Saybrook University

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Empathy is going the way of the land-line: one more thing the young are giving up

04/20/2011

800px-US_Navy_040915-N-0000W-121_Lt._Charles_Dickerson_checks_on_a_young_patient_in_Ward_5B_of_the_U.S._Naval_Hospital,_Yokosuka Are college students today less likely to feel sympathy for people less fortunate than them than college students were 30 years ago? 

We’d better have a talk about empathy, before it’s too late. 

A meta-analyses study published in the August 2010 issue of Personality and Social Psychology Review looked at research empathy dating from 1979-2009, including over 13,000 college students. The researchers were looking at the personality quality referred to as dispositional empathy – which is what students display when they say that they care about the homeless man who sleeps in the park near campus. 

Konrath and colleagues found that students were less likely to agree with statements such as “I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me” and “I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective.” That last statement is critical to empathy.

The research indicates that a particular type of empathy has been lost. There has been a steady decline in the ability to imagine another person’s point of view and to sympathize with them. 

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Dying and dignity: Finding a good death in the story of our lives

04/19/2011

We all wish for a good life – and we try to imagine what a good death would be.

A good death may be one where we are able to have some control over how we die. What would be a part of a good death?  What would you want to do with your last moments of life? There may be so many things running through your mind … but would one of them be sharing time with your family and friends?

How, and when, would you want to say goodbye?

NPR recently featured as story about a hospice in St. Louis that gives clients the opportunity to not only say goodbye but to leave a legacy of their lives, their stories.

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The proof piles up: complementary medicine can change your life.

04/18/2011

Hypnotic-spiral Hypnosis isn’t all powerful – but it can sure make your life better. 

A recent article in the New York Times gave an example: a middle aged woman suffering a debilitating illness, facing the fear of surgery. She undergoes four hypnotic sessions at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine. The result—a calm surgery and speedy recovery.   

The reintegration of hypnosis into society is part of a bigger societal transformation. Indeed it is the forerunner of a more complete and wholesome methodology of care: a revolution of mind-body and integrative medicine. It’s catching on like wildfire – with some of the biggest and best hospitals offering integrative medicine focused on mind-body techniques akin to hypnosis. Among them: Stanford Hospital, Beth Israel Medical Center, and Mount Sinai Medical Center.

In recent years, integrative medicine has seen greater credibility and wide-spread acceptance as research proves its efficacy. Its selling point for many: It’s a combination of conventional treatments combined with complementary and alternative treatments.

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What's the one essential skill in the new economy? Survey says: creativity

04/15/2011

Everyday Creativity “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them,” said Einstein. 

In these turbulent times, there are plenty of problems to go around. Families, businesses, governments—you name it and issues abound, and it seems like for decades we’ve been stuck.

But it may be that these seemingly insurmountable issues facing businesses, society, and government can be solved by tapping into your everyday genius;  Reports are suggesting that “creativity” may well be the new form of pragmatism.

That’s what Mark Batey proposes in Is Creativity the Number 1 Skill for the 21st Century. Batey, a creativity researcher and editor of the International Journal of Creativity and Problem Solving speaks to “creativity” as being an essential facet of personal skill sets in the future.

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Setting your own schedule makes it easier to get your work done

04/14/2011

Flexible_Workplace_Variability Have you had any trouble with work-life balance recently?  You wouldn’t be alone.  The inability to integrate work in your life, is a common complaint among employees.

So imagine, if you will, a job where you can decide when and where you work. The only requirement is that you complete all of your assigned duties.  If you had it, you would be working in a ROWE or results-oriented work environment.

Employees at the Best Buy Richfield, MN offices didn’t have to imagine this scenario. It was their real life work experience, beginning began back in 2005 thanks to two Best Buy employees Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler. Studying this experiment, sociology professors Erin Kelly and Phyllis Moen found that it worked better than expected.

Maybe more of us should get to ROWE.

