Redefining mental illness

Psychological researchers are finally making some major and much-needed changes in how they look at and classify anxiety, psychosis, and other problems:

Two months ago, the British Psychological Society released a remarkable document entitled “Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia.” Its authors say that hearing voices and feeling paranoid are common experiences, and are often a reaction to trauma, abuse or deprivation: “Calling them symptoms of mental illness, psychosis or schizophrenia is only one way of thinking about them, with advantages and disadvantages.”

The report says that there is no strict dividing line between psychosis and normal experience: “Some people find it useful to think of themselves as having an illness. Others prefer to think of their problems as, for example, an aspect of their personality which sometimes gets them into trouble but which they would not want to be without.”

In the US, decades of research failed to find unique biological underpinnings to diagnostic categories such as depression, schizophrenia, and PTSD. Now brain researchers are abandoning that approach. Instead of studying anxiety, they will look at the neurological basis of fear.

These new developments are long overdue, in my opinion. I’m delighted the mainstream psychology establishment is finally starting to catch on to what a lot of us in the trenches have known or suspected for a long, long time.

Read the entire New York Times article

Does new blink science explain eye-closure fractionation?

You blink far more often than necessary to keep your eyes clean and moist. Scientists have discovered that the timing of your blinks relates to what you’re doing and experiencing.

Now new research suggests that each blink allows your brain to rest momentarily. Continue reading

Study: Empathy represses analytic thought, & vice versa

Research in neuropsychology continues to shed more light on how and why NLP processes work:

Empathy Represses Analytic Thought, and Vice Versa: Brain Physiology Limits Simultaneous Use of Both Networks

ScienceDaily (Oct. 30, 2012) — New research shows a simple reason why even the most intelligent, complex brains can be taken by a swindler’s story — one that upon a second look offers clues it was false.

When the brain fires up the network of neurons that allows us to empathize, it suppresses the network used for analysis, a pivotal study led by a Case Western Reserve University researcher shows.

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New free font helps people with dyslexia

Since dyslexia is typically labeled a learning disability, I find it fascinating that fonts with heavier strokes on the bottom of the letters help many dyslexic people read more easily, with less page-flipping. Below is a recent example: the free OpenDyslexic font developed by mobile app designer Abelardo Gonzalez.

Sample of font for dyslexics

Bottom-heavy fonts such as OpenDyslexia (above) help some dyslexic people read more easily.

Seems to me this is yet another example of people using a variety of information-processing strategies, each of which has advantages and disadvantages.

Original article: medicalxpress.com/news/2012-10-free-font-dyslexia.html

Why inner game ISN’T everything

Thanks to Paul C. Hoffman, who inspired me with this excellent Facebook post.

As a NLPer I see and hear a lot of “do your inner work and the outer will take care of itself” type of advice.

I think it’s crap.

While inner game alone can dramatically change how you feel, it’s only when you change what you do that you start affecting other people and the world, and generating better real-world results. Inner game can help you act more easily and more effectively. But that only matters when you actually get off your butt and take action.

I know a bunch of people who have accomplished complex or challenging things. I’ve accomplished a few myself. In every single case, success took plenty of work and persistence… though often we found ways to make that “work” into fun. Nevertheless, success took time, effort, patience.

Thinking about success, hoping and wishing and dreaming and feeling, isn’t enough. Neither is luck. You have to do.

Fortunately, doing the work to achieve your dreams is one of the best ways to find blocks to progress so you can resolve them! If you just think about doing, you don’t get that real-world feedback that allows for effective course correction. It’s easy to pretend that everything will be all right (even if it won’t)… or build minor obstacles into show-stopping monsters.

To find blocks to progress, it’s often particularly useful to notice:

  1. Discrepancies between what you know needs to be done and what you actually do. These may indicate ineffective strategies, mental blocks, or internal conflict over achieving the goal.
  2. Discrepancies between what you want to produce or get, and what you actually produce or get. A lot of times better strategies, including better time management, will solve this kind of issue. You may need to acquire success skills in order to reach your goal or get there more easily. If you find you have one mental foot on the gas and the other on the brakes, NLP can usually help if it’s a simple issue. If the inner conflict is systemic, the technique in the book Immunity to Change may work better. (NLPers, if you don’t have this technique in your NLP toolkit, get the book and add it!)
  3. Internal resistance, loss of motivation. If it’s hard to get yourself to do something… do you have good strategies that make doing it easy, or is it currently set up to be a big hassle? Is it rewarding, or an opportunity for failure or frustration? Do you feel internally conflicted about going forward? Why?

