosis Stories

EINSTEIN used Hypnosis daily to relax and think… his power. He even created the Theory of Relativity while under Hypnosis!
Sir Winston Churchill used hypnosis to handle stress, stay awake as Prime Minister during WWII.
John McAfee used hypnosis to help his employees excel.
Thomas Edison used self—hypnosis on a regular basis… he invented the Light bulb and more!
Andre Agassi tennis star worked with Anthony Robbins, Utilizing NLP and Hypnosis.
Phil Jackson, coach of the Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers believed in using hypnosis with his basketball teams, including Michael Jordon, Kobe Bryant, and Shaq O”Neal.
Kevin Costner, actor, got a Hypnotherapist to help him get past seasickness when filming “Waterworld.”
Jackie Kennedy Onassis used hypnotherapy to deal with grief and pain, due to the many tragedies in her life.
Henry Ford (1863-1947) car manufacturer.
Goethe (1749-1832) writer and scientist
Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) inventor.
Mozart (1756-91) composed the opera Cosi fan tutte while in hypnosis.
Celebrities like Ben Affleck, Britney Spears use hypnosis, and Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Ellen DeGeneres, Ashton Kutcher and Charlize Theron quit smoking through hypnosis.
Top players on Wall street, Silicon Valley, top millionaires and players have all used Hypnosis to succeed.

Finally I thought this story was super compelling:

Rachmaninoff (1873-1943). Used hypnosis to overcome a deep crash after his first Symphony completely failed. Criticised heavily, he struggled to compose, and finally stopped trying altogether. He sank into a deep depression which lasted for three years.
“Something within me snapped,” he said. “All my self-confidence broke down…. A paralyzing apathy possessed me. I did nothing at all and found no pleasure in anything. Half my days were spent on a couch sighing over my ruined life. My only occupation consisted in giving a few piano lessons in order to keep myself alive.”
Finally, Rachmaninoff went to see Dr. Nicolai Dahl, who happened to be a pioneer in the field of hypnosis.
“My relatives had informed Dr. Dahl that he must by all means cure me of my apathetic condition and bring about such results that I would again be able to compose.
“Dr. Dahl had inquired what kind of composition was required of me, and he was informed, ‘a concerto for pianoforte,’ for I had promised this to people in London and had given up in despair the idea of writing it.
“In consequence, I heard repeated day after day the same hypnotic formula, as I lay half asleep in an armchair in Dr. Dahl’s study: ‘You will start to compose a concerto – You will work with the greatest of ease – The composition will be of excellent quality.’ It was always the same, without interruption.
“Although it may sound impossible to believe, this treatment really helped me. I began to compose at the beginning of the summer. The material grew in volume, and new musical ideas began to well up within me, many more than I needed for my concerto….
“I felt that Dr. Dahl’s treatment had strengthened my nervous system to a degree almost miraculous. Out of gratitude I dedicated my Second Concerto to him.”
Over 100 years ago Rachmaninoff composed his Second Piano Concerto, one of the most beautiful, moving pieces of music ever written. THANKS TO HYPNOSIS!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Road Rage And How to Deal With It

