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January 2011



Recent Posts


Reach For The Sky For Positive Thoughts

Article Date: 02 Apr 2010 – 0:00 PDT

When people talk about positive and negative emotions they often use spatial metaphors. A happy person is on top of the world, but a sad person is down in the dumps. Some researchers believe these metaphors are a clue to the way people understand emotions: not only do we use spatial words to talk about emotional states, we also use spatial concepts to think about them.

Motion and emotion

To test this link between vertical space and emotion, in a first experiment Casasanto and Dijkstra asked students to move glass marbles upward or downward into one of two cardboard boxes, with both hands simultaneously, timed by a metronome. Meanwhile, they had to recount autobiographical memories with either positive or negative emotional valence, like ‘Tell me about a time when you felt proud of yourself’, or ‘a time when you felt ashamed of yourself”.

When prompted to tell positive memories, participants began recounting their experiences faster during upward movements, but when prompted to tell negative memories they responded faster during downward movements. Memory retrieval was most efficient when participants’ motions matched the spatial directions that metaphors in language associate with positive and negative emotions.

‘Meaningless’ motions modify memory

The second experiment tested whether these seemingly meaningless motor actions could influence the content of people’s memories. Participants were given neutral-valence prompts, like ‘Tell me about something that happened during high school’, so they could choose to retell something happy or sad. Their choices were determined, in part, by the direction in which they were assigned to move marbles. Moving marbles upward encouraged students to recount positive high school experiences like ‘winning an award’, but moving them downward to recall negative experiences like ‘failing a test’.

‘These data suggest that spatial metaphors for emotion aren’t just in language’, Casasanto says, ‘linguistic metaphors correspond to mental metaphors, and activating the mental metaphor ‘good is up’ can cause us to think happier thoughts.’

Since simple motor actions can trigger this mental metaphor, could there be practical implications? ‘Who knows’, says Casasanto, ‘it would be great if this basic research can help people think more positively in the world beyond the laboratory – marble therapy?’

Daniel Casasanto


Who Killed Happiness and How to Get it Back!

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 29th 2010

Since World War II when so many Veterans came back with major traumatic stress, the world of psychology has been focused on the pathologies or illnesses of, well…most of us. The Humanistic movement came out in the 50’s, known as the third force in psychology, but really blossomed more a decade or so later focusing more on the entire human experience including all of the comfortable feelings like awe, gratitude, and joy. Transpersonal Psychology, known as the fourth force in psychology, came shortly after and began looking into the spiritual aspects of psychology. But then someone came along and killed happiness, how did this happen and where do we stand now?

In the early part of this century when Positive psychology came out with their handbook, they began putting academic and research-focused rigor to the work behind humanistic psychology. This catapulted the “happiness” movement with Martin Seligman’s book Authentic Happiness and gave people more permission to focus on “the good” in their lives.

However, like with anything, this process can become commercialized and then leave a sour taste in people’s mouths. Why the sour taste? Because we all have a barometer to know when we feel like we’re being sold a bill of goods without the substance behind it. Too many books, too many self-help “gurus” came out of the woodwork claiming to put perma-smiles on our faces. The promise of permanent happiness is a complete illusion and we know that. This is what Barbara Ehrenreich talks about in her book Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.

However, that does not mean that a greater life filled with more calm, ease, love and joy is not out there. However, like with anything worth doing, it takes effort and discipline to incline our minds toward the good.

Here are four words that I have found helpful in reminding me how to cultivate more gradual happiness in my life.

  1. 1.  Incline – this word gives a visual representation of tending to actively lean toward what I consider to be good things in my life. I may actively look for pleasant things in my environment or actively take action on things in life that are healthy for myself and others.


  1. 2.  Invite – It’s important to not push our minds toward this way of being, that only creates resistance and feels inauthentic. We can invite our minds to be open to “the good” in our lives.


  1. 3.  Intend – Intention makes all the difference. It’s important to set the intention to do incline and invite. Without intention, we get too easily drawn back into the gravity of our neurological automatic negativity bias and get caught up in old habitual ways of seeing and doing things.


  1. 4.  Patience – Here it is. This does not happen overnight and we can often experience two steps forward and one step back. Or maybe two steps forward and three steps back sometimes. That doesn’t mean that we can’t keep stepping forward. Be patient and gentle with yourself.



