blogging, introversion, and me
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I'm now blogging about introversion on the Psychology Today website. Please visit, comment, make me look good!
The Introverts Corner.
bitching and moaning: friend or foe?
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Some people staunchly refuse to gripe. I suppose that’s partly temperament. They’re all sunny-side-up 'n' shit. As an enthusiastic griper, I have trouble relating to that. It seems cockeyed to me. And when people reflexively deflect legitimate gripes with some sort of Suzy Sunshine crap, I put a little checkmark next to their names in my head: Doesn’t Want to Hear About It. Which is certainly their prerogative, but it will also change the nature of our friendship. That’s just the way it is for me. I don’t get optimism, they don’t get pessimism, and that’s an essential truth.
Which is not to say I’m proud of my gripiness. I’m sure I wear my friends out, as my friends sometimes wear me out. I suspect we all have friends who turn up mostly when something is wrong, and friends who get stuck in negativity until you feel like running for cover when you see them. I remember one particular time like that for me, when I was deeply dissatisfied with my job at the newspaper. My gosh, my poor friends. I could tell they wanted to dive under their desks when they saw me coming.
I suppose it’s a matter of finding that balance between griping and rejoicing. I know I wore some friends out during a particularly long brutal stretch of my life, so I try really hard to be upbeat with them these days. I don’t want to be That Person, Debbie Downer, the Well-Known Buzzkill. No really, I don’t. And I find myself enjoying recreational bitching and moaning less than I once did, both doing it and listening to it.
Does complaining serve a purpose? I actually found some research on this, by a Robin Kowalski of Western Carolina University Her article, “Whining, Griping, and Complaining: Positivity in the Negativity,” was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. While Kowalski acknowledges first all the drawbacks of complaining (including the diving-for-cover factor), she also lists some of the benefits.
For one thing, she says, complaining can make you feel better. It's a little pressure release. And a well-placed complaint can also have financial benefits, such as when you complain about poor service or product defects.
Complaining also is a “social lubricant”-- when you’re uncomfortable in an unfamiliar place or situation, you can connect with others by sharing a gripe about the temperature or the length of the wait or whatever. And, she says, in close relationships, complaining can improve a situation and it can help you assess the other person’s commitment to the relationship—does he or she care about your dissatisfaction or just blow it off? Good information to be mined there.
So griping does have its benefits, which is good to know because I’ll always be a griper. I try to be less random about it than I once was and limit it to legitimate problems. Perhaps to some of my previous partners in griping, I’m getting a little Pollyanna. On the other hand, I’ll never be a total happy face because if I were, I’d find myself intolerable.
Friday, June 12, 2009
First, for no particular reason, here’s a totally random photo from my last trip to Oklahoma. I have a lot of photos. Might as well toss some out there from time to time.
OK, so, what’s on my mind today?
Well, I’ve had a semi-crappy week and I’m stressed out, so I’ve been watching this awesome interactive music video a lot. It’s a guaranteed stress reducer. Really, go watch it. Use your cursor to move the line. The song is lovely, too. (Worth the wait for it to load, I promise.)
Every now and then I get to write an article that makes me very happy. This article, in Southwest Spirit magazine, about the benefits of nostalgia, is among those.
Oh hey, check out the polite umbrella.
Speaking of nostalgia, this blog of photos of NYC in the 1970s (my NYC) moves me to tears. Look how little the skyline is!
And finally, some interesting research:
Here’s research into our friendship networks—evidently, although the size of our networks tend to stay stable, the contents change about every seven years, when we cut and replace half the people Hm. Having undergone a great deal of churn in my friendships recently, this makes perfect sense to me. I’m sure proximity and other environmental factors have a lot to do with friendship turnover, but it’s also a matter of my ongoing re-evaluation of what I need, want and don’t want in my relationships. Also, sometimes I really piss people off. And sometimes, I don’t care when I do.
Expanding further on the ever-fascinating introversion theme, here’s research into the social brain, although I kind of resent the way this blogger divides us into “socialites” and “curmudgeons.” Oh, I suppose I’ve called myself a curmudgeon, but it does have negative implications and I contend that there is nothing wrong with liking solitude.
And finally, research into a subject I have gone back and forth on a thousand times: couples staying together for the kids, something I’ve seen my parent friends wrestle with. It sounds right, it sounds wrong, it sounds right, it sounds wrong. I don’t know. These researchers say that if the marriage is truly contentious—lots of fighting—kids tend to drink, smoke and do poorly in school by adolescence. I suppose that’s kind of a no-brainer. I wonder, though, about homes with unspoken tensions.
Have a nice weekend. I plan to drink heavily.
five tips for introverted travelers
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I have received a lot of emails about the column mentioned above but this one particularly touched me because it’s someone whose life could be affected by the pressures of the extroverted masses.
I told this young man that first of all, approaching cute members of the opposite sex is doctoral-level extroversion. I’m not even sure I trust guys who can easily chat up that cute girl in English class. No, that kind of confidence is suspect to me. Give me the awkward blurter any day.
But for him and any other introverts out there who are trying to decide if they should hit the road or just stay home where nobody will bother them, I thought I’d offer these five tips for traveling introverts.
Be open to conversation when it’s offered. I rarely initiate conversations but I will talk to almost anyone who talks to me first. People like talking to introverts because we tend to be good listeners, and listening is the point in travel conversations, anyway. That’s when we learn. Once the conversation is started, you can ask lots of questions and learn lots of stuff. In her book Introvert Power, Dr. Laurie Helgoe points out that introverts generally prefer deep conversation to superficial chitchat. I’m never afraid to turn conversations to worldview, personal goals, politics and other Deep Thoughts. Ask things you truly want to know. Grab conversation when it comes, make it work for you.
Don’t be shy about ending the encounter when you’re ready. A lot of times, random conversations lead to invitations to parties, to travel companions, to meet the gang. This sort of invitation can lead to raucous good times. I hate raucous good times. I rarely accept those “let’s take it to the next level” invitations. I may have missed out on a lot that way, but maybe not. The few times I have accepted have not convinced me otherwise. Drunks in bars are pretty much the same the world over. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to say “no” if you’re not feeling it. Then again, say “yes” sometimes, too. You never know.
Carry a book. There’s an interesting debate going in response to an article about travel books on World Hum—a couple of people contend that reading while you travel is a waste of experience, that you can read at home and you should be out LIVING and MEETING INTERESTING PEOPLE when you’re traveling. Yes, well, fine for those people. I always carry a book when I travel for when I need to create a quiet place for myself. Travel is wonderful and exhausting and over-stimulating. Sometimes I need to escape into the tranquility of reading.
Develop the art of sitting and watching. In her book, Dr. Helgoe talks about the French term “flauneur” (feminine, “flaneuse”) which means passionate observer. Yes, yes! I am a flaneuse. I love just sitting and watching people doing what they do when I travel. I do it in parks, I do it in museums, I’m finally able to do it in restaurants. That ability took a while to develop but I can now just sit alone in a restaurant and eat and watch people around me, rather than immediately burrowing into a book. Mind you, I always have a book nearby during my sitting and watching, just in case I need to escape the world for a bit or suffer a bout of self-consciousness, but it often remains unopened while I watch and eavesdrop.
Take a walking tour or, even better, hire a guide yourself. I have found this controlled interaction is a great way to get some conversation in with a local. A professional guide—you can find one through the local tourist board—is a wealth of both official and personal information about the place you’re visiting. Once again, make the interaction work for you. Ask things you want to know even if they’re not part of the official spiel.
