return of flotsam friday
Friday, March 27, 2009
To start, some research that caught my attention:
I like this study from the University of Toronto that points out that many people find uncertainty much more stressful than clear negative feedback. Oh yes, oh yes. It’s true. I would much rather know the worst than wonder. Of course, I much prefer praise and strokes to negative anything, but if you don’t like something I did or said, fergawdsake just tell me. If you waffle or leave me to wonder, my overactive imagination is likely to put far harsher words in your mouth than you would ever manage, unless you’re a real SOB, which I know you’re not. No, don’t argue. I just know it.
Another study, this one from the University of Michigan, considers whether we’re better off ruminating or forgetting and moving on when we’re depressed or upset. Well, OK, they don’t use the word “ruminating.” They use “analyzing.” But really, I find that unless we have learned tools for analyzing our own feelings, we’re much more likely to ruminate (and by that, I mean just chew things over in an unproductive manner) than analyze.
Anyway, what these researchers find is that the best thing to do is try to step back, disconnect your emotions from the problem, and analyze if from a psychological distance. Which is easier said than done, I know, but it’s a worthwhile skill to develop. Or perhaps it comes naturally as we get older.
I try to use a technique like this when I receive a writing critique. No matter how kindly spoken or written, a negative critique of any kind initially is a knife through my heart. So the first thing I do is just acknowledge the ripping, bleeding pain of it, then I think, “OK, so I’m not perfect, nobody is,” and then I literally think about taking a step back, setting emotion aside, and just listening. It’s actually an exercise in visualization and it helps me.
Then, when the critique is over, I sob quietly into my pillow for a few days, and get back to work.
Here’s a nice item about a couple of New Yorker cartoonists who are a couple—as in, married. Watch the video. They’re just lovely. I’m always on the lookout for good depictions of long-time marriage and this is a great one.
Not married or coupled? Here’s a great article from New York magazine about living alone and how urban alienation is a myth. (I wrote a World Hum blog post about big city vs. small town life, see here)
Jennifer Senior writes,
“In American lore, the small town is the archetypal community, a state of grace from which city dwellers have fallen (thus capitulating to all sorts of political ills like, say, socialism). Even among die-hard New Yorkers, those who could hardly imagine a life anywhere else, you’ll find people who secretly harbor nostalgia for the small village they’ve never known.
Yet the picture of cities—and New York in particular—that has been emerging from the work of social scientists is that the people living in them are actually less lonely. Rather than driving people apart, large population centers pull them together, and as a rule tend to possess greater community virtues than smaller ones. This, even though cities are consistently, overwhelmingly, places where people are more likely to live on their own.”
And we’ll wrap up today’s flotsam with the cartoon du jour. It’s so me.
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