woensdag 19 oktober 2011

Mandy Moore on depression and sensitivity

Mandy MooreAlong with her success as an actor and musician, Mandy Moore has experienced emotional challenges including depression and sensitivity.
“A few months ago I felt really low, really sad. Depressed for no reason. I’m a very positive person, and I’ve always been glass-half-full. So it was like someone flipped a switch in me.”
She says her recent split with Zach Braff “added to what I was going through, but it’s not the complete reason. It definitely doesn’t help if you’re already in that place.”
Moore, at 22, also spoke of some of the existential issues she is exploring:
“I’ve been going through this really crazy time in my life – it’s what I imagine people fresh out of college go through. I’m asking myself life-altering questions, like Who am I? Where do I fit in this world? What am I doing, what do I want to do? Am I living to my full potential?” [Jane magazine, Feb 2007]
Gifted and talented people are more likely to ask those kinds of questions, and may experience feelings discussed in the article Existential Depression in Gifted Individuals, by James T. Webb, Ph.D. As he notes, “existential depression arises when an individual confronts certain basic issues of existence.. [such as] death, freedom, isolation and meaninglessness.”
Mandy Moore has commented in earlier interviews about her sensitivity:
“I’ll cry at anything, even a tissue commercial. I’m overly sensitive. It’s so easy to hurt my feelings.” [allstarz.org/~mandymoore/]
“I’m extremely-extremely sensitive. I can cry at the drop of a hat. I’m such a girl when it comes to that. Anything upsets me. I cry all the time. I cry when I’m happy too.” [absolutely.net]
“I’m really overly sensitive. I get my feelings hurt very easily, and sometimes I just cry for no reason, and I hate that.” [malaya.com March 21 2004]

Many people equate high sensitivity with exceptional ability. But in her article The Highly Sensitive Child (and Adults, Too): Is Sensitivity the Same as Being Gifted?, Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. writes that in her experience, “not all highly sensitive people are gifted. That is, at least as adults, many HSPs are not expressing some talent in a way that others would recognize as outstanding.” She also notes high sensitivity occurs in 15 to 20 percent of the population, but a smaller percentage are considered gifted.

But sensitivity is a trait shared by many highly talented, if not gifted, actors and other artists like Moore, and may be part of what makes them so creative.

Bron: http://talentdevelop.com

dinsdag 18 oktober 2011

Gifted People and their Problems

By Francis Heylighen, PhD    [page 1/2]
Highly gifted people have a number of personality traits that set them apart, and that are not obviously connected to the traits of intelligence, IQ, or creativity that are most often used to  define the category.
Many of these traits have to do with their particularly intense feelings and emotions, others with their sometimes awkward social interactions.

These traits make  that these people are typically misunderstood and underestimated by peers, by society, and usually even by themselves. As such, most of their gifts are actually underutilized, and they rarely fulfill their full creative potential.

This is particularly true for gifted women, as they don’t fit the stereotypes that society has either of women or of gifted people (typically seen as men).
The present document is a quick attempt at sketching the overall picture, summarizing the essential characteristics and the kind of problems they tend to give rise to.

While this is mostly a collection of existing material, I intend to prepare a paper offering a novel interpretation of these data on the basis of a cybernetic/cognitive/evolutionary thinking.

Summary of traits
The following is a digest of the traits that are most often listed as characterizing “gifted” or “creative” individuals.
The number of “*” signs indicates how often this trait (or a very similar one) appeared in one of the lists that I found on the web.

I have ordered the traits in different categories, in order to emphasize that these traits extend much further than just intelligence and knowledge (cognition).
As a comparison, I have also included the traits (indicated by a “•”) from Maslow’s description of what he calls the “self-actualizing personality”.

There is obviously a strong overlap in both lists, although Maslow seems to virtually ignore the cognitive traits, while emphasizing the motivational and emotional ones, in accord with his motivation-based theory.
The fact that in spite of this very different basis to establish two personality types, the overlap is so obvious, confirms my own reinterpretation of Maslow’s theory in which I argue that self-actualization requires not only need satisfaction, but cognitive competence, i.e. knowledge and intelligence.
(Heylighen F. (1992): "A Cognitive-Systemic Reconstruction of Maslow's Theory of Self- Actualization", Behavioral Science 37, p. 39-58.)


