Tag Archive: psych your mind


Col6_CleanHouseA couple of years ago, my significant other and I were making our initial “introductory rounds” (ie: meeting each other’s family for the first time) and decided, while we were in the neighbourhood, to drop in on one of his couples friends. While the pair was/is lovely and we got along just swimmingly, there’s no lighter way to phrase it: I was appalled by the state in which they kept their living quarters.

In their defense, I will say they were not expecting our company. However, I could not then and still cannot now understand how anyone could possibly tolerate living with clearly visible dirt and debris. The icing on the cake was the fact that their house had seen such neglect from upkeep that one of their children’s pets – a goldfish – was floating bellyside up in a fish bowl, apparently unbeknownst to them.

After this incident, it began to come to my attention just how UNcommon this situation among our demographic is. The more I got invited over to my own friends’ houses, the more I realized that tidiness does not seem to be a universally embraced ideal.

At the risk of sounding like a germaphobe, admittedly I was and continue to be shocked by this notion given that I’m frankly embarrassed to invite over company if my home has not been cleaned the week of. Furthermore if my mom, for instance, is coming to town, I will clean every inch of my apartment so thoroughly that it’d be fit for the arrival of the Queen herself and should she so choose, she could eat off the floors without any fear of adverse physical reaction!

Aside from the obvious health benefits to living in a “dust bunny”-free environment, how one maintains or fails to maintain one’s personal habitat will affect how others view your character and even your sense of morality! Did you know, for example, that the original Oxford English Dictionary definition of the term “slut” was “a slovenly, untidy woman or girl”?

According to environmental psychologist Sally Augustin, “cleanliness”, throughout our evolutionary history, was considered a valued trait given that a home free of clutter would make it easier to spot potential predator attacks. While this benefit may no longer be applicable in modern society, it does have an unconscious psychological holdover: when one enters a messy living space – whether it’s their own or you’re a visitor – it results in enhanced stress levels.

A lack of upkeep in regard to one’s physicality and/or the physical spaces he/she occupies too has been linked to the mood disorder depression. Among other symptoms, depression has been known to have a debilitating effect on many of one’s motivations. With this in mind, it’s unsurprising that counsellors often recommend “cleaning house” as a means of elevating one’s mood. After all, the messier one’s house gets, the more it adds to one’s guilt and merely continues the cycle of “not-good-enough-ness”.

As Jennifer B. Baxt explains, “taking the time to clean the home from top to bottom is like cleaning [out] one’s life. The dirt, dust and clutter are done away with and the house has a fresher, more comfortable atmosphere that the person can feel happier and more relaxed in.”

To this, Ayanna Guyhto adds that it’s the whole concept of “Idle Hands, Idle Mind”: “by remaining sedentary, it gives your brain too much time to focus on the things that are bothering you. By getting up and focusing your attention on household tasks, you give yourself a mental diversion.”

Let’s just stop there for a second however to make one point very clear: it’s highly unreasonable to suggest (and by no means am I suggesting!) that EVERY individual who seemingly is not too concerned with the condition of their home is suffering from the “Big D”. Clearly there must be something else here at play. Wouldn’t you know it? Psychology again proves illustrative.

Believe it or not laziness is a modern “invention”, largely due to the comforts (and excesses!) of Western industrialized living. Despite our incessant complaints and excuses which would suggest otherwise, apparently we do have TOO much time on our hands and this, in effect results in the rearing of laziness’ ugly twin brother’s head: procrastination.

As evolutionary psychologist Nando Pelusi points out, it wasn’t until we no longer had to worry about constantly fending off predators, protecting our kin or surviving off of scarce resources that we had the “luxury” of dreaming of future actions. In the past, we held our energy in reserve because we never knew when an immediate threat may be looming. Nowadays, all that energy has the ability to build up, tricking us into believing (at least on an unconscious level) that there will always be more time to “get around to things.”

Given the multitude of distractions available to occupy our time – the Facebooks, Twitters, and Youtubes of the world, for starters – it isn’t hard to see why so many of us have lost sight of how to properly “prioritize”…but more on that in another issue.

The point I’m trying to get at is quite simply: while “cleanliness” may not necessarily be next to “godliness”, it certainly is linked to “goodliness”…on many levels. In other words, my “neat-freakness” is indicative of the fact I take great pride in appearances, value the idea of hospitality, see my home as a reflection of my own work ethic, and perhaps most importantly that I am within a balanced mental state. So I ask you all to ask yourselves, “what does YOUR home say about YOU?” Is it time for yet more introspection? Methinks so.

Vol2_Col5_AgirlandherfrogI’m 28 years old and yes, I still sleep with my favourite childhood stuffed animal. By no means do I consider myself a materialist – I still wear some of my old highschool threads from many moons ago (yay for me, they still fit!) and use a hairdryer I inherited from the 1970s (hey if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it right?!) – but, for all of us, there are certain worldly possessions that take on deeper meanings than their tangible properties. So is the case with my nighttime companion; we have after all been through a lot together.

He’s comforted me when I was down in the dumps and I’ve stitched him back together more than once due to my older brother’s plots to wreak havoc! In fact, I still bring the little guy with me every time I travel. To be perfectly honest, I just don’t sleep the same way without him.

I often joke he’s been the most “consistent” man in my life. While partners have come and gone, this toy has been with me through both my triumphs and struggles, never judging and only offering support throughout this journey we call life. In sum, believe it or not, this feisty rocker turned writer’s most prized possession is a worn (I prefer to think “well-loved”) discoloured misshapen green frog who simply goes by the name of Captain.

First toys, cars, kisses – well first “anythings” in life really – seem to stick with us. Perhaps this is in part due to the “primacy effect” (ie: a trend in learning noted by psychologists in which individuals have a tendency to, when presented with material in a list/series, recall or place significance on the first item), but I also think it has a lot to do with personal identity development/expression as exercised by “choice”. Beyond the people with whom we choose to surround ourselves (ie: you are who you hang with), the possessions we ultimately choose to acquire, too, represent, in part, how we wish to be seen and identified.

Think about it. Unlike a good majority of kids out there, it wasn’t a Barbie doll, a toy truck or perhaps most commonly a stuffed bear that defined me as a child. Instead, it was a frog.

