Saturday, January 30, 2010

You Are Invalidating When You Say...

Part of the job of parenting is to help your child develop a sense of who he or she is and an ability to trust their own internal experience.  This means they think for themselves and trust their own decisions instead of following the crowd of teenagers who seem to think it's a good idea to drive a hundred miles an hour down the freeway, racing friends in another car.  To help kids develop this strength and sense of self, parents validate their thoughts and feelings.  It means they tell their kids that what they think, feel, believe, and experiences is real, logical and understandable.  Yet parents are human and invalidating comments leak from their mouths, maybe even drenched in sarcasm.  Invalidation is to reject ignore, mock, judge, or diminish someone's feeling or thoughts.

Recognizing invalidating statements, words that tell your child that he doesn't think or feel in the right way and he must never listen to himself because of this failing, often fall into the following categories:

Trying to get the child to question himself.  What were you thinking is an example. In other words, you're an idiot.  Hardly builds the child's confidence in his decision making skills.

Ordering the child to feel differently.  Stop crying. Smile.  How can you be friends with...   In other words, don't feel the way you feel.

Debating:  That's not true.  How can you say that.  

Inducing guilt:  I tried to help you.  You are making everyone else miserable.   

Judging and Labeling:  You're such a baby.  You are too sensitive.  

Telling the child how he should feel:  You should be thrilled.  You should be grateful.

Defending the other person:  I'm sure you must have done something for him to react that way.  Maybe she was just having a bad day.

The first step is awareness.  Even and perhaps especially well-intentioned parents can be invalidating, because they don't want their childrent to be unhappy.  Facing suffering is a skill that must be learned.  You can't protect your child from suffering in life, so consider how to prepare them to best handle it.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Validations for Valentines Day

One of the most important skills for parents is the ability to validate their children's thoughts and feelings.  Validation means recognizing that that another person's internal experience is true and has value even if we don't see it the same way.  For example, a child screams for candy, saying that he must have it or his day is ruined.  No adult would think that way.  In fact, the child probably sounds spoiled to most people. But feelings and thoughts aren't wrong to have.  Acting on them is a different story of course.

Validation means saying, without sarcasm, that you understand that he wants the candy desperately and believes his day will be ruined if he doesn't get it.  But you're not going to buy it.  You've just scored mega points on psychological parenting and helped your child develop his sense of self.

Validation is the way kids learn to trust their own internal thoughts and feelings.  When they are repeatedly invalidated they learn they don't know the right way to feel or think and turn to others instead of paying attention to their own internal guide.  This means a higher vulnerability to peer pressure and influence.

Validating doesn't mean you agree.  It just means you acknowledge their experience.  Like telling your best friend you understand why she hates her ex-husband's new bride even though you think the woman's pretty together.   Provided it's the truth.  Validation is always the truth.

For Valentine's Day, think of validations you'd give to those you love.  What is the truth about their personality, their infuence on your life.  That's a gratitude validation.  It's powerful.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Collecting Memories

Positive Psychology researchers say one of the strategies for increasing your overall level of happiness is to collect positive memories. The brain tends to naturally remember negative events more than positive ones so some effort is required to register the positive events in your pleasure bank. How to do this? Collect pictures or momentos and look through them. Savor the experiences when you are having them. Focus on every smell, touch, view, feeling. Tell others about your experience, share it. That's part of savoring it. Experiencing positive feelings is part of our resilency, a time for building our survival skills, extending our awareness, much like lion cubs play fighting. We are able to take in more information when having positive feelings and have a heightened ability to accept new experiences. Some say it's evolution at work. For survival, the mind had to narrow and focus during times of crisis. When safe, the mind could relax. But some stay stuck in crisis mode, for lots of reasons. If that happens, rebuilding time is lost. So play, chatting with your friends and having fun is critical to survival. I knew it all along.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Establishing An Author's Platform

Making a Literary Life
      For today's writer there is a push to establish a platform or a way to actively partner with the publisher in marketing the book to be published.  The usual advice is to get as many followers as possible on Twitter and Facebook and to establish a blog that has a wide following.  Joining Shelfari and Goodreads is also a way to build an audience of readers who hopefully want to buy your book.  Speaking to groups and offering workshops relevant to the book are also recommended.

     I asked Facebook members and the participants at Internet Writing Workshop and the Bookshed  about ways they knew to establish an author's platform. Lots of wonderful ideas were offered.  And there was lots of discussion about what happens when the author successfully builds his own audience.  Interesting thoughts about people like Stephen King and Dan Brown. What if they self published?

     Carolyn See's book offers the best written advice I have found.  Creative and original, her ideas take some guts to do, but that's the way to glory, at least that's what I've heard.  If you read it I'd be interested in what you think.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Only Four Choices to All Life's Issues

Something Bothering You? Only Four Things You Can Do
Marsha Linehan, Ph.D.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy, developed by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D., is a research-based therapy full of useful psychological facts. One energy saving realization is that no matter what's going on, there are only four things you can do. I love the simplicity of that. First, you can solve the problem. Come up with a solution. Brainstorm all the possibilities you can. Then challenge those solutions. What could happen to make them ineffective. Then implement the solution that fits you best, with a plan to deal with the roadblocks that are predictable. Second, you can change your perception of the problem. If you can't get rid of the banana trees in your yard, then learn to love those banana trees. Third, you can radically accept what is going on. This means completely accepting the way things are. You don't have to agree, or like what is happening, but you fully accept it. This is a lot like que sera, sera and letting go of what you can't control. Fourth, you can stay miserable.

Your choice.


Athletics is one of the most competitive, achievement-oriented arenas we have. Every performance is a win-lose with immediate feedback. Listen to the interviews with the contestants. Even when they are disappointed with the results, they talk about what they've learned and how they will do better next time. You don't hear them saying what losers they are. There is a reason cheerleaders, from high school to professional squads, chant encouraging words. If "You'll never make, might as well give up now" helped their team win the game, for sure that's what you would hear them say. That's not what happens. Words affect your performance, your mood, your life. Try saying "I'm so depressed" all day long or "I can't do anything right." Watch what happens. You don't even have to believe it and it will change your action and mood. Do it your entire life and you are living those words. If you want to live your best life, cheerlead yourself. Encourage yourself, learn from your mistakes and problem solve. Remember to tell yourself it's okay to make mistakes, when you've just made one. Stop the verbal trashing and watch what happens.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Happiness Factor

January 9, 2010

In the beginning (hmm that sounds familiar) psychology focused on understanding all emotions, not just those related to pathology. The War changed all that. Scientists needed to address post-traumatic stress disorder, understand how to treat it, in order to help veterans suffering flashbacks and depression from their experiences in battle. Psychologists developed a deep understanding of difficult emotions: anxiety, anger, depression. Little attention was paid to contentment, happiness, pleasure, and satisfaction.
Is that part of how cynical became the preferred emotional accessory? Smiling, happy people viewed as dumb, unsophisticated while the brooding skeptic, weary of the world’s offerings, was the intellectual, the realist?
Maybe that’s changing. Psychology has gradually returned to understanding the importance of contentment and happiness. Thank goodness. If emotions are information that we need to live our lives, leaving out the positive surely handicaps us. Indeed it does.
Turns out positive emotions play a critical role in our emotional health. When we’re content, that’s when we build resilency. We bank the positive for use when we need it. It also allows us to think in a broader way, more open to information. We can better build relationships during our happy times.
Happy people, it turns out, tend to be more intelligent and accomplished, not less. They are also realistic in their assessments of the world. Happiness over the long term is not about the joy of the moment, but about building a life with meaning. Meditation, acts of service, relationships are all building blocks.
Though we all have spontaneous moments of happiness, the foundation of a happy life is the result of effort and work. Some people are biologically predisposed to have a higher happiness set point than others and less work will be required to maintain a happy view. Others may have to work to elevate their set point, but it can be done.
Recovering from depression does not necessarily mean happiness. Working on adding meaning to your life may be necessary to prevent relapse and to build the life you want. Understanding happiness can be helpful to those who suffer from depression as well as the person who simply wants to improve their life. Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Projectis one example of research-based information hitting the general market.
Step One in elevating your happiness set point is to develop an attitude of gratitude. Practice each day listing three events or people you are grateful for in your life. Be as specific as possible. Write them down, track your progress for a couple of months. Thinking of these each night before you go to bed can add significantly to your happiness quotient.

If you are interested in more of the steps to happiness recommended by researchers in positive psychology, try this free ebook: