Month: November 2015

two dumb bells next to a replica of a human brain

Do Stronger Muscles Mean a Stronger Mind?

Perhaps you’ve heard the old adage “Brains over Brawn”. This saying is meant to imply that physical fitness may have its perks, but it’s more important to be smart than physically strong. This topic is brought up in numerous debates. After all, who should we look up to? The soldier or the scientist? The philosopher or the athlete? Both physical and mental excellence should be equally appreciated. Why dichotomize when you can have both? The ancient Greeks advocated the benefits of being fit in both body in mind, leading to their creation of the polis gymnasia – the center of political thought and culture which later became the foundation for secondary education in the Western world.

In fact, as it turns out, fitter bodies may mean stronger minds. The brain is, after all, a muscle just like any other and thus can benefit from healthy eating and regular exercise just like our bodily muscles. Recent research argues that fitter bodies can lead to more effective and longer lasting brains!

Research Shows that a Stronger Body Means a Stronger Mind

One such study, published in Gerontology by Dr. Claire Steves, uses data collected from twins to demonstrate how stronger bodies can affect the strength of our minds. Dr. Stevens a senior lecturer at King’s College in London who specializes in twin research. Why twins? Because twins normally share the same home environment and many, if not all, of the same genes. These would otherwise be problematic variables to consider for non-twin test subjects. As New York Times author Gretchen Reynolds explains: “if one twin’s body, brain, and thinking abilities begin to differ substantially over the years from the other’s, the cause is less likely to be solely genetic or the early environment, and more likely to be attributable to lifestyle, including exercise habits.”

Muscle power is widely considered a marker of healthy aging, particularly with leg muscles which are some of the largest muscles in the body. Studies show that older people with stronger leg muscles not only tend to get around easier but also tend to have sharper minds than those with weaker leg muscles. This discovery prompted inquiry into the relationship between physical and mental wellbeing, but previously it was unknown whether the effects were due to lifestyle choices, like exercise, or the benefits of good genes.

The Study That Proves It

It was this uncertainty that motivated Dr. Stevens to begin her research. To do so, she and her colleagues pulled data for 162 healthy, middle-aged, female twin pairs both identical and non-identical from the TwinsUK twin registry. The scientists looked for twins who 10 years prior had completed extensive computerized exams assessing their memory and thinking abilities as well as their metabolic health and leg-muscle power; the lattermost assessment measuring the individual’s leg-muscle force and their speed.

Why focus on muscle assessments rather than assessing their exercise habits? Because the former is more objective rather than relying on the individual’s recollections of how much they may or may not have worked out. To determine the correlation between leg strength and mental strength the scientists asked the twins to visit a lab to be reassessed. Twenty of the identical twin pairs also completed brain imaging scans.

After comparing the results of these tests with the results from 10 years earlier, the scientists discovered that of the 324 twins, those who had the sturdiest legs according to the initial assessment showed the least amount of cognitive decline a decade later. These results remained true even after the scientists controlled for fatty diets, high blood pressure, and shaky blood-sugar control. These differences were especially striking when observed in the twin pairs as the twin who demonstrated the greater strength 10 years ago tended to be a much better thinker than their twin whose leg strength was weaker. In fact, on average the muscularly powerful twin performed about 18% better on memory and cognitive tests than their physically weaker sibling. Similar results were displayed with the brain imaging scans.

Concluding the results of the study, Reynolds reports that “Overall, among both the identical and fraternal twins, fitter legs were strongly linked, 10 years later, to fitter brains.”

How Do to Brain and Body Tie Together?

But although these correlations were observed and confirmed in the study, the mechanisms which cause them were still unconfirmed. However, Dr. Matthew J. Edmund theorizes what he believes may be the underlying processes at work. He believes that the body is, in essence, one large information system. He explains: “The human body constantly remakes and regenerates information.  Information rich activities – like walking – generate more learning – and more effective bodies and brains.”

Thus, he states: “Health is about how you live.  How you live determines the information system you constantly remake to let you carry on.” In other words, our mental strength benefits from our overall health and wellbeing because our bodies are a full, functioning system. The information of our bodies is connected to our minds and vice versa, so physical health is not isolated but instead also impacts our mental strength.

In other words: there is no such thing as brawn vs. brain; there is only one body. So remember to take care of it. A healthy body means a healthy mind. The brain is, after all, a muscle.

black and white picture of a man holding his head in his hands, feeling distraught

Having Insecurities vs. Being Insecure

We all have insecurities. Some of us may worry that we’re not where we’d like to be personally or professionally, others may worry that our appearances lack a certain quality we find in others. Perhaps we criticize ourselves for not being able to meet some standard that we’ve set for ourselves based on what we believe others expect of us. In any case, insecurities arise when we feel as though we aren’t achieving something we desire. Such feelings are especially common after certain social interactions in which we feel as though these disparities are magnified either for ourselves or, we perceive, in the eyes of others. For example, if we come into contact with someone who possesses the things we feel that we lack but desire to have, we might feel insecure as a result of our status compared to theirs. After all, insecurities result from scrutiny which can arise when we compare ourselves with others whom we believe possess what we want but ultimately don’t have.

