Monday, June 29, 2009

The Beethoven Factor

Some good quotes from The Beethoven Factor, a book about positive psychology and the art of thriving. It's by Paul Pearsall.

"This fascinating new field has discovered that happiness is not just the absence of unhappiness or the presence of lucky circumstances. It reverses that assumption by saying that unhappiness is the absence of our natural state of happiness." -- xxxvi, Introduction, "Joy from the Inside Out"

"...mental health was much more than the absence of mental illness."
-- xxv, Preface, "Remarkably Ordinary"

"We all have relatives who violated almost every health warning and lived long and well. We also know of people who seemed to religiously try to follow every healrth warning and directive and yet died young. There is something more that causes us to be healthy, and that something more is the concern of positive psychology." -- xli, Introduction, "Lessons from the Health Reprobates"

"The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven." -- John Milton, Intro to Part 1. I really really like this quote.

Six Reactions to Life's Challenges:
1. Stress Response: "Fight-or-flight," Basic survival body systems, catabolic ("energy-burning") mode.
2. Relaxation Response: Calming down from stress response. Body systems slow down.
3. Survival: Lifesaving action. Only needed body systems are functioning.
4. Recovery: Body systems return to balance; healing.
5. Resilience: Full return to "pretrauma" state. Person is no worse off than he was before trauma occurred. Back to normal.
6. Thriving Response: We're better than we were before. Use of psychological immune system. "Tend-befriend-comprehend" reaction.

... "Consciousness creators"... decide what will or will not be on their minds and do not reacively surrender their consciousness to the negative power of whatever is happening to them.
-- P. 6

Five Phases of Coping With Crisis:
1. The Kindling Reaction (Worsening) Includes worry and venting. Debilitating to both the victim and others.
2. The Suffering Reaction (Victimized) Self-pity. Dibilitating to victim and even more to others around him/her.
3. The Surviving Reaction (Existing) Moving out of the Kindling/suffering cycle, but not always permanently. Victim accepted into society, but not fully healed.
4. The Resilience Reaction (Recovering) Near permanent removal from beginning stages; victim is just as he was before trauma occurred, and fully accepted into society.
5. The Thriving Reaction (Flourishing) Victim learns something from trauma and is a better person because of it. Embrace life and trials that come with it. The ultimate goal.

"Just as junk food tastes good but is not good for us, venting makes us feel temporarily good. In the long run, however, it is terrible for our health... The one thing we can be sure of when we let our anger or negative feelings out is that we will become een angrier and end up making ourselves and others feel worse... We are not hydraulic steam machines that need to have our pressure released to prevent explosion. Thrivers learn this fact of life... Under pressure, the first thing they do is nothing."
-- pg. 10

"The act of construing is the process of mentally interpreting and framing life events in our own way. One of our most distinguishing and powerful human traits is our innate ability to interpret and assighn meaning to what happens to us, to focus our attention where, when, as deeply as we decide, and to be the masters of the content of our consciousness."
-- pg. 10

"Thriving is the mental and emotional opposite of worrying because it involves construing a way out of and beyond a real and existing problem, not ruminating about what may be in store for us."
-- pg. 10

"Worrying is one of the most mentally exhausting things we can do. It is like racing the engine of our car when it is in neutral gear."
-- Pg. 10. I am such a worryer.

"I worry, but what worries me most is when I start worrying about worrying. I used to worry that I was worrying or even worry that I was not worrying enough. It sounds stupid and funny for a shrink to say that, doesn't it? NowI do what I call wiser worrying. I don't go round and round about a problem. For me, a worry is like a memory or reminder. I think about it and then try to figure out something to do about it. For me, a worryi is an alarm to do something or figure something out. I think most worrying is being nervous about the future and frightened by the past, so I want to pay more attention to the now. Worrying really takes you out of the present, which is where you need to be if you're going to solve a problem. I think I've become a wiser worrier lately. I think and then try to come up with a new way of thinking."
-- Thriver, quoted on pg. 11

"About 40 percent of what we worry about will never happen. Another 30 percent concerns old decisions, which we cannot change. About 12 percent is related to criticism of ouselves that are not fair ad made by people who feel inferior to us. Another 10 percent of our worrying is related to our health, and worrying only makes us sick. About 8 percent of our worrying is worth the effort because it can help us find a starting point for doing something about whatever it is that is worrying us. If we resist wasting our time on the useless 92 percent of our worrying, we can get busy doing something about the 8 percent that needs our full attention."
-- Ohana member, quoted on pg. 11. I have a lot to learn from this one.

"If we are aware of and try to get through the first two crisis reaction stages as quickly as possible, the result is the increasing social support and caring thjat comes from people who feel comfortable, competent, and safe enough to get close to us again."
-- pg. 14

"...Thrivers are 'emotionally elevated.' Elevation is characterized by warm, pleasant, tingling feelings in the chest, feeling the need to hold, hug, and help others, and feeling energized and optimistic about ife in general."
-- Pg. 17

"He was a young comedian diagnosed with cancer. I was speaking with him when a nurse entered his room to ask if she could take his pulse. With the humor that is so charactiristic of thrivers, he joked, 'No thanks. I need it.' As the nurse placed her fingers on his wrist, he looked at me with tears in his eyes. He said, 'You know. I've learned one thing in all this. Being fully alive is not just having a pulse. It's feeling like you are pulsating.'"
-- pg 24

Questions to Ask about Thriving:
- Do you feel more alive today than yesterday?
- Are you free from worry?
- Do people seem to be made happier by your presence?
- Are you laughing hard every day?
- Are you crying hard every day?
- Do you feel in love with life?
- Are you in love?
- Do you feel loved?
- Have you been made stronger by adversity?
- Do people turn to you for strength and comfort?
- Do you often feel overwhelmed by the grandeur and beauty of simple things?
- If you were to die today, would byou feel you have fully lived?
You don't have to cry every day to live. Some people experience joy in different ways.

