How to Change Your Brain By Accepting that it Can’t be Changed
It’s not easy for me to confess just how often I cried in the fall of 2009. I wish I didn’t care, but I’m still a slave to some old notions. All of which is to say that I cried quite a lot, and I’m ashamed to admit it.
If you found yourself in midtown Manhattan that autumn, around noon, you may have witnessed a 26-year-old man with his hands jammed in his pockets, marching across the city. He’d usually head south to the Village, but sometimes he’d go west to Hell’s Kitchen or east to the river. He’d be wearing an outfit that just barely met the standards of “business casual”—ink-stained khakis a size too big, untucked polo, brown sneakers doing a poor imitation of dress shoes. And if you committed the ultimate New York faux pas and actually looked him in the eyes, you’d see the tears.
The forgettable 26-year-old was me, and I was crying for joy—for the beauty of the world. Who knows what inspired these tears, exactly? Maybe I had watched an old woman teach a young blind girl how to use her cane to detect a sidewalk curb, and maybe I thought, this is someone with real problems, and look at her courage. Or maybe I had phoned my mother in a panic, and she had restored my self-belief with a convincing pep talk. In any case, the bracing truth reached me: “Yes, of course! Life is wonderful, and you never want to leave! You idiot!” So the tears flowed—tears of relief and salvation. more
Neuroticism is one of the five higher-order personality traits and pretty much everyone has it to some extent.
People who score high on neuroticism are easily worried and are more likely to experience negative feelings such as fear, anger, frustration, jealousy, guilt, and loneliness. They tend to interpret common situations as threatening, or to feel that small challenges are hopelessly difficult.
Now Eivind Ystrøm, a professor at the Department of Psychology at the University of Oslo and his colleagues say that this trait best defines the risk of developing psychiatric problems.
Research also shows that it is mainly your genes that determine your personality, and thus the risk of mental illness. more
It’s called a “secret anxiety” for a reason.
Anxiety is the voice in the back of your head that says, “Something bad is going to happen.” It’s what keeps you awake at 2 a.m. thinking about something embarrassing you did five years ago.
Not all introverts have anxiety, and extroverts and ambiverts can struggle with it, too. To be clear, introversion and anxiety aren’t the same thing. Introversion is a preference for calm, minimally stimulating environments, while anxiety is a general term for disorders that cause excessive fear, worrying, and nervousness. Still, for many introverts, anxiety is a regular part of their lives. And indeed, anxiety is more common among introverts than extroverts, according to Dr. Laurie Helgoe. more
Phobias (Phobic Disorders)
Phobic disorders (phobias) involve persistent, irrational fears and avoidance of the situations or objects that induce these fears. They may be the most common form of anxiety.
There are different types of phobias. One of the most familiar is agoraphobia
, or the fear of being in public places; it often stems from panic disorder
as a result of trying to avoid places that have triggered past attacks.
Another common form of phobic disorder is social phobia, which is characterized by an undue fear of embarrassment in social situations.
Other phobias are classified as “specific,” meaning they are related to specific circumstances—for example, a fear of a specific type of animal (such as a fear of dogs, or cyanophobia), which is the most common type of specific phobia. Another example is the fear of heights (acrophobia). more
Abraham Lincoln fought clinical depression all his life, and if he were alive today, his condition would be treated as a “character issue”—that is, as a political liability. His condition was indeed a character issue: it gave him the tools to save the nation
When Abraham Lincoln came to the stage of the 1860 state Republican convention in Decatur, Illinois, the crowd roared in approval. Men threw hats and canes into the air, shaking the hall so much that the awning over the stage collapsed; according to an early account, “the roof was literally cheered off the building.” Fifty-one years old, Lincoln was at the peak of his political career, with momentum that would soon sweep him to the nomination of the national party and then to the White House.
Yet to the convention audience Lincoln didn’t seem euphoric, or triumphant, or even pleased. On the contrary, said a man named Johnson, observing from the convention floor, “I then thought him one of the most diffident and worst plagued men I ever saw.” more
Complex computer modeling demonstrates that obsessive-compulsive disorder patients learn about their environments but don’t use that information to guide their actions
About 10 years ago David Adam scratched his finger on a barbed wire fence. The cut was shallow, but drew blood. As a science journalist and author of The Man Who Couldn’t Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought, a book about his own struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder, Adam had a good idea of what was in store. His OCD involved an obsessive fear of contracting HIV and produced a set of compulsive behaviors revolving around blood.
In this instance he hurried home to get some tissue and returned to check there was not already any blood on the barbed-wire. “I looked and saw there was no blood on the tissue, looked underneath the fence, saw there was no blood, turned to walk away, and had to do it all again, and again and again,” he says. “You get stuck in this horrific cycle, where all the evidence you use to form judgments in everyday life tells you there’s no blood. And if anyone asked, you’d say ‘no.’ Yet, when you ask yourself, you say ‘maybe.’” more
“The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else,” wrote Earnest Becker in his book, The Denial of Death. It’s a fear strong enough to compel us to force kale down our throats, run sweatily on a treadmill at 7am on a Monday morning, and show our genitals to a stranger with cold hands and a white coat if we feel something’s a little off.
But our impending end isn’t just a benevolent supplier of healthy behaviours. Researchers have found death can determine our prejudices, whether we give to charity or wear sun cream, our desire to be famous, what type of leader we vote for, how we name our children and even how we feel about breastfeeding. more