Frogs in their animal form are colourful, slippery and fast and they travel by impressively propelling themselves through the air (ie: jumping). If we came up with human personality equivalents for those traits, we’d get an individual who was “loud” (as in both volume and presence), hard to pin down/fit into a box, witty and highly self-motivated. In other words, even if I couldn’t describe myself in said fashion as a little girl, my childhood stuffed animal choice very much demonstrates that I knew early on I would never be content with blending in with the crowd. How I came to have Captain in my life is equally an illustrative tale, but we’ll leave that one for another time 😉

So where am I going with this disclosure from my personal life anyhow? Well, I merely wanted to set up a dichotomy when it comes to the concept of “materialism”. In other words, when does the accumulation and retention of goods leave the realm of “healthy nostalgia”/”personal expression” and border on the pathological? Allow me to provide you with another example for comparative purposes.

I recently took up a part-time role as the administrator for a business wherein I was replacing an elderly lady who had committed herself to said organization for 30+ years. Now this is no insult to her or her abilities, but what I inherited in terms of office files, supplies and documents can only be described as frighteningly overwhelming. Truly it’s as though she NEVER and I mean NEVER threw out anything in the whole time period she worked there.

I understand it’s one thing to hold onto important membership, financial or construction-related files as you never know when you may need to reference them again in the future. THAT PART I GET. What I CANNOT come to terms with however is why she felt it necessary to hold onto the scrap pieces of waste paper from which you peel off mailing labels, knitting patterns from the 1960s, instruction manuals for DOS discs and typewriters, out-of-date volunteer schedules and mail-order catalogs, burnt out lightbulbs, used plastic food trays, and at least two decade-year-old sugar and other condiment packets that would no doubt cause serious poisoning upon ingestion…that is unless she had an issue when it comes to letting things go.

With shows such as Buried Alive, the above described compulsive behaviour known as “hoarding” has seen a great deal of exposure in recent years. With any “TV land” depiction however, the complexity of this psychological condition is typically only characterized in superficial terms leading the general public to believe that, in Jason Elias’, Behaviour Therapist, point of view, “these people are just slobs or lazy.” In reality, this perception couldn’t be further from the truth.

From an evolutionary stance, the impulse to amass goods can be traced to both our survivalist instincts and believe it or not… our mating practises. As Biologist Tom Waite explains, in the animal kingdom, many species will “hoard” excessive amounts of food in preparation for “survival” over the winter months or long journeys. In reference to the second point, male animals, in particular, also commonly “collect” and display their “various accomplishments” (ie: the carcasses of prey they’ve successfully conquered, among other things) in order to attract desirable female mates for the purposes of prolonging their kin (again a survivalist instinct). In summary, the amassment of food, carcasses and the like – in other words, “hoarding” – is effective in attracting mates (which is directly linked to survival) because it demonstrates that the given animal is strong and smart, but more importantly, a good candidate for “providing” and/or “leading”. Wouldn’t you know it? Humans desire the same traits in their romantic partners!

Let’s return to my administrative predecessor for a moment. One thing I’d specifically like to draw your attention to is her age. Now, obsessive-compulsive behaviours can affect any and all demographics (they commonly run in families), but something to keep in mind when it comes to older folks seemingly affected by this disorder is that many of them likely lived through extremely trying economic times, such as The Great Depression. Why is this important? Well, quite simply, if you experienced having NOTHING, EVERYTHING becomes essential and worth holding onto, especially if you develop a paranoia that circumstances could revert back to how they were.

The next point worth mentioning is that throughout my training with this woman, there was not a single moment where she made small-talk references to a husband, family or children. When someone occupies a space for that long a period of time, they typically have personal mementos visibly on display to complement the room; interestingly, there were NONE. While she may have just been a very private person, another convincing theory is that this career – her work – was literally all she had and the only way she was able to “define”/”express” her identity. Consequently, she took great pride in what she did and again EVERYTHING, including the everyday minutia, became significant and was worth keeping.

Psychologists have noted that hoarding tends to coexist with a “profound inability to make decisions” (Discover Magazine) and may even be linked to other afflictions such as depression, which is recognized as having debilitating effects on an individual’s motivation. Why my predecessor couldn’t throw anything out I’ll never know for certain, but scientists agree that this behaviour in humans is “a natural and adaptive instinct gone amok,” (Discover Magazine) to put it lightly.

As Christmas has just passed and no doubt, in line with the season’s modern day practice, all of you were showered with more and more “stuff” as per the requests on your wish lists, I think it’s important that you ask yourselves the following questions:

1) Why did I want these items?

2) What do these items mean to me?

3) How do these items define me?

4) Could I live without these items?

While I’m not making the insinuation that any of you suffer from the above discussed psychological dilemma, I believe it’s important to understand and assess your desire for material things. While we’re all allow to splurge once and awhile, the psychologically mature/psychologically-balanced can effectively distinguish between their needs and wants as well as the significant and insignificant. In other words, just as the saying goes when it comes to true friends, you should be able count the most important items in your life on one hand.

EVERYTHING (and I mean everything) in life is governed by contracts. Whether spoken or not, when we engage in interactions with each other, our responses and behaviours that are deemed “appropriate” and/or “allowed” are determined by the circumstances in which we find ourselves, along with the level of intimacy shared between ourselves and the individual(s) with whom we are communicating. In other words, how you relate to “Mommy dearest” versus a professor versus a police officer versus your best friend and so forth varies significantly… and for good (and I hope obvious) reason. As a female, perhaps the most relatable example from everyday life is seeing the difference in how your man acts when he’s alone with you as opposed to when he’s with his buddies. Age, too, obviously plays a role in one’s interactions because in North American society, at least, it commonly serves as a means of establishing authority (e.g. the younger demographic is to respect its elders).

In situations wherein the details of the relationship and expectations of each party involved in a contract (social or otherwise) are clearly outlined (preferably in writing), there is (for obvious reasons) a lower likelihood of conflict. However, given the subjective nature of “definitions,” having something in writing is not always a failsafe tactic. Once again the melodrama of my life proves illustrative:

I recently solicited the services of a photographer to take portraits of me for the cover art of my upcoming release. As part of her contract, she was insistent on giving a go at editing the photos herself, despite the fact that I am thoroughly experienced in this vein (one of my many jobs in my varied and illustrious career, thus far, was working at a funeral home reconstructing vintage images for ‘In Memoriam’ packages). The contract clearly stated that she was to provide me with the final shots no later than six weeks following the photoshoot and that if she were unable to fulfill my editing requirements, I would be provided with the original images.