“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.” ~Buddha
It happens all the time…
You’re driving, listening to music–just enjoying life and the feel of the road. Then a car roars past you and the driver promptly swerves and cuts you off, seemingly oblivious to anything but his own destination.
Or, you come to a full stop at a stop sign and the driver behind you lays on the horn, impatient for you to get moving. Glancing in your rear view mirror, you see him flailing his arms and punching a raised fist at you behind his windshield.
Nearly every time you hit the road you will see another driver do something either discourteous or even downright dangerous.
Many times, you are the recipient of that behavior.
If you are anything like I used to be, your first impulse will be to lay on the horn, shout a curse, or put pedal to the metal and try to pass the guy and then cut him off.
Those of you who are less aggressive may at least find yourself wishing you’d come around the next bend and see the guy’s car off the road with a flat tire–or, better yet, see the bright flashing lights of a police cruiser whose uniformed driver has pulled your new worst enemy over.
It’s so easy to get angry. Not so easy to let it go.
As noted at the beginning of this post, the Buddha warned us that the punishment for anger is anger itself. He also said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
How right he was.
As you shout curses at the driver, nearly rupturing a vein in your forehead, he has already left you in a cloud of dust. He has no idea you’re yelling. Or if he does, he probably doesn’t even care.
While you sit stewing and dreaming of his immanent intimacy with an overheated radiator (or, admit it, much worse!), he is long gone. But you are trapped in anger that will linger for a few minutes or may even ruin the rest of your day, clouding everything with the bitterness of the mood you fell into after the driving mishap.
Here’s the thing…
That anger is doing you no good.
It isn’t changing the situation.
Instead of shrugging it off and getting on with your life, you’re allowing that one discourteous act to take you from being happy and content to bitter and angry.
But what is a person to do? After all, the slight is perceived and the anger arises, unbidden.
I used to have that same struggle, but I found a cure and I can guarantee if you master this one simple technique, you’ll banish road rage to a cobwebbed corner of your mind where it will die a lonely death.
So what’s the trick, you ask?
As I indicated, it’s very simple (though not necessarily easy to master).
The next time another driver does something that provokes anger in you, do these 7 things.
  1. Take a DEEP breath.
  2. Release it.
  3. Repeat.
  4. Now, imagine a person you dearly love.
  5. Imagine this person has just phoned and told you s/he is in desperate need of immediate assistance for an emergency situation and you are the only one who can offer aid.
  6. Imagine how you would be driving in that case.
  7. Now, imagine the person who just provoked you with his/her bad driving is in exactly that predicament.
  8. That’s it!
Initially, your mind may rebel.
You may reason it’s more likely the person is just being a jerk. That may be the case, but can you actually know that?
(And isn’t your angry response very “jerk-like” itself?)
Any number of situations could be at play in that person’s life.
Perhaps it’s a man whose wife is about to give birth and he wants to be by her side. Perhaps it’s a daughter whose father just had a heart attack and she needs to get to the hospital to see him. Or maybe it’s someone who just lost her job and feels distraught. Maybe, just maybe, it really is just someone being rude.
The fact remains that a response of anger on your part only further upsets you and can even lead to acts of violence in extreme cases of road rage.
Is it worth it?
How much better is it to do what I just suggested and then, in a peaceful frame of mind, wish that person well and safely home.
Wouldn’t this world be a better place if we could all do this one, simple thing?

