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Any pleasurable event— eating cupcakes, sipping wine, massage—could lead to reduced sensitivity to your pleasure soon after starting. Your attention migrates elsewhere. You accidentally take what’s happening for granted…even eating a great meal…for granted, and cease to actually enjoy it. WHY and HOW?

http://www.journals.marketingpower.com/doi/abs/10.1509/jmkr.45.6.654 participants receiving a 6-minute massage versus another group receiving two 3-minute massages with a 20-second break between them. The “interrupted” massage participants enjoyed theirs more. The reason: adaptation. By interrupting the massage, people refocused on the renewed pleasure.

Manage your pleasure  

Pleasure management is important because pleasure isyour “score” system. It tells you that what you’re doing is good for you. It helps you to repeat the behavior, and it can help you moderate the behavior too.

When you are enjoying anything “naughty”..a gooey cupcake, for instance…notice for how many bites it’s intensely pleasurable. Try to school yourself to knock off eating it after that, rather than continuing to eat at a lower pleasure level. Breathe deeply to emotionally and physically “digest” what you’ve eaten. Take your time deciding whether it’s worth the price of continuing to eat.

When you are doing something “worthy”…a massage, for instance… and your attention lags, ask your masseuse to take a tiny break…say, three deep breaths, to emotionally and physically digest the benefits of the massage, and your body’s opportunities for receiving it well. Being mentally and emotionally in tune helps to increase the benefits of the massage.

Short, even tiny, breaks can clear your head, center you, and make you good to go again. The more you revive on a regular basis, the better to be alive.

So What Happened:  When people feel helpless to deal with their hate, it becomes toxic

NEWS: On Wednesday, October 12, 2011, at a beloved hair salon in Seal Beach,CA, Scott Dekraai walked in armed with pistols, body armor and in two minutes had murdered eight people (killing his stylist ex-wife first). On Friday, October 14, Deputy District Attorney sought the death penalty, and people in the courtroom screamed out in agony and fury at Dekraai, including the words “I hate you.”

Scott Dekraai had been a lovable sportfishing captain until a gruesome accident severed a deckhand in two as Dekraai was trying to save her. He came away with severely injuries to his legs, leaving him unable to drive, and so disabled that he needed a caretaker. After that, friends say, he turned into a ghost of who he was. In time, things turned so tense in his marriage that then-wife, Michelle, left him. Shared custody of their young son went poorly, with Scott distrusting Michelle’s parenting. As things turned uglier, Michelle’s co-workers were uneasy or scared of Scott’s argumentative anger and temper. Still, at home, he was a friendly neighbor who shared gardening tips, gave gifts to newborns, and joined neighborhood watch.

How can the good guy be reconciled with the viciously murderous hate-filled one?

OPINION: Scott and his wife were helpless to deal with his terrible accident, not just his loss of career and mobility, but also the huge trauma and helplessness of witnessing the grotesque death of someone he was trying to save. Scott was helpless to get past his rage, despair, loss of a beloved profession, and loss of vigor and wellness of body. Michelle was helpless to help him with those reactions.

It’s natural for all of us to hate something awful. Hating that we were injured, can’t do what we used to do and our very memories when they take us back to trauma. But when we continue to be helpless to deal with something awful, and then when things get worse, the hate simmers and cooks into the awful brew of irrational hate. We hate someone instead of circumstance. Scott, helpless to improve his circumstances, hated hiswife for leaving him. Michelle had come to hate living with him, and was helpless to do anything but leave.

When we’re helpless, the key is to recognize our helplessness, and deal with that. Why are we feeling helpless? How can we get new tools to adjust to  new—unwelcome—circumstances and events? It’s healthy to feel the “ick!”  or “yuck!” of hate toward anything that is unhealthy or just plain wrong…like a horribly life altering accident or a marriage turned intolerable.  It’s healthy to then try to get to the bottom of it, excavate and clear out the bad stuff.

Feeling helpless to deal with our hate it becomes toxic and leads to irrational and dangerous situations…whether in small ways, or huge ways. It will automatically be aimed at someone or something, instead of just at the circumstances or traumas that caused it.

