How Do We Make Sense of the Irrational? Emotions, Moods and Temperaments as Dramatic Theater!

How Can I Be Happy? Learn Positive Psychology and How Your Mind Works…

By John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Guide to Self

Emotional power is maybe the most valuable thing that an actor can have. Christopher Walken

The most embarrassing, shameful, stupidest things I’ve done in my life occurred when my emotional mind was in charge of me…angry, anxious, excited, doubting. As a result, I’ve spent 25 years studying ways to manage my emotional mind.

Analogies are a powerful means to help us understand the emotional mind. One of the best analogies to help you understand your mind – the relationship between emotions, moods, thoughts and temperament is that of an intense broadway play.

If you think of your emotional life as a play on stage, emotions are the actors that move quickly around the stage, speaking in short and energetic bursts. Each of the actors temporarily acts out the role of an emotion such as anger, surprise, or contentment. The actors temporarily embody emotions that are positive, negative or neutral.

How Can I Be Happy? Learn positive psychology coaching w John Schinnerer PhD
The Mind is Like a Broadway Play

Perhaps most importantly, you can feel more than one emotion simultaneously, just as if you have several actors on stage at once. There are layers of emotions…afraid of your anger, guilty about your lust, curious about your pride, and so on.

As an actor, there is room for a certain amount of creativity, but you’re always ultimately going to be saying somebody else’s words. – Daniel Radcliffe

 

One theory of emotions is that they are action scripts that have been around for millions of years. Intense emotions, such as rage, dictate how one responds to certain situations. In a very real sense, you are ‘saying somebody else’s words.’

 

The actor is in the hands of a lot of other people, over which he has no control.  William Shatner

Emotions are often experienced as a loss of control, something over which we have no control. Many clients have told me that anger overtook them in less than a second. Some have said that they don’t remember what they did while angry. Others have shared that it felt as if they were possessed.

Emotions are short in duration, lasting seconds to minutes. Emotions have a cause such as losing a family pet (grief) or observing earth from space (awe).  And emotions have visceral, bodily sensations associated with them (e.g., throat constriction, heart rate increase, perspiration, shoulders pulled back, chin elevation, etc.).

Moods are like individual elements of scenery that are rolled on and off the stage with each scene. The scenic elements “set the stage” for the scene. The scenic elements may create an ominous and scary setting. Or they may create a peaceful, sunny and relaxed environment. The scenic elements change every act and may change many times during the course of the play. Moods are like emotions stretched thin over time. For example, anger stretched thin is irritability. Fear stretched thin is anxiety. Happiness stretched thin is contentment.

Moods don’t typically have a cause. They just are. Some days you wake up in a stressful ‘scene’ and other days a pleasant one.

Temperament is the large screen that serves as the background for the entire first act or the entire play. The backdrop separates the front of the stage, where the play takes place, from backstage, and the area where many activities are happening at a rapid pace to create the illusion of reality out on stage. Temperament ranges from pessimistic to optimistic.

The director is like the rational, thinking mind who has some control over the direction of the actors and the play. The good news is that the director can learn to have greater influence over the actors in the heat of the moment. Yet even the director can be overcome with emotion at times. And when the director loses her cool, it’s best to yell ‘cut’ and take a break so everyone can start anew.

About the Author

John Schinnerer, Ph.D., an expert in positive psychology, is revolutionizing the way in which people make sense of the mind, behavior and emotion. In December of 2011, he was one of three emotion experts (along with Paul Ekman and Dacher Keltner) to consult with Pixar on a feature-length movie in which the main characters are emotions. Much of his time is spent in private practice teaching clients the latest ways to turn down the volume on negative emotions such as anger, anxiety and stress. He has developed a unique coaching methodology which combines the best aspects of entertainment, humor, positive psychology and emotional management techniques. His offices are in Danville, California. He graduated from U.C. Berkeley Summa Cum Laude with a Ph.D. in educational psychology.  He has been an executive, speaker and coach for over 14 years.  He hosted over 200 episodes of Guide To Self Radio, a daily prime time radio show, in the SF Bay Area.    He wrote the award-winning book, ‘Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought,’ which is available at Amazon.com.  His blog, Shrunken Mind, was recently recognized as one of the top 3 in positive psychology on the web (drjohnblog.guidetoself.com ). His new video blog teaches people the latest ways to manage anger using positive psychology. (WebAngerManagement.com). He is currently working on a destination site to teach individuals paths to sustainable happiness via positive psychology and ongoing practice at HowICanBeHappy.com.

how can i be happy
John Schinnerer, Ph.D. … Positive psychology coach… San Ramon Valley, Danville CA 94526

 

Altruism Influenced by Amount of Gray Matter in Brain

More Gray Matter in Brain = More Altruism?

