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.




See the above on “Manipulating Choice” and “What Do We Really Choose?” by Cindy Meyer, Ph.D.  for clarification of how our desires are manipulated by pairing something that might be good for us (e.g., milk, if it is good for you) with something also good for us (in Dr. Meyers’ example a beautiful person, symbolizing the consumer’s wish to feel beautiful). SUGGESTIONS When you are dealing with with cravings, even if you give in and find yourself unsatisfied, look back over the moments before you gave in to your “choice”. Feel and wonder what emotions, and thoughts, beliefs, were milling around in you at the time. Wonder what you might really have needed then instead of plugging in the thing that you do impulsively, or self-indulgently, or simply by habit. Yawn gently, rolling your eyes upward under droopy eyelids to allow yourself the sensation of needing, wanting something good for you, and not having it…yet. Shake your head in confusion, wondering what the heck it is you really need and could/should be doing when you get these cravings. Roll your shoulders and neck in uncertainty. Then distract yourself from the challenge by doing something fun or interesting or some absorbing, gratifying routine that needs to get done. Let the problem subside into your unconscious mind, and intend that answers will come. In time.