 

NEWS: “Laugh Well, Live Well” “A good laugh may be the next-best thing to a workout…. …laughter boosts the immune system, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduces stress.” “Shifts in appetite hormones following a case of the giggles resemble the effects of a moderate session at the gym,” according to the result of psychoneuroimmunologist Professor Lee Berk, PhD, and team from Loma Linda University, California. “Berk is now studying whether laughter can also reduce inflammation associated with many illnesses, including cancer and heart disease.” [quotes thanks to Amber Angelle, Discover Magazine, October 2010]

OPINION:

I expect that Dr. Berk and colleagues will indeed find that laughter can reduce physical inflammation. Bodily inflammation is the physical equivalent of both emotional rage/outrage and of stress. Stress and rage are opposite sides of the same coin. Both are intensely pressuring feelings pushing from inside outward. Laughter, rage and stress are all energetically explosive sensations. In the case of stress, we hold the pressure in: at the expense of our internal organs. In the case of rage, we release (explode) the pressure outward, at the expense of other people’s internal organs. In the case of laughter, the energy explosion is upward and outward in a geyser-like spray: thus relieving the pressures of stress and of rage.  As I am fond of saying, without laughter thereisonly madness (stress/rage). But without madness there is less laughter.

LAUGHTER TIPS:

Practice full-bodied laughter by keeping your mouth wide open, deeply breathing/laughing “ha-ha-ha-ha-ha” while rocking back and forth between doubling over forward and arching up and backward. Watch for  emotions interfering with your laughter such as: 1) Keeping your teeth or lips together in residual tension or anger; 2) Keeping your head erect instead of fully arching back indicates a mixed-in vigilant state; 3) Hunching up your shoulders suggests the presence of shame; 4) Slouching your shoulders and dropping your chin indicates helplessness and/or pessimism. [More on laughter in “Celebrate Your Emotions: A Guide to Eight Incredibly Transforming Feelings” at Amazon or www.surfyoursoul.com ]

 

 

First you have to recognize—correctly name—the feeling of being overwhelmed. I had quite a terrible time of just that on 9/11. I kept thinking that I could yawn my way through my emotional pain about this(some 9/11 reports), or that (details anguish over animal neglect/abuse mentioned at charity event I attended), or another thing (tragic prototypes in a play I saw the night before, and association to something in my own life). I was trying all day to yawn my way through it all and it didn’t happen. FINALLY, around 6 pm, I realized I was simply overwhelmed. No way was I going to be able to simply work my way through each separate pain that day. I had to get physical with the overwhelmed in order to be able to get to all the mental hurdles involved.

Overwhelmed = pure adrenaline (aka pure fear), confusion, pain. That means shake yourself head to toe…a lot (the more you shake, the less time processing will take). Then stop the whole body tremors and just shake your head, left-right-left-right, like an old-fashioned washing machine spindle, not too fast, not to far, just jiggling the jelly inside your head (:)) for better circulation. Stop that head shaking, and yawn. Big, eye roll up, chin level yawn. With lots of repetitions of this sequence will be helpful in coming days (as they were for me when I remembered I had a whole lot of issues mushed together). Doing so repeatedly. and intentionally, directs your unconscious mind to keep working on the issues for you. Considerable unconscious energy is required for sorting all kinds of stimulation (shaking head to toe), eliminating old unimproved thinking (shaking just your head), making room for new thinking (the head shaking alternated with yawning), and then inviting new data in for the creation of those new improved thoughts (more yawning).

9/11 night I went to sleep caring about everything, but at least recognizing that I was currently helpless to do anything about any of it except the one issue in my own life (my husband carried that through beautifully when I talked with him about the personal concern). Late in the week there were up days (well, one) and down days (several). And numerous issues worked through. Yes overwhelmed can unearth a lot of work that needs to be done. And honest working emotional stuff is like an honest day’s physical and mental work, right? Good for body, heart and soul.

 

 

Narcissistic Nation: US

NEWS: There is worry in Washington that if the US population loses hope, we will have lost the core of what it means to be American. President Obama’s book “The Audacity of Hope” similarly celebrates hope.

OPINION: Well, let’s not catastrophize. There appears to be some confusion here between pessimism (the emotion that arises more often these days in people’s consciousness) and hope. Hope is the spiritual part of the emotion of humility. Hope is a balanced place that depends equally upon optimism and pessimism… and upon being able to go back and forth between those extremes.

In other words, there is no true hope without both optimism (the “American” trait) and pessimism (an “un-American” trait?) And, overdoing optimism is a core ingredient of the dark side of narcissism…and of our hitherto narcissistic nation (cf: “The Ugly American” written in the 1950’s, Teddy Roosevelt’s “Speak softly and carry a big stick”, etc.)

Now, I don’t think narcissism is bad: it’s a fact of character, and just as I am a narcissist, so, I believe, it is no slander to call my beloved country also narcissistic. Driven to success. Galvanized by admiration. Focused on the future and visionary possibility. None of these things bad. We need them for outside-the-box creativity.

But to get mired in them…to be overly-optimistic about their power to the exclusion of many other virtues…is to be trapped by the dark side of the force of our own characters. And over-emphasis on hope… and is one of those challenges.