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Rebirth of Hypnosis

Hypnosis is the eccentric uncle of cognitive science. It was once part of the mainstream – studied by scientists and clinicians alike in its 1960s heyday – but it slowly fell into disrepute as it was picked up and popularised by tacky stage hypnotists and quack practitioners in the following decades.
In recent years, hypnosis has seen something of a rebirth, and neuroscience studies using the technique are now regularly published in some of the most respected scientific journals. Curiously, though, it hasn't shaken off the stigma entirely. While writing this article I contacted several researchers who have published neuroscience studies using hypnosis, and not one replied. The reticence is understandable. Like the study of consciousness 20 years ago, hypnosis is still considered by some to be a "career-limiting move". Consequently, scientists make sure they stick to the most conservative and orthodox form of research – academic journals, occasional conference presentations, and definitely nothing that hints of hype, or indeed, public exposure.
The lack of wider discussion is a pity, as hypnosis – or rather suggestibility – is a remarkable aspect of human psychology. The ability to be hypnotised seems to be a distinct trait that is distributed among the population, like height or shoe size, in a "bell curve" or normal distribution: a minority of people cannot engage with any suggestions, a minority can engage with almost all, and most people can achieve a few.
The key word here is "engage", as, contrary to popular belief, hypnosis cannot be used to make people do something against their will, even though the effects seem to happen involuntarily. If this seems paradoxical, a good analogy is watching a movie: you don't decide to react emotionally to the on-screen story, but you can choose to turn away or disengage at any time. In other words, the effects of the film, just like hypnosis, require your active participation.
The most difficult suggestions to achieve are those which affect the fundamentals of the mind, such as memory and perception, meaning that while highly hypnotisable people can experience temporary hallucinations and amnesia after suitable suggestions, low-hypnotisable people may only be able to experience temporary changes in their volition or movements – such as an arm feeling heavier than usual, perhaps.
It seems, however, that there is very little that can be done to make you more or less hypnotisable – the hypnotisability trait is the primary factor in how successfully you can experience the effects. We know that there is a genetic component to this trait and that several studies have indicated that highly hypnotisable people show structural and functional differences in the brain when compared to low-hypnotisables, but the question of why we have a varying ability to have our reality changed by suggestions remains a mystery.
Due to their ability to have their mental processes temporarily altered in ways previously not thought possible, highly hypnotisable people have become key in scientific studies. Amir Raz and colleagues at McGill University in Montreal reported that it was possible to "switch off" automatic word reading and abolish the Stroop effect – a psychological phenomenon that demonstrates a conflict between meanings, such as where we are much slower to identify the ink colour of a word when the word itself describes a different hue. Furthermore, when this experiment was run in a brain scanner, participants showed much lower activation in both the anterior cingulate cortex, an area known to be particularly involved in resolving conflict between competing demands, and the visual cortex, which is crucial for recognising words. Although this may seem like a technicality, to the scientific world it was a strikingly persuasive demonstration that hypnosis could apparently disassemble an automatic and well-established psychological effect in a manner consistent with the brain processes that support it.
Neuroimaging has also proved key in answering the question of whether hypnotised people are pretending to experience the effects. When people are asked to fake hypnosis, to the point where observers cannot tell the difference between them and the genuinely hypnotised people, the two groups are clearly distinguishable by their brain activity.
Taking the science one step further, researchers from the Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science in Sydney have published a series of studies in which they have used hypnosis to temporarily simulate genuine conditions where patients may hold false beliefs or lose awareness of a problem after brain injury. One such condition, called somatoparaphrenia, can occur after right-sided brain injury and can result in the patient denying ownership of a limb. Literally, the patient believes that their arm is not theirs, has been replaced, or belongs to someone else – something which both challenges our intuitive ideas about how we perceive our body and can pose a practical problem for post-injury rehabilitation. In highly hypnotisable volunteers, the Macquarie team momentarily instilled a similar feeling of limb alienation to examine whether healthy people could rationalise such a counterintuitive idea, finding that participants remained consistent in their explanations even when challenged with visual evidence.
A special issue of the respected journal Cortex will shortly be dedicated to the neuropsychology of hypnosis, additionally pointing to the growing momentum of the scientific revival. The wider public, however, still base their knowledge on the watches and weight-loss stereotype, meaning it is likely to be a while before neuroscientists feel comfortable about breaking their self-imposed silence.
By Vaughan Bell

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Scientific Relationship Matchmaking: Q and A