Because she has been a friend of mine for some time (engaging in business with a friend was perhaps my first mistake!), I let it slide that it took nearly three months to get the photos into my possession. When I received them, I was shocked and appalled (to put it lightly) at the massacre job she did on my features. I don’t mean to sound egotistical but I’m not exactly a 500-pound 60- year-old trying to pass for a supermodel. In other words, my editing requirements are basic and minimalistic: soften any apparent wrinkles; remove the dark circles, if visible, under my eyes; and blur out any obvious scars. Nothing more. Nothing less.

When I approached her about retrieving the original images, I did my best not to flatout offend her, but I also needed to make it clear that I was highly dissatisfied with what I had received. She tried to argue with me on numerous accounts, taking the stance that it was appropriate to pin the blame on me exclusively (excellent consumer-vendor relations, don’t ya think?).

First off, she claimed that I had seen her past work and therefore should have known what to expect and that her edits were 100 per cent in line with my requests. When that didn’t fly, she tried to pull the whole “it’s clearly a matter of personal taste” route, with the caveat that a customer of hers cannot demand original files nor a refund based on that alone. Then, she decided I was apparently not clear enough in what I requested as far as edits go. Finally, the icing on the cake was that her photos represent her “brand” and that I paid for a service (the photoshoot), not a final product, so a refund would not be issued, even if the photos were rendered, in my opinion, completely unusable.

So why am I telling you this story? Well, as much as I’m a proponent of listening to one’s heart for guidance (I am an artist, after all), there are certain circumstances in life (moreover, certain “contractual relationships”) in which it is highly inappropriate to allow your emotions to get the better of you. Business exchanges, understandably, rank at the top of this list; hence, many a friendship have been torn asunder when “business” and “pleasure” have met. In other words, money changes everything AND everyone.

It’s clear from my perspective that my friend is highly attached to her work as an artist. This explains her immediate defensive strategies and inability to see the shortcomings of her work. Now, I hate to sound cold, but individuals such as her frankly shouldn’t be engaging in commerce exchanges because business, in its essence, comes down to a very simple logical formula wherein emotion has no place:

1) Vendor renders a service or product to a consumer at an agreed-upon price

2) Consumer pays for service or product upon delivery

3) Vendor is to ensure consumer satisfaction and accommodate exchanges or refunds, if product or service falls short of fulfilling outlined expectations, was faulty or defective

Again, no more, no less. The rationale behind this basic equation is of course so that understandings between individuals can be upheld legally, when necessary.

While the photographer in my story, as I stated, is my friend, that relationship truly bears no relevance on the fact that I hired her for a product and upon delivery, the product was simply not up to par. I would feel the same way about the photos if someone I just met had edited them in a similar fashion. Of course, she has convinced herself otherwise… but I digress.

In sum, when it comes to matters of the heart, please listen and listen intently to the little voices in your head and the butterflies or sinking pits in your stomach, but when it comes to matters of money or legalities, the psychologically mature approach is to understand that emotions become BARRIERS to effective communication. I recommend adopting a strategy known as “zero-based thinking,” namesaked by serial entrepreneur and blogger behind Preneur Marketing, Pete Williams.

In a nutshell, zero-based thinking is about stripping away everything irrelevant to the decision-making process except for the cold, hard facts and applying hindsight to establish whether you’re truly making the best and most positive choices for your future and goals. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Good old introspection in yet another form!

Beyond business, there are numerous other applications for “zero-based thinking.” Another example that comes to mind is when dealing with not-so-pleasant in-laws. There are only so many times you can try to convince someone you’re “good enough” for their child before it becomes nothing more than a waste of energy and a drain on your own self-esteem. In other words, this month’s lesson: know when it’s worth cracking a smile, shedding a tear or letting out your inner roar. More importantly, know when it’s not!

Vol2_Col3_countering-media-influenceAmanda Todd. Canadian. 15 years old. Dead. Another bullied, angst-ridden, self-abusing depressed teen to add to the list of those whose lives were cut too short. In a word: tragic.

Upon release of the news, discourse from concerned parents relating to the risks of social media use and the increasing need for “internet policing” abounded. While these concerns are most surely valid, Todd’s suicide is not merely an indication that bullying in the 2000s has escalated to a new level that we, as a society, have yet to come to grips with. Greater than this, is what lies at the deeper root of the problem: the motivations behind the very actions of Todd that served as the impetus to her “cyber-bullying” conundrum.

“Why”, we should be asking ourselves, “would anyone go to such an extent to seek validation from a complete stranger in regard to their physicality?” What does this say about what we’re teaching our youth? More importantly, what does this say about our societal standards for appearances and sexuality and the high value we seemingly place on both?

While a debate on consumerism and its mandate to make us all feel inadequate so that we buy more and more items to fulfill the very voids it leads us to believe we possess would prove illustrative, again I’d like to delve deeper to get at the origin of why “industry” seems to have such a hold on us…well at least some of us, that is.

Now I’m sure all of you are at least superficially familiar with the pervasive “nature vs. nurture” debate. Further, I’m sure you’ve all heard that the current consensus in social science academic circles is that both elements are said to influence us relatively equally throughout our initial stages of socialization. In other words, it’s not simply WHAT we’re born with (ie: our DNA/inherited genes) nor WHERE/HOW we’re raised (ie: our environments). But instead, it’s how these two factors work together symbiotically that make us into the individuals we become. Allow me to explain more in-depth:

Let’s say there was a child who was born with an above average IQ “potential” (ie: nature). Due to unfortunate financial circumstances however, he was raised in a ghettoized neighbourhood where he attended primary and secondary schools that lacked guidance counsellors, extra-curricular activities and additional support resources.

His parents both worked multiple jobs that just barely allowed them to cover the household expenses; accordingly, they were frequently exhausted when they got home at the end of the day. As a consequence, the little boy was commonly alone without positive adult supervision. Moreover, even when his parents were physically present, he likely was not receiving the support, love and guidance he required from them.

While this child started life out with the “potential” (ie: nature) to achieve strong grades that could lead to a university education and an associated higher end career, because of his environmental upbringing (ie: nurture), he was never able to fully flourish.

At this point it is worth clarifying that the term “environment” as defined in the nature vs. nurture paradigm encompasses far more than just the tangible physical spaces one occupies throughout his/her life. As the above example demonstrates, one’s environment too consists of the people with whom we interact, the kinds of interactions that take place and the messages we receive. Whether our interactions are direct (ie: someone speaking with us in person), indirect (ie: receiving information from a tv commercial), one-way (ie: a lecture), reciprocal (ie: a conversation between friends), verbal (ie: someone saying they love you) or nonverbal (ie: someone giving you a hug after a bad day) is irrelevant – ALL of these modes of communication can and will influence you, if you allow them to. That my friends is the key: the concept of “agency”: the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices.