**********• original, unusual ideas, creativity, connects seemingly unrelated ideas
******* superior abilities to reason, generalize or problem solve, high intelligence
****** vivid and rich imagination
****** extensive vocabulary, verbal ability, fascinated by words
***** learns new things rapidly
***** excellent long term memory
**** grasps mathematical/scientific concepts readily, advanced comprehension, insightful
**** avid reader.
*** complex and deep thoughts, abstract thinker
** runs mind on multiple tracks at the same time, fast thinker

******* highly sensitive
*******• excellent/unusual sense of humour
******• very perceptive, good sense of observation
*****• passionate, intense feelings
***• sensitive to small changes in environment
*** introverted
**• aware of things that others are not, perceive world differently
**• tolerance for ambiguity & complexity
** can see many sides, considers problems from a number of viewpoints
*• childlike sense of wonder
• openness to experience
• emotional stability, serenity

********** perfectionistic, sets high standards for self and others
*********• very curious, desire to know
********• very independent, autonomous, less motivated by rewards and praise
*******• seeker of ultimate truths, looks for patterns, meaning in life ******* enjoys challenge, penchant for risk-taking
******• outrage at injustice or moral breaches, good sense of justice
****• wide range of interests, overwhelmed by many interests and abilities
****• strong moral convictions, integrity, honesty
****• high drive
**• visionary, realizes visions, sense of destiny or mission
** loves ideas and ardent discussion
• sincerity
• acceptance of self and others

******* great deal of energy
******• long attention span, sustains concentration on topics of interest, persistent
**** cannot stop thinking, work myself to exhaustion
***• needs periods of contemplation, solitude
• spontaneity

Social relations
*********• questions rules or authority, asks embarrassing questions, non-conforming
*******• feels different, out of step with others, sense of alienation and loneliness
*****• very compassionate
****• empathy: feels along with others, helps them understand themselves

Quotes from other sources

This is a collection of bits and snippets that I collected from the Web. Emphasis in the longer quotes is mine. Search quote in Google to find its source.

Characteristics of Creative Genius

I have always had an insatiable curiosity.
I am able to run my mind on multiple tracks at the same time.
I learn rapidly and retain / apply what I learn.
I tend to be very independent.
I tend to be less motivated than others are by rewards, bonuses, and praise.
At times I have asked embarrassing questions or rudely pointed out truths at the wrong time.
My preference for the complex can fool me into underestimating the simple answer.
I like to refine and improve others' innovations.
I feel comfortable with a wide range of emotions.
I can see many sides to nearly any issue.
Honesty, integrity, and ethics are important to me.
I can help others understand themselves better.
I am a seeker and champion of ultimate truths.
My nervous system is easily aroused, and I am able to discern the slightest changes in my environment (aromas, shifts in light, etc.) or detect irritants (e.g. scratchy sweater label).
I can feel along with and for others.
I set high standards for myself and for others and am my own worst critic.
I tend to look for consistency and security in systems, rules, and orderliness.
I am often considered a "driven" person. I have maintained my childlike sense of wonder.
I am intent on searching out universal truths.
I am deeply disturbed by inequity, exploitation, corruption, and needless human suffering.
I can and do work myself to exhaustion.
Some people think I'm too serious.
I have always been interested in social reform.
I value and will defend diversity.
I have a strong need to "make a difference."
I have a penchant for risk-taking.
I can and do ignore my own needs for the sake of others.

© LIBERATING EVERYDAY GENIUS TM by Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, Psy.D. - retitled  The Gifted Adult: A Revolutionary Guide for Liberating Everyday Genius

Characteristics of Gifted Adults

Perfectionistic and sets high standards for self and others.
Has strong moral convictions.
Is highly sensitive, perceptive or insightful. Fascinated by words or an avid reader.
Feels out-of-sync with others.
Is very curious.
Has an unusual sense of humour.
A good problem solver.
Has a vivid and rich imagination.
Questions rules or authority.
Has unusual ideas or connects seemingly unrelated ideas.
Thrives on challenge.
Learns new things rapidly.
Has a good long-term memory.
Feels overwhelmed by many interests and abilities.
Is very compassionate.
Feels outrage at moral breaches that the rest of the world seems to take for granted.
Has passionate, intense feelings.
Has a great deal of energy.
Can't switch off thinking.
Feels driven by creativity.
Loves ideas and ardent discussion. Needs periods of contemplation.
Searches for ???? in their life.
Feels a sense of alienation and loneliness.
Is very perceptive.
Feels out of step with others.
© The Gifted Resource Center and Lesley Sword, Ph.D.
[See titles by Lesley Sword on Articles: gifted.]