Really, the current currents of pessimism are healthy. They counterbalance the over-optimism (and associated complacency) that have been part of current decline. They help us (and U.S.) achieve real hope, healthy authentic hope, rather than the pale imitation which is optimism disguised as hope. Currents of pessimism are part of the vast ocean of emotion that bears us (and U.S.) anywhere. Good to get better at them. Good to have real balance. Good to surf and master all the full, real ocean of our emotions rather than avoid some currents (like pessimism).  www.surfyoursoul.com

 

I used to joke that I wished I could make the whole world bipolar because being so would wake people up to their emotions. And now, the prevalence of “mild” bipolar disorder does indeed seem extensive. It was probably always there. I didn’t really wish it into existence. (Did I?) Anyhow, in struggling with my own bipolarity, and annoying (to others) hypomania, I have come up with a kinesthetic method to help people out of the nonstop thinking and feeling that is characteristic of the accelerated end of bipolar disorder (or just of being too quick and too fast in the normal range).

First, you need to know that hypomania, over-thinking, and over-acceleration are encouraged here in theUnited Stateswhere the upbeat, creative, and materially (therefore “obviously”) successful get a lot of positive reinforcement. Therefore, it’s hard to give up hypomanic stuck spots. Like a socially acceptable out-of-balance, really.

Second, you need to recognize that the emotional state of hypomania is more addictive than most other emotions…rather like having your own caffeine, cocaine, or meth internally generated. To get clear on that, let’s dissect it.  The emotion of hypomania appears to be composed of three of the 22 primary emotions (from a Unified Theory of Emotion): excitement, optimism, and aggressiveness. The thing is, if you are excited, optimistic and aggressive, and stuck there, you may feel great, and empowered…but you lack good judgment. You don’t know how, or when, to slow down. You can’t slow down when you need to. You are literally ahead of yourself. It’s ok to be there at times, but staying there is a recipe for things not going as well as they could.

To get a feeling for this (very pleasant and empowering) state (whether you know it well, or you wish you could…) try this physical exercise: 1. wag your tailbone and wiggle with excitement. stop. 2. stretch up tall and taste as if tasting your favorite food in optimism; stop. 3. push forward from your chest (sternum), as if chest-butting, in aggressiveness. That’s how hypomania feels. Great. Powerful. High.

Now, try the moves for insecurity, which is the antidote to hypomania (when you need to ramp down, whether for better focus, or deeper sleep). Yes, insecurity is a good thing, as are all emotions, when they don’t take over your life to the exclusion of other emotions (see The Wisdom Of Insecurity, by Alan Watts). 1. Startle as if pleasantly goosed, in surprise; stop. 2. pout and slouch with pessimism. stop. 3. pull back through your chest/sternum in avoidance (as if dodging out of the path of an object or creature whizzing by in front of you).

Whether you have too much hypomania in your life, or too little, you may find yourself feeling a little icky: the emotion of hate. Stick out your tongue in expression of the cleansing out action of hate, which tells of toxicity: of stuff, whether physical material or mental/emotional habits. Repeat the grounding actions of the three primary emotions of insecurity three times or more. Generally, thisbring over-thinking to a much lower pace, if not a complete standstill.

Note that you can do this exercise in reverse if you are stuck in insecurity.

The balance point is confidence (courage, humility, joy).

Good luck!!

 

How to Laugh Well

Here is an excerpt on how to laugh (really laugh) from my upcoming book “Celebrate Your Emotions: A Guide to Eight Incredibly Transforming Feelings”

Physical Exercise

Purpose: To help you physically link agony and ecstasy

into laughter.

Step #l: Practice full-bodied laughter regardless of whether something seems funny. • Rock gently back and forth between backward circular arching of your spine and forward circular arching of your spine. • Breathe in and out of your loosely opened, smiling mouth. • In your backward arch stretch your chin as far upward as comfortable.

• In your forward arch stretch through the top of your head as if you are a giraffe. • Say “ha-hah-ha-hah-ha-hah” as you rock and stretch. • Breathe as deeply as possible, so your belly “jiggles like a bowl full of jelly” (or at least somewhat deeply and loosely).

Step #2: When you laugh, notice your mixed emotions. Keeping your teeth or lips together in laughter indicates tension or anger. • Keeping your head erect instead of tilting back and upward while laughing indicates discomfort or vigilance. • Hunching up your shoulders as you laugh suggests the presence of shame. • Slouching your shoulders and dropping your chin on your chest indicates helplessness.