You know the old Facebook line:  relationships are complicated.  Paul C. Brunson, the Modern Day Matchmaker, knows that better than anyone else.  And his new book, IT'S COMPLICATED (BUT IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE): A MODERN GUIDE TO FINDING AND KEEPING LOVE, approaches self-help with a new angle:  by mixing experience, science and plain old common sense.  Here, Brunson talks about relationship "rules," the tools of a modern day matchmaker, science and self-help, and the concept of soul mates.
Q:  What inspired you to write IT'S COMPLICATED?
BRUNSON:  There were a couple reasons. The kind of big, overwhelming reason was that I am a big reader. On my desk I always have a stack of books from a variety of genres about relationships. I might have a pickup artist book, a Neil Strauss type thing. It could be more like anthropology, you know Helen Fisher type deal, or some modern marriage stuff like Lori Gottlieb. I’d always have like six, seven books and I’d use them as a reference whether I was working with a client or going out to a seminar. It just hit me that I have not yet been able to find one book that synthesized all of these various genres and breaks it out in a very simplistic way for those that are seeking to be in a relationship or maintain their relationship. I thought, wow, if I can grab part of the best concepts from these books as well as the experience I've had with my clients and my own personal relationship with my wife and I could really create something fresh and unique.
Q:  Do you really think that there is a specific set of "rules" that works for every relationship?
BRUNSON:  That’s a great question. Yeah, I definitely do. I think that if you distill it down to the basics then absolutely. I think if we get super nuanced, then no, you can’t universally apply it.  But when you think about something really simple like you have to truly love yourself before you can go about loving someone else, then, yes, absolutely. If you think about needing to have a strong communication skills and actually understand what that means. Yeah, absolutely. You have to be able to resolve problems and conflict resolution--it's the kind of the underpinning of any successful relationship whether it's love or business. So I definitely think that there are some rules that universally apply and then there are others that definitely do not.
Q:  As the Modern Day Matchmaker, what kind of tools are in your toolkit to help bring the right people together?
BRUNSON:  Lots of things.  But it's the science piece of the puzzle that I’m actually most jazzed about.  For so long it’s been poets and artists and authors writing about this thing called love and it's all been about what's derived from our hearts. The science community is now telling us that love is directed from other places, mainly our brain. That is a concept that in 2012 is still not grasped by the mainstream. I believe that once we start to grasp that concept and understand that we actually have a lot more control over love and over our relationships than we previously thought, that translates into creating hope. And so when we get down to what’s in my toolbox is, it's really about dispelling all those myths out there about relationships.
Q:  One of the things I love about the book is that you say that love doesn't have to last forever.  That challenges what everyone is looking for--doesn't it go against the fairy tale?
BRUNSON:  To make that statement is controversial.  The big question I always get is how do you know if someone is the one, my soul mate?  And I believe that you don’t know that person is the one until it’s done, until love has met its end. In my opinion, soul mates are made, not found. But, the more important thing, is the fact that we lose love and then we gain love and we lose love again.  I really think that’s a cornerstone of humanity, and it’s something that once we accept it becomes very empowering because we realize that if we have lost love in our lives that we can gain it back again.
Q:  What kind of person should use a matchmaker?
BRUNSON:  First, there are all kind of matchmakers out there.  I wish we were a more regulated industry.  But from my perspective, you have to be willing to work as hard as we do.  Our clients have reached the extent of trying what they feel to be everything, they feel like they've exhausted all of their options.  They've tried new things, gone out with friends, gone online, tried to do everything they could to find someone.  They haven't lost hope--but they feel like they need more assistance.  That's the right time to come to a matchmaker like me. 
Q:  Given the changing nature of marriage, does it make sense anymore?
BRUNSON:  Marriage makes sense for certain people and not for others. Marriage is not for everyone. I believe that society has kind of told us, and still, to a certain extent, is saying that everyone at some point everyone should be married and if you don’t get married you’re a failure. But marriage is not for everyone. That being said, there are many, many, many benefits to marriage. Benefits as it relates to the individual but also benefits as it relates to community and society. 
Q:  So given all the science that's out there about relationships, what should people interested in finding and keeping a mate be paying attention to? 
BRUNSON:  I believe that there are variables that can be controlled, that can allow us to love better, if you will. Love in a stronger way, communicate in a healthier way, bond in a stronger way. But we have to understand the science of it.  It's very powerful.  If more people inquired about the science of love there could be a much stronger connection.  And it's going to play an increasingly larger role in shaping how we date, why we do it, how we do it in the future.  And that's a very cool thing.

Friday, 16 November 2012

VIDEO:Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Truth About Liars

We have all met liars. Perhaps we are liars ourselves on one level or another. What types of liars are there? 

'The truth is rarely pure and never simple' Oscar Wilde

What is the Difference Between a Sociopath, a Compulsive, a Pathological, a Chronic, and a Habitual Liar?
A Sociopath

A sociopath is typically defined as someone who lies incessantly to get their way and does so with little concern for others. A sociopath is often goal-oriented (i.e., lying is focused - it is done to get one's way). Sociopaths have little regard or respect for the rights and feelings of others. Sociopaths are often charming and charismatic, but they use their talented social skills in manipulative and self-centered ways (see lovefraud, for more on sociopaths).