Now, as you reach adolescence, the impact of “nurture”, especially as it pertains to social and media influences, shifts into high gear. The cause? Quite simply the fact that this is the first time in your life you truly get a chance to establish your own sense of identity! Part and parcel to this process, of course, is a pressing desire to rebel from all sources of authority, particularly that of your parents and their belief systems (Ah we have so much to look forward to when we become parents ourselves!)

In other words, as you reach this age, you become psychologically “primed” to pay close(r) attention to messages that relate to concepts of “self-expression”, “self-discovery” and “self-fulfillment” given that these topics are particularly relevant to the pressures you are experiencing in regard to “making something of yourself” and/or “finding out who you are” and “what cliché you belong in.” Wouldn’t you know it? These are the VERY SAME concepts that so many advertisements and media images try to sell us!

In reference to females specifically, the media teaches our girls that being “beautiful”, “sexy”, “desirable”, “attractive”, “sexual” and so forth are the NUMBER ONE KEYS to success, independence and confidence (Don’t get me started on the equally disturbing and damaging messages that we indoctrinate onto our boys). With all of this in mind, what I’m getting at is that it’s easy to see why young adults oftentimes find themselves falling into the “wrong” crowds and/or participating in questionable popularity/validation-seeking behaviours that may come back to bite them in the ass as was the case with Todd. No disrespect intended.

When we become adults, the hope is that we’ve grown past this stage and have a fairly strongly established sense of personal agency. For those of us born with more “follower-oriented” personality types, do not fear, agency and self-assertiveness can be taught and developed. There will, of course, always be “structures” to contend with in life that will limit our choices to a certain extent (ie: social class, religion, ethnicity, legislation, gender etc.) HOWEVER, in NO logical way that I can consider do said structures play a role in whether you allow yourself to buy into much of the advertised b.s. messages that are out there. Moreover, these structures also do NOT in any way prevent you from ditching people in your life that really only bring you down. The only thing that prevents either is an UNWILLINGNESS to practise introspection and “rational choice”. YOU are empowered with the choice to select when it’s worth your while to “tune in” and when you should quite frankly just “tune out.”

Rational (albeit mature) people, when presented with new information/messages, make the decision whether to incorporate or discard said information/messages based on a cost/benefit analysis. With this in mind, the next time you find yourself in a situation pondering whether you should allow yourself to be influenced (because remember it is a CHOICE), you need to ask yourself the following:

1) How can this information/influence help me in regard to my life, my goals, my dreams?

2) How can this information/influence hinder me in regard to my life, my goals, my dreams?

3) How would those significant in my life (ie: parents, friends, peers, teachers, spiritual advisors etc.) feel about this information/influence? Why do you think they’d feel that way?

4) Would my life be missing something valuable if I chose not to accept this information/influence?

5) Is this information/influence something I’d be comfortable passing onto others? If not, why?

Unfortunately in Todd’s tragic case, the life has already been lost. In your own and those of your future children however, you can make a difference. Teaching “(social) media savvy” isn’t enough. Negative influences can and will impact your life through a variety of sources. What needs to be taught more importantly is how to recognize these influences for what they are and how to make the “rational choice” not to allow oneself to get sucked in.

Finale_AttitudeOne of the greatest and most longstanding scientific debates revolves around human socialization and how much we can attribute to nature versus nurture. In other words, are we born with pre-existing dispositions to certain kinds of behaviours, attitudes and actions based on our genetic code/evolutionary past? OR are we purely determined by the environment(s) in which we’re raised? If a combination of both, what role do one’s peers, parents and other social influences, such as the media, play in terms of bringing out or repressing certain hardwired traits? Interestingly, the very same questions can be asked when it comes to the realm of psychological maturity.

Are some inherently born with characteristics more in line with psychological maturity? OR does everyone come to the table with the same capacity for developing psychological maturity but one’s experiences (and how one learns from and copes with them) determine if/when said attitude is embraced? Further, how much should one allow him/herself to be influenced by factors outside of the self (ie: externalization) versus listening to one’s brains (ie: remember there’s one in your head AND one in your gut)?

I’m afraid there are no easy answers to any of the above queries and in fact part of your journey to establishing (and maintaining) a psychologically mature perspective may just consist of you attempting to find solutions 😉 The point in doing so however would NOT be to come up with definitive “end results”, but instead to evaluate and analyze the process that took you there.

Yes, once again, my friends, it all comes back to introspection: asking yourself what makes you tick and understanding why/how it all comes together. As I said in my very first column, if any of your self-contemplations result in superficial because “you’ve been told to” or “that’s just how it’s always been” types of answers, you’re NOT digging deep enough. EVERYTHING, no matter how seemingly mundane, has meaning and motive behind it. Don’t forget that. Equally important to remember is the fact that no one enters your life unscathed or without baggage of some sort trailing behind. So, if you find yourself feeling threatened by another, instead of lashing out, ask yourself why – it’ll serve you much better and help you become a much more considerate, empathetic individual; something I think we all should strive to be.

Even those of you who’ve been practising the principles I’ve discussed this past year for a long time including: minimizing defensive reactions and focussing on long-term gratification, among others, I’m sure, still find yourselves in situations with individuals who are “difficult” to say the least. You’ll come to realize that the biggest dilemma you’ll ultimately face in life is the fact that just because you’re reasonable and willing to deal with situations in an “adult” manner, doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone else is singing from the same songbook…if you get my drift. Not to quote myself unnecessarily but the truth of the matter is that “some people are just content being assholes;” this obviously proves particularly contentious when said individuals are a necessary evil in your life (ie: stepparents and/or monsters-in-law). Of course, this brings me to the topic of stress; something else we’ve thoroughly discussed.

While some stress can be helpful and motivating, too much can lead to emotional overload and/or self-implosion. Life is all about balance and honestly acknowledging your limitations. There’s no cowardice or shame in admitting when you need help or a break. Confidence and a “can do” attitude will get you far, but too much pride is just another issue waiting to bite you in the ass.