Normal Behavior for Gifted People

It is NORMAL for Gifted People to:
Have complex and deep thoughts. Feel intense emotions.
Ask lots of questions. Be highly sensitive.
Set high standards for themselves. Have strong moral convictions.
Feel different & out-of-sync.  Be curious. Have a vivid imagination. Question rules or authority. Thrive on challenge.
Feel passion and compassion. Have a great deal of energy.
Have an unusual sense of humour. Feel outrage at injustice.
Look for meaning in life. Feel sad about the state of the world.
Feel a spiritual connection to life.
© The Gifted Resource Center and Lesley Sword, Ph.D

Most Prevalent Characteristics of Giftedness

99.4% learn rapidly
99.4% have extensive vocabulary
99.3% have excellent memory
99.3% reason well
97.9% are curious
96.1% are mature for their age at times
95.9% have an excellent sense of humor
93.8% have a keen sense of observation
93.5% have compassion for others
93.4% have a vivid imagination
93.4% have a long attention span
92.9% have ability with numbers
90.3% are concerned with justice and fairness
89.4% have facility with puzzles and legos
88.4% have a high energy level
88.3% are perfectionistic
85.9% are perseverant in their areas of interest
84.1% question authority
80.3% are avid readers Descriptions
90% were described by their parents as "sensitive."
83% like to concentrate on one activity at a time.
79% report high energy or activity levels.
44% are sensitive to clothing tags and other tactile sensations.

A Glossary of Gifted Education

Giftedness and education from the perspective of sociologic social psychology by Steven M. Nordby © 1997-2002

Levels of giftedness According to IQ measurements, the following labels are generally accepted:
* Bright - 115 and above
* Gifted - 130 and above
* Highly gifted - 145 and above
* Exceptionally gifted -160 and above
* Profoundly gifted - 175 and above

Because of measurement error and ceiling effect, the exceptionally and profoundly gifted labels are often used interchangably.

Characteristics of the gifted
The following characteristics are common but not universal:

* Shows superior abilities to reason, generalize or problem solve.
* Shows persistent intellectual curiosity.
* Has a wide range of interests; develops one or more interests to considerable depth.
* Produces superior written work or has a large vocabulary.
* Reads avidly.
* Learns quickly and retains what is learned.
* Grasps mathematical or scientific concepts readily.
* Shows creative ability or imaginative expression in the arts.
* Sustains concentration for lengthy periods on topics or activities of interest.
* Sets high standards for self.
* Shows initiative, originality, or flexibility in thinking; considers problems from a number of viewpoints.
* Observes keenly and is responsive to new ideas.
* Shows social poise or an ability to communicate with adults in a mature way.
* Enjoys intellectual challenge; shows an alert and subtle sense of humor.

These characteristics can lead to conflicts in the regular classroom, as the gifted child may:

* Get bored with routine tasks.
* Resist changing away from interesting topics or activities.
* Be overly critical of self and others, impatient with failure, perfectionistic.
* Disagree vocally with others, argue with teachers.
* Make jokes or puns at times adults consider inappropriate.
* Be so emotionally sensitive and empathetic that adults consider it over-reaction, may get angry, or cry when things go wrong or seem unfair.
* Ignore details, turn in messy work.
* Reject authority, be non-conforming, stubborn.
* Dominate or withdraw in cooperative learning situations.
* Be highly sensitive to environmental stimuli such as lights or noises.

These reactions of gifted students to the regular education environment are normal only within the context of an understanding of the gifted. Without that understanding, they may be used to label the student as ADD/ADHD or SED. See overexcitabilities.

Overexcitabilities -

A term originated by Kazimierz Dabrowski to describe excessive response to stimuli in five psychic domains (psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional) which may occur singly or in combination.

Overexcitabilities are often used to describe certain characteristics of the gifted. “It is often recognized that gifted and talented people are energetic, enthusiastic, intensely absorbed in their pursuits, endowed with vivid imagination, sensuality, moral sensitivity and emotional vulnerability. . . . [They are] experiencing in a higher key.” - Michael Piechowski.
Extreme overexcitabilities or a strong imbalance between them may reduce the individual's ability to function in society.
The Intellectual and Psychosocial Nature of Extreme Giftedness

Philip M. Powell & Tony Haden Roeper Review , Vol. 6 No. 3, p. 131-133, February 1984.

