Thursday, August 31, 2017

Moser and Kross Studies, Cont’d

Researchers found that when study participants addressed themselves using their ‘given name’ and the pronoun “you,” something very interesting happened in the brain. First, there was a dramatic reduction in anxiety levels; electrodes documented a vast reduction in energy consumed by the frontal lobes; the activity of the amygdala (part of the mammalian-limbic system) quieted down as well, its activity reduced by just about half. Participants were also more successful in the given task. Conclusion: toggling the way you address yourself—first person vs your ‘first name’ and ‘you’—flips a switch in the neocortex and in the amygdala (seat of fear), which gives you psychological distance, enables self-control, allows you to think clearly, and to perform competently. It minimizes rumination after you complete a task (a handmaiden of anxiety and depression), releases you from negative thoughts, gives you and your brain perspective, helps you focus more deeply, and make plans for the future.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Moser and Kross Studies

Studies by Jason Moser PhD and by Ethan Kross PhD have shown that speaking to oneself using the words “I” and “me” tends to trigger downshifting into the mammalian or 2nd brain layer and subjectively hooked into one’s level of self-esteem. Electrical activity in the lobes of the frontal cortex and in the limbic system increased when study participants used ‘I’ and ‘’me’ in their self-talk, and they had to work harder to talk themselves into a positive view—even then, they failed to calm themselves down. The harder their frontal lobes worked, the more anxious their mammalian layer (limbic system) became. The given task pitched them into a vicious circle of rumination, anxiety, and more rumination. So was there a more effective self-talk style? More tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Brain Pictures

The brain thinks in pictures. It turns whatever it reads, thinks, hears, and so on, into mental pictures. You may have read a book, creating internal mental pictures about what the characters and environment looked like. Later on, seeing a movie based on the book, you may think, “That’s not like what I pictured!” The Reptilian 1st brain layer and the Mammalian 2nd brain layer are both subconscious portions of the brain. They are thought unable to use language per se but they can follow the pictures created in the 3rd brain layer or neocortex. Tell a four-year-old child: “Don’t touch the stove,” and the first brain picture is that of touching the stove. It’s very difficult for a young child to convert that picture (and often not much easier for an adult’s brain) so the child may touch the stove and get burned. Often the child is then punished for disobeying, when there would be a greater chance for success by saying, “Keep your hand away from the stove.”

Monday, August 28, 2017

Wegner Studies

Studies by Daniel M. Wegner PhD have shown the importance of positive self-talk. In his book White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts: Suppression, Obsession, and the Psychology of Mental Control, he discusses The White Bear Phenomenon. When you say “Don’t think about the white bear,” a representation of a white bear goes into your working memory and you tend to think about a white bear even more. That statement tells you want not to do but does not tell you what to do. That can be confusing for your own brain as well as that of others and requires the brain to engage in a two-step process: it must somehow change the first picture (a white bear) into something else because the brain thinks in pictures. But into WHAT should the picture be changed? That is the problem for the brain.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Affirming Self-Talk

Affirmations for yourself are a form of personal self-talk and every human being uses it. Appropriate self-talk is one of the most effective, least-utilized tools available to master the mind, foster success, and overcome fear, and achieve your goals.

Your inner self-talk voice takes shape in early childhood and persists lifelong. As with most other brain functions, self-talk may be misused, becoming a source of painful rumination or even psychosis, or it can enhance your success. Thoughts create your mindset and mindset creates your self-talk, A series of groundbreaking studies have found that how people conduct their inner self-talk has an enormous effect on their success in life. More tomorrow.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Awareness and Affirmations

Increase your awareness. Learn to listen in on what you say, silently and aloud. When you recognize a negative style (e.g., don’t, can’t, won’t, hopeless), stop, think, and restate in a positive can-do manner. Bottom line, stop talking about what you do not wish to have happen. Tia Walker said affirmations are our mental vitamins, providing the supplementary positive thoughts we need to balance the barrage of negative events and thoughts we experience daily. And researcher Candace B. Pert PhD, pointed out that each receptor molecule remembers how many times it has been stimulated and whether it was over or under stimulated. This memory affects the flow of information through the brain and the body. That’s why abuse is lethal and affirmation so powerful. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Brain Susceptibility

Your brain is susceptible to what others say about you and may even record that (along with what you say to and about yourself) in the same place in the brain—so it is important to protect your brain (insofar as it is possible to do so) from negative input. Children are less able to do that. Consequently it is critical to evaluate what you were told about yourself and what you heard others say about yourself—or you may be risk for believing them. What they said was only their brain’s opinion but if you believed them if could derail your success or even influence you not to do something that your brain could be very good at doing. 