From ScienceDaily (July 11, 2012) — The amount of activity in a tiny region of the brain is directly related to your propensity for altruistic behavior. University of Zurich researchers have demonstrated that people with a higher degree of altruism than others have more gray matter at the intersection between the temporal and parietal lobe, providing initial proof of a connection between brain anatomy, brain activity and altruistic behavior.

http://images.sciencedaily.com/2012/07/120711123005-large.jpg

The intersection (yellow) between the parietal and temporal lobes,

in which the relative proportion of gray matter is significantly

positively correlated with the propensity for altruistic behavior.

(Credit: University of Zurich)

Positive psychology
has often asked ‘Why do some people tend to be more selfish while others are more altruistic?’

Previous studies indicated that social categories like gender, income or education fail to explain individual differences in altruistic behavior. Recent neuroscience studies have shown that variations in brain structure seem to be linked to differences in personality traits and abilities.

Breaking new scientific ground,  a group of researchers from Zurich University, led by Ernst Fehr, Director of the Department of Economics, show that there is a connection between the anatomy of the brain and our degree of altruism.

To investigate whether differences in altruistic behavior have neurobiological causes, volunteers were to divide money between themselves and an anonymous other person. The participants always had the option of sacrificing a certain portion of the money for the benefit of the other person. Such a sacrifice can be deemed altruistic because it helps someone else at one’s own expense. The researchers found major differences in this respect: Some participants were almost never willing to sacrifice money to benefit others while others behaved very altruistically.

Interestingly, altruistic behavior has been shown in multiple studies to reduce depression as well as increase subjective well-being, degree of happiness, and life satisfaction. 

And keep in mind, that this does not mean that altruistic behavior is predetermined or 100% biologically determined. The human brain is highly plastic and continues to grow and change throughout the lifespan. It is my belief, based on studying the brain for 20 years, that altruism is a learnable skill. It simply requires awareness, practice and repetition.

More gray matter

The aim of the study, however, was to find out why there are such differences. Previous studies had shown that a certain region of the brain — the place where the parietal and temporal lobes meet — is linked to the ability to put oneself in someone else’s shoes in order to understand their thoughts and feelings (i.e., sympathy and empathy). Altruism is probably closely related to this ability. Consequently, the researchers suspected that individual differences in this part of the brain might be linked to differences in altruistic behavior. And, according to Yosuke Morishima, a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Economics at the University of Zurich, they were right: “People who behaved more altruistically also had a higher proportion of gray matter at the junction between the parietal and temporal lobes.”

Individual Differences in brain activity

The participants in the study also displayed marked differences in brain activity while they were deciding how to split up the money. In the case of selfish people, the small brain region behind the ear is already active when the cost of altruistic behavior is very low. In altruistic people, however, this brain region only becomes more active when the cost is very high. The brain region is thus activated especially strongly when people reach the limits of their willingness to behave altruistically. The reason, the researchers suspect, is that this is when there is the greatest need to overcome man’s natural self-centeredness by activating this brain region.

Ernst Fehr adds: “These are exciting results for us. However, one should not jump to the conclusion that altruistic behavior is determined by biological factors alone.” The volume of gray matter is also influenced by social processes. According to Fehr, the findings therefore raise the fascinating question as to whether it is possible to promote the development of brain regions that are important for altruistic behavior through appropriate training or social norms.
To life, love and altruism,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Positive Psychology Coach

Anger Management Coach

Author of the award-winning Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion & Thought

Guide To Self, Inc.

913 San Ramon Valley Blvd. #280

Danville CA 94526

For your FREE PDF copy of my award-winning self-help book, Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought, visit GuideToSelf.com.

WebAngerManagement.com – 10-week online anger management course

DrJohnBlog.GuideToSelf.com  Awarded #1 Blog in Positive Psychology by PostRank, Top 100 Blog by Daily Reviewer

@johnschinTwitter

 

 

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Zurich.

Journal Reference:

Yosuke Morishima, Daniel Schunk, Adrian Bruhin, Christian C. Ruff, Ernst Fehr. Linking Brain Structure and Activation in Temporoparietal Junction to Explain the Neurobiology of Human Altruism. Neuron, 12 July 2012 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.05.021

University of Zurich (2012, July 11). The more gray matter you have, the more altruistic you are. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 12, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/07/120711123005.htm

New Tool for Depression – Focus on Positive Future Expectations

For years, I’ve been teaching clients simple frameworks to manage the emotional mind. These frameworks have to be accessible within 1/3rd of a second, before the emotional mind hijacks the rational mind.

A powerful example of this is the framework developed by Phillip Zimbardo at Stanford regarding time perspectives and valence, which is a fancy way of saying that our attention can take you certain places – internal (e.g., monitoring your heart rate, your thoughts) or external (e.g., the room you are in, the people you are with); past, present or future; and/or positive or negative emphasis.

From Ken Pope’s excellent newsletter…

*CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics* has scheduled an article for publication in a future issue: “Treating Major Depression by Creating Positive Expectations for the Future: A Pilot Study for the Effectiveness of Future-Directed Therapy (FDT) on Symptom Severity and Quality of Life.”

The authors are Jennice S. Vilhauer, Sabrina Young, Chanel Kealoha, Josefine Borrmann, Waguih W. IsHak, Mark H. Rapaport, Narineh Hartoonian, & Jim Mirocha.

Here’s the abstract:

[begin excerpt]

Introduction: This nonrandomized pilot study assesses the efficacy of a new future-oriented form of therapy, known as future-directed therapy (FDT), as a treatment for patients with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) in a naturalistic hospital-based outpatient psychiatry clinic. The study measured symptom severity of depression and anxiety, in addition to quality of life pre- and posttreatment.

Aims: The study examined a new manualized treatment designed to help people anticipate a more positive future. The intervention consists of twenty 90-min group sessions administered twice a week over 10 weeks. The intervention was compared to depressed patients in the same clinic who enrolled in traditional cognitive-based group psychotherapy. Sixteen patients with MDD completed the FDT intervention as part of their outpatient treatment for depression. Seventeen patients with MDD participated in treatment as usual (TAU) cognitive-based group therapy. The Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptoms, the Beck Anxiety Inventory, and the Quality-of-Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire short form, self-report instruments were administered prior to and immediately after the completion of therapy.

Results: Patients treated with FDT demonstrated significant improvements in depression (P= 0.001), anxiety (P= 0.021) and quality of life (P= 0.035), and also reported high satisfaction with the therapy. Compared to the TAU group, patients treated with FDT showed greater improvements in depressive symptoms (P= 0.049).

Conclusions: FDT may have the potential of becoming an additional treatment option for patients with MDD.

[end excerpt]

On the Cedars-Sinai (where the research was conducted) web site there was the following additional information:

[begin Cedars-Sinai info]

Patients with major depression do better by learning to create a more positive outlook about the future, rather than by focusing on negative thoughts about their past experiences, researchers at Cedars-Sinai say after developing a new treatment that helps patients do this.

While Major Depressive Disorder patients traditionally undergo cognitive-behavior therapy care that seeks to alter their irrational, negative thoughts about past experiences, patients who were treated with the newly-developed Future-Directed Therapy(TM) demonstrated significant improvement in depression and anxiety, as well as improvement in overall reported quality of life, the researchers found.

Results were published recently in the peer-reviewed journal CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics.

“Recent imaging studies show that depressed patients have reduced functioning in the regions of the brain responsible for optimism,” said Jennice Vilhauer, PhD, study author and clinical director of Adult Outpatient Programs for the Cedars-Sinai Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences. “Also, people with depression tend to have fewer skills to help them develop a better future. They have less ability to set goals, problem solve or plan for future events.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated one in 10 American adults meet the diagnostic criteria for depression.

Anand Pandya, MD, interim chair of Cedars-Sinai’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, said, “Future-Directed Therapy is designed to reduce depression by teaching people the skills they need to think more positively about the future and take the action required to create positive future experiences.  This is the first study that demonstrates this intervention intended to increase positive expectations about the future can reduce symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder.”

Depression in Men depressed guys

When people talk only about the negative aspects of their lives, it causes them to focus more attention on what makes them unhappy, Vilhauer said.

“Talking about what makes you unhappy in life doesn’t generate the necessary thinking patterns or action needed to promote a state of thriving and create a more positive future,” Vilhauer said.  “Future-Directed Therapy helps people shift their attention constructing visions of what they want more of in the future and it helps them develop the skills that they will need to eventually get there.”