The highly gifted are rare in the population. Using IQ scores as a gross index to assess this rarity, those with IQ's of 150 and above occur about 5-7 times out of 10,000 persons.

The literature about them is also rare. Nevertheless, the attempt to understand the highly gifted is valuable because it can help us to help them achieve their potential.

It has been reported that the higher the level of giftedness, the greater the chance of psychological and social adjustment difficulties. [...]
Terman and Oden, (1959) found that the four traits which distinguished the gifted from the control group of normal or average children most clearly were:
* General intelligence * Desire to know
* Originality * Common sense
Torrance (1965) has argued that the gifted are independent thinkers. Dunn and Price (1980) provided evidence to show that those of average ability have a greater need for external structure than the intellectually gifted.
One important difference, then, between average persons and their gifted counterparts is in the need of externally imposed structure.

Gifted persons are more likely to make sense out of their intellectual experiences than the average person. Another important difference is in the desire to know complex ideas. Average persons have less desire to know ideas for their own sake.

They substitute participation in social affairs for idea dominance or the preference for thinking and generating ideas argued as characteristic of the mentally gifted (Powell, 1982).
The possession of the desire to know means that gifted individuals have a need to search for the inherent pattern, logic or meaning in a set of data information, while average people prefer to have the pattern, logic, or meaning already generated and explained. [...]

The highly gifted, on the other hand, have the greatest capacity to create structure and organize data and the greatest need to know.
At this extreme, such people can create whole disciplines (De Candolle) and/or frameworks for comprehending the universe (Newton and Einstein). [...]

Another problem for the highly gifted is they grow up with and are often socialized by significant others who do not understand them well enough to guide their ideas and actions with valid feedback.

This was true of Leopold and Loeb, who were given free rein to go and do as they pleased at an early age. Parents can also vacillate between being proud of and being scared of the achievements of the highly gifted child.
Parental pride in achievement can quickly turn to a fear of social stigma which can cause parents to give their gifted child inconsistent feedback. Hence, highly gifted children are never quite sure if it is good or bad to be very bright.

Thus, their concept of the value of being very gifted develops slowly and ambivalently. Peers, especially children, are often confused by the highly gifted person because it is difficult to identify with their superior cognitive abilities.

They may downplay the degree of superiority of the highly gifted by invalidating feedback. If this feedback is internalized, a self-conception may be constructed based on underrating the self.
Clark (1979) reported on a young female student who had spent 18 years believing she was not intelligent because she asked more questions than the others in class.

Later, in Clark's university class, when the characteristics of the gifted were discussed, the woman was so moved that she decided to say that she identified with the gifted even though she knew she was not gifted.

She was so stirred by the class that later that evening she called her parents. During a conversation with them, the woman student found out that she has a measured IQ of 165. School personnel had advised her parents not to discuss her extraordinary IQ with her.

This resulted in a low level of academic seIf-esteem and the ridiculous self-conception of being stupid! [...]

As a highly gifted 12 year old described it: “A real friend is a place you go when you need to take off the masks. You can say what you want to your friend because you know that your friend will really listen and even if he doesn’t like what you say, he will still like you. You can take off your camouflage with a real friend and still feel safe.”

~ ~ ~
article continued on page 2
Francis Heylighen, PhD is a research professor at the Free University of Brussels (VUB), and director of the transdisciplinary research group on "Evolution, Complexity and Cognition".

Personal site: http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/HEYL.html
~ ~ ~
Article published here with kind permission of the author.

woensdag 12 oktober 2011

Using Your High Sensitivity Personality As an Actor

Winona RyderWinona Ryder admits there were times when she thought, “I’m too sensitive for this world right now; I just don’t belong here.
“It’s too fast and I don’t understand it.”
Many artists, including actors, are highly sensitive and use this trait to be even more creative.
But it can also lead to being emotionally overwhelmed, if you don’t take care of yourself.
Everyone has some sensitivity to inner experiences and emotions, to the moods of others, and to many other sensations.
But highly sensitive people have unusually strong awareness and reactivity, and are more likely to be shy or introverted – not that those are the same traits.
It can show up in many ways, and actors have different ways of dealing with their high sensitivity.
Rene Zellweger 
Renee Zellweger says when she expresses something, it’s through the filter of her character, so she never feels exposed. She thinks of making movies as “private experiences” and avoids thinking about disappointing people.

By the way, I am not presuming to label anyone here as a highly sensitive person (HSP) as described by Dr. Elaine Aron and others.
But many talented actors have identified themselves as highly sensitive, or at least talked about their sensitivity, including Ellen Muth; Heath Ledger; Amy Brenneman; Mandy Moore; Alison Pill; Naomi Watts, and Brittany Murphy, who once commented, “I’m a very oversensitive, vulnerable person. You have to be to do this for a living.”
“I get emotional all the time,” Jennifer Beals once said. “Every now and again, my heart just explodes and expands.”
Laurel Holloman, her castmate on the tv series “The L Word,” has commented, “My theory on that is all the best actors have a couple of layers of skin peeled away.”
Scarlett Johansson has noted that sensitivity can have a dark side: “I think I was born with a great awareness of my surroundings and of other people. Sometimes that awareness is good, and sometimes I wish I wasn’t so sensitive.”

One way to help yourself is to look at how you describe your feelings.
Are you “too sensitive” to work effectively or be with people who are more “normal” or less sensitive?
Acknowledging yourself as being highly sensitive may help your self concept and confidence much more than saying you are “too much” something or other.

Fame can be an assaultive experience for sensitive people. Johnny Depp has said he felt so intimidated by his celebrity status during his early career that he was often drunk to “be able to speak and get through it.”
But fame can also be strengthening, as Kim Basinger explained: “Because I’m such a shy person, having to live it out loud in front of everyone has made me a stronger woman, so much stronger, that it’s been a gift to me in a way.”

Shyness is a common experience for many highly sensitive people, including actors.
Nicole Kidman has commented, “It was very natural for me to want to disappear into dark theater, I am really very shy.
“That is something that people never seem to fully grasp because, when you are an actor, you are meant to be an exhibitionist.”
Jane Fonda admits she didn’t get over her shyness until she was about sixty.
ERWoodEvan Rachel Wood says, “I used to not even be able to order pizza on the phone because I was just so shy.”
She thinks acting allows so much to come out on-screen, “because that’s my time to let go in a safe place.”

Frances McDormand has talked about the “mental scar tissue” that helps us deal with emotional pain in life, and thinks, “An actor’s scar tissue really never covers over things the same way, not if you’re going to be sensitive.
“With good technique, an actor can do that and walk through life without going insane.”
One strategy she suggests is to simply get away from the theater or the set, and live life in the real world, not a fantasy world – especially one like a film set that can be designed to be emotionally intense.
The stage or film set can be a “safe place” in many ways, and a workplace environment where sensitive people can express themselves much more freely than in the “real world” outside.

But wherever you go, sensitivity does not disappear.

From The Inner Actor.com site

dinsdag 4 oktober 2011

10 Ways to Beat the End-of-Summer Blues

As the carefree days and warm nights of summer come to a close, so does the freedom of time spent outdoors playing with friends. Changes in the season (cooling temperatures, waning sunlight, falling leaves) and structured routines can create a more somber mood among kids, sparking some mild (or not-so-mild) melancholy and depression. Here are 10 tips to help kids cope with the late-summer blues and ease their transition into the season of fall and school.

Roll Back the Schedule Begin adjusting bedtime, wake-up time, and eating schedules to avoid an abrupt switch once school starts. "Slowly start to change some of the routine so it's not such a shock in September," suggests Jennifer Kolari, family and child therapist and author of Connected Parenting. Around two weeks before school starts, begin rolling the bedtimes back by 10 or 15 minutes a night to slowly move kids into their school schedule. "We sometimes get a little looser in the summer," says Kolari. "I think it's easier if the day begins to have a little more structure to help kids practice the transition." Robin Goodman, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and art therapist agrees: "You don't want to start the transition when school is already started."

Involve Your Kids
Let your kids help with setting up playdates, starting a chore or homework schedule, or shopping for school supplies and new outfits, suggests Dr. Goodman. Kids will let you know what's trendy and will often have opinions about what kind of design or theme they like for a backpack, lunch box, notebook, or clothes. The more your kids feel a part of the back-to-school planning, the more enthusiastic they're likely to become.

Look for Blues Clues Kolari refers to a "September crash" as a time "toward the end of September when kids realize that summer really is over, and then they feel sad and have behavioral issues." Trouble sleeping, resisting getting up in the morning or going to school, crying, clinging, throwing tantrums, and increasing aggression toward siblings are indications of anxiety. "It's very rare for kids in this age group (5 to 8 year olds) to sit down and talk about their feelings," Kolari explains. "They show you what's wrong through their behavior instead of telling you with their words what's wrong." Observe what your kids are doing rather than what they're saying.

Be a Good Listener Listen to kids if they share feelings of sadness that summer's ending or feelings of anxiety about the upcoming school year. Don't minimize their thoughts or stop them from being heard. "I think one of the mistakes parents make," Kolari says, "is to try to cheer their kids up and not let them think or talk about difficult feelings, when they actually need the time to process." Rather than cheerleading, "just sit with your kids and say 'Yeah, I miss that too' and really be in there with them. Tolerating our children's pain is very hard because it seems so counterintuitive. But to talk them out of it doesn't help." Once they feel heard, kids will be more willing to explore solutions and move on.

Prepare for Problems Troubleshoot potential problems with your child. If she's starting a new school, visit ahead of time or go over the route to get there. Be organized and avoid feeling overwhelmed by deciding what's going in her backpack and what supplies she needs beforehand. "If you predict something will be on your kid's mind, then prepare for it. Have your child work out the best coping strategies with you," advises Dr. Goodman. "Role-play and act out situations that they might have trouble with." Kids may be worried that school will be harder this year or that they won't be in a class with friends, so allow for all scenarios.

Give Extra Cuddle Time Spending time together through playing, tickling, cuddling, and reading gives kids a thicker skin and more confidence when they go off on their own. "Although you'd think that would make your child not want to leave you, the exact opposite happens. It's like you're filling them up and they're getting what they need. That's strengthening to them, so they can go off to school and feel a lot better," Kolari explains. The extra connection and loving moments before a big change can help kids feel less anxious and more self-assured.

Teach Relaxation Skills "If you can teach children relaxation skills, they can use them whenever they start to get anxious," says Edward Christophersen, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, MO. Dr. Christophersen describes sitting with his son just before his first day of school and calling his attention to a leaf that had blown through the window, which they observed and discussed. This act of being mindful can counter stress. "What you're doing is teaching kids to be present and really relish and enjoy pleasant activities."
He also suggests recalling visual images from pleasant experiences from the past, such as a beach outing. You can also use a photograph to help kids recapture feelings of happiness so they can access relaxation when they feel upset. "The main thing is getting kids to think about positive events instead of negative or unknown events."

Help Kids Set Goals Review the previous year and the progress your child has made; then set goals for the upcoming year to give them something to work toward. Dr. Goodman explains that no matter what your child's age is, discuss what she has learned to do since last year, whether it's writing, reading, drawing, riding a bike, etc. This helps your child see that "there was progress, that this is a process, and that the same thing will happen this year." Often, the two biggest focus areas for school-age kids are academic goals and social goals, Dr. Goodman says. By championing what has already been conquered, parents can remind their kids "that what seemed hard in the beginning ended up being easier -- and they learned a lot."

Designate an Official End of Summer "One thing that's really nice for families is to have some sort of ceremonial end to summer," says Kolari. Her family partakes in a potluck they fittingly call "the last supper." "We celebrate the summer ending, and everybody talks about their favorite moments. There's a sort of marking ceremony that's now a tradition." Whether it's having a barbecue, picnic, or campfire, or making a photo album, rituals can help create closure and allow kids to take happy memories with them into fall.

Mark the Calendar
Get the calendar out before school starts and note things to look forward to as a family. Start mapping out fall trips such as apple or pumpkin picking, making or shopping for Halloween costumes, or anything meaningful to your child. "Kids will see this is a whole year of new things to start planning for. Back to school doesn't have to mean back to everything awful. There are lots of other fun things to do," Dr. Goodman points out. It's a reminder that, although summer's ending, fall has wonderful things to offer, too.

Copyright © 2011 Meredith Corporation
Corinne Schuman is a mother and licensed mental health counselor in Washington, DC.
From www.parents.com by Jennifer Kolari

maandag 3 oktober 2011

The True Meaning of the Golden Rule: Love Your Bullies

Post by Izzy Kalman

February 20, 2010
Psychology Today Blog, A Psychological Solution to Bullying
The Golden Rule: It's the ultimate, all-encompassing rule of morality, promoted by every religion and ethical system. Today, many anti-bullying organizations are touting the Golden Rule as the solution to bullying. However, as I will be explaining, very few people actually understand what it comes to teach us.
While the term the Golden Rule (I will refer to it as GR for the rest of the article) was coined only a couple of hundred years ago, the rule has been recognized for thousands of years. Its most familiar formulations are: Love your fellow/neighbor as yourself; Do unto others as you would have them do unto you; Whatever is hateful to yourself, do not do to others.
2400 years ago Aristotle made a logical proof that the best way to live our lives is the GR. He explained that if everyone lived by the GR, we wouldn't need government–we would all get along nicely without any human authority over us (according to Mortimer Adler in the book, Aristotle for Everyone). Two thousand years ago, the Jewish sage Hillel, when asked "to explain the Torah [the Jewish body of rules for life based on the Bible] while standing on one leg," said, "Whatever is hateful to yourself, do not do to others–all the rest is commentary."
It's obvious that if people lived by the Golden Rule life would be terrific. Relationships would be ideal. Bullying would cease to be a problem. If the entire world lived by the Golden Rule, there would be Peace on Earth. It's also obvious that it's impossible to be living ethically if we are violating the GR. So why don't the social sciences and the mental health professions teach the practice of the GR? Why is bullying an escalating problem? Why are we still afraid of World War III? Why has the GR failed to accomplish its purpose?

I believe it's because of two general reasons. 

One reason the social sciences and mental health professions don't teach the practice of the GR is that the GR has become associated with religion, but psychology is science, and science is divorced from religion. So we don't even consider the GR.
But the GR is not a religious rule. It says absolutely nothing about a god or a higher power. You can be an atheist and still cherish the GR. As I will be explaining shortly, the GR is actually a scientific psychological rule. It is a simple formula for defusing aggression and creating harmony.

The other reason is that very few people understand what the GR is really about. Some people, including intelligent, educated ones, believe it means that we have to do to others exactly what we want for ourselves. For example, let's say I'm going to buy you a necktie as a gift. If I like red neckties, I should give you a red necktie even though you may prefer blue, because I like red. That is an infantile interpretation of the GR.

Many people believe the GR means that it is important to be nice to people.
But that's not its purpose. We do not need the GR to inform us that it is important to be nice to people. It is obvious that it is important to be nice. The problem is, What do we do when people aren't nice to us? Our entire lives we are being taught how important it is to be nice. So when someone is mean to us, how do we respond? My God! They're not allowed to treat me that way! I am always nice to everyone! How dare they be mean to me?! So we get angry. We want to get them punished. We want revenge.

What the GR really means is, We should be nice to people even when they are mean to us.

Read the Sermon on the Mount, the compendium of Jesus' moral instructions for people. (When I refer to Jesus in this article, I am not talking about him religiously. It is up to you whether you believe he is divine or mortal or even existed. I am strictly talking about his wisdom, his philosophy, as presented in the teachings attributed to him.) He talks about the GR. He says it is not about being nice to people who are nice to us. Anyone can do that. That comes naturally to us. Jesus says that even the tax collectors can do that–and Jesus was not particularly fond of tax collectors. Jesus says it's about being nice to people even when they are mean to us, and he gives us many examples. He says, love your enemy; turn the other cheek; if someone asks you to carry something for a mile, carry it for two miles; if someone wants your coat, give them your jacket, too. He says, don't get angry. This means, of course, don't get angry at people when they are mean to us. (We don't get angry at people when they are nice to us.) Jesus understood this perfectly, but very few others do.
(The truth is that there are entire cultures that understand the true meaning of the GR, and they live in incredible harmony. One such people are the Ladakhis, who I wrote about in a recent blog entry. The book about them, Ancient Futures, never even mentions the words the Golden Rule, but the description of their way of life matches the GR precisely).

Allow me to explain how the GR works scientifically/psychologically.
We are biologically programmed for what I refer to as the Rule of Nature, or what many social scientists refer to as the Law of Reciprocity. This means that I will treat you the way you treat me. If you're nice to me, I'll be nice back, and if you're mean to me, I will be mean back.
In nature, if you are nice to me, you are probably my friend, so it is safe for me to be nice in return, and it will benefit both of us. If you are mean to me in nature, you are probably a real enemy trying to injure me or kill me. I had better not be nice to you when you are trying to injure or kill me or I'll make it even easier for you. In fact, I had better be even meaner to you than you are to me or I'm going to be a big loser!
If you think about it, you'll realize that we are all biologically programmed for reciprocity. When someone is being genuinely nice to you, do you feel like being mean back? Of course not. You feel like being nice back. And when someone is being mean to you, do you feel like being nice back? No. You feel like being mean back. We can control our responses, but this is what our guts tell us: to be nice to those who are nice to us and mean to those who are mean to us. With the exception of some people who have serious neurological or emotional disturbances, we are all like this. No one had to teach it to us or we wouldn't all be like this.
But even the Rule of Nature/Law of Reciprocity creates a fair amount of harmony. If you observe creatures living in nature–including humans–you will notice that they spend far more time being nice to members of their own group than they do being mean. That's because we discover that when we are nice to others, they tend to be nice back, and when we're mean to others, they tend to be mean back. So we figure out by ourselves that in general it pays to be nice to others.

The GR makes a higher level of harmony possible. It actually takes advantage of our programming for reciprocity. And this is how it works.
If I live by reciprocity, I have very little control of my relationships. If you are nice to me, I will be nice in return and we will be friends. However, if you are mean to me, I will be mean in return and we will be enemies. The GR puts me in control. I will be nice to you even when you are mean to me. Why? Because how long can you continue being mean to me when I am always nice to you? Before long, you are going to start being nice to me because you are biologically programmed to treat me the way I treat you.

The GR is the therefore the ultimate empowerment. It is the solution to being a victim. A victim reacts. A victim's behavior is therefore controlled by the bully. But in order to not be a victim, we must act independently of the bully's actions. we treat them like friends even when they treat us like enemies. And that way we end up controlling them.

Treating people like friends does not mean that we must give them everything they want. We can be hurting people by giving them everything they want. We can be spoiling them, enabling them or helping them become bad people. The GR requires us to say "no" to people sometimes, but we are to do it nicely, without anger. Nor does the GR mean that we must let people abuse us, injure us or kill us. We are required to protect ourselves and to stop others from hurting us. The GR even requires us to kill people if there is no other way to stop them from being murderous. But it is not because we hate them. It is because we love them and they give us no choice.

Anti-bully activists have been trying to promote the GR. They have adopted the GR as their motto, and they gets kids to wear rubber bracelets engraved with the GR. However, the activists don't truly understand the GR. They believe it means, Don't act like a bully. They are really promoting reciprocity: We will be nice to you if you are nice to us, but if you bully us, we will have no tolerance for you and we will get you punished ("administered consequences," in current jargon). What the anti-bully activists don't realize is that the GR really means, Don't act like a victim! 

Someone once showed me a letter written by a school principal to the students of the school. It explained how important it is to live by the GR. The concluding paragraph said (the following are not the exact words, but they're pretty close): "So you have to live by the GR in school, and if you don't, we will have no choice but to punish you." Sorry, Mr. Principal, but that is a violation of the GR. How would you like it if some authority figure went around punishing you whenever they decided you didn't treat someone the way s/he wanted to be treated?

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says outright that the GR is a rejection of reciprocity:
You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you, and persecute you. (Matthew 5:43-44)
Loving our enemies is the true purpose of the GR.
We don't need to be instructed to love our friends because that comes naturally to us. When it comes to enemies, though, our natural instinct is to hate them. However, that only escalates their hatred for us in return. Now, how would you like it if your enemies loved you? Wouldn't it be terrific? They wouldn't be your enemies anymore! So just as we would like our enemies to love us, we need to love our enemies.
If we were to replace our zero-tolerance-for-bullying policies with this simple expression of the GR–Love your enemy (bully); be nice to people even when they are mean to you–bullying would disappear. And if we were to teach it on an international level, we might achieve peace on earth.
No other way is possible. We can't practice intolerance of bullying, hoping that it will lead to a society in which intolerance no longer exists. We can't conduct war against other countries hoping that it will lead to a world without war. The only way to lead to a world that lives by the GR is by living by the GR now.

Disclaimer: While I teach the meaning of the GR, I don't claim to be a model of it. There are people who live by the GR much better than I do without ever having been taught the rule. I often forget to apply it, and people who know me can attest to it. So if you wish to accuse me of being a hypocrite, I will be the first to agree!