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.
this and that re: relationships
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Hm, really? That’s sad, isn’t it? Is that why our divorce rate is so high? Gosh, if Tom let all my annoying little habits get to him, we would never have lasted this long. But instead, he just turns the oven off when I leave it on; he gets the mail when I forget to; he cooks dinner most nights since I consistently conveniently forget that a guy’s gotta eat; he mostly ignores my nagging. And, for my part, I let him go to sleep way too early every night. Too early by my standards, that is. He’s always been an early-to-bed/rise guy and as annoying as I sometimes find it, that’s who I married.
On the other hand (another of my overused phrases), I often enjoy the hours after he’s gone to bed--now that I’ve finally figured out that I’m not compelled to go to bed at the same time. That epiphany was decades coming. Somehow I got it into my head that my wifely duties included climbing into bed with him every night, even though he just wanted to sleep. I would fall asleep early but never could stay asleep. Now that I go to bed on my schedule—two or three hours after Tom—I sleep all night.
My friend Peter posted another spin on relationships on his blog, advocating the “good enough philosophy” of marriage. Put that way, it sounds a little depressing, but I can’t argue with him. To an extent, deciding to forsake all others is settling, I suppose. Settling for what you have rather than what you can imagine. Settling for an authentic human rather than an idealized vision. Settling for the comfort of security over the thrills of possibilities. “Settling” is a terrible word, isn’t it? How can we spin it to sound better?
Another aspect of settling are those “how did I end up with…?” moments, when your mate says or does something, or reveals a gap in knowledge, that is so shocking, you can't even imagine how your life took the strange turn that linked you with this person.
I had one of these just last night, as we watched A Night at the Opera. I grew up watching and loving the Marx Brothers—it’s partly a Jewish New Yorker thing, I think—but they simply were not part of Tom’s experience. I remember once, not long after Tom and I moved in together, one of his brothers came to stay a weekend. As part of the weekend’s planned entertainment, I rented a Marx Brothers movie. The two of them looked at me like I’d suggested we spend an evening at Chuck E. Cheese. They could not have been more puzzled as to why I imagined this would be entertaining for them. (We didn’t watch it.)
OK, I already knew that Tom is not a Marx Brothers aficionado, but I was still unprepared when I turned to him last night during the movie and said, “You’ve heard of the famous stateroom scene, right?” and he had not.
This was one of those “…how did I end up with” moments. How did I end up with a man who has never even heard of the stateroom scene? Incomprehensible. I’m pretty sure I was introduced to the stateroom scene the moment I left my mother’s womb.
I am relieved to report that Tom and I will be able to stay married because he laughed through the scene. His favorite line: “Come on in girls and leave all hope behind.” If he hadn’t laughed at least once, I might have contemplated divorce.
Remember the movie Diner, when Steve Guttenberg wouldn’t marry his fiancée until she passed a football trivia test? The idea doesn’t sound entirely outlandish when you have those “how did I end up with…?” moments. In fact, I enjoy playing “Name That Broadway Show” with Tom, since he claims to hate Broadway musicals but a lot of the crooners he does like (Frank and Tony and such) often sing show music. I am proud to report (and he is ashamed to admit) that he’s getting pretty good at the game.
And so, in conclusion, relationship-related cartoon du jour.
Monday, February 23, 2009
I respond to everyone who writes to me. (Everyone who is not unhinged, that is, and fortunately most of my correspondents seem perfectly lovely.) This time, I urged everyone who wrote to check out Dr. Helgoe’s book, Introvert Power
Maybe other books on introversion are just as good, but this is the book that came my way and changed my life a little bit. Coming to understand introversion better is making a difference for me, and Dr. Helgoe offers not only insight, but also tactics for functioning.
For example, I went to a wonderful party yesterday. I’d been looking forward to it and was happy to go. But I also noticed that halfway through, I started getting that familiar “my brain might explode” feeling that says I’m on introvert overload. For me, this is almost a physical sensation, a sort of mind-ache—which is different from a headache. It’s more pressure than pain. The conversations coming at me start losing meaning and everything takes on a swirling, dizzying look—like the drug scenes in the Movie of the Week version of "Go Ask Alice."
This time, when this started happening, I knew it was simply time to excuse myself from the party crowd and find a place for a few minutes of quiet. (And here’s where smoke breaks come in handy. I started smoking again about a month ago, I am about to stop again. I will miss it.) No guilt, no shame, no self-recrimination—just step away and let my brain smooth out before plunging back into chitchat.
Not that stepping away is always easy or possible. People are very generous and if they spot someone they perceive as lonely, they will often step up and try to ease the loneliness with a little friendly conversation. Had I been able to easily leave the party for a walk around the block, that would have been the best plan, but that would have been difficult. So I grabbed a minute here and a minute there as I could. And just these few minutes helped to me enjoy—really enjoy--this party for hours before I hit the wall completely.
It’s not that I’ve never done such a thing before, but this is the first time I’ve done it consciously, with a plan and purpose. It was a surprisingly powerful moment for me.
And it brings to mind a thought on therapy that I've shared here before. People often mistakenly think that therapy will cure us, will change us profoundly so that our problems cease to exist. But in fact, what therapy does is provide us insights, tools and new maps for navigating our inner and outer worlds. I am not interested in “curing” my introversion, nor would that be possible. But learning to respect it and developing new tools to work with it, as I have other aspects of myself, will make my life three hundred percent easier.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Socially acceptable, I say? Smoking?
Yep, in our extroverted society, saying you need a cigarette is more socially acceptable than saying you need to escape because you really don't think the more is the merrier and your head might explode from one more minute of tedious chit-chat,.
That's how introverts like me feel at parties.
Similarly, psychologist Laurie Helgoe, who wrote the new book Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, says that several people she has seen in her practice who struggle with alcohol said they would not drink as much if they weren't trying to push against introversion. It's not just that alcohol is a social lubricant, says Helgoe. "It's also such a drain on self-esteem to be in this situation where you're supposed to be enjoying something but you're not."
American introverts face a lot of pressure to fight our nature. We are told not only that American is an extroverted society (not true—Helgoe has found that introverts are, in fact, the majority) but that extroversion is a better, more effective way to operate. Get out of the house! Press flesh! Stop with the email and pick up the phone, ya big loser!
But we don't really want to.
The difference between extraversion and introversion is not that the former are good at socializing and the latter aren't. It's that extroverts are outwardly focused and draw energy from social interactions while introverts are inwardly focused and drained by interactions. Introverts tend to think deeply and slowly, we prefer one-on-one interactions to big groups and conversation about ideas to gossipy chitchat. We require a lot of time alone. We don't like parties. A lot of us don't like the phone and find e-mail to be a godsend.
We don't suffer social anxiety. We just prefer solitude, given a choice.
Maybe we don't sound like much fun to extroverts. But it's time we stop succumbing to extroverted pressure to change our ways, not just because it's healthier for those of us who choose bad habits over party chit-chat, but also because if we exhaust ourselves fighting our nature, we will be too tired to contribute to the world in our very important way.
Introverts are generators of fresh ideas. Brain scans show that introverts' brains stay much busier at all times than the brains of extroverts, which is why we are easily overwhelmed by too much external stimulation. Introverts have a much greater tolerance—in fact, are drawn to—the fertile void, that quiet place where the most creative thinking happens. Famous creative-thinking introverts include Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Charles Darwin, Warren Buffett, Carl Jung, Katharine Hepburn, Isaac Newton and Friedrich Nietzsche.
And our ability to be alone and think independently means we are unlikely to be swayed by social pressure or groupthink. Introverts' ideas might initially be mocked by the masses (If you sit under trees daydreaming, crap falls on your head! What's the big deal?) but these are the ideas that break through and change paradigms, once the extroverts stop laughing.
And, in a world that gets louder and more full of chatter, we particularly need fresh and unusual ideas to succeed in business—the purple cows, to use marketing guru Seth Godin's term.
"Mass marketing no longer works and that tends to be an outward, in your face, extrovert kind of approach," says Helgoe. "What Seth Godin says is that when the quality is built into the product, it sells itself. Purple cow refers to novel ideas, really cooking up something brilliant internally and then putting it out there, rather than the hit-or-miss approach. Introverts hold our cards close to our chest and we can be good at assessing where you're going to get the most bang for the buck."
So you see, fighting introversion is a waste of energy that can be put to better use. Why be an introvert? First of all, you have no choice. Second, it's a good way to be, no matter what extrovert propaganda tells you. Third, smoking is bad for you.
consumer branding, attachment theory n me
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Well, I can console myself that at least I was on to something, according to research published in the Journal of Consumer Research.
So, to put all my work on this paper to some sort of use, I think I’ll bore all you with it.
Brand loyalty and attachment theory
In 1989, I bought two J. Crew cotton turtlenecks at the J. Crew outlet store in Freeport, Maine. The other day, I noticed a small hole where a seam was starting to separate on one of the turtlenecks. I felt a little sad – after all, I had worn the turtleneck frequently for 13 winters. I’d grown quite attached to it.
In 1987, I found a bargain in a used 1984 Honda Accord with 80,000 miles on the odometer. I drove that car past 200,000 miles and then sold it to a friend for his teenage daughter. The next car I bought, in 1997, was a 1994 Honda Accord with 60,000 miles on the odometer. I’m driving that car still.
Since that first J.Crew purchase, I’ve purchased many other J. Crew products for myself and my husband. Every product I’ve bought has performed as well as those first two turtlenecks, and every catalog order I’ve made has been transacted satisfactorily.
And because of the trust I’ve developed in Honda, when it’s time for a new car, chances are excellent I will buy another Honda Accord. The cars have performed exceptionally well over time, and so I’ve grown attached to the brand.
Clearly, longevity is one of the things I seek in a brand and when I find it, I am loyal and will choose that brand over others and over the generic alternative. Although I might initially been susceptible to buying a generic garment or a brand other than Honda, my personal style caused me to sample the brands because of price incentives, then remain with the brands because they fulfilled my emotional needs for reliability and sturdiness.
Brand loyalty is like love. We seek to fill personal needs and respond when we find it. The consumer/brand connection is a relationship that develops over time and interactions. Therefore, in this paper I will indulge in some creative theorizing by applying psychologist John Bowlby’s attachment theory to the consumer/brand relationship. Just as our pattern of relationships with people develop early in our lives through our interactions with our caregivers and their sensitivity and responsiveness to our needs, so do our relationships with brands develop through our early and ongoing interactions with these brands. In addition, the general attachment style of the consumer can also play a role in each individual’s inclination to be loyal to a brand.
The original attachment theory refers to the child’s bond with his or her primary caregiver, usually the mother. One view of attachment, according Parent Education for Early Childhood is a result of “daily, routine care given to babies by parents.” And, writes author Christine Z. Cataldo, “Attachment is also related to communication. Infants and parents learn to ‘read’ each other’s signals, creating a responsive pattern of interaction.”
These routes to attachment translate easily into the most basic marketing strategies.
“Emotion sells and brand defection is a direct result of this being manifested in customer’s minds by feelings of not being wanted or loved,” writes David M. Martin in Romancing The Brand. If your customer doesn’t love your brand, and your brand doesn’t love the customer back, all the advertising your budget can buy will not lead to brand loyalty.
In Emotional Branding, Daryl Travis writes, “A transaction makes the cash register ring once. A relationship makes it ring again and again. And selling takes on a new dimension when you put it in the context of a relationship. Selling is often talking to. A relationship is usually talking with.”
Duane E. Knapp writes in The Brandmindset that, “to concentrate on product alone is to assume that the customer doesn’t care about time, convenience, feelings, and overall satisfaction.” Switching back to the concept of parenting attachment, to concentrate on product alone would be comparable to feeding and clothing a child without paying attention to whether the child is hungry, whether the clothing is comfortable, and when the child needs love and attention more than food. This is a form of child neglect and often results in the children maturing into adults who have difficulties making emotional attachments. So, too, would that kind of neglect of a customer’s preferences produce a consumer who does not connect in lasting relationships with your brand.
So clearly, listening to what your customer wants is key to establishing brand loyalty in that customer and in general. If J. Crew and Honda were to sit down and talk with me about my personal needs, they would hear that sturdiness and reliability are high on my list, and that to establish and maintain a relationship with me, their products must be and remain sturdy and reliable.
But there is another side to the development of brand loyalty/attachment theory and that is the consumer’s individual attachment style as it spills over from interpersonal relationships to relationships with products. Bowlby theorized, and researcher Mary Ainsworth confirmed in her famous “Strange Situation” experiments, that there are three types of attachment: secure attachment and two types of insecure attachments, one that manifests itself in clinginess and one in wariness.
So how does this apply to brand loyalty? I propose the following model for attachment styles among consumers, based on the Bowlby model, which are consistent with their attachment patterns in interpersonal relationships:
The securely attached consumer: These consumers are not blindly attached, but thoughtfully so. They consider the information and choose their brand because it fulfills their needs. These consumers respond to quality, consistency, responsiveness from the company, repeated good results. Like infants who are secure that someone will come to the rescue when they cry, securely attached consumers select brands responsive to their needs and are unwilling to accept less from the companies with which they do business.
The ambivalent insecurely attached consumer: These consumer maintain firm and irrational attachment to a brand (“If it was good enough for my mama, it’s good enough for me.”) and are unwilling to experiment with other brands. Due to a basic insecurity about their own judgment, they are difficult to pry away from a brand they have decided on it, are not open to new information, are insecure with trying something new for fear of making a mistake or somehow being disloyal, which could result in some kind of abandonment. They can become angry when favorite brands are tampered with.
The avoidant insecurely attached consumer: These consumers resist being wooed by brands and avoid attachment to brands. They display what Bowlby calls “compulsive self-reliance,” which may cause them to buy according to price rather than brand because they are essentially not trusting and do not rely on information from companies to make their decisions. These consumers are indifferent to brand marketing. Getting these consumers’ attention and persuading them to be loyal to one brand is difficult and they are most likely of the three consumers to choose generics over brands.
These attachment styles play out in the act of shopping. I recently spent an afternoon shopping with a friend who has a secure attachment style in her personal relationships, as evidenced by her relationship with her family of origin. I was surprised and even a little discomfited by this woman’s ability to shop strictly according to brand. She went directly to the companies she preferred – Kiehls, Victoria’s Secret, Clinique -- to spend her money. Had I been shopping for the same items she needed, I would have spent many hours, perhaps even days, seeking the best values regardless of brand.
I am an avoidant insecurely attached consumer, just as I am insecurely attached in my personal relationships. I am not particularly conscious of brands and am difficult to sell to on basis of brand alone. For me, price incentives are more powerful than brand marketing. Note that my first J. Crew purchases were at an outlet store and all my Hondas have been purchased used.
Because I am skittish and hard to convince, I am not a consumer worth actively pursuing. In Emotional Branding, Daryl Travis cites Larry Light on “...the necessity of attracting not just loyal customers, but the right loyal customers – the loyal heavy users. He quotes part of a proprietary study done by The Campbell Soup Company, which segmented its buyers into four consumer groups: most profitable, profitable, borderline, and avoid. The most profitable group delivered three times the profit of the break-even borderline group. All of one brand’s profits came from a mere 10 percent of its customer base.”
As a wary, insecurely attached consumer, I am in the “borderline” or even “avoid” group. I am not attractive to marketers, but I can be seduced by price incentives backed up with the reliability and sturdiness I crave. “Customers looking for the lowest price will only be loyal to the price, not the brand. On the other hand when customers perceive that the brand consistently delivers value, it has the foundation to become a genuine brand,” Knappe writes.
Although I had heard good things about Hondas, if I had found another car that did not have a bad reputation at an acceptable price, I might have purchased that and never found my way to Honda loyalty. (In fact, my first two cars were VW Rabbits but I was persuaded by my husband not to buy a third because he perceived them as unreliable.) However, just as people who are insecurely attached in their personal relationships can, over time and with consistent positive experiences, for secure attachments (as I have with my husband of 17 years), so can they develop brand loyalty with reliable products.
I am also a consumer who is loyal, but only up to a point. While I am not normally brand-conscious, once I have developed an attachment to a brand, I am that brand’s to lose by not maintaining the qualities that hooked me. My wariness makes me easy to lose. “There is no doubt that a customer who feels valued and loved by you will be more likely to remain with you and give you every opportunity to do more business with them,” writes Martin.
In contrast to my purchasing style, a securely attached consumer might make the same brand choices I have made in Honda and J. Crew, but for different reasons. A securely attached consumer may decide on Honda after researching the brand, decide on J. Crew because of the lifestyle depicted in the company’s advertising. These customers might be reached through traditional brand marketing methods, including lifestyle branding. They are more confident and less wary than I and more likely to be unabashedly attracted to a brand as a lifestyle choice because they are less in need of “proof” of love. They also will be open to new products under a brand name.
These are savvy consumers who think well of themselves and are likely to bail out of “abusive” relationships with brands that, for example, change products capriciously and not for the better, or that market intrusively without respecting the consumer’s personal boundaries. One of the hallmarks of abusive parental behaviors is a blurring of boundaries between parent and child which can manifest itself in parents not giving children privacy or becoming controlling. This also translates quite easily into the relationship between product and consumer, which can become abusive when marketers don’t respect consumers’ privacy.
“Customers like intimacy, but not intrusive, and good relationship management can make the difference between whether your brand is perceived as a really close friend or an unwelcome visitor” writes Martin. A company that pesters customers with numerous telemarketing calls, that requires too much personal information with run-of-the-mill purchases (a la Radio Shack), or that nickels and dimes its customers, may drive even the securely attached consumer away.
The ambivalent insecurely attached customer can be extremely loyal to certain products, but is not necessarily open to changes in the brand or new products in the brand family. These are the customers who buy Ivory soap but not Ivory Liqui-Gel, use Arm & Hammer Baking Soda but resist Arm & Hammer Fabric Softener Sheets. These customers have a large dose of sentimentality mixed into their brand-sensitivity and are loyal to a product out of entrenched habit rather than thoughtfulness about the reality of a brand, just as a child might be attached to the concept of “mother” yet feel ambivalent about the reality of a mother who is not responsive to his or her needs.
In addition, these customers, entrenched in a concept rather than a product, are easier to anger with changes than to seduce with improvements. These are the customers who believe that “if it ain’t broke, why fix it” and who prefer “the way we were” to “new and improved.”
Clearly, it is important for those in branding research to understand the various attachment styles people bring to the consumer experience by asking such questions as why consumers try new brands, what qualities in a brand makes them feel connected, and what brands can do to alienate them as consumers. By understanding the emotional needs and attachment styles consumers bring to shopping for products, companies can learn how to woo and retain the most desirable consumers – those who are capable of lasting and developing relationships with brands. In addition, companies can learn how to keep the insecurely attached avoidant consumers who stumble upon the brand, and how to help insecurely attached ambivalent consumers embrace new product developments from the brands to which they’ve grown attached. In addition, if they choose, marketers can target difficult attachment styles by, for example, targeting ambivalent insecurely attached consumers with nostalgic marketing of new products and insecure avoidant consumers with price incentives backed up by nurturing customer service.
Clearly, my theory is as yet just that – a theory based on anecdotal evidence and speculation. Further research would be required to connect interpersonal attachment style with consumer attachment style, and then to relate that to marketing style for various consumers. However, as choices in products increase exponentially, all competing for the same consumers, marketers will need to explore deeply not only what the individual product brings to the marketplace, but what the individual consumer brings as well.
Cataldo, Christine Z. Parent education for early childhood : child-rearing concepts and program content for the student and practicing professional / Publisher: New York : Teachers College, Columbia Univerity, c1987.
Martin, David N. Title: Romancing the brand : the power of advertising and how to use it / Publisher: New York : AMACOM, c1989. Description: xvi, 215 p. : ill. ; 26 cm.
Emotional branding : how successful brands gain the irrational edge / Daryl Travis (with help from Harry). Author: Travis, Daryl. Holdings: Item Holdings
Call Number: 658.8343 T782E 2000 Publisher: Roseville, Calif. : Prima Venture, c2000.
men and women and the crosses they bear
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I couldn’t argue with John. And when I told Tom, he agreed with absolute conviction.
I believe them.
When I’m kvetchy about my professional struggles and worried about money, I feel like I’m letting myself down, not that I’ve failed in my role in society. But men have internalized the judgment of society for their ability to financially support not only themselves, but also their loved ones. And the ability to make money seems to define their masculinity in an indefinable way. (Yes, I am speaking in sweeping generalizations. If you don’t like it, write your own blog.)
In a NTY column, a psychiatrist talks about what fallen titans of Wall Street are feeling these days:
The problem was that his sense of success and accomplishment was intimately tied to his financial status; he did not know how to feel competent or good about himself without this external measure of his value.
I’d compare all this to how many women (i.e. me) feel about their weight. Men know we worry about it a lot, but they will never be able to fully understand the full effects of body image issues. I’m in a fat phase right now and I can’t even get comfortable in bed at night, so conscious am I of my unacceptably squishy bits. Even as I roll around, trying to find a position where I feel thin, I know I’m being ridiculous. So I’m a few pounds overweight. A little more work, a little less chocolate. I’ll never be thin again (too much work) but I can get it back under control.
But what if I don’t?
According to Gretchen Rubin.in her very excellent blog, The Happiness Project (envy envy envy, she’s doing wonderful work), all this fretting about weight may make us depressed. She writes:
In his book What You Can Change . . . and What You Can't (p. 190), Martin Seligman points out: “All thin-ideal cultures…have roughly twice as much depression in women as men. (Women diet twice as much as men...) [In] cultures without the thin ideal…the amount of depression in women and men in these cultures is the same. This suggests that around the world, the thin ideal and dieting not only cause eating disorders but also cause women to be more depressed than men.” Two root causes of depression are failure and helplessness; dieting makes you feel both. (Note: I can't find my copy of the book to double-check the quotation.)
(Full post here.)
So, how’s this holiday treating you all? You got no money and you’re full of holiday treats? Broke ‘n’ fat? Everybody feel bad?
Eh. We’ll get over it.
contemplating social comparison
Thursday, November 6, 2008
We all do it. No, don’t argue, we do. Upward social comparison is when we compare ourselves to people who are somehow considered better than us, downward is the opposite, of course. We probably all do both. We do a little upward and that makes us feel bad, then we do a little downward to cheer ourselves up. But then we feel bad about thinking ourselves better than someone else so we do a little upward to put ourselves in our place. And then we feel bad and do a little downward….
I had opportunity to do a lot of social comparison at the writers’ conference I attended a couple of weeks ago. Nothing like being tossed into a group of other writers to get me thinking about my place in the food chain. I see-sawed up and down madly in my own head, from cocky to cowed, cowed to cocky. It was the hardest part of the conference.
Social comparison is not fun but it can be useful if you use the upward social comparison for motivation, to set goals and to fine-tune your ambitions.
At the conference I had to cycle through feelings of inadequacy before I could think rationally about the comparisons. Once I stopped feeling chopped livery, I started carefully considering the careers of the more successful writers and figuring out whose careers I would want and who spent their time doing work that is unappealing to me. This is helping me figure out in what direction to ratchet up my career.
One writer in particular is published all over the damn place and I have suffered terribly in social comparison with her. But when I started looking closely at what she does, I realized that while I envy her income, I would not particularly enjoy doing the kind of work she does. This was a nice epiphany because it allows me to now admire her success without envy. And it helped illuminate the path ahead for me.
Social comparison can be brutal because no matter how successful (or pretty or thin or rich or whatever) we are, there will always be others who are more so. That can be discouraging if we let it. I try to find motivation in social comparison. “I want to be like that!” It's not easy to take the positive route but I try.
Oddly, I have found myself making social comparisons with Barack and Michelle Obama. It sounds silly, but I am fascinated by them—by their intelligence, their ease with their social and professional stature and by what they have that I don’t (aside from Ivy League educations).
I guess social comparison is what draws some voters to people like Sarah Palin. The ego is soothed to see someone we can relate to in a position of power, whereas an elite intelligence makes us feel thick and slow. (Palin is clearly an elite politician, but that’s a different kind of smarts.) Some people resent any sort of conversation they consider highbrow and interpret it as some sort of personal insult. That is the destructive side of social comparison and it’s tiresome. I have no patience with pretension, but I don’t mind struggling to lift myself up. The payoff can be big.
why you should get happy
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
But as I enter my doddering missionary years, I find that I am, in fact, generally happier than I have ever been. Sure, I still wake in the middle of the night filled with free-floating anxiety and dread, still find myself racked with feelings of inadequacy, still fret far too much over the impression I make on others, but those are just hobbies. For the most part, when I step back and survey the life I’ve created, I have to say, “Not bad.”
In a way, though, this new found satisfaction is a liability because I'm increasingly impatient with gloomy people who have locked themselves into a misery schtick and don’t seem interested in finding their way out. This is a particular problem because in the past, these were kind of people I chose as friends. Misery does, in fact, like company. But now that I'm no longer miserable, I have a handful of friendships I don't know how to continue.
I’m not talking about people who, like me, enjoy recreational bitching and moaning. Again, I consider that a perfectly viable hobby, although I now prefer it be diluted with occasional happy talk. I’m talking about people who are chronically dissatisfied with their lives and refuse to take hold and make changes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. People suck. Life is disappointing. Money is tight. We haven’t lived up to our potential. Relationships are hard. George Bush is a butthead.
But the temperature here in Dallas probably won’t hit 100 again this year. The State Fair starts Friday. Sarah Palin provides ample fodder for recreational bitching and moaning. And there’s a new episode of Mad Men on Sunday night.
Life ain’t so bad in the day-to-day.
OK, I do feel bad about eating Popeye’s for dinner last night but this, too, will pass.
I’m sympathetic to misery. I’ve been headshrunk and medicated and self helped and group therapied and all that over the years. And it all works. So does exercise. So does identifying goals and working towards them. So does stepping back and taking inventory. (The expression “count your blessings” makes me want to hurl, so I won’t say that.)
I’m sure I’ll be unhappy again. I am genetically and temperamentally disposed to recurring unhappiness. But when I feel it coming on, I rally all the resources I’ve gathered over the years and fight back.
You can too and probably should because I promise you: If you’ve been unhappy for a long time, you’re friends are tired of hearing about it.
(Hm, I’m griping about gripey people. How confusing.)
OK, here’s some food for thought. My second-favorite podcast (after This American Life) is called All in the Mind. It’s an Australian radio show about all things related to the brain and mind. Natasha Mitchell is a wonderful interviewer, the topics are fascinating, the guests are top-of-the-line.
The show recently had a two-part series of brain plasticity, which is the ability of our brains to change even into adulthood. In Part 2 (here), Mitchell talks to psychiatrist Dr Norman Doidge about plasticity as it applies to psychotherapy. Think therapy is just a lot of self-indulgent blah-blah? Scientists are beginning to home in on actual neurological changes that take place in the brain as you do the work. (And yeah, it is work. Hard work.)
Get happy, people. Or risk getting on my nerves.
anxiety du jour
Saturday, September 13, 2008
You would think at my advanced age I would be long past such pointless anxiety, but no. Every social occasion for me is an opportunity for varying degrees of self-loathing. I talked too much, I talked too little. I was too loud, I was too aloof. I asked too many questions, I didn’t ask enough questions. I acted like a dope, I acted like a smarty pants. It’s always something. After any social event, I wish desperately for a do-over, during which I would be an entirely different person. I promise. Just give me another chance.
It's a form of narcissism, this delusion that all eyes are on me. Rationally, I know most people are busy enjoying themselves or worrying about their own presentation or wondering when they can go home or thinking about what to make for dinner tomorrow. Everyone has a million better things to do than scrutinize my behavior. I’m incidental to the movies in which they star, their own lives, as I should be.
But irrationally, when I’m back home, my head is full of invented conversations about the cloddish and irritating embarrassment that is Sophie.
Geeze, I sound like a teenager. When I yearn to stay forever young, this is not what I have in mind.
What is the secret to self-confidence, please?
more on marriage
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
So, my online goofing off has given me further fodder for contemplating marriage. Here’s an article about a new book called "The Marriage Benefit: The Surprising Rewards of Staying Together" by Mark O’Connell, a marriage therapist and clinical instructor at the Harvard Medical School.
O’Connell doesn’t argue that all marriages are worth saving, but his focus is on the benefits of long-term intimacy. I like this excerpt:
He explained that scientists have discovered that the first 18 months of any romance effectively are ruled by body chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin. "We think everything that follows is a compromise."
Lordy, ain’t that the truth.
What O'Connell and marriage therapists hear a lot is that one or both spouses in a marriage feel bored or that they know everything about the other.
"The underlying assumption is we know each other so well," said O'Connell. "That's baloney. We are endlessly complex and always changing. Once romance wears off, we tend to block the complicated places within ourselves, those places where we are most scared. In that way, boredom is sort of dynamic self-protection."
In other words, as I understand it, sometimes it's fear of knowing ourselves and facing our own shortcomings and bogeyman that cause us to turn on our spouses.
More interesting than the article is this radio interview with O’Connell. I find the show host annoying but it’s worth a listen.
