Nov 13, 2012
In her book My Stroke of Insight, brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor explains that the natural life span of an emotion—the average time it takes for it to move through the nervous system and body—is only a minute and a half, a mere ninety seconds. After that, we need thoughts to keep the emotion rolling. So, if we wonder why we lock into painful emotional states like anxiety, depression, or rage, we need look no further than our own endless stream of inner dialogue.
Modern neuroscience has discovered a fundamental truth: Neurons that fire together, wire together. When we rehearse a looping set of thoughts and emotions, we …
Rick Hanson PhD
Oct 31, 2012
I did my Ph.D. dissertation by videotaping 20 mother-toddler pairs and analyzing what happened when the mom offered an alternative to a problematic want (“not the chainsaw, sweetie, how about this red truck”). Hundreds of bleary eyed hours later, I found that offering alternatives reduced child negative emotion and increased cooperation with the parent.
Pretty interesting (at least to me, both as a new parent and as someone desperate to finish grad school). And there’s an even deeper lesson. Kids – and adults, too – obviously want to get what they want from others. But more fundamentally, we want to know that others understand our wants – and even more fundamentally, that …
Rick Hanson PhD
Oct 03, 2012
There are always things that are getting worse. For example, over the past year, you probably know someone who has become unemployed or ill or both, and there’s more carbon in the atmosphere inexorably heating up the planet.
But if you don’t recognize what’s improving in your own life, then you feel stagnant, or declining. This breeds what researchers call “learned helplessness” – a dangerously slippery slope: in the original experiments on dogs, whose motivational neural systems are like our own in important ways, it was very easy to train them in helplessness but very, very hard to teach them later that they could actually walk a few steps to escape …
Sep 18, 2012
In several places in the Pali canon, the Buddha praised loving families. For example:
Rick Hanson PhD
Sep 12, 2012
One time I watched a three-year-old at her birthday party. Her friends were there from preschool, and she received lots of presents. The cake came out, she admired the pink frosting rose at its center, and everyone sang. One of the moms cut pieces and without thinking sliced right through the rose – a disaster for this little girl. “I shoulda had the rose!” she yelled. “I shoulda shoulda SHOULDA had the rose!” Nothing could calm her down, not even pushing the two pieces of cake together to look like a whole rose. Nothing else mattered, not the friends, not the presents, not the day as a …
Rick Hanson PhD
Sep 04, 2012
When you’re young, the territory of the psyche is like a vast estate, with rolling hills, forests and plains, swamps and meadows. So many things can be experienced, expressed, wanted, and loved.
But as life goes along, most people pull back from major parts of their psyche. Perhaps a swamp of sadness was painful, or fumes of toxic wishes were alarming, or jumping exuberantly in a meadow of joy irritated a parent into a scolding. Or maybe you saw someone else get in trouble for feeling, saying, or doing something and you resolved, consciously or unconsciously, to Stay Away From That Place Forever.
In whatever way it happens, most of us end up …
Aug 27, 2012
I come from a long line of drama queens. My family could create drama out of going to the supermarket. They also drank a lot which enhanced this tendency.
Let’s face it, many of us who have staggered about in the realm of addictive or blow-your-mind substances, have a predisposition towards catastrophizing. Something in us enjoys creating volcanic eruptions out of molehills. Even many of us who have heroically extricated ourselves from substance misuse or abuse have failed to let go the accompanying tendency to see the world in terms of flash crashes, trench warfare, bubonic plague, and other extreme events.
Even though we may be consciously inclined towards the Middle Path …
Rick Hanson PhD
Aug 20, 2012
“Tell the truth.” It’s the foundation of science, ethics, and relationships.
But we have a brain that evolved to tell lies to help us survive. As I’ve written before, over several hundred million years our ancestors:
- Had to avoid two kinds of mistakes: thinking there’s a tiger in the bushes but actually all is well, and thinking all is well but actually there is a tiger about to pounce. The cost of the first mistake is needless worry while the cost of the second one is no more gene copies. Mother Nature designed us to make the first mistake a thousand times to avoid making the second mistake even once.
- Had to get
Aug 15, 2012
A friend just wrote to me with a troubling story. He’s had a few upheavals in his life recently, including a divorce, but then he made a dreadful ethical slip and got involved with a former patient of his. Of course that’s a huge ethical no-no in the caring professions, and it may have life-long consequences for his career.
But in responding to my friend’s letter I was reminded of Robert Louis Stevenson’s story, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Most of you know this story from cheesy horror movies, but the book is actually an astute spiritual parable that sprang directly from Stevenson’s subconscious in the form of a nightmare. …
Wildmind Meditation News
Jul 19, 2012
We know that people who meditate do better on tasks that require self-control. It turns out that meditators’ openness to their own emotions is the reason, according to new research from the University of Toronto Scarborough.
“These results suggest that willpower or self-control may be sharpest in people who are sensitive and open to their own emotional experiences. Willpower, in other words, may relate to ‘emotional intelligence’,” said Michael Inzlicht, associate professor of psychology at UTSC. He co-authored the paper with PhD student Rimma Teper.
For psychologists, self-control or “executive control” is the ability to pay attention to appropriate stimuli and to initiate appropriate behavior while inhibiting inappropriate behavior. It’s what keeps you studying when you’d rather be watching TV, or lets …