In the study conducted at Cedars-Sinai, 16 adult patients diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder attended future-directed group therapy sessions led by a licensed psychologist twice a week for 10 weeks.  Each week, patients read a chapter from a Future-Directed Therapy manual and completed worksheets aimed at improving certain skills, such as goal-setting.  Another group of 17 patients diagnosed with depression underwent standard cognitive group therapy. The study team measured the severity of depression and anxiety symptoms, and quality of life before and after treatment, using the Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptoms, the Beck Anxiety Inventory, and the Quality-of-Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire short form.

Results include:

Patients in the Future-Directed Therapy group experienced on average a 5.4 point reduction in their depressive symptoms on the Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptoms scale, compared to a two point reduction in the cognitive therapy group.

Patients in the Future-Directed Therapy group on average reported a 5.4 point reduction in anxiety symptoms on the Beck Anxiety Inventory, compared to a reduction of 1.7 points in the cognitive therapy group.

Patients in the Future-Directed Therapy group reported on average an 8.4 point improvement in their self-reported quality of life on the Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction scale, compared to a 1.2 point improvement in the cognitive therapy group.

[end Cedars-Sinai info]

The author note provides the following contact information: Jennice Vilhauer, Ph.D., Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, 8730 W. Alden Drive, Thalians W-101, Los Angeles, CA, USA. Tel.: +(310) 423-2620; Fax: +(310) 423-0114; E-mail:

<vilhauerj@cshs.org>.

Mental Illness Will Hit 1 Out of 2 Adults in U.S. – Anxiety Not Well Tracked

I have spent nearly a lifetime trying to understand, manage and fix the human mind. The mind fascinates, torments, inspires, belittles, loves, and elevates. So it was with great interest that I read that the CDC came out with a new report on mental illness, including anxiety and depression.

Mental illness, anxiety, depression affect 50% of US Adults

The Center for Disease Control just released their report, Mental Illness Surveillance Among Adults in the United States (September 2, 2011), outlining  the tremendous reach that mental illness has into my life, your life and every other life in the United States of America.

Some highlights from the report

In the United States, the economic impact of mental illness  is enormous, roughly $300 billion in 2002. No more recent numbers are available, but the cost is rising.

Approximately 25% of adults in the U.S. have a mental illness. That means one out of every four individuals are dealing with some form of mental illness (e.g., anxiety, depression, other mood disorders, psychosis, OCD, ADHD, personality disorders, etc.). The report defines mental illness as all diagnosable mental disorders. Effects of mental illness may involve chronic abnormal thoughts, moods, or behaviors associated with distress and impaired  functioning. The effects of mental illnesses include disruptions of daily function; incapacitating personal, social, and occupational impairment; and premature death. The most common ones are anxiety and mood disorders (e.g., depression and bipolar disorder).

Almost 50% of American adults will experience at least one mental illness in their lifetime.

Mental illness leads to more disability than any other group of illnesses. More than even heart disease and cancer!
Anxiety disorders anger management classes
The Mental Impacts the Physical and Vice-versa

Most mental illnesses are fundamentally intertwined with chronic medical disorders like heart disease, addiction and obesity. So the manner in which our mind works dramatically impacts how well your body works.

Mental illness is a massive public health problem. Check out these facts from the World Health Organization…

  • ‘mental illness is associated with increased occurrence of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, epilepsy, and cancer;
  • mental illness is associated with lower use of medical care, reduced adherence to treatment therapies for chronic diseases, and higher risks of poor health outcomes;
  • mental illness is associated with use of cigarettes, chewing tobacco and abuse of alcohol;
  • rates for both intentional (e.g., homicide, suicide) and unintentional (e.g., motor vehicle) injuries are 2 to 6 times higher among people with a mental illness than in the population overall;
  • many mental illnesses can be managed successfully, and increasing access to and use of mental health treatment services could substantially reduce the associated death rate and
  • many chronic illnesses are associated with mental illnesses, and it’s been shown that treatment of mental illnesses associated with chronic diseases can reduce the effects of both and support better outcomes.’

Interestingly, there are currently no efforts at the national or state level to track anxiety disorders. Yet, anxiety disorders occur just as frequently as depression.
What’s more, anxiety disorders are similar to depression in that they

  1. negatively impact daily functioning as much as depression,
  2. are closely tied to the stress response system in the body,
  3. have similar negative effects on physical health, and
  4. are frequently found to exist together with the same physical illnesses as those that exist in folks who suffer from depression.

In conclusion, it appears that we are lagging in monitoring the prevalence of anxiety and providing assistance for those who struggle with anxiety. Mental illness is just beginning to get adequate exposure so that we can continue to develop cutting-edge tools and technologies to help those who suffer from it. We can no longer afford to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the compounding costs of mental illness. It is time to bring mental illness into the light where it can be appropriately identified and treated without shame.

What are your thoughts on this CDC report?

How have you been affected by mental illness in your life?

Please leave a comment below to get the conversation started!

All the best,

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder, Guide to Self, Inc.

Award-winning author of Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought (for a free PDF version, visit http://www.GuidetoSelf.com and enter your name and email address)

Award-winning blogger on The Shrunken Mind – a top 3 blog on positive psychology

Free online anger management classes which incorporate humor and positive psychology at WebAngerManagement.com

 

Less Criminal Activity and Drug Use in Happy Teenagers

In my private practice, I see a number of angry teenage boys. Intuitively, I knew that teaching them to turn down the volume on negative emotions such as anger, anxiety and depression, WHILE teaching them to turn UP the volume on positive emotions would have a powerful impact on their lives. The results in my practice have been astonishing – reduced drug use, less illegal activity, more compassion, improved academic performance and less anger in the home.

Today, I came across a study that just came out from UC Davis which supports this approach. Take a look and let me know your thoughts!

John Schinnerer, Ph.D.

Founder Guide to Self Inc.

A Positive Psychology Approach to Anger Management

Happiness Can Deter Crime, a New Study Finds

From ScienceDaily (Aug. 23, 2011) — Happy adolescents report less involvement in crime and drug use than other youth, a new UC Davis study finds.

The paper, “Get Happy! Positive Emotion, Depression and Juvenile Crime,” is co-authored by Bill McCarthy, a UC Davis sociology professor, and Teresa Casey, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis, and will be presented at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 22 at the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting in Las Vegas.

Happy teens less likely to use drugs

“Our results suggest that the emphasis placed on happiness and well-being by positive psychologists and others is warranted,” McCarthy said. “In addition to their other benefits, programs and policies that increase childhood and adolescent happiness may have a notable effect on deterring nonviolent crime and drug use.”

The authors used 1995 and 1996 data from nearly 15,000 seventh- to ninth-grade students in the federally funded National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the largest, most comprehensive survey of adolescents ever undertaken.

They found that about 29 percent of the youth surveyed reported having committed at least one criminal offense, and 18 percent said that they had used at least one illegal drug. The researchers then correlated these reports with self-assessments of emotional well-being.

Consequences of happiness are rarely examined by sociologists, and no previous studies have investigated its association with juvenile crime, the authors said.

Many explanations of adolescents’ decisions about crime focus either on reflective thought that discourages offending, or negative emotions — such as anger or rage — that contribute to it.

McCarthy and Casey argue that positive emotions also have a role. “We hypothesize that the benefits of happiness — from strong bonds with others, a positive self-image and the development of socially valued cognitive and behavioral skills — reinforce a decision-making approach that is informed by positive emotions,” they write in their study.

Their research finds that happier adolescents were less likely to report involvement in crime or drug use. Adolescents with minor, or nonclinical, depression had significantly higher odds of engaging in such activities.

The study also found that changes in emotions over time matter.

Adolescents who experienced a decrease in their level of happiness or an increase in the degree of their depression over a one-year period had higher odds of being involved in crime and of using drugs.

Most adolescents experience both happiness and depression, and the study finds that the relative intensity of these emotions is also important. The odds of drug use were notably lower for youth who reported that they were more often happy than depressed, and were substantially higher for those who indicated that they were more depressed than happy.

University of California – Davis (2011, August 23). Happiness can deter crime, a new study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2011/08/110822091859.htm

For your free PDF copy of John’s award-winning self-help book, Guide to Self: The Beginner’s Guide to Managing Emotion and Thought, on the latest tools to turn down the volume on negative emotions (like anger) and techniques to turn UP the volume on positive emotions, visit http://www.GuidetoSelf.com and click on the yellow book icon. Just enter your name and email for instant access to your copy!

For more info on John’s revolutionary online course on the positive psychology of anger management, visit http://drjohnsblog.wordpress.com. There are

four free anger management videos you can check out right now!

Follow John on Twitter at http://twitter.com/johnschin.

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