As we revealed in our dissections of many pathological “personality types” such as: the “people pleaser”, “egoist”, “pessimist” and “hypocrite”, insecurity as well as a lack of gratitude appear to be two common root causes. Considering we live in one of the most privileged areas of the globe, it’s hard to think as to why the latter would be the case at all. Priorities people! As for the former? Well no two people’s situations are alike, but it seems to me that bullying (by BOTH authority figures and peers) along with the promotion of unattainable social ideals of what define “happiness”, “success” and “beauty” are a serious part of the problem.

In the end, everything comes down to one simple, hard and fast question: Are YOU happy? If you are, take stock of all of the wonderful reasons why, never take such things for granted and be sure to acknowledge all of those who’ve/who continue to contribute joy to your existence. If you’re conflicted, dissatisfied, stressed, sad or angry more often than you think you SHOULD be/more than you WANT to be, it’s time to seriously start asking yourself some deep questions: Who am I? Why am I this kind of individual? Who do I want to be? What do I want in life? What do I need to get there? What drives me? What discourages me? Who/what supports me? Who/what stands in my way? Only YOU can ask and only YOU can answer.

I’m sorry to say there are no magical solutions or 10-step instructional manuals outlining how one can obtain a life in which they’re “living” rather than simply “existing”. While many individuals will enter and exit your life as your journey unravels (for the better and sometimes for the worse), remember it’s ultimately YOUR life – you need to look out for YOURSELF first and foremost – and that YOU have the power to lead the kind of life you desire. It’s all about your ATTITUDE, so, in closing, get out your wrenches and start adjusting.

gratitude-thoughts-02I think it goes without saying that ALL of us come to the table with various chips on our shoulders. While someone’s situation may appear “picture perfect” on the outside, ultimately you don’t know the trials and tribulations they may have faced/continue to undergo. Likewise, things are often not as bad as they may seem. It’s really all a matter of attitude AND gratitude. Given this, it’s important to reserve judgment toward others.  

On the other side of the equation, it’s equally important not to allow one’s battle wounds to permeate every aspect of one’s life. While one’s past largely informs one’s present and reflecting upon past experiences (both successes and mistakes) can be a fantastic means of learning about oneself and the world at large, you’ll ultimately never get to where you want to go in life if your perspective remains stagnant. The example of Thomas Edison’s perseverant quest into the 1000s to establish a reliable, long-lasting, electric lightbulb speaks for itself. The point I’m trying to make? Don’t allow yourself to be stifled and/or suffocated by your own emotional baggage – no one else wants to!

With that introduction, instead of getting heavy into my regular “psychoanalytics” this week, I’d simply like to relay to you two stories in hopes that you’ll reflect on your own attitude toward yourself, others and life, in general:

A few years ago when I was working at the London Musicians’ Association (LMA), I met a man who had the misfortune of being afflicted with a lifelong disability that affected his motor skills. Despite this, he was passionate about pursuing a career in music. Initial judgment would lead one to believe he was making the best out of a bad situation – that he possessed a rather admirable disposition. But the more I continued to speak with him, the more his positioning of what sociological-dramaturgist Goffman refers to as one’s “front stage self” (ie: the way in which you WANT others to perceive you) broke down.

His reason for contacting me was because he was intent on performing at a variety of local festivals. He claimed he had a massive fanbase, his music had wide appeal and that he was being discriminated against by the organizers of these events due to his physical ailment. At the same time however, he also made it clear that he was not a member of our association and in fact didn’t see much point in becoming one…yet expected our services to be granted to him?

I regretfully explained that unless he was willing to consider membership, there wasn’t much we’d be able to do as our limited resources are reserved for those who maintain regular dues payments. With that said however, as one of the LMA’s services is to investigate “unfair treatment claims” issued by musicians against event organizers, I was happy to look into the case for him.

I simply began by asking him to describe exactly what happened. It didn’t take long for his rather harsh accusations to lose speed.

As he explained to me, he applied to perform at a festival and received a generic rejection letter back, advising him that his music did not fall into the genre categories they were seeking. At this point, I reviewed the letter, the genre categories of the festival and asked him to send me a sample of his music. Wouldn’t you know it? The rejection letter couldn’t be any more to the point.

When I attempted to explain that I, myself along with many other musicians, have faced similar rejections and that I did not see any indication he was being “unfairly” treated, he immediately jumped down my throat and ACCUSED ME TOO of being prejudice against those with disabilities…but it didn’t just end there. When I returned home from work, I found a series of “bitch-out” letters from him in my personal email inbox; he had decided to look up my official website to obtain my contact information to continue this “cyber war.”

While I initially empathized with the fact he obviously underwent many struggles in his life due to his disability and commended him for his musical efforts irrespective of his condition, the revelation of his “backstage self” (ie: who he really is) proved that it was his ATTITUDE NOT his limited physicality that was holding him back in life. Like a spoiled brat, if he didn’t get what he wanted, he’d consistently lash out and label the world as prejudice. Moreover he EXPECTED special treatment – as though the world should revolve around his every wish and command. Sad, but true.

In contrast, a few months ago I came across a “Late Night Show” interview with an amazing teenager named Joanne O’Riordan from Ireland who was born with Total Amelia syndrome: a birth defect that afflicts only SEVEN people in the entire world in which the sufferer has not just limited mobility, but literally NO limbs to speak of. Throughout the broadcast, O’Riordan spoke humbly of the “normal” life she lives and her positive, self-sufficient attitude was more than evident as she drank a beverage without assistance.

She admitted to hating being called an “inspiration” and intends on never allowing her condition to become an “excuse”. Equally however, she explained she is happy to engage others when they ask about her physicality. She aspires to become either a journalist or politician, and with her academic prowess and “can do” attitude, I believe there’s no doubt she will get to where she wants to go. She’s already successfully campaigned against a local MP who was attempting to cut funding toward families who support disabled children.

I welcome you to check you the interview here for yourself: http://www.viduba.com/video:QVFbXRleO5mUxoURVtmUo1UMZdXW31TP

Like all of you, I’ve had many experiences in life where I thought I was beaten down on the ground for good, but somehow I mustered the strength to get back up for another round. The saying is true: “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” BUT there’s an important caveat missing from that expression: “it’ll only make you stronger IF you let it.”

It’s okay to grieve, it’s okay to get upset, it’s even okay to scream at the tops of your lungs if you need to get negativity out of your system. It’s not okay (nor mature) however to allow yourself to be victimized or to become an “excuse” king or queen simply because you don’t always get your way.

To quote a rock musician who upon occasion has something insightful to say, “you don’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might just find you’ll get what you need.”

In conclusion, have an “attitude of gratitude” my friends – you do after all live in one of the most privileged parts of the world.