Affirmation Formula

There are some general guidelines that could be considered a basic formula for affirmations. First, use short words and phrases so they are easy to recall. Second, state the words and phrases in a positive form. You are creating a 1-step picture of what you want to have happen. (As a point of interest, the famous “Lord’s Prayer” is written in positives: it tells you what to do; not what not to do.) Third, always use present tense to motivate the brain to get on board now as in “this is a done deal.” When you speak in future tense the brain may think “when that future time comes if you still want to do this I’ll help you.” The words ‘I’m going to’ is future tense and may never arrive. And last but not least, be genuine and truthful to yourself and others, avoiding insincerity, flattery, manipulation, or a word picture that can never happen. For example, telling a person who is five feet tall: “You are six feet tall” is unhelpful unless you also help them learn to use stilts. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Affirmation—An Art and a Science

As with anything else, the effective use of affirmations is both an art and a science that is honed through practice. Yes, it’s a learning curve if you were not showered with helpful self-worth-building comments growing up so failed to learn that skill. As with most everything else worth honing, it requires information that your brain can turn into knowledge and apply on a daily basis. Since each brain is unique, so will be the affirmations it directs toward the self and toward others. An affirmation simply involves a style of speaking. The Free Dictionary defines it as a solemn declaration; an assertion; a positive statement or judgment about the truth of something; a statement intended to provide encouragement, emotional support, or motivation. Jean Marie Stine referred to affirmations as the mind’s programming language. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Brain and Affirmations

Knowing what to say to build self-esteem and avoid encouraging the development of narcissism in yourself, in children, and in other adults can be a challenge. Since human beings tend to speak to others the way they talk to themselves, to paraphrase: The language of affirmation begins at home—with you. Since you can only role-model what you know, if your parents and care-providers were unable to use affirmations because they had never developed that skill or chose not to, your brain will need to develop this skill on your own—and it can be learned, just as EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) can be learned and raised. As you learn to affirm yourself in a healthy manner using effective self-talk styles and programming your brain for success, it becomes easier to use a ‘similar language’ when speaking with others. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

NPD and Your Energy

Dealing with NPD can be exhausting and can negatively impact your energy. What type of interactions exhaust your brain? People to talk nonstop about their problems but respond with ‘that won’t work’ every time you make a helpful suggestion? How is your energy level after spending a relationship encounter with them? Do you feel drained or energized? It’s one thing to voluntarily do a random act of kindness, it’s another to spend your time dancing to someone else’s needy tune. No relationship is 100% functional and affirming all the time. Sometimes you give more, sometimes they do, especially when it ‘rains’ on your parade. There needs to be a balance, however, over time. If you are your friend’s primary resource or they get your attention through bad behavior or unwise choices, rethink the relationship. Relationships that are not healthy and reciprocal are like a mild headache. You grow accustomed to the pain and accept it as ‘normal’ over time, failing to recognize the increasing painful headache, sometimes until it produces a 'brain tumor,' metaphorically. Remember: nutritious food gives you energy; so does a nutritious relationship.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Dealing with NPD Behaviors

What can you do when confronted by a person exhibiting symptoms characteristic of Narcissistic Personality Disorder? First, recognize that it involves their self-absorption, inability to manage anger, low self-esteem, low levels of Emotional Intelligence, failure to be empathetic, tendency to blame others, learned styles of coping (or not coping) with the ups and downs of life, low motivation for improvement, and so on. Refuse to accept blame or responsibility when it isn’t yours. When I encounter narcissistic behaviors I ask myself: will this matter in 12 months? If the answer is no, I simply get through that one encounter as soon as possible and find something for which to be grateful. If the answer is yes, then I address the issue functionally. Meaning, I set and implement appropriate boundaries to protect myself. When the narcissist is an adult family member, you can still choose to limit your exposure, set and implement appropriate protective boundaries, and avoid taking their narcissistic behaviors personally. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Recognizing NPD

You can only know what you know, therefore, recognizing patterns of behavior quickly can help you protect yourself and/or get help if you recognize the symptoms in yourself. Self-esteem is compromised in NPD, so in order to feel adequate these brains need to find others as incompetent and put them down (e.g., complain, criticize, gossip, show contempt). There is a lack compassion for others because they don’t recognize their own mistakes. In fact, to be okay they often try to believe they do not make mistakes. Typically they do everything in their power to avoid being held accountable. It is so much easier to blame, trying to displace some of their discomfort onto someone else. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Parenting Style, 3

The Brummelman study reportedly identified that greater child-rated parental warmth, predicted higher self-esteem six months later, but not greater narcissism. This was measured by comments such as “I know my parents love me. My mother (or father) tells me she (or he) loves me.” By comparison, parental overvaluation predicted greater narcissism six months later, but not higher self-esteem. This was measured by comments indicating the child felt more special than others and comments by the parent(s) that indicated their child was more special than other children. On the other hand, I’ve heard parents say, “You are very special to me,” and “I am so glad you are my child,” or “I am happy to spend time with you.” This falls in the healthier emotional warmth category in my opinion. At a kids picnic not long ago, I heard a child say to an adult, “I’m special. I hit that ball really good.” The adult response was, “Yes, you did hit the ball well. Remember, every child is special is his or her own way, you included.” That grouped the child with others rather than singling the child out above the others. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Parenting Style, 2

A child who may be developing narcissistic characteristics not only may want to be in the spotlight all the time but may care about being admired and thought special more than developing genuine friendships. As they brag and demand attention and admiration, they may seem oblivious to how that may make other children around them feel. And, as with adults, these children often have very fragile self-esteem. At quite a young age they may become aggressive, angry, and lash out at parents or others if anything happens that makes them feel humiliated, criticized, teased, not special, or rejected in any way. Parents need to develop rhetoric that works for them, the idea being to let children know that the parents love and cherish them and enjoy seeing them do well, without overtly comparing the children to others by telling them continually how special they are. I heard one father tell his son not long ago, “I enjoyed watching you play the game. You are gaining skills and improving. I’m glad you are my son.”

Friday, August 11, 2017

Parenting Style

It is important to understand that most people do the best they can at the time with what they know. If a parent grew up being told he or she was special, that parent may replicate that style with their own child(ren)—or go 180 degrees opposite. And, as I so often point out, 180 degrees from dysfunctional is simply a different type of dysfunction. It’s cute when a child of three or four tells his parents: “Watch me do this!” As one teacher explained, this likely represents an age-appropriate desire for the child to obtain parental approval for having learned a new skill. By the time a child is around age seven (give or take a year or two), the child is beginning to compare his/her competence and skill levels with that of other children. Acknowledge and rewarding a child’s skill level is one thing; teaching the child he is “more special” than anyone else is quite another thing. Continual pleas to "Watch me, watch me," is no longer cute in a seven-year old who always wants to hold center stage and be in the spotlight. Some counselors point out that a child is not ‘bad’ or ‘good,’ although behaviors can be positive or negative. A child needs to feel loved and accepted by his/her parents, period; and assisted to develop behaviors that give them positive outcomes, but that do not lead them to believe they are ‘more special’ than anyone else.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

NPD Study Comments, Cont’d

Eddie Brummelman thinks the study conclusions suggest a practical way of helping parents. Parents can be coached on how to express affection and appreciation toward children without telling them that they are superior to others or entitled to special privileges.