Entrepreneurs know that having the best ideas on the planet gets you nothing. Zip. Nada. It’s doing the work to turn your dreams into reality that makes your dreams real.

Do your outer work, and you can build the life you want.

Can you really unjam traffic by driving smart?!

Stuck on long commutes, engineer William Beaty did some elegant analysis of driver behavior and its consequences. He figured out how even one driver can sometimes unjam traffic jams.

I have tried Beaty’s methods myself on a few stretches of San Francisco Bay Area freeway where traffic tends to jam up. And while I can’t unjam a big jam, there have been times when I’ve been able to unjam small jams, or at least make a jam smaller or get it to move faster.

A lot of NLP is about changing your own behavior in order to change other people’s behavior and help them get better outcomes. I like to think of Beaty’s driving technique as NLP for traffic.

To understand more about how you can unjam traffic, and see diagrams, visit Beaty’s website TrafficWaves.org

The right way to speak to yourself

I’m always on the lookout for ways to build people up and encourage them, rather than shutting them down. That’s why Peter Bregman’s post The Right Way to Speak to Yourself delighted me. Excerpt:

It felt so good to be in that classroom, I didn’t want to leave. Eventually though, when it was clearly time to go, I left with a smile on my face that remained long after I had gone.

Sitting in that classroom was a lesson in people management; the positive way Dorit interacted with the children is a great model for how managers should interact with employees.

But, for me, the morning was more profound than a lesson in managing other people. It was a lesson in managing myself.

As I left the classroom I found myself thinking about whether I treat myself the way Dorit treated her students. Am I encouraging? Do I catch myself doing things right as often as doing things wrong? And when I do something wrong, do I simply move on or do I dwell on it, haranguing myself?

In other words, what kind of classroom is going on in your head?

We’ve all heard the notion that we’re our own harshest critic. But shouldn’t we treat ourselves with at least the same respect shown by a first grade teacher toward her students? Why don’t we?

Possibly it’s because we grow up in an academic setting that emphasizes critique over admiration. Perhaps it feels arrogant — unseemly even — to speak to ourselves with the effusive praise and positivity that Dorit spoke to her class. It might even feel dangerous to go easy on ourselves. If we did, maybe we wouldn’t accomplish anything at all. Maybe we’d devolve into laziness.

But laziness is not what I saw in that classroom. Those children couldn’t have been more motivated to get the right answer. They tried hard. When they got the right answer, they felt good about themselves. When they got a wrong answer, they didn’t linger in shame, they simply moved on to the next question (which, as it happens, is probably the number one behavior that leads to success over time). And they were happy.

In other words, it’s not simply nice to treat ourselves nicely, it’s strategic.

Read the rest of Peter’s article

Lessons learned from Tom Hoobyar

This is my tribute to the late Tom Hoobyar — a wonderful, generous, warm-hearted man who died 25 September 2011. Tom’s daughter Tracy asked people to post lessons they’d learned from Tom, who was an entrepreneur, NLPer, and teacher and mentor to many.

The main lessons I learned from Tom Hoobyar were:

  1. Tom didn’t let his own mistakes or setbacks prevent him from being a leader, teacher, and mentor. I used to think I had screwed up too much to teach or lead. Tom was one of the people who helped me learn that my mistakes and challenges, lived through, become benefits. Having had those experiences, I can help other people deal with similar issues more gracefully.

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Love is more than a feeling or good intentions

Thanks to NLPer and life coach Erol Fox, who writes the Inherent Excellence blog, for inspiring this post. Erol writes some good stuff.

From a recent blog post:

People just don’t understand what love is, so they suffer. Most Westernized people think love is when you can’t live without someone or some object. Any doctor will tell you that actually sounds like a disease.

Atisha, a Buddhist monk in the 10th Century echoed what love really is:

“Love is the wish for others to be happy.”

Love is the wish for others to be happy? I disagree.

Merely wishing others to be happy, without taking tangible action to help them achieve happiness, is not love. It is mental masturbation. And delusional, if a person thinks that intending love makes up for their unloving actions.

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