Col24_BestLaidPlansWhen it comes to developing (and maintaining) psychological maturity, a key ingredient to success is cultivating a sunny disposition. As the words to the theme of Monty Python’s The Life of Brian so smartly prescribe, one should always strive to “look on the bright side of life.” With that said however, equally important is establishing a realistic perception: both of the external world, AND when it comes to yourself and your own capabilities. In other words, don’t bite off more than you can chew and know your limitations.

While this sounds like commonsense advice that wouldn’t require much brain power to follow, if you start to take a tally of your own experiences, you may be surprised by just how many times you’ve succumbed to what social psychologists term, “the planning fallacy.”

As Kahneman and Tversky explain in their 1979 journal article, Intuitive Predictions: Biases and Corrective Procedures, “the planning fallacy is the tendency of individuals to underestimate the duration that is needed to complete most tasks.” Its root causes?

  • The OVERestimation of one’s abilities
  • Focalism: the belief that one’s current task is unique; something that results in a failure to reflect upon past experiences of a similar nature in which there were negative outcomes
  • The failure to consider plausible complications and obstacles

And finally…The conceptualization of the task as one complete activity, rather than acknowledging finalization requires the completion of a series of necessary milestones

As I believe is fairly self-evident, all of the above factors can be attributed to egoism. Humans, because of our natural desire to confirm POSITIVE beliefs about ourselves and therefore maintain a positive self-image, are EXTREMELY biased when it comes to personal evaluation. When a new responsibility is attributed to us, the average mentally healthy individual will accept said task with the belief they will accomplish it easily and quickly, without facing any “jams in the machine”. If the task is associated with a sense of power and/or prestige, our perceptual bias will be even more pronounced because we all want to be able to see ourselves as possessing both characteristics as they make us more “valuable” from an “evolutionary fitness” stance.

On the same token then, it’s no surprise that also due to evolutionary impulses (specifically to avoid danger), we judge the actions and abilities of others SEVERELY and have a tendency to focus on things that would confirm NEGATIVE beliefs about them. This is particularly true if we perceive an individual(s) as a threat to our security, romantic life or cultural belief system…ergo racism!

Like all things in life, the trick is finding balance. Being confident and holding positive beliefs about oneself and one’s abilities is a GOOD thing. Being cocky and unwilling to own up to your deficits however is NOT (ironically, cockiness is typically rooted in insecurity but that’s a whole nother can of worms). Assessing situations positively too is something we should strive for, but NOT to the extent that you become an eternal optimist/idealist who is unable to evaluate things realistically in terms of the “what if” scenarios.

If life has taught me anything, it’s that you can ultimately NEVER plan enough…or plan for the unexpected. In two words, shit happens. While we cannot always control that which occurs around us, ongoing personal disappointment can be at least minimized if one is willing to practise introspection. Here, an example from my personal life yet again proves illustrative:

For the past couple of years, I’ve juggled multiple part-time employment schedules in order to earn enough to both get by and be able to save up for the future. While this may sound like a nightmare scenario to many, believe it or not doing so has actually afforded me more free time to be able to devote to things I’m truly passionate about such as: fulfilling my creative impulses and “keeping house”.

I was recently offered and accepted (foolishly and regrettably) a full-time 9-to-5 type position. Within moments of doing so, I took ill and became overwhelmed not because of the difficulty of the job, but rather because getting up at 6 am meant I had to go to bed by 8:30 pm (at the latest) and going to bed at 8:30 pm meant I no longer had the time nor energy to exercise, cook nice dinners for myself and my spouse, or even clean my house. It didn’t help of course that I was devoting 35 hours a week to something that was sold to me as a “dream job/career opportunity” but turned out to be nothing more than monkey work…but we’ll leave that as a sidebar. Suffice it to say that while the position paid well, I was utterly miserable and felt as though any semblance of a life I previously had had gone by the wayside.

Obviously, this was a pretty major disappointment for me in all regards. It meant that I had given up one of my part-time roles that I truly enjoyed for nothing and it surely didn’t help that I got reamed out by the Head of HR for quitting. On a positive note however, this experience reaffirmed something important about myself: where my priorities truly lay and the kind of lifestyle that works best for me as a result.

Had I practise introspection and honestly evaluated everything prior to taking on the role, this whole song and dance could have been avoided, but my dears there’s no use in crying over spilled milk. The moral of the story? Even perfectionists, such as myself, have to be willing to admit defeat upon occasion.

Vol #1, Col #23: Lost in Translation

Col23_HypocrisyMeterAh, the art of conversation. If only it were as easy to navigate as it’s defined: simply, two or more individuals engaged in dialogue. The problem is that people don’t always express what they’re truly feeling; worse (and what seems to be an ongoing occurrence in my life), some seemingly deliberately attempt to mislead you. Allow me to explain:

A number of months ago, I found myself in a very unfortunate conflict with an individual that is significant in my partner’s life. I dislike being in arguments with anyone, but it adds a whole nother realm of complication to the mix when your partner feels like they’re being torn between two people they really care for.

For obvious reasons, I’d rather refrain from getting into the nitty gritty of our falling out. What I’d like to focus on instead is everything that unfolded after our initial disagreement which only proved to escalate the situation to ridiculous proportions.

To reiterate, I sincerely dislike fighting in ALL capacities. However, I am a very confrontational person by nature. That may sound like a contradiction to you, but what I mean is that I don’t like pussyfooting around situations. I believe in being honest, upfront and trying to solve things as soon as possible, as I know from experience that the longer you leave things unattended, the more they simmer and have the potential to lead to clouded resentment-filled bitchfests.

With all of that said, as soon as the proverbial shit hit the fan between me and this individual, I immediately tried to diffuse things. I explained my side of the story as I felt my intentions had been misinterpreted and I tried to display empathy toward the other person’s case. Despite being told directly by the party in question that everything would be resolved if I’d just “be myself” and “be honest”, I was accused of using “psychobabble”, being condescending as well as disrespectful.

The first thought that crossed my mind of course, was well I do have a Hons. degree in psychology so I kinda have a natural inclination to analyze situations and people’s motives in order to gain a better understanding of this crazy mixed up world we live in… but I digress. Beyond that, I couldn’t help but feel both offended and extremely confused. I mean in my mind, I gave this individual EXACTLY what they asked for, AND YET somehow doing so made the situation worse?!