Compulsive Liar
A compulsive liar is defined as someone who lies out of habit. Lying is their normal and reflexive way of responding to questions. Compulsive liars bend the truth about everything, large and small. For a compulsive liar, telling the truth is very awkward and uncomfortable while lying feels right. Compulsive lying is usually thought to develop in early childhood, due to being placed in an environment where lying was necessary. For the most part, compulsive liars are not overly manipulative and cunning (unlike sociopaths), rather they simply lie out of habit - an automatic response which is hard to break and one that takes its toll on a relationship (see, how to cope with a compulsive liar).

The terms Pathological Liar, Habitual Liar and Chronic Liar are often used to refer to a Compulsive Liar
Take a quick survey and see how your lying compares with others -compulsive lying quiz

Monday, 12 November 2012

Use of Dreams in Therapy

Sigmund Freud wrote that “Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious.” He believed that analyzing dreams could derive an interpretation, and thus discover a dream’s meaning. The meaning could then be used to provide a “glimpse” into the inner workings of our mind, and most importantly be used as material in psychotherapy. Since Freud wrote his ground breaking book in 1899 titled “The Interpretation of Dreams”, other authors have followed in his literary footsteps and offered their own interpretations of our dreams. Today’s bookstore shelves offer an array of options for discovering the secret meaning behind our dreams but do they really have meaning, and is it helpful to speak about them in therapy?

Types of dreams

There are many types of dreams, such as the following:

Night terrors: a dream where the dreamer screams, experiences great fear, and flails while they are asleep. Typically this type of dream is more common in children.
Night mares: a disturbing dream that is comprised of negative emotions, such as fear or anxiety. This type of dream is more common in children but teens and adults also experience them.
Lucid dreams: a dream where the dreamer knows they are dreaming and they are able to control the experiences within the dream. Some believe you can learn how to experience these types of dreams by learning specific dream induction techniques.
Normal dreams: a dream where the dreamer is not aware they are dreaming and where the experience of the reality of the dream does not provoke fear or anxiety.

Depending upon the type of modality your therapist practices and the established treatment goals your therapist may ask you about your dreams. Interpreting dreams can provide a different perspective upon our life’s problems and subconscious struggles. Dreaming is a natural part of human existence and takes place while we enter into a different type of consciousness. Taking the time to examine your dreams in therapy can help you tap into unexpressed emotions and shed light on issues that you may have been putting off looking at consciously.

How to use your dreams in therapy

Decide if it needs to be interpreted:
Not all dreams will need to be interpreted; some dreams are too literal and therefore probably do not have much insightful value to them, e.g. remembering where you left the report at work.
Keep a dream journal: You need to remember your dreams in order for them to be interpreted. Keeping a dream journal or a pad of paper next to your bed is a useful way to remember your dreams. Upon waking from your sleep grab your pen and write down what you remember. Trying to remember your dream after a long day is going to be more difficult and you will probably forget parts of your dream that may be important in revealing its meaning.
Examine the dream when you are ready: Dream interpretation is not an exact science and there is no one specific meaning for a particular type of dream. Taking your dream journal to therapy and discussing your dreams with your therapist can help to provide the objective view that may be needed to bring the meaning to light, assuming there is one. The content of the dream can then be used as a spring board for your therapy session.

Looking at our dreams can provide important clues to the inner workings of our minds and important material for your therapy sessions. Remember that not all therapists will ask you about your dreams so you may want to ask them if speaking about your dreams in therapy may be helpful. Together with the assistance of your therapist you can look for the meaning of your dreams and use the insights drawn from them in your sessions.

More on Dreams:

Saturday, 10 November 2012

How To Keep The Love Alive

On Wednesday, March 10, I had the pleasure of making love with Scientific American's editor in chief, Mariette DiChristina—in front of a large audience, no less.