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It turns out torture is in the eye of the observers -- so we need better observers

04/13/2011

Torture (Abu Ghraib) It seems like we should know what is and isn’t torture.  But do we?

Most of the debate has centered on specific techniques – sleep deprivation?  Stress positions?  Water boarding?  The endless ways we can do one another harm seem to have created an endless shade of gray, because we’ll never have a checklist big enough to cover every scenario … or exactly how they can be applied.

But what if that’s the wrong way to approach the question?  Is there a better way to determine what is and isn’t torture? 

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How many people will hurt you for $33? The answer is a lesson in evil

04/12/2011

Military_of_Montenegro_training2 “Money is the root of all evil”

Well not exactly. The actual quote is “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil…” -- Timothy 6:10

The world is still reeling from the disastrous collapse of worldwide financial markets all fueled by that toxic love for money. A lot has been written over the centuries about the problems of desire, greed, and evil;  and you’d think that with all the knowledge of history to draw upon, we’d know that it’s not a good idea to put others in harm’s way for profit. 

Sadly, a recent study has shown that we’re just as eager to make the same old mistakes one more time if there’s a buck in it. 

At the April 2011 annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society co-author Oriel FeldmanHall presented a study that showed that even with our best spoken intentions, sometimes we will do the very opposite, especially when it comes down to money.

Participants were initially asked if they would give another person an electric shock in order receive a cash payout. When presented with that option as a purely hypothetical situation, most people said no. 

Then they were given a chance to do it for real.

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Being perfectly human means accepting human imperfections

04/11/2011

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself,” states Anna Quindlen, best selling author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary. 

It’s ok to make mistakes. Stop striving for perfection.

Easier said than done, I know.  We have a strange relationship with the need to be perfect.  In society, children are told its ok to make mistakes. But not adults.  As soon as we join the “real world,” mistakes stop being okay.

Well, new literature suggests that mistakes ARE ok – even for adults.  In fact, they can help facilitate growth and it might just well be the foundation of psychological health.

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Your inner child still lives - Your outer child still acts out.

04/07/2011

Baby_Blue_Adult_Pacifer While many think childhood ends at eighteen, new research shows it is still very alive at any age—and is a contributing factor in your everyday life.

Author Leon Seltzer explores the evolution of self and personality in Self-Sabotage and Your "Outer Child" speaking to an “outer-child” in adult personalities that is characterized by impulsivity, carelessness and limitlessness. The Outer Child, Seltzer points out, acts impulsively out of a need for instant gratification from tension, anxiety and other negative feelings. Its motto: at all costs – avoid pain, pursue pleasure.

Sounds good – but there’s an inherent problem in instant gratification.

Turns out, it makes us feel worse about ourselves. Sure, we feel better in the moment, our tension relieved (or at least ameliorated). But eventually we feel worse about ourselves because we’ve sacrificed our values, wishes, or ethics to the moment. It’s self indulgence at its most unhealthy level, and for it we sacrifice our deepest need, self-nurturance.

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Social services beware: Addressing poverty alone can't undo the effects of poverty

04/07/2011

627px-HN99~Worker_4xKidsWork You wake up in the morning after spending the night sleeping in your car. Your two children are awake in the back seat and both are looking pretty hungry, although they’ve learned that food may not around today. How do you feel at this moment?

You’d probably the same way that many people who are living at or below poverty level are feeling everyday; stressed, anxious, depressed and possibly even suicidal.

A report in the April issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry by Dr. Jitender Sareen and others presents data from a 3 year study citing the connection between poverty and mental disorders. This isn’t news, there has been a considerable amount of research on this issue, but it is further proof that there is a clear relationship between having basic needs go unfulfilled and anxiety, substance abuse, and psychological pain.

According to this report the participants with a household income of less than $20,000 annually had a greater risk for experiencing mood disorders, depression and anxiety. The risk was much lower for those with incomes higher than $70,000.

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