Step #3: Separate your laughter from the other emotions it’s mixed with. • Throw your head back to take a deep breath as you prepare to let loose in pure laughter. • Double over as you exhale in full-bodied laughter. • Stick your tongue out or think “yuck” to tell yourself to “dump” the connection that causes you to express some other emotion mixed in with laughter.

• Express the mixed-in emotion(s). • Again rock back and forth in laughter. Notice whether your expression is more in the direction of free, full laughter. • Wonder what the mixed-in emotion was about—the tension, vigilance, shame, helplessness, etc.—and how it became entangled with laughter.

Step #4: Practice “inviting” the full spectrum of liveliness into your expression. • Yawn in pain. • Jump and grin for joy. • Throw your head back and laugh. Each day expect to experience pain, joy, and hearty laughter. As one spiritual master said, “If I have not cried and laughed every day, I have not truly lived every day.”

Step #5: Yet another step?! Yes…it takes a lot of work to get to full, clear, laughter. So watch to see when…  “Some people laugh through their noses;  Some people laugh through their teeth goodness sakes, hissing and fizzing like snakes; • Some laugh too fast; • Some only blast;• [Some] squeak as the squeakelers do; • [Some] let go with a ho-ho-ho-ho…  or a ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha too” [“I Love to Laugh” from “Mary Poppins”, lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman]

“A good laugh may be the next-best thing to a workout…. …laughter boosts the immune system, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, and reduces stress.” Right. Without laughter thereisonly madness.  [and] “Shifts in appetite hormones following a case of the giggles resemble the effects of a moderate session at the gym,” according to the result of psychoneuroimmunologist Lee Berk and team from Loma Linda University, California. “Berkisnow studying whether laughter can also reduce inflammation associated with many illnesses, including cancer and heart disease.” I would predict yes: without the inflammatory action of madness…the stress of life…there less is need for laughter. The sense of it might be that the harmfully inflammatory (exploding) action of madness (whether in hostility or stress) is relieved beautifully by the flowing upward gushing (also explosive) action of laughter. [quotes Thanks to Amber Angelle, Discover Magazine, October 2010]

I wasn’t a normal mother, asserts one of my children. And that is so true. I didn’t bake cookies, etc, she says. Well, not really it. Just the best she could figure as a symptom of the problem. The real problem was that I couldn’t figure out how to figure out her needs until, and unless, she told me. And expecting that of a tiny child, young child, etc? Maybe possible, but not with my lack of inquiry tools (and this from a psychologist…oh, woe!) Then, even when she let me know, my mind (and emotions) would be bouncing all over the map, trying to figure out which thing, which feeling, was priority, and how to answer. Not a stable surrounding for my young one. Today, I try and try, and sometimes get it right. I am blessed that she lets me keep trying–even though my trying is VERY trying to her, at times– despite my clumsiness of understanding and follow through.

NEWS: “Short & Sweet” in Working Mother Magazine Feb/Mar 2011 read thus: “Just when you think the clinging, crying and “don’t go” days are over, suddenly your grade schooler is sad to see you leave. It could be too little sleep, insecurity, a spelling bee. Before you guilt-trip over the fact that you absolutely have to catch the 7:42 train that morning, try these tactics: 1. [Say] what time you’ll be home [to help calm her]; 2 Keep the goodbye short: a hug and kiss, then get going. 3. Look ahead: Ask if there’s something special she’d like to do with you later on, to her refocus her energy on anticipating a fun evening. OPINION: Sadness: Before the prior advice, first, stop everything, and breathe deeply and slowly. Let go of eye contact and hug your child. Keep breathing deeply and slowly. Slow breathing slows time and makes processing of information more efficient. A minute may seem like five (especially if you are worried about getting to the train on time). Then look you child in the eye, and ask if they know what they’re sad about. Whether they do or don’t, if you gotta get going, assure your child that you will talk about it when you get home (and be sure to make a note to yourself to DO IT!). Then go into the reassurance for separation. Whining: Some of same moves as for sadness, but also mirror their frustrated anger: wanting something, trying to get a grip on it, not quite getting it. Tighten your muscles, and say that you understand they want something to happen, and maybe it’s what they’re thinking and maybe it’s a little different. Then on to reassurance and commit to talking about it when you are together again. Your own guilt: Respect your guilt. It’s like a bit of conscience nagging at you from the sidelines, but not being specific about exactly what it is that you are missing the boat on. Maybe you need to schedule a bit more time for separation. Maybe you need to take more one-on-one time to listen to your child’s experiences. Maybe you need to guide more effectively into having a good time despite stuff not being perfect. Explore. Your guilt will vanish when you get to the bottom of it.