Now this is classic passive aggressive behaviour: seemingly playing nice only to pull out the claws when you least expect it, and honest people who take others at face value, such as myself, fall for it EVERY single time. Passive aggressiveness commonly develops in childhood in reaction to overbearing/controlling parenting and is ultimately rooted in feelings of EXTREME insecurity.

Three key behavioural characteristics displayed by those who have taken on this form of maladaptive coping are:

1) Victimization (ie: the belief that one is constantly being unfairly attacked by others and is always innocent in the equation)

2) Blaming (ie: the inability to acknowledge responsibility for one’s own actions/consider the perspective of others) and

3) Hypocrisy (ie: inconsistency between one’s expressed thoughts/views/attitudes and one’s actions). It is the latter of these qualities that is of our interest today.

According to Dr. Michael J. Hurd, psychotherapist and personal life coach, “hypocrisy is a symptom of intellectual dishonesty.” In other words, hypocrisy is rooted (surprise, surprise!) in the inability and/or unwillingness to practise introspection. Hurd goes on to elaborate, “an intellectually honest person, confronted with a gap between what he thinks/preaches and practices, will immediately hold a meeting with himself: ‘What’s wrong here? Is there some mistake in my idea? Or am I simply not walking the talk, even though I can?’” Given this interpretation of hypocrisy, it’s not surprising that pathological lying (both to others and oneself) is frequently another symptom of passive aggressiveness.

Moral psychologist, Dr. Robert Kurzban, in his article, “A Mind Designed for Hypocrisy” takes the argument one step further. In his view “our minds are designed to identify and even point out other people’s moral failings while, at the same time, pursuing our own interests even if doing so means violating the very same rules we want to punish others for violating.” Hypocrisy therefore is “just one way that we [as humans] try to gain strategic advantage in the social world; pursuing our own interests while at the same time trying to stop others from pursuing theirs.”

So perhaps it all comes down thinly-veiled insecurity in the form of “power plays” and bullying yet again? In support of this hypothesis is the fact that it has been noted by many that there is a distinct parallel between holding feelings of superiority/authority and displays of hypocrisy, in that the higher up you are/you perceived yourself to be on the feeding chain, the higher likelihood there is you will engage in hypocritical behaviour.

Kinda makes you wonder whether honesty is truly valued as an admirable quality or rather we just “say” it is? Maybe this calls for a social experiment. The next time you find yourself in one of those daily, “hello, how are you?” interchanges, answer the question unabashedly. You’ll know by the other person’s reaction whether said query was purely propositioned out of obligation to honour what society prescribes as “polite conduct” OR worse if they only asked you so they could be asked in return and have the opportunity to proceed in bragging/ranting about their own current affairs.

In other words, this week’s lesson: psychological maturity is neither selfish nor self-serving. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. And don’t initiate a dialogue if you’re really only interested in listening to the sound of your own voice.

Vol #1, Col #22: Power Tripping

Col22_PowerTripMy whole life I’ve been told, upon first impression, I’m rather intimidating. My whole life, I’ve found this phenomenon rather curious. No, I’m not looking for a good ego-stroking here. Rather, I guess you could say I just find it difficult to come to grips with the notion of being intimidated by another person, in general. We all are after all “the same underneath our skin.”

Given this view, I’m sure you can appreciate I’ve found myself in conflict with authority figures on more than one occasion. But again don’t get me wrong, my feelings do not derive even slightly from a lack of respect toward others. Call me crazy (or perhaps a communist), but I simply feel everyone, irrespective of their station in life, should be treated as you would want to be treated yourself. Further, it is of my humble opinion that a person’s character is not defined simply by the work they do or the position(s) they hold, but instead the kind of life they choose to lead.

This preface brings me to today’s topic at hand: that of power, its uses and abuses, and the psychology behind it. But first I’d like to share with you yet another wonderful anecdote of this melodrama I call my life:

A few months ago, I was doing some subcontracted work for a web/graphic design firm. Despite being computer savvy and having a strong background in both domains, I was relegated to solely handling their administrative paperwork and minor site updates, such as: blog writing (perhaps because I was the only female on the team). I didn’t complain however as I was relatively happy within the work environment and appreciated the supplementary income.

Right from the get-go though, my boss, who was considerably less qualified/educated than me, younger than me and quite evidently the coddled child of a well-off family, took every opportunity to attempt to shoot me down. Initially, I wasn’t sure if he was just kidding around, but I guess you could say I got my answer when I was relieved of my position for merely sticking up for myself.

In front of my fellow coworkers, my boss exclaimed outright that if I were to design a particular item, “no offense, but it would look like shit.” When I corrected him by stating “actually I’m trained in that software and regularly use it for other clients”, I was immediately pulled out into the hallway and told that this was my “final warning” for “having an arrogant attitude.”

I pointed out first and foremost that I had not been given any prior warnings so I found his statement rather confusing (which for certain only pissed him off more!). Secondly, I made it clear I didn’t feel defending myself when I’ve been called out and embarrassed in front of the rest of the staff constituted an “attitude problem.” His response and I quote was, “I said, ‘no offense’.”

Now in this particular instance, it’s difficult to conclude whether my boss had it in for me because
a) he was sexist

b) he was a spoiled brat who believed the world should revolve around him

c) he felt threatened by me or

d) perhaps a combination of all of the above.

Irrespective of this, one thing is for certain: his conduct toward me was unquestionably motivated by feelings of insecurity, inferiority and threat; something that is evident by the fact I was fired for failing to “buy into”/challenging his conception of himself as an authority/powerful figure (and what that power entailed).

In his defense however, perhaps his persuasion of what constitutes appropriate leadership was/is derived from modern society’s countless examples of corporate and political leaders who rely heavily on intimidation tactics/fear/bullying to win support from the general population and who constantly abuse their power, yet seem to face little to no consequences. Ironically, many studies on the subject have noted that “relatability” and “likeability” are key factors to gaining the initial support required to rise to power. Once that power is obtained however, as noted by The Economist, “corruption, a hypocritical tendency to hold others to higher standards of conduct than oneself and a sense of entitlement to abuse the systems in which one lives or works,” tend to reign supreme.

So why then do so many of us lust after it?

Evolutionary psychology would suggest that our desire for power stems from our natural instinct to protect and prolong our own kin. By seeking out and maintaining positions of power, we are in a better position to provide for our loved ones and therefore continue the “survival” of our “species”. As German philosopher Nietzsche explains, all life forms are constantly in battle to inflict their wills upon others, as doing so allows for growth, self-preservation, domination and upward mobility.

Power, in psychological terms, is defined as “the ability to enact your will or influence onto others.” According to Dr. Christopher Heffner, there are five types of power one can possess:

  • Coercive: the power to punish
  • Reward: the power to acknowledge/ recompense
  • Legitimate: power granted by some external authority
  • Expert: power that results from experience or education
  • Referent: power derived from respect or admiration; power attributed through idolization

While power was assigned to our primitive ancestors based on tangible attributes that would clearly benefit the group against external threats (ie: physical strength, size, speed, agility and aggression), in today’s world, power is oftentimes acquired through much more superficial demonstrations of charisma or attractiveness. For example, the US’ current President has proven that being a “good talker” can go a long way… which brings me to my next and final point: the power in words.

French social theorist Foucault alleged that power in society originates through discourse (ie: the discussion of knowledge) as words allow us to conceptualize ideas, which then become beliefs, and in turn lead to actions based on those beliefs. Therefore, power resides with those who ultimately control the public discourse (ie: the media, the educational system, politicians, stakeholders etc).

The debate about power: who has it, who should have it, what it constitutes and more, could go on indefinitely. I’d like to leave it for today with two final comments:

  • Psychological maturity is knowing when to pick your battles and setting standards in terms of what you will and will not tolerate from others. Yes, I could’ve kept my mouth shut when my boss made that final dig at me, but is my integrity worth sacrificing for an hourly wage? I think not.
  • On the other side of the equation, psychological maturity is also acknowledging that ALL people (and ALL living things for that matter) deserve to be treated respectfully. Believing that you’re superior to others because you happen to be from a certain tax bracket or because you possess certain traits is extremely egocentric. Psychologically mature individuals recognize that each and every one of us has something unique to offer this world. Difference should never been defined in oppositional terms.

Col21_SexualSabotageAs a personal fitness trainer, my mom meets many “interesting” characters on a regular basis and every single one of them, inevitably, has a “story to tell”. Beyond seeking her guidance to shed unwanted pounds, her clients also frequently position her within the “therapist” role, given that body image, weight maintenance and lifestyle choice are deeply intertwined with one’s psychological state; credence to said notion can be found in the case of those afflicted with serious eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia. Allow me to elaborate:

Despite the physical changes that their bodies undergo, sufferers of the aforementioned psychoses commonly report being continually plagued by distorted “body image”. In some cases, psychologists have noted that the extreme weight loss associated with these two disorders goes far beyond having mere self-esteem issues. Instead, highly regulating one’s sustenance intake can be seen as attempt to regain mastery over a minor “controllable” aspect of one’s life, typically brought on by an overall feeling of “loss of control” (Psychology Today).

Our topic for today, however, spans beyond individual attempts to “dominate” oneself. Rather, I’d like to discuss something I refer to as “sexual sabotage”: a phenomenon that occurs within romantic relations when one partner is threatened by the success of the other and accordingly attempts to botch that success, typically in a passive aggressive fashion.

For those of you unfamiliar with passive aggressive behaviour (you’re lucky, first and foremost!), in a nutshell, it can be summated as: a form of “indirect” manipulation wherein “aggression” or attempts to “control” are thinly veiled under what is presented, on the surface, as “care” or “concern”. As explained in The Angry Smile, “passive aggression involves a variety of behaviors designed to get back at another person, without the other recognizing the underlying anger.” Now, the reason I opened this piece with a focus on my mom and her profession is because a story she once relayed to me, on this very subject, has always stuck with me.

A few years ago, a well-off married woman in her early forties hired my mom to help her get back to her ideal weight. It’s important to note that the woman’s motivation for doing so stemmed purely from personal reasons and her relationship with her husband appeared both stable and healthy.

As the months rolled on and the woman increasingly became fitter, more confident, happier and more energized, her husband started to act very odd. Irrespective of the fact that the woman was clearly very proud of the strides she had made, his initial proclamations of support started to mutate into “I’ve always loved you just the way you are” sorts of statements. Taken on their own, these words seem nothing but romantic, sincere and very thoughtful. However, they were shortly followed by comments about how the woman should skip exercise class this or that week, as according to the husband, they just don’t seem to have enough recreational time together anymore. The final nail in the coffin came when in order to apparently “congratulate” the woman on her weight loss success, the husband went out and bought her PRE-exercise/healthy regime favourite high calorie, full fat, sugar-heavy dessert item so they could both gorge out! I mean REALLY?!

Like so many other displays of psychological immaturity we’ve covered thus far, “sexual sabotage”, too, stems from feelings of insecurity. In this particular case, given that the husband had a “beer belly” of his own that certainly wouldn’t be missed, it’s easy to deduce that his passive aggressive behaviours were rooted in an unconscious fear that he may lose his spouse to another mate with more desirable “physical fitness.” But, instead of going down the mature introspective path wherein he acknowledged both his own weight issues and fear of the potential consequences of his wife outshining him physically, he attempted to bring her “back down to his level”.

For many people (and I’m sure you’ve seen this even among your own group of friends), when they become attached, they begin to put less and less effort into their everyday appearance. As the popular expression states, “they” in effect, “let themselves go.”

From an evolutionary psychological perspective, this phenomenon actually makes perfect sense. At their most basic primal level, relationships are sought out for the purposes of reproduction (ie: to carry on one’s genes). Once a desirable mate that can fulfill this role has been secured, there truly is NO need to attempt to attract others; ergo, out goes the makeup and hair coiffing and in comes the muffin top!  

But of course modern day society with its impossible ideals of beauty and social standards (particularly for woman) adds complication to the mix. As the above story demonstrated, a desire to keep up one’s appearance may not have anything to do with pleasing one’s mate at all. And that, my friends, IS JUST FINE! It is YOUR life after all.

What I’m trying to get at is this: in psychologically healthy and mature adult relationships, there is room for BOTH “us” activities and “his” or “her” activities; neither of which come at the expense of the other. A truly mature and well-adjusted partner is supportive, understanding and accommodating to their spouse’s needs. Above all, each partner ALWAYS maintains the “best interests” of the other in mind.

With that said, if you should find yourself in a similar situation as the husband in the above tale, perhaps having read this piece, instead of attempting to sabotage the efforts of your spouse to protect your own ego, you’ll celebrate her triumphs. An even better case scenario? Your spouse’s desire for self-improvement ignites a spark within YOU to assess YOUR own situation and determine how YOU TOO can become the “best” possible you! Now that’s a goal worth striving for 😉