Insecurities: “A Personal Purgatory of Self-Doubt”

Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, explains that it’s “easy to get thrown into a personal purgatory of self-doubt in these situations. Whether it’s a social contact or a business interaction,  people who want everyone to know how big they are can make the rest of us feel pretty small.” At times like these, it might be tempting to think of  how much better we’d feel if we could just brush these situations away and go on about our lives and business without doubting ourselves or our lives.

Luckily, however, Dr. Whitbourne believes that when armed with a simple set of detection tools we can accomplish just that. Moreover, we can learn to not only help ourselves feel better but to recognize the weaknesses in the facade of those whom we incorrectly assume are practically perfect.

Inferiority Complexes: A Gateway to Narcissism?

The psychology behind this process stems from the theory of the inferiority complex, a term coined by Viennese psychoanalyst Alfred Adler. According to Dr. Whitbourne, Adler believed that people who feel inferior “go about their days overcompensating through what he called ‘striving for superiority.’ The only way these inwardly uncertain people can feel happy is by making others decidedly unhappy.” To Adler, “this striving for superiority lies at the core of neurosis.” While previously associated solely with the idea of an inferiority complex, we now have come to associate this striving for superiority as a characterizing feature of narcissistic personality disorder. This disorder is best defined as a deviation in normal development which causes the individual to constantly search for ways to boost their self-esteem. Unfortunately, this can often include compromising the self-esteem of others. As Dr. Whitbourne states: “when you’re dealing with someone who’s making you feel inferior, there’s a good chance that narcissism is the culprit.”

Insecurities vs. Insecure People

While narcissism doesn’t always manifest as pathological, the term can be used to describe certain people to some extent. By better understanding what narcissism is and how it is demonstrated, we can better interpret the actions of narcissistic individuals including friends, coworkers, or partners, particularly when we examine their insecurities. After all, there is a difference between having insecurities, as we all do, and being an insecure person. The former implies that we have certain qualities that we are unsatisfied with. The latter, however, refers to someone who not only is dissatisfied with themselves or some aspect of themselves but is willing to go to lengths to enhance their self-esteem even if it means that they are compromising the self-esteem of others or making them feel bad in their place.

To know the difference, it is important to learn the four key traits of insecure people, which can potentially make for toxic relationships:

1. They Try to Make You Feel Insecure

As previously stated, the insecure person is not afraid to make others feel insecure about themselves. A good thing to ask is whether our insecurities are our own or whether or not we only experience them when we are around certain people, particularly those who frequently broadcast their strengths as if to seem superior because of them to others. If you don’t feel insecure in general, but only around certain people, it is likely due to the fact that that person or persons are projecting their insecurities onto you.

2. They Frequently “Humble Brag”

We’re all familiar with the humble brag: the self-derogatory statement which acts as a buffer for what is actually bragging. For example, someone complaining that they have to travel to exotic locations for work or that they have more money than they know what to do with.

3. They Need to Showcase Their Accomplishments

You may not necessarily have to feel insecure around someone to know that a fear of inferiority may be at the heart of their behavior. Dr. Whitbourne explains: “People who are constantly bragging about their great lifestyle, their elite education, or their fantastic children may very well be doing so to convince themselves that they really do have worth.” Showcasing accomplishments may very well be a means of seeking the approval or, at the very least, of impressing others.

4. They Frequently Complain that Things Aren’t Good Enough

People who suffer from high feelings of insecurity often try to cover these feelings by expressing to others that they have high standards. However, even if you sense that it’s just an act, sometimes the act can be so convincing that you may start to believe that perhaps they are actually better than you. This is a toxic mindset and one that is based on false presumptions rather than reality. The fact of the matter is is this proclamation of high standards is actually reflective of the insecure individual’s own rigorous self-assessment criteria and not of any actual superiority they might have over others.

When In Doubt, Take the High Road

When dealing with insecurities and insecure people, Dr. Whitbourne advises that “Being able to detect insecurity in the people around you can help you shake off the self-doubts that some people seem to enjoy fostering in you.” In such cases, it’s better to take the high road, as it were, to not only establish a sense of fulfillment of ourselves but in the insecure individuals we love and care about.

a woman embracing a man while she winks at the camera

Understanding the Concept of ‘Being Needy’

Everyone has needs. But there’s a difference between having needs that require fulfillment and being “needy”. The former is a basic part of human existence that we will all encounter at multiple points in our lives. The latter, however, often refers to a set of behaviors in which we seem as though we overly depend on others for happiness, satisfaction, and overall wellbeing. Perceived neediness can seem unhealthy, