Archive for April, 2013

Do You Know What the “God Gene” Is? Do You Activate It?

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Have you ever heard the term “God gene” or its scientific name, VMAT2? Well, depending on your belief system, openness, or religious persuasion you may be either stimulated or threatened by such discussion.  Let me give you a sense of what this is all about.

A geneticist, Dr. Dean H. Hamer, has written a book entitled THE GOD GENE: HOW FAITH IS HARDWIRED INTO OUR GENES.  The controversy divides Believers, who reject the idea that faith may be reduced to chemical reactions in the brain, and Secular Humanists, who refuse to accept that religion is inherent in people’s makeup.

Dr. Hamer believes that his research shows that spirituality – the feeling of transcendence – is part of our nature. He says “we think that all human beings have an innate capacity for spirituality and that that desire to reach out beyond oneself, which is the heart of spirituality, is part of the human makeup.”  He says that “some people have a bit more of that capacity than others, but it’s present to some degree in everybody.”

He has stated that one gene, which goes by the name of VMAT2, controls the flow to the brain of chemicals that play a key role in emotions and consciousness. He says this gene, and there are more yet to be identified, is involved in the universal propensity for transcendence.  He says this predisposes humans to believe, not necessarily what to believe.

Hamer likens spirituality to the capacity for language.  Humans are genetically predisposed to have it, but the language people speak and the religion they practice are learned rather than inherited characteristics. Thus, all humans are oriented to be spiritual, but the religion or other spiritual path chosen, is a result of where you were born and raised and, thus, enculturated.  The country or region that you grew up in largely determines what your spiritual expression will be.  Certainly through travel, education, reflection, personal experience, etc… you may choose to modify that original belief and practice.

Hamer believes that various practices lead to a further activation of the VMAT2 gene which leads to feelings of transcendence and an intuitive sense of God’s presence. These practices would include, meditation, prayer, certain types of music and creative endeavors. He is concerned that much of “organized religion can get so codified, so caught up with learned rituals, that the focus on spirituality gets lost.”

In these times there are people who distinguish a difference between spirituality and religion, while others believe the two are the same and find that unification consoling. This article is not about avowing one thought over another, just pointing out the ongoing evolution of the conflict or union between Science and Religion.  Is Spirituality the common denominator?

Respected Reader, if this geneticist is accurate in his finding that you have a spiritual component in your brain, like the rest of us mortals. What are you doing to activate, celebrate, and further create its conscious expression? The connective reality of transcendence is a wonderful state of mind!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”     Socrates

Do You Really Think You Communicate Well? See If You Do These Things!

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

I would venture to say that the number one problem in all relationships is communication.  In families it sure is!  Whether it is between spouses or parent and child, communication challenges. There are many books, articles, and workshops held to help people communicate. I will use the language of Dr. Douglas Rosenau for sake of this article.  I encourage you to read, clip, and save this tutorial for future reference. Dr. Rosenau’s model follows, buttressed by my elaboration.

  1. HOW TO SEND EFFECTIVE MESSAGES:
  2. One track is better: Stick to one topic at a time and finish it. (Men cannot multi-task)
  3. Needs and feelings are the bottom line.  Cut to the core and define deeper issues. Don’t debate, lecture, rehash, or deal in personalities or details.
  4. Develop effective timing. Be strategic.  Find a time that is good for both parties. Do not try to have a serious conversation when someone is hungry or angry –or watching the favorite television show!
  5. Use positive communication.  Eliminate words like “never, always, won’t or don’t”. No dirty shots or power plays.  Keep the volume down.  No scorekeeping.  No withdrawing.
    1. HOW TO BE A GOOD SENDER OF A MESSAGE:
      1. Be secure, aware of your thoughts, feelings, needs, strengths, and limitations, and outcome desired.
      2. Use “I” language. Take personal responsibility.  Avoid “You” statements as much as possible because they make the other person feel defensive.
      3. Be assertive. Openly express needs, feelings, desires. Avoid conflict if possible. Be not aggressive nor passive in your presentation.  Don’t hint around; make direct and  honest statements. Be clear!
      4. Seek dialogue (not debate). Seek information and solutions.  This is not about winning. Be respectful, flexible, and not defensive.
  6. HOW TO BE A GOOD LISTENER:
    1. Be focused with good eye contact. Eliminate distractions. Acknowledge person and message.
    2. Be detached and respectful. Suspend personal judgments.  Do not over personalize, project, or butt in. Avoid rebuttals unless invited in at an appropriate time. Don’t get defensive!
    3. Be empathetic. Try to see and hear the message from the other person’s perspective.
    4. Do not make assumptions or try to be a mind reader.  Clarify where needed. Give feedback at an appropriate time.

Should the discussion heat up try to be the first person to stifle the escalation.  I ask my clients to be aware of this dangerous dynamic and say the word “broccoli”!  By saying the word “broccoli”, or some other agreed upon word intervener, you are saying, “I care about you and what we are talking about but I do not want our anger to get out of control. Let’s take a short break, cool down and come back and discuss the topic with less negative emotion.”

I hope this basic primer of communication will be useful to you as you navigate your way through the occasional choppy waters of trying to send and receive messages in a respectful and productive manner.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”     Socrates

How Do You Handle Rejection? Do You Know How It Affects You?

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Everyone experiences rejection in some form along the pathway of life. Rejections may come from parents, spouse, children, dating relationships, friends, and the workplace.  Rejections can be very impactful. (Perhaps a momentary pause here would be appropriate as you call to mind such experiences. Which ones pop into your head?  What emotion is expressed when you recreate this experience in your brain? Anger? Hurt?) This article is about two factors involved when you experience rejection.

Firstly, the biology of your brain is impacted by rejection. Dr. Helen Fisher has likened a romantic relationship breakup “like a drug user going through withdrawal”.  Using brain imagery techniques Fisher witnessed the areas of the brain that were activated when a rejected person thought about it. “Their brain shimmered like those of addicts deprived of their substance of choice” reports Fisher in the Journal of Neurophysiology.  More specifically, Fisher wrote: “We found activity in regions of the brain associated with cocaine and nicotine addiction. We also found activity in a region associated with feelings of deep attachment, and activity in a region that’s associated with pain”. That presents a lot of negative energy interaction within the brain. Such an interaction fosters the chemicals of the stress hormone cortisol and those causing depression in the brain.

Agreeing with Fisher’s statements on attachment, Dr. Phillip Shaver writes about how a person responds to rejection. He says that if you are a person who is secure in yourself, with high self esteem, you will feel the pain of rejection but can grieve, heal, and move on still seeing yourself in a positive light.  If you are a person who is anxious and insecure you will tend to try and hang on to the deteriorating relationship at some cost or move aggressively into such behavior as stalking. People with low self worth will take rejection the worst.

Respected Reader, what is or has been your reaction to rejection? Does it take you down for a long time? Do you question your self worth? Critical of yourself? Angry at the rejector?  Seek revenge?  OR, do you acknowledge that it is painful, perhaps learn something about yourself and your choices, be resilient, heal, and move on with a solid sense of well being?

If the rejection comes from a person who you want to be in your life perhaps a respectful discussion would be of value to help you understand the rejection better or change it to an acceptance. If this person is not that important to you, you may want to establish a boundary such that the person no longer has the opportunity or capacity to reject you again.

To be the rejector or rejected is a normal part of your life’s journey. How you address it is the important thing.  If you find that you do a lot of rejecting or are rejected way too often, perhaps it would be of benefit to do a self assessment analysis with a qualified mental health specialist to help you understand the phenomenon of rejection in your life.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”     Socrates

Want to be “Younger Next Year”? You Can Be!

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

Did the title of this article catch your eye?  Did you have a momentary flash of excited optimism?  Was that flicker of hope quickly dashed by your own skepticism?  I know this title ran me through those thoughts.  YOUNGER NEXT YEAR: LIVE STRONG, FIT, AND SEXY – UNTIL YOU’RE 80 AND BEYOND  is the title of a book authored by Henry S. Lodge, M.D. and Chris Crowley.  Lodge is the medical information giver and Crowley, in his seventies, is the embodiment and portrayer of the advice. The authors are distinguished in their pedigree and the book has been a big seller. I would like to give you a glimpse about what their message and method is all about.

The book is most readable even as it weaves some scientific truths through its content to buttress its overall message of stifling “decay” and being “younger”. So what is the essence of the message? Its premise is that “Aging is decay and decay is optional; it’s under your control… Taking charge of your life, physically and emotionally, is the best antidote to standard retirement and aging.”

Some of the core premises stated are:

  1. The brain “is the body’s master control center”.  Its three components relate to  physical, emotional, and cognition. An example of this is that the physical brain part runs your metabolism. Metabolism monitors your physical body and aims to keep it in “supreme harmony”.
  2. Neuroplasticity is a reality.  This means that you can stop decay, which is a “relentless tide” accelerating in the forties and fifties, by changing your brain chemistry – your control center. It is important to learn different ways to do that. This is a dynamic in which I am very involved.
  3. Emotions change our brain chemistry at the genetic level. “Emotion is physically stronger than thought. … Staying emotionally connected … is a biological imperative”. Therefore engineering our emotions in a creative and positive manner is helpful. There are techniques to do this.
  4. “Life is energy”. There are methods to increase positive energy at the cellular level. “Reach out to good stimuli”. Some listed are:

a)      Exercise daily. It increases circulation and facilitates many life saving systemic changes.

b)      Healthy nutrition: what you eat and the amount consumed, not diets, is vital in this process.

c)       Sufficient sleep.

d)      Emotionally involved with living. Connect and commit to a higher purpose beyond yourself. Care about and be involved with other health conscious people.

e)      Play! “It is a state of mind as well as a state of body, and it’s pure limbic gold.” (Limbic part of the brain is the emotional center).

 

f)        Human touch: “Physical intimacy, with or without orgasm, triggers a wonderful outpouring of good chemicals throughout the body.”

 

g)       “Love saves lives”.  “Cuddle or perish” The authors quote esteemed cardiologist Dr. Dean Ornish from his book LOVE OR PERISH.

These are some of the essentials listed by the authors.  There is so much more in this book, with added advice, explanation and research to help you be YOUNGER NEXT YEAR!  The book concludes by saying “a life fully lived is also a life fully examined”.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”     Socrates

Want to Develop More Social Confidence? Here’s How!

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Self confidence is a valuable  mental health asset to have.  Self confidence feeds success in most any endeavor that you undertake. How you feel about yourself, self esteem, coupled with concomitant self confidence leads to winning experiences in whatever you do. Social self confidence, people skills, is a learned attribute.  Some people have not learned it.  Extremes are the very shy to the complete boor. The following are some tips to enhance your self confidence in social situations.

Hana Estroff Marano has written an excellent article in this regard. I would like to share her eight recommendations along with some of my input.

  1. SCHEDULE YOUR SOCIAL LIFE: You have to invest time in being in social situations with people.  Look for such opportunities by both inviting people to get together with you,  by accepting invitations that may come your way, and finding situations in which you can join.
  2. THINK POSITIVE: Insecure people approach others anxiously, feeling that they have to prove that they’re witty or interesting. Self-assured people expect others to respond positively, looking  for the good in people and situations.
  3. ENGAGE IN SOCIAL RECONNAISSANCE:  Socially competent people are skilled at information gathering. They are attuned to people’s expressions and interests, aware, too, if the others are ready to engage in conversation. When in the conversation make comments that are connected to the people and social situation.  Display interest.
  4. ENTER CONVERSATIONS GRACEFULLY: Timing is everything. Know when to come in and how to do it. Look for an appropriate opening, make your entry, and know how to back off and foster others to participate.
  5. LEARN TO HANDLE FAILURE: Everyone will at some time be rejected.  The socially confident person does not take rebuffs personally. They are resilient and assume that it is a result of such factors as incompatibility, someone else’s bad mood, or a misunderstanding. No need to obsess here about this mis-connect.
  6. MANAGE YOUR EMOTIONS: Social situations can be very complex and dynamic. Verbal and non verbal cues, facial expressions, voice tones all have impact which may result in a myriad of felt emotion. It is important to control any negative emotions that may arise such as anger, fear, and anxiety.
  7. DEFUSE DISAGREEMENTS: Conflict is inevitable and coping with confrontations is a critical skill. No need to escalate. Socially confident people stop conflict by apologizing if appropriate, make a peace offering, negotiate, or just change the subject.
  8. LAUGH A LITTLE: Appropriate humor is the most prized social skill. Laughing together with others is most connecting. Emphasis here is “appropriate” humor.

When you have high self esteem and feel socially confident there is an extra lilt in your voice, a more positive energy is exuded. People look forward to being in your company. Hope these tips have added to your awareness and skill sets. I look forward to being with you!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates