Tag Archives: Emotional Intelligence

ADHD, MDHD*: Attention, Mindfulness and the Zeitgeist of Disorder

IMG00054-20100925-1729Four articles in three sections of today’s The New York Times on how we do (and don’t) focus our minds – and how we can (and might) do so for the better.  They’re onto something.

In his review of Daniel Goleman’s new book, “Focus:  The Hidden Driver of Excellence,” Nicholas Carr describes how Stephen Dedalus “monitors his thoughts without reining them in” as an example of open awareness, one of many types of awareness Goleman details (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/books/review/focus-by-daniel-goleman.html?smid=pl-share).  In “Jumper Cables for the Mind,” Dan Hurley reports on tDCS at Harvard’s Laboratory of Neuromodulation, and research that shows low voltage electrical brain stimulation seems to enhance any number of cognitive functions(http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/magazine/jumper-cables-for-the-mind.html?smid=pl-share). David Hochman, in “Mindfulness at Every Turn,” details the increasing reach of mindfulness: the Marine Corps, Silicon Valley, The Huffington Post (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/fashion/mindfulness-and-meditation-are-capturing-attention.html?smid=pl-share).  And Clive Thompson’s “Brain Game,” the subject of Walter Isaacson’s review, proposes an increasing reliance on “intelligence amplification,” human cognition harnessed to the power of computers (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/books/review/smarter-than-you-think-by-clive-thompson.html?smid=pl-share). 

As a psychologist and psychotherapist who has been involved in mindfulness education since the late ’60’s (when it was called meditation), and integrative medicine before it had a name, this explosion of interest in expanding awareness and increasing attention – improving the powers of the mind – thrills me.  I’m all for anything that increases compassionate awareness and improves attention:  for my clients, my patients, our children, and certainly myself.

The idea of “more, better” is as American as it gets, and I’m all for more and better when it comes to the mind.  But I’ve got some reservations about the how of all this.  The selling of mindfulness seems somehow antithetical to the very acceptance mindfulness cultivation strives for.  And it may seem a strange thing for a psychologist whose focus is on problem solving to say, but life is not simply a problem to be solved.

Hegel supposed that all art is a reflection of the time in which it is created; the same is no doubt true of the psychological arts.  Ours is a time when excellence is valued.  Not necessarily the pursuit of excellence, however.  We like our accomplishments big and easy and fast.  And the improvement of mental functioning, while often shockingly quick when we begin proper training, is indeed a lifelong practice.  In it for the long haul, not simply for today’s trend.

Training takes practice.  So why bother?

When we correlate attention solely with achievement, we limit what the mind can do even as we improve our chances for success.  Just as an efficient laser requires vast numbers of atoms in an excited state, our human laser-like focus, so crucial for excellence in completing many tasks, requires a ramping up of very specific kinds of attention.  As we learn more about the brain’s neuroplasticity – and apply ever more sophisticated technology – exciting real life applications will allow us to improve attention.  An eye surgeon focuses his attention as well as his laser beam, and a good thing that is.  But while a  laser can attain and sustain this heightened excitation and focus, we, on the other hand, experience stress in response to the demand for constant laser-like focus.  We can focus our attention sharply and well – but only for so long.

We also require rest.

But what is the nature of the rest we require?  Not the sort of lack of attention we often choose: multi-tasking, zoning out, mindlessly watching tv, texting while talking and walking.  Divided attention does not refresh, it simply provides a break from the intensity of single focus attention.

What is the awareness that refreshes?

Open awareness, mindfulness, the meditative state.  The form really doesn’t matter.  Pick and choose,  try a form that suits, or try one and switch to another.  What matters is the ongoing practice of focusing awareness, even while accepting all the gyrations of mind that accompany the attempt to do so.  We can quiet the “monkey mind” with practice, but not by ignoring or drugging away our thoughts and feelings.

Focused attention AND open awareness.  We need both for success in accomplishing our goals, and success in living a fulfilled life.  Both.  And both can be improved – greatly – through practice.   It may seem an oxymoron, but research has shown what generations (and other cultures) know: the work of improving attention and awareness mean less stress, increased productivity, and happier lives.

* Mindfulness Disorder, with and without hyperactivity

Copyright © 2013  Marlin S. Potash, Ed.D.  All rights reserved.  

THE 8 PSYCHOLOGICAL ISSUES THAT CAN SPELL SUCCESSION PLANNING DISASTER

LOGOWPMCAfter years of advising entrepreneurial partnerships and family businesses – often working collaboratively with their financial and legal advisors – it continues to be puzzling:  why don’t they plan adequately for succession when it makes no rational sense not to?

Well, the short answer is: because it makes a-rational (and sometimes irrational) sense not to.  But only by addressing the psychological and emotional issues everyone would rather avoid can rational decision making rule the day.  What are these issues that – unresolved – spell DISASTER?  With thanks to the research and in-the-field expertise of my colleagues, present and past,  I offer my own take on the founder and family issues to consider.  A  primer:

D eath –

  • The Founder:  “I’m gonna live forever” attitude – or s/he simply doesn’t want to face her/his own demise.
  • The Family:   Taboo to talk about mom/dad’s death, not to mention life afterward?

I dentity –

  • The Founder:  “Who am I without the business?”  S/he fears loss of identity, which is bound up with the company s/he created.
  • The Family:    They worry about the Founder without the business – and the business without the Founder.

S upremacy –

  • The Founder:  “I’ve still got what it takes, they won’t know how to run this company without me.”  S/he doesn’t want to relinquish power and control.
  • The Family:    How to wrestle with the head of the family about a different vision for the firm’s future, when s/he is still the one in control.

A mbivalence –

  • The Founder:  “Of course I want my kids to take over.”  But s/he somehow undermines that process…
  • The Family:     The next generation want to take over, but feel guilty about pushing mom/dad out.  And the spouse may both want and fear retirement.

S olo  act –

  • The Founder:  “I’ll figure it out.  I’ve done fine this far, with no one helping me.” Getting professional help is seen as a sign of weakness – or a waste of money.  Or time, for someone who’s more of a doer than a planner.
  • The Family:    Having always relied on, leaned on the Founder, they don’t want to face the realization that s/he cannot just ‘take care’ of this, too.

T ime –

  • The Founder:  “Not now.  They’re not ready yet.”  It’s never a good time.  And then there’s the heart attack, or buyout offer…
  • The Family:     The next gen are dealing with the stresses related to adjusting to adulthood: becoming independent, having their own children, marriage (divorce); the spouse has his/her own concerns.

E motions –

  • The Founder:   “I can’t deal with all that emotional stuff.”  Jealousy, rivalry, quarrelling, choosing among the children: all things better (easier) ignored.
  • The Family:      Jealousy, rivalry, quarrelling, choosing sides:  all the old, unresolved issues flare up – and new ones show themselves.

R oles –

  • The Founder:  “So what would I do if I’m not running the business? Play golf all day?”  S/he does not see a future that works once s/he steps down.
  • The Family:     Change affects everyone in the family, and in different ways.   And everyone in the family copes with change differently.

What to do ?  What helps?  To be continued …

 

Copyright © 2013  Marlin S. Potash, Ed.D.  All rights reserved.  

The Nice and Not-So-Nice Therapist: Who is Really Nicer?

NICE ?

How nice should a therapist be?

Nice. Someone pleasant, agreeable.  “He’s such a nice guy,” we say, imagining someone good natured, kind-hearted.  Or  exacting, evidencing great skill:  “Nicely done!”  Or scrupulous, exacting, hard to please:  “Give me a nice piece of corned beef” – which really means “give me your best cut, extra lean!  Nice can mean trivial, easily dismissed: “that’s nice, but”  or treading carefully, behaving delicately: “be nice to your cousin!”  And then there’s making nice, acting as if one were feeling all those good things, somewhat hypocritally.  Oh, and the ironic nice, a nice that means not nice at all:that’s a nice way to say thank you!”

How can one word mean such different – even antithetical – things?  Its origin provides hints.  Originally Middle English, it meant stupid or foolish, deriving from the Latin nescius ignorant, by way of French.  It meant coy, reserved, and by the 16th century fastidious, later still  fine, subtle (considered by some the ‘correct’ sense, and on to the current pleasant, agreeable.

What happens when conflict and confrontation-avoidance masquerade as being nice?  When does acting nice not only not equal being or feeling nice, but actually serve as a cover for feelings that are anything but nice?  When is being nice a cop-out for not dealing with the difficult and messy – but important – stuff?

Which brings us to the question of the day:  Exactly how nice should your therapist be? How nice is therapeutic?

Therapy’s not about appearance, but substance.  And when it comes to the therapy experience,  there’s often a difference between nice and helpful.

If the therapist’s prime motivation is to be liked, well, then, she’s got to act nice to be seen as, thought of, as nice.  When being nice is crucial, gratifying the patient is crucial,  first and foremost, pretty much always.  Even if it means avoiding the tough stuff; especially if it means avoiding the tough stuff that doesn’t feel so, well, nice

But if the therapist’s prime motivation is to promote learning – to provide tools for a better life, to help her patient become all s/he can be, to heal – real trumps nice every day of the week.  It may not always feel nice.   But if your therapist  goes beyond skin-deep nice, if together you do more than scratch the surface – explore and understand and accept what’s real – you’ve got a shot at goodReal good.  Which has a whole lot more healing power than some ironic nice.

Copyright © 2012 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

I’ve Hit a Wall. Help!

When I began this blog, I intended to focus on the psychological effects of the economic downturn, and to provide tools for the stress the roiling markets produced.  Who would have guessed just how often I’d get requests for advice on how to manage the therapeutic alliance!  How to get your therapist to like you.  How to get your therapist to love you.  How to leave your therapist.  How to make sure you don’t have to leave your therapist.  How to handle it when your therapist leaves you.

But one of the biggest surprises of all is just how often the search that brings someone to my blog is “How to mess with my therapist’s head.”  I admit I am stymied.  Why in the world would anyone want to do that?  Why spend your money and your time supposedly seeking treatment from a professional when what you really want to do is pull one over on him or her?  Assuming you’re in a bona fide psychotherapy, which you pay for with your hard-earned time, money and commitment to self-disclosure, isn’t it a waste to focus on subterfuge, misleading your therapist, playing games, even vengeance?

Help me out here:  what, exactly, is this all about?  And why are so many people interested in how to do the best job undermining the very therapist they pay to help them?  Any thoughts would be most appreciated.  There’s clearly something here for me to learn!

Copyright © 2012 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

Dr. P’s Pithy Adages & Epigrams

Bridges:  Tips For Knowing How to Cross Over – and When to Let ’em Burn*

A hypothesis:  What is “obvious” seldom is.   “It’s obvious that she thinks________ ” usually means “I assume – and am now convinced – that she thinks_______.” More often than not, my conviction of the obvious truth is not true at all.  In fact, the stronger my conviction that something you feel or think “obviously” means whatever I am certain it means, the more it’s likely to tell you about me, rather than you. What do you think?  Does this ring true to you?

Here’s the thing:   Inertia isn’t going to get you anywhere you want to go.

The assumption: Everyone thinks the way you do. Or, if they don’t, they should.  Nope.  They don’t.

Nodding your head in agreement as you look someone in the eye, all the while waiting your turn to speak, is not the same thing as listening.  No matter how politely you smile, how patiently you point yourself in his direction.

It’s funny how people rewrite history, isn’t it?  And it’s generally to suit not only what they wish had happened, but who they wish they had been.

Few things in life take more courage than facing the truth about oneself.

If you don’t get your point across the first time, you can say it again, louder. If that doesn’t work, louder still.  Then louder, again.                                                     Or you can try another approach that might actually work…

Who are you when no one is looking?

Before you blow off a problem, make sure it won’t come ‘round and whack you in the back of the head when you least expect or can afford to deal with it.

You might as well forget the first clause of any sentence the second clause of which begins “, but…” 

For the person listening to you, suggesting “it’s just a little ______” doesn’t minimize the attendant issue, it minimizes him.  Not good.

You don’t get to decide someone else’s “no big deal.”

Your partner knows that your “I understand” sometimes really means “I’ve had enough.”

Haste may make waste, but beware of lingering too long at the fair…

It doesn’t cost extra to be kind.  And patience isn’t a waste of time.

Sometimes the only thing you know is what doesn’t work.  It’s a good idea then to try just about anything else…

Anything real and alive is flawed in some way.  Perfect is Disneyland: beautiful surface, but there’s no there there.

There’s power that derives from position.  There’s the power that derives from influence.  There’s power that derives from instilling fear.  There’s power that derives from controlling resources.  There’s power that derives from force.  There’s power that derives from expertise.  There’s power that derives from personality.  There’s power that derives from coalitions.  There’s power that derives from respect.  There’s power that derives from moral authority…

When you push down the bad feelings, lots of the good ones get pushed down, too.

If you have to tell someone “it’s obvious,” it isn’t.

Resolve it, don’t dissolve it.

You can be right or you can be a working team…

~ Copyright © 2011 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

*~ Paro

 

As the Clock Ticks: Anxiously Awaiting the Fate of the Debt Ceiling . Heaved Up or Heave-Ho ?

And these are the Days of Our Lives…

Reality TV?  The looming default.  The deadlines (August 2?  August 10?).  The soaring VIX.  The reach for aspirin and antacid.  The Boehner Bill vs. the Reid Bill.  The hope for a bipartisan agreement.  The shifting landscape: when, what, who, how?  The fear of implications: for Social Security, jobs, 401K, mortgage interest rates.  The threat of a stranglehold on fragile economic growth.  The likely downgrading of U.S. credit rating from AAA to  AA.   The Dow’s worst weekly decline in almost a year.

The need for unbiased news – and explanations.  The frantic search for safe haven –  gold? cash? corporate bonds? – or inertia?  The grab for the Business Section – and someone to translate.  The end of the fantasy of any sort of reasonable plan to retire…

The erosion of faith and the lack of control.  The difficulty distinguishing what to expect from what to worry about.  The stress of trying to prepare for the unpredictable. The reactions to looming but poorly understood threat. Free-floating anxiety, summer of 2011 style.  Is it any wonder that anxiety seems to have gone through the roof?  Crashed through the debt ceiling, as it were?

Copyright © 2011 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.

Doing Well and Doing Good: The Soul Hits the Big Time

Who’d have thought?  This morning, Maria Bartiroma of the Wall Street Journal interviewing Deepak Chopra, “a spiritual leader” on the practical application of the spiritual to leadership in politics and business.   How?

He says leaders can learn spiritual leadership skills.  “You learn to ask the right questions.  Where are we now?  Where would we like to be?  How do we get there?” Chopra says.

So what is Chopra’s definition of what a good leader does?

His acronym for effective lead-from-the-soul leaders:

  • Look and listen
  • Emotional bonding
  • Awareness
  • Doing
  • Empowerment
  • Responsibility
  • Synchronicity

Bartiroma questioned – on her mainstream Sunday morning business talk show – how he keeps the focus on his “core values, the integrity of the brand that has (his) name on it.”   Seems like any lingering stigma connected to the application of growth psychology, psychotherapy, emotional intelligence and questions of meaning and values to Wall Street companies has all but disappeared.  The words “spiritual” “soul” “psychological” “emotional” can now be found in the same sentences as “business growth” “practical” “successful company” “the economy” “the stock market” – and those sentences can be spoken out loud!

Copyright © 2011 Marlin S. Potash.  All rights reserved.