An earlier study by the same authors reported something I found especially interesting. The researchers asked the parents whether their children knew about “Queen Alberta” and “The Tale of Benson Bunny.” Both of these were concocted by the researchers. Some of the parents in the study claimed their children knew all about “Queen Alberta” and “The Tale of Benson Bunny.” Brummelman, study pointed out that parents who tended to overvalue their child(ren) also tended to claim that their child had knowledge of many different topics, including even these nonexistent ones that had been made up by the researchers. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

NPD Study Comments

The contributors to narcissism are complex. Overvaluing children appears to be one of the causes but there are also genetic and other environmental factors at play that also need to be studied. Some children appear to be are more vulnerable to overvaluing parenting styles. Professor Brad Bushman, one of the study’s authors, indicated that the study had changed his parenting style. Before he began this research in the 1990s, he used to think his children should be treated like they were extra-special. He is careful to avoid doing that now because children believe it when their parents tell them that they are more special than others, which may not be good for them or for society. Rather than overvaluing the child, concentrating on being emotionally warm towards children was linked with better levels of self-esteem, not narcissism. It is important to express emotional warmth to your children because that may promote self-esteem, but overvaluing them may promote higher narcissism.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

NPD Study Good News

The good news about the study is that their findings uncovered early socialization experiences that cultivate narcissism and, therefore, this suggests interventions at an early age that may prevent or curtail narcissistic development. This could be very helpful in assisting parents to provide balanced, effective parenting strategies—because in adulthood, dealing with Narcissistic Personality Disorders can be challenging. If NPD is not dealt with appropriately and treated, complications may include: depression, drug or alcohol abuse, and suicidal thoughts or behavior. The brain’s subconscious Reptilian and Mammalian layers seem to be involved with NPD. Individuals with NPD seem surface friendly but no one really knows themalthough they primarily talk about self and want the emphasis on themselves. They are often charismatic but very secretive. They aim to be successful at whatever the cost (e.g., may lie, exhibit addictive behaviors, throw you “under the bus”).

Monday, August 7, 2017

NPD Study, 3

In pointing out the significance of the study, the researchers commented that narcissistic individuals tend to feel superior to others, fantasize about personal successes, and believe they deserve special treatment. When they feel humiliated, they often lash out aggressively or even violently. Knowledge about the origins of narcissism is important for designing interventions to curtail narcissistic development. They believe this study demonstrated that narcissism in children is cultivated by parental overvaluation as the parents believe their child to be more special and more entitled than others. In contrast, high levels of self-esteem in children is cultivated by parental warmth, as parents express their affection and appreciation toward their child. These findings show that narcissism is partly rooted in early socialization experiences, and suggest that parent-training interventions can help curtail narcissistic development and reduce its costs for society. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

NPD Study

The report of a study entitled “Origins of Narcissism in Children,” was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2015). It was conducted though the Research Institute of Child Development and Education, Department of Educational Sciences, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam 1001 NG, The Netherlands. According to researchers led by Eddie Brummelman, narcissism levels have been increasing among Western youth. This personality disorder contributes to societal problems such as aggression and violence. The origins of narcissism have not been well understood. To their knowledge, this was the first prospective longitudinal study to provide evidence on the origins of narcissism in children. Researchers compared two perspectives:

  • Social learning theory (positing that narcissism is cultivated by parental overvaluation)
  • Psychoanalytic theory (positing that narcissism is cultivated by lack of parental warmth).
 Their goal was to discover whether parenting styles could be linked with the development of narcissism in biologically vulnerable children. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

NPD Criteria, Cont’d

  • Expecting to receive special favors 
  • Expecting unquestioning compliance with expectations
  • Taking advantage of others to get personal desired met
  • Showing an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
  • Being envious of others and believing others envy you
  • Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
  • Coming across as exceedingly confident or over-confident
Note, this persona of confidence or projection of over-confidence likely does not reflect genuine competency confidence. Rather is appears to reflect thinking so highly of oneself that the person puts him or herself on such a high level that the person values the self much more than he or she values others. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

NPD Criteria

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is published by the American Psychiatric Association. Its criteria are used to diagnose mental conditions as well as used by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment. Criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder include (somewhat paraphrased):
  • An exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • An expectation to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant that
  • A tendency to exaggerate achievements and talents
  • A preoccupation with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
  • Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
  • Needing constant admiration
  • A sense of entitlement

The list continues tomorrow.