One fascinating point O’Connell makes is that marriage (and by that he means long-term monogamous relationships—the callers kvetching about marriage as a legal arrangement are missing the point) make us less narcissistic. In a way, I think, even more so than children which may require people to step outside their own needs but which are an extension of ourselves. (And by “our’ I mean “your.”) Marriage requires us to voluntarily support the well-being of another person without the biological imperative of parenthood.
He also speaks about the terror we all fear when we really do love someone, when we reach the point where we would be devastated if we lost that person, which we inevitably will, one way or another. As I understand it, he believes fear of vulnerability may be behind some resistance to marriage. When we love that deeply, we may someday hurt more. And that's scary shit.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The topic on Saturday was cognitive distortions, which seems appropriate in light of my foul mood this week. Read it here. I’m sure distortions are playing into my inability to wrestle my mind back to its happy place. (That and not enough yoga. I’ve been neglectful of my practice.)
Of those listed, All or Nothing, Mental Filter and Leaping to Conclusions are probably my pet distortions—and they all lead me straight to the cesspool of shame. Which somehow eventually drags me to anger. Or maybe the shame and anger are unconnected. I’m not sure yet and I’m too busy this week to thoroughly chew it over, but I’ll think about it.
The article goes on to discuss recognizing your distortions and distracting yourself from them. Sounds like worthy work. I'll try to get around to it...
Last night I hooked up the radio and listened to SuperNanny during our walk, so Jack had an easier time of it, although his lollygagging remains incredibly annoying.
can love be defined?
Friday, June 20, 2008
A friend and I have been discussing love—what is it? Can it be defined? Should it be?
I’m a fan of M. Scott Peck’s iconic self-help book The Road Less Traveled in which he defines love as “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s or another’s spiritual growth.”
I always liked that, although my definition of “spiritual” may not be the same as yours. But I do believe love means helping the other person grow—in the direction he or she chooses. That’s pretty key. “Helping” your loved one grow in ways you choose is not love, it’s control. And I like that Peck’s definition of love requires some sort of action, some effort. To my mind, love without action is an empty word--even if sometimes that action means walking away. (If you love something, let it go and blah blah blah.)
My friend likes Robert Sternberg’s theory of three types of love: romantic, companionate and commitment. That also makes sense to me, and the two definitions aren’t mutually exclusive.
But she also questioned whether defining love at all is wise, since it invites judging other people’s relationships. Who are we to say whether another couple is loving or not when we don’t and can’t live in their hearts, minds or relationships? Good point—we can’t know what makes someone else’s relationship work (or not work, for that matter) and to condemn something we don’t understand is just bigotry. And stupidity.
But I would argue that there is benefit to guidelines on what love is and isn’t because a lot of people seem to get confused. Women in abusive relationships sometimes believe their menfolk are driven to abuse because of deep love. Some people confuse sexual desire for love. Some people think that love is static--that once it is declared it need not be tended. Some people think love=drama. (I thank pop culture for that, since companionate love is rarely depicted, except occasionally in country music.) That would probably be my love vice.
But I’m pretty careful with the word “love,” as I am with the word “friend.” I don’t slap it on any old attraction until I’ve thoroughly parsed it.
Tom and I love each other and, I’m sure he would agree, it’s not always easy-cheesy. It’s not just a matter of deciding it, declaring it and getting on with our lives. Sometimes love requires conflict. Sometimes it requires sacrifice. Sometimes it requires boundaries. Sometimes it requires restraint. Sometimes it requires courage. Sometimes it requires saying, “I’m sorry.” (Take that, Ali McGraw.) All of which require effort.
Friday, May 16, 2008
I am happy to report that the incorrigible Jack has become partly corriged. He has adjusted to the electric fence and no longer wanders at will. No more crossing the creek and coming home muddy, no more chasing off the mailman, no more patrolling the alley and riling up the other dogs. He doesn’t seem particularly traumatized by the limits. Perhaps the responsibility of patrolling so large an area weighed heavily on his burly shoulders and troubled his large noggin. His own yard is large enough. So many squirrels, so little time. And so much napping to be done. How is one dog to do it all without some limits?
Now I need an electric fence for the sofa. He is not allowed on the sofa and knows it, but at night, after we go to bed, he helps himself. At the suggestion of one of his many trainers, I tried booby trapping it last night by covering it with newspapers and balancing a couple beer cans filled with coins on the papers, which were supposed to fall off and make noise and either frighten him off or wake us up. They did neither. He managed to fit his large tuchus between the cans, barely even disturbing them. So, back to shutting him out of the living room at night. He hates that. The other night, I had to put his leash on him and drag him out. Literally drag him—he put that aforementioned large tuchus on the floor and wouldn’t move it.
Slate has a special issue on procrastination (speaking of blogging) which includes this story, asking the question What is the difference between severe procrastination and writer's block?
So, I have this novel I’ve been working on for about three years. I’m in revisions. Ten painful pages at a time. And a half-finished book proposal that’s been collecting cyber dust for more than a year. So slow. I could do better. I know it. I’m not blocked, I’m procrastinating, Because as long as these remain remain unfinished they might be brilliant. If I finish them, their lead feet will be obvious.
Says one expert: "The chronic procrastinator knows he's presenting a negative image, but he'd rather be perceived negatively for lack of effort than for lack of ability."
The research corner:
Important news about men and their thingies: First, the International Society for Sexual Medicine has only just come up with (no pun intended) a formal definition of premature ejaculation. I know, can you believe it? I personally have never encountered this particular problem but in case you’re wondering, it is now defined as: “a male sexual dysfunction characterized by ejaculation which always or nearly always occurs prior to or within about one minute of vaginal penetration; and, inability to delay ejaculation on all or nearly all vaginal penetrations; and, negative personal consequences, such as distress, bother, frustration and/or the avoidance of sexual intimacy.”
And, says the study’s main author, “The hope is that more people with these symptoms will understand this is an actual health condition and seek treatment. They no longer need to suffer in silence.”
In related thingie-research: Gastric Bypass Surgery Restores Sexual Function in Morbidly Obese Men—Losing weight may help resolve erectile dysfunction in obese men.
Mostly, it helps them get laid more, I assume.
Having just experienced a highly unpleasant allergic reaction to a drug (my friends got all the gory details, I spared most of you) I was drawn to research into why scratching helps an itch. The study involved 13 healthy participants who underwent testing with functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology that highlights areas of the brain activated during an activity. Participants were scratched on the lower leg with a small brush. The scratching went on for 30 seconds and was then stopped for 30 seconds – for a total of about five minutes.
“To our surprise, we found that areas of the brain associated with unpleasant or aversive emotions and memories became significantly less active during the scratching,” said Yosipovitch. “We know scratching is pleasurable, but we haven’t known why. It’s possible that scratching may suppress the emotional components of itch and bring about its relief.”
So scratching is not really physical relief, it’s emotional. Which, when you think about it makes sense. Itching is so miserable … a persistent itch makes you want to scream, cry, bang your head repeatedly against a wall. Finally succumbing to the urge to scratch? Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. It’s more than physical relief. It’s bliss—however short lived and guilty, since we know we shouldn’t scratch.
The rash is fading and I will never take Aleve again.
Here’s a fun read from the Wall Street Journal, about retail therapy. Yup, psychologists and neuroscientists are studying that, too. Not to help us, mind you. To help retailers.
But keep this in mind—just like those little 100-calorie size snack packs of cookies and other treats can help us eat less, how we carry money can help us spend less, according to one study: Students were given $100 in pretend cash to participate in a gambling study. Some students received one sealed envelope with all the money, and others got 10 sealed envelopes that each contained $10. Individuals with multiple envelopes tended to spend less, sometimes half of what the people with the single envelope spent. "The power of partitioning can reduce spending by 50 percent," Cheema said.
I don’t like carrying lots of cash for this very reason. If I have it, I spend it. If I have to go back to the ATM, I become more aware of my spending. (And I am on near-lockdown on credit cards right now. Not complete, but I’m staying careful. Baby needs a new tank of gas…)
Dunno why it’s taken me so long, but I’d like to point out a new blogroll link—to the blog of my friend Jenna and her friend Rachel. The Haiku Diaries is commentaries on life entirely in the 5-7-5 format. It’s so much fun. I like to comment in haiku when I’m feeling sharp enough.
This week instead of just a list of google searches, a little commentary on a select few.
I find a lot of searches that look like this: 2008 contact emails of the doctors @yahoo.com in Florida; email contact women's america email@example.com
I was baffled until learning that these are the kinds of searches used by spammers to harvest email addresses. OK, that would explain the ever-thickening blizzard of spam I receive.
Three of my photos have become very popular: the one of a pyramid at Teotihuacan, the portrait of a xoloescuintle and the plastic army men war atrocities. These turn up so often, I assume someone is using them for something somewhere, but I can’t figure out how to figure it out.
Someone searched hillary jillette cunt which I suppose relates to Hillary Clinton and Penn Jillette. I know he called her a bitch. Did he call her a cunt, too? What a prick.
Someone searched Elizabet gilbert eat, pray, love review childfree, which is a little confusing.
Chelle, someone searched you. Someone searched my brother Oliver. And someone searched "black and blue" "rolling stones" tribute band dallas, texas myspace which had a very happy ending, since it resulted in a job for Black and Blue. May 31, Tolbert’s in Grapevine. Glad to help…
And that's Friday.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
No? Well, don’t think about a white bear...
...now, what are you thinking about?
I’m trying not to think of the poor little poochy, but damned if that image isn’t locked and loaded into my head. It. Just. Won’t. Go. Away.
It’s not like I’ve never seen roadkill before. And it’s not like I’ve never seen an animal die before—Tom and I have had to euthanize four pets over the years and we wouldn’t dream of not being right there with them. I was even with my friend Russell when they turned off the respirator. I saw my brother in his coffin (he looked handsome and just like himself) and my mother (not good).
Nothing has haunted me like this little pup.
It was partly the violence of the moment. I won’t say more about what exactly haunts me because I find the thoughts so painful …
But I've been thinking now about soldiers. How do they ever recover from the experience of war? I guess they don’t, not really or completely. They must carry the images forever, if they don’t manage to repress them. (Yes, it's possible.)
This interesting article from Stanford discusses how women’s memories of disturbing, emotional images is stronger than men’s—that women tend to store the emotion of a memory in the same place in the brain as the memory whereas in men, the emotion and the memory activate different parts of the brain.
So I guess that might mean women wouldn’t make good killing machines, eh? Is that a good thing or bad? Discuss.
I am distracting myself as much as possible from the memory of that miserable moment Tuesday night. Lunch with my client yesterday was a lot of fun and productive. I held it together just fine. It’s only at quiet times that the image pops back up. I started crying during the final relaxation in yoga class this morning.(In unrelated good news, my tree pose was fine today so I seem to have recovered some balance.) However, it was good mental exercise to tear my mind away from the bad thought and bring it back to the moment—the music, my own breath. By wrestling my mind back to the here and now instead from the there and then, I felt immediately better.
Maybe little pup’s last moment has a little lesson for me. One I’d really rather have skipped. And so would he, I’m sure. If he’d had a chance to think about it.
bad and sad
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Yoga isn’t competitive and you’re supposed to let go of all self judgment and listen to your body and bla-bla-bla—but all that aside, I really sucked in my yoga class last night. I got out the door late because I was having trouble getting my VCR (if I may be so old school) set to tape Idol (which also sucked last night) and then traffic was stupid and erratic so I arrived to the rec center late and then got stuck behind a slow moving lady screwing with her cell phone as I tried to scurry to class… I was all kerfuffled by the time I got to the “studio.” (It’s actually a conference room.)
My Tuesday night teacher does a lot of balance moves which I’m ordinarily pretty good at but last night, I could barely balance on two feet much less one. I was wibbling and wobbling and although I never actually fell on my ass, I couldn’t hold any of the poses. And the more that happened, the more annoyed and stressed I got (so un-yogi of me). Plus, the room was freezing, as is often the case, which is not ideal for yoga. (My teachers says it’s often too hot for her early class but then when she requests an adjustment, the arctic chill sets in.) Maybe it was the barometric pressure or maybe I’d eaten too much sugar this week (recall the late lamented coffee cake) or maybe my mind was too unbalanced which set the rest of me off balance, but it was one lousy evening of yoga. The only thing I rocked was the wheel, which for some reason I’m really good at. (OK, look at that photo. TMI right?)
After class my evening went from bad to worse.
Since Tom wouldn’t be home for dinner and the cupboards are bare, I figured I’d punish my incorrigible bod with Whataburger. Happily, my timing was right and the food was piping hot (don’t you hate greasy fast food that’s been sitting under the lamps too long?) but on the way home…
…oh, here I go, choking up again…
… I saw a little fluffy white doggie—it looked a lot like ZsaZsa (RIP)--get hit and killed by a car. I saw the whole thing happen and screamed—the car just sped on. I pulled over to see if it was…well, it wasn’t. It was clearly someone’s pet, all fat and fluffy and groomed. I put it on the median and sobbed all the way halfway home, then turned around and went back to make extra sure I couldn’t save it. Then I cried all the way home again.
Of course, my food was cold by the time I got home. So I sat on the couch and ate cold food and watched crappy Idol and cried all evening.
I can’t seem to shake the sad. It’s dark and rainy today and I keep thinking about that little pup lying on the median in the rain. Maybe I should have taken it and buried it but I was so freaked out, and someone will be looking for it, I’m sure.
I have lunch with a client today. Sure hope I can stop crying long enough to get through it. Poor little doggie.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
I don’t care about Miller, she’s not my mayor, but aren’t liars fascinating? What are they thinking?
I wonder if most liars get caught in their lies or if we all move about in a swirling soup of others’ undiscovered untruths.
Some lies don’t really matter. If she weren’t an elected official, nobody would care about Miller’s imaginary love affair with cranky old Don Henley. The only reason the story is noteworthy is because such a string of lies seems to lead to an unhinged mind, which might be considered a problem in an elected official.
I like Bill Clinton and honestly couldn’t care less who sucked his dick, but I was annoyed when he lied about it, despite believing he was inappropriately backed into a corner. I’m bummed about Hillary’s Bosnia fantasy, too. (And the whole gas tax holiday idea, but that’s something else.)
I’m a terrible liar. In fact, one might even suggest I’m truthful to a fault. No, I won’t tell you if your haircut is ugly or point out when you’ve gained weight, but I’m no good at saying “everything’s fine” when it’s not. I’m trying to get better at biting my tongue when something is none of my business but even that can be challenging for me if it’s something or someone I care about. Annoyingly—even to myself—-I seem to feel obligated to speak the truth as I see it, which often isn’t the least bit helpful. Mostly, it makes everyone, myself included, uncomfortable.
But telling tall tales like Miller did is beyond incomprehensible to me. What do they accomplish? Such tales wouldn’t boost my ego if I knew they weren’t true, and I would always wonder who could tell all along that I was lying and when I would be found out, stripped naked and laughed at.
My shame muscle is far too well-developed to want to risk that level of shame.
Clearly this is some sort of bizarre compulsion. But what does it accomplish? I’m bumfuzzled.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
The article says
… the more new things we try — the more we step outside our comfort zone — the more inherently creative we become, both in the workplace and in our personal lives.
“The first thing needed for innovation is a fascination with wonder,” says Dawna Markova, author of “The Open Mind” and an executive change consultant for Professional Thinking Partners. “But we are taught instead to ‘decide,’ just as our president calls himself ‘the Decider.’ ” She adds, however, that “to decide is to kill off all possibilities but one. A good innovational thinker is always exploring the many other possibilities.”
Yeah, I’ve always been puzzled by the accusation of “waffling” as a bad thing. What some see as waffling, I see as thoughtfulness and an open mind. I’m a big “on the other hand” thinker. (And writer. I have to watch myself when it comes to that phrase—my first drafts are often terrifying multi-handed monsters.) What’s wrong with taking an idea and turning it around and around in our minds, reviewing pros and cons and even—horrors!—changing our minds in light of new information and perspective? That has to be better than locking into an idea and closing off all other possible views.
Still, although pushing ourselves into new patterns of thought is good, we are best if we respect our own ways of learning. I like learning quietly, on my own, with books and through trial and error. Some people prefer picking the brain of a mentor. Some people study best in groups, I study best alone in a quiet room. Different strokes … don’t make me do it your way and I won’t make you do it mine.
I’m also a visual learner. I took copious notes in my classes and sometimes during tests could actually conjure the image of a page to “see” the answer. Don’t even try to give me verbal driving directions. I need a map, or at the very least, turn-by-turn written directions. This is why I never stop to ask for directions. The minute someone starts explaining, my mind goes completely blank and the words sound like the grown-ups in a Charlie Brown cartoon. Wa-wa-wa-wa-wa.
Another fascinating concept from the article:
Ms. Ryan and Ms. Markova have found what they call three zones of existence: comfort, stretch and stress. Comfort is the realm of existing habit. Stress occurs when a challenge is so far beyond current experience as to be overwhelming. It’s that stretch zone in the middle — activities that feel a bit awkward and unfamiliar — where true change occurs.
Learning new stuff is really scary. Starting college in my 40s may be the bravest thing I’ve ever done. (Here’s an essay I wrote on the topic.) But it was in the stretch zone. It was uncomfortable, but involved books and ideas and writing, so it wasn’t too far fetched. Writing is definitely the comfort zone. The stress zone? Hm…probably that hang gliding lesson. No friggin’ way, thank you very much.
Finally, let’s contemplate the idea of kaizen, which calls for tiny, continuous improvements.
The moment we let go of the idea that we must fix/know/accomplish everything right away, now, not later NOW NOW NOW, we can begin the journey to accomplishment with that one, tiny step. When I decided to go to college, I started with “developmental” algebra (algebra for dummies). Just one class, at a community college. Scary—I long ago decided I can’t do math—but necessary and, one equation at a time, do-able. When I got through that, I was ready for step two. And then I kept going. And all sorts of new pathways developed in my brain.
if it's friday it must be flotsam
Friday, May 2, 2008
First, shameless promotion: Black and Blue and the AllGood Café tomorrow night. Meet me there! The Dallas Observer advanced the show here.
A month or so ago, my brother sent me this link to Missing Money, a site that searches for unclaimed property (i.e. money). He’d searched my name and found money owed to me. I went to the site, filled out the brief form and forgot all about it. Well shiver me timbers and blow me over—a check for $371 turned up in my mailbox last week! Try it.
The email subject line said: Press release
The message said: Hope your readers find this press release of interest.
The press release was an attached Word document.
If ever a presentation begged to be ignored, it’s this one. A subject and message that tells me nothing, and an attachment from someone I don’t know. Maybe it’s a perfectly legitimate release with information that my readers would find of interest but I’m not going to investigate. Hit delete, get on with my life. The world is full of cluelessness.
Here’s a nifty little tip from the NYT tech blog. If you use Firefox, you can bring up the Quick Find box to search a page by just hitting the forward slash key (same key as the question mark). Seconds saved every week!
Texas Tech University psychology department has launched a series of short podcasts about this and that, psychology-ish, featuring interviews with experts here and there. Here’s the homepage. They’re a little homespun sounding but that’s OK.
I don’t know why this story is buried on page 3 of the business section, but it’s big exciting news to me. Gas prices are causing people to “stampede” to small car. Can I get a HELL YEAH?
Unfortunately, this is bad news for SUV and truck manufacturers (i.e. American companies). But it's good for the planet, the highways and my blood pressure, since the mere sight of a Hummer makes it soar. I'm very sensitive that way.
Another of my pet peeves is the luxurification of the world. Have I discussed that before? How we seem to be devaluing all qualities—quaint, cozy, charming, kitschy—in favor of luxurious? It’s one of my favorite rants, I’m happy to go into it if I’ve neglected to rant it here.
Anyway, the DMN has a story this morning that seems to back my point, about a direct sales company called Home Interiors that was extremely successful until new owners decided to aim for the high-end market instead of the cozy low-incomers for whom the brand was developed. It didn’t work and now the company is filing for bankruptcy.
I love having my prejudices affirmed.
The snarky chick-oriented website Jezebel puts an interesting and believable spin on reports that the depression rate in women is twice that of men.
The Jezebel writer suggests that this isn’t because twice as many women as men get depressed but because women are so much more likely to go for treatment when they do. She speculates that many more men are depressed than ever seek treatment. If some dude is walking around depressed but undiagnosed, does he count? she asks.
It’s a good post, take a look.
Jezebel has also alerted me to a Ms. magazine article that sounds interesting, about self-objectification or "viewing one's body as a sex object to be consumed by the male gaze."
The post continues: More and more women are viewing themselves as sex objects, says Caroline Heldman, Ph.D., an assistant professor of politics at Occidental College, and it's due in large part to the veritable onslaught of advertising images that we're subjected to.
I think this is right on right on but the only solution offered, evidently, is to avoid media images objectifying women, but that would pretty much mean locking oneself in a dark room.
Read the post yourself.
I certainly wish I could stop constantly comparing myself with other women--both media images and women I see every day. It’s a miserable pastime, a distracting little drone in my head: I’m fatter than her…I’m thinner than her...fatter…thinner…fatter…fatter…older…younger….fatter…
What a useless waste of brain energy.
Hey, the cool website WorldHum linked to my post this week about how rising travel costs might discourage dabblers from traveling. OK, so I alerted an editor to the post in a bit of Shameless Self Promotion, but he liked it enough to link so that was very gratifying.
Finally, in what may become a weekly voyeuristic feature as long as I feel like it, this week’s Google searches that brought people to this site are:
Thank God I books for sale Castagnini
inside the brain of a narcissist
negative reviews of elizabeth gilbert's eat, pray, love
gmail emails not reaching their destination
derivation of lithium name
cashmere bouquet plant
customer support gmail
outlook autofill subject line
odd looking dogs
give me obama email adress and guest firstname.lastname@example.org
jack kent cooke Conundrum
gmail to yahoo not getting sent
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