"Izzie, the death camp survivor, said of [self-help books], 'I think a waist is a terrible thing to mind. I almost starved to death when I was in that Nazi prison. I don't worry anymore about controlling my appetite or my weight. When I step on the scale and numbers roll up, I feel relieved. it's like I'm becoming more and more alive. My body was healthy enough to survive the garbage we ate there, so I'm not that worried about dieting now. I'd sooner go to the cookbook section and find a book on tasty fattening food for the joyfully obese.'"
-- pg. 27. Not sure I totally agree with this one, but I thought it was interesting.

"As one of the invincibles put it, 'The talent to thrive is the ability to happen to the world instead of allowing it to always happen to you.' Thrivers are the architects of their own consciousness... They become their own meaning-makers, mental illusionists who take whatever happens to them and transform it to find challenge where others see only disaster."
-- pg. 29

"The miracle of thriving is that we were made to be agents with free will. To offer up the 'I couldn't help it' excuse squanders one of our most powerful human abilities, our capacity to deal constructively and effectively with almost any challenge by assigning our own meaning to it and using our innate emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual skills to develop that meaning."
-- pg. 30 I totally agree with this one.

"Here is another one of my simple science experiments. It was designed to look at whether we have an optimistic or pessimistic explanatory style.
The next time you have a drink from a full glass of soda or some other fluid, drink only half of it. Before you take your next drink, stop and seriously ask yourself, 'Do I in fact see this glass as half-full or half-empty?' If you are drinking with someone who knows you well, ask that person how he or she thinks you see the glass. How you honestly answer the question says a lot about the meaning you are now assigning to your thriving potential at this time in your life."
-- pg. 30 My impression is this: Instead of deciding whether or not the glass is half-empty or half-full, you should be savoring the fact that you've already drunk and enjoyed half of it.

"From the moment you are born, you begin to die. We are all dying."
"I was born to live ant thrive through all that life offers, no matter how stressful... Learning to thrive allows us to be free of our fear of death because we give our lives a meaning that transcends physical endings."
-- pg 31

Another thing I don't quite totally agree with:
"Dire warnings worry us, but they don't seem to do much to significantly change our behavior. Despite warnings of the danger of eating meat, most of us still eat it, but we do so with a 'glutton guilt' that interferes with our enjoyment of a juicy steak and makes us feel as if we are hopeless health reprobates slowly but surely killing ourselves. Most of us know our parents were far from perfect, but until the recent emphasis on dysfunctional families and scarred inner children, we thought we had become stronger because of our upbringing and all its flaws."
-- pg. 35. Enjoying life doesn't mean abandoning good decisions.

More that I'm unsure of:
"Thrivers are more likely to be found lying on the couch eating poato chips than panting on a treadmill at the health club. They are more likely to be sitting quietly on their porch watching the day go by than attending a seminar on personal power. YOu may find a few of them running in marathons, but more of them are likely to be walking joyfully at the end of the race or sitting on the curb with their families watching in amusement as gaunt-looking runners pant past in their knee braces. You are more likely to meet one of them while strolling along a garden path than in the aisles of a health food store. I met some myself while standing in line at an ice cream parlor. They are not worriers, so don't expect them to be up-to-date on the latest reason they should not be eating ice cream."
-- pg. 36
I know someone named Pam G. who runs marathons down to the last yard, who prefers a healthy salad over a bowl of ice cream, who goes to church and women's seminars to learn more about what she can become, and I believe she thrives. Thriving is more than just accepting who you are, it's wanting to be more. It SHOULD be a want to improve yourself, not a want to stay in one place. Those who take medical research and advice lightly often end up paying for it. And while they, themselves might be able to embrace the bad consequences due to their "flourishing nature," those they love might not. It's harmful to those around them as well as to themselves. What we SHOULD be doing is taking care of ourselves, but enjoying every minute of it. Run on the treadmill, but will yourself to like it. As he says, it's mind-over-matter. But it should be applied differently than the way he says.

"In a culture that emphasizes the value of beating the odds, being a fighter, and struggling to get a piece of the pie, we often lose sight of how to enjoy the pie."
-- pg. 37

"Researchers have learned that when biofeedback works, it does so when the person feels that they 'just let' relaxation happen to them rather than trying to 'make' it hapen. In the positive or salutogenic view of life, we can be naturally relaxed, balanced, well beings who don't have to 'try' to be that way. We only have to let ourselves 'be' that way and stop getting in the way of our phychological immune system by striving to overcome adversity or be all we can be.
-- pg 37. Running those marathons help us be all we can be, in my opinion.

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