Hey, calm down. We didn’t make love with each other. We did something even better. We showed about a hundred smart, skeptical New Yorkers that we could, fairly easily and on demand, increase the love that people feel toward each other—people who are already in love, people who are just friends, and even total strangers.
The venue was the classy 92YTribeca, the fairly new home of art and intellect in lower Manhattan, and the excuse was Scientific American Mind's January/February cover story about how science can help you fall in love. Our presentation began, consistent with the occasion, with a prolonged hug that prompted laughter and applause.
When, eventually, the embrace ended, I asked four volunteers to come up on stage, and I paired them off into couples that had never met before. I then asked them, on a scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 was low and 10 was high), a) how much they liked each other, b) how much they loved each other, c) how close they felt to each other, and d) how attracted they were to each other.
Next, I asked the individuals in each couple simply to look deeply into each other’s eyes for two minutes in an exercise I call “Soul Gazing.” After the giggling stopped, they got down to business and started looking quite serious.
Then I asked for those numbers again: liking, loving, closeness and attraction. To the delight and astonishment of the audience, the numbers went up for all four people—14 percent overall.
But why should just four people have all the fun? I now asked everyone in the audience to turn toward the person in the seat next to him or her and gaze —after which I asked people to raise their hands if they felt closer to the person they had just faced. Nearly every hand went up.
Research and Love
Can emotional intimacy truly be increased on demand? Mariette now explored the issue by reviewing some of the scientific studies that have been conducted on this topic in recent years, which show, among other things, that:
* Emotional bonds are strengthened when people engage in physically arousing activities together (get thee to the gym)
* People tend to bond when they’re in frightening situations together (bungee jumping anyone?)
* Feelings of love indeed grow when total strangers simply gaze into each other’s eyes for two minutes (but please read on before you start staring at strangers on New York subways)
* People feel closer when they do new things together (been to the new Museum of Sex on 5th Avenue yet?)
More than 80 scientific studies demonstrate such phenomena. Mariette, switching to journalist mode, then asked me questions about the research, such as, “Isn’t staring at someone threatening? Why would people fall in love simply by gazing at each other? And why do any of these procedures work at all?”
Having studied such matters now for seven years, in part by interviewing people who are in arranged marriages in which love has grown over time, I answered as follows:
Emotional bonds often get stronger when people feel vulnerable, and this works for two reasons. First, when you see someone who is in a weak and vulnerable state, you often feel like comforting or protecting that person; those tendencies make you feel close to someone, and they often bring you physically closer, too. Second, when you are feeling vulnerable yourself, you might interpret your emotional state as a loving one—especially if someone nearby happens to reach out to comfort you. If two people feel vulnerable simultaneously, these two tendencies can interlock and increase synergistically.
Most of the experiences that lead to increases in emotional intimacy produce this kind of dynamic. Strong sexual attraction, scary situations, vigorous exercise and novel situations all make people feel vulnerable to some extent. And, yes, even gazing can have this effect. The difference between mutual gazing and staring is the consent; people are giving each other permission to invade their privacy in way that is normally quite threatening. It’s like saying, “Okay, you can see me naked. No problem.” Do you feel vulnerable? You bet.
Love Games
Enough talk. We spent the next half hour demonstrating three other techniques that quickly increased emotional bonds: “The Love Aura,” “Let Me Inside,” and the “I-Love-You Game.” In the last, two strangers took turns saying “I love you” to each other in different ways. In our culture, that phrase is one of the hardest things there is to say to someone; saying it makes people feel especially vulnerable. Our volunteers were nervous and giggly at first, but then became increasingly earnest and emphatic—intense, in fact. Their intimacy numbers nearly doubled in just over two minutes, and they embraced each other warmly the moment exercise ended. It was breathtaking to watch.
Was this just a series of parlor tricks? Not at all. I’ve become increasingly convinced over the years that the way we seek and form relationships in Western countries is deeply flawed—and that we can do better. Our relationships typically begin with a burst of physical attraction that we interpret, often incorrectly, as love. Over time, both the passion and the loving feelings subside. Worse still, we leave the entire process to chance—to the Fates, as it were. In some cultures in Africa and Asia, however, love is on a very different trajectory. Many couples are able to make love grow stronger over time, taking responsibility for their feelings and taking control over the process of loving. “First comes marriage, then comes love,” people say in India.
I now believe I understand a good deal about how this process works, and I believe that it can be packaged to suit Western tastes and needs without importing foreign cultures or the practice of arranged marriage. That was the message Mariette and I left with an appreciative—and dare I even say loving?—audience.
As I left the stage, a woman approached me and said that the gazing exercise, which she had done with man who was a total stranger to her, had made her cry. “There was a whole world in those eyes,” she said.
Yes, of course. We only have to learn how to see.