Source:  http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=36382&cn=5

Building Strong Internal Resources — A Key to Well Being

Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 2nd 2010

After more than three decades of being thoroughly engaging in the therapeutic enterprise, it is exceeding clear that building strong internal resources is a core competency to build within therapy. I was first alerted and sensitized to the importance of developing strong internal resources through reading a one-page summary of a huge multi-factor analysis research study on satisfaction in married couples. It presented the case that only 35 percent of participating couples were satisfied, and further that only nine percent of couples, or one in eleven, were in the top category of couples, across seven groupings, that were highly satisfied or “vitalized” across all dimensions. I remember being impressed that one critical descriptor that distinguished these “vitalized” couples from the other six categories was having built strong internal resources.

Specifically, Marriage researchers Yoav Lavee and David H. Olson, in their 1993 study of married couples, found four distinct profiles of satisfied couples. These satisfied couples included the four groupings and percentages of “traditional” (10%), “balanced” (8%), harmonious” (8%) and “vitalized” (9%). Even here, traditional couples showed low-to-moderate adjustment in several dimensions of their interaction. Balanced and harmonious couples experience a positive, strong relationship, with vitalized couples having the highest satisfaction across all measures.

Couples in the “vitalized” group were characterized as highly satisfied across nearly every dimension of their relationship, interacted well and constructively resolved difficulties. These best adjusted, most satisfied couples had models of each of their parents staying married. Beyond this background of having extended stability and security with their parents, they also agreed in most external areas and tended to be in their first marriages. Most crucially, these vitalized couples had built strong internal resources and were personally integrated. Thus, members of “vitalized” couples group had built strong character qualities and had integrated them inside themselves.1

Consider a key distinction between couples in genuine relationships, deriving from the word related meaning to be deeply connected like brothers and sisters, and involvements characterized by being complicated, mutually entangled, enmeshed, and using each other. It would appear highly probable, reasonable and fitting that the 25% of couples described as balanced, harmonious, and particularly vitalized, would qualify for being in relationships and not merely involvements.

What does it mean to having built strong internal resources? Ego strength is competent adaptation to the environment, that is, build strong internal resources or being highly resourced in the fulfillment of this vision. The peak is Abraham Maslow’s self-actualized person who regularly experiences satisfying peak experiences, has strong internal resources and a highly well functioning, adaptive and healthy personality in the relative world. This is a functional healthy ego as a set of skills, abilities, tools and strategies to appropriately use in adaptively working well in the world, or “self-mastery.”

One can build resilience, hardiness and character, much like one builds antibodies by being inoculated with a small dose of an illness, by exposure to mild to moderate stressors and experiences of disillusionment that do not overwhelm the person’s ability to face, cope and adapt. Resilience brings adaptive flexibility along with strong persistence in the face of apparent obstacles. Resilience researchers have distilled ten psychological characteristics or markers that can aid people to increase their resilience: optimism; cognitive flexibility; a solid moral compass of core values; altruism; a mentor or heroic figure or role model; facing one’s fears; active coping skills; a supportive social network; physical fitness; and a sense of humor and to laugh often.2

Resilience is closely related to the positive psychology concept of flow coined by psychological theorist and researcher Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. Flow is sometimes referred to as being in the zone, on the ball, in the groove and the inner game. At root, flow is conceived as an optimal behavioral fit between the skills, abilities, talents and intelligences a person brings, and the demands and challenges environmental tasks require. He has identified nine factors that describe an experience of flow: clear goals; a high degree of concentration and focus; a loss of feeling self-conscious; an altered subjective sense of time; direct and immediate feedback; balance between ability level and challenge; a sense of personal control over the activity/situation; an intrinsically rewarding activity; and being absorbed in an activity yielding action awareness merging.3

Equanimity is the outstanding attribute for having grown emotionally into true maturity. One who has built strong internal resources, adaptive capabilities, and the ability to keep their emotionally-grounded balance, throughout life’s up’s and down’s and ever-changing stressors, has built true equanimity. When essentially nothing can shake, quake or bake you, blow, boil or bowl you over, split, hit or have a fit over, then you stand your ground whatever may come. When you surrender your imaginary ego as a false identity and ever more inhabit your True Nature or True Self, you are imperturbable since nothing can throw you off course. This puts the disciple and the discipline into discipleship. When you embody in action what you espouse, then you are impeccable, beyond reproach. You exemplify and embody a whole being—yourself. You’re free.

Read in Full: http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=36427&cn=110

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