By Robert Epstein


Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Trouble With Bright Girls

Successful women know only too well that in any male-dominated profession, we often find ourselves at a distinct disadvantage.   We are routinely underestimated, underutilized, and even underpaid.  Studies show that women need to perform at extraordinarily high levels, just to appear moderately competent compared to our male coworkers.

But in my experience, smart and talented women rarely realize that one of the toughest hurdles they'll have to overcome to be successful lies within.  We judge our own abilities not only more harshly, but fundamentally differently, than men do. Understanding why we do it is the first step to righting a terrible wrong.  And to do that, we need to take a step back in time.

Chances are good that if you are a successful professional today, you were a pretty bright fifth grade girl.  My graduate advisor, psychologist Carol Dweck (author of Mindset) conducted a series of studies in the 1980s, looking at how bright girls and boys in the fifth grade handled new, difficult and confusing material.

She found that bright girls, when given something to learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up - and the higher the girls' IQ, the more likely they were to throw in the towel.  In fact, the straight-A girls showed the most helpless responses.  Bright boys, on the other hand, saw the difficult material as a challenge, and found it energizing.  They were more likely to redouble their efforts, rather than giving up.

Why does this happen? What makes smart girls more vulnerable, and less confident, when they should be the most confident kids in the room? At the 5th grade level, girls routinely outperform boys in every subject, including math and science. So there were no differences between these boys and girls in ability, nor in past history of success. The only difference was how bright boys and girls interpreted difficulty - what it meant to them when material seemed hard to learn. Bright girls were much quicker to doubt their ability, to lose confidence, and to become less effective learners as a result.

Researchers have uncovered the reason for this difference in how difficulty is interpreted, and it is simply this:  more often than not, bright girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice. 

How do girls and boys develop these different views?  Most likely, it has to do with the kinds of feedback we get from parents and teachers as young children.  Girls, who develop self-control earlier and are better able to follow instructions, are often praised for their "goodness."  When we do well in school, we are told that we are "so smart," "so clever, " or " such a good student."  This kind of praise implies that traits like smartness, cleverness, and goodness are qualities you either have or you don't.

Boys, on the other hand, are a handful.  Just trying to get boys to sit still and pay attention is a real challenge for any parent or teacher.  As a result, boys are given a lot more feedback that emphasizes effort (e.g., "If you would just pay attention you could learn this," "If you would just try a little harder you could get it right.")  The net result: when learning something new is truly difficult, girls take it as sign that they aren't "good" and "smart", and boys take it as a sign to pay attention and try harder.

We continue to carry these beliefs, often unconsciously, around with us throughout our lives.  And because bright girls are particularly likely to see their abilities as innate and unchangeable, they grow up to be women who are far too hard on themselves - women who will prematurely conclude that they don't have what it takes to succeed in a particular arena, and give up way too soon. 

Even if every external disadvantage to a woman's rising to the top of an organization is removed - every inequality of opportunity, every chauvinistic stereotype, all the challenges we face balancing work and family - we would still have to deal with the fact that through our mistaken beliefs about our abilities, we may be our own worst enemy.

How often have you found yourself avoiding challenges and playing it safe, sticking to goals you knew would be easy for you to reach?  Are there things you decided long ago that you could never be good at?  Skills you believed you would never possess?  If the list is a long one, you were probably one of the Bright Girls  - and your belief that you are "stuck" being exactly as you are has done more to determine the course of your life than you probably ever imagined.  Which would be fine, if your abilities were innate and unchangeable.  Only they're not.

No matter the ability - whether it's intelligencecreativity, self-control, charm, or athleticism - studies show them to be profoundly malleable.  When it comes to mastering any skill, your experience, effort, and persistence matter a lot.    So if you were a Bright Girl, it's time to toss out your (mistaken) belief about how ability works, embrace the fact that you can always improve, and reclaim the confidence to tackle any challenge that you lost so long ago.

By Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Video: Monkey Cooperation and Fairness

How much can animal studies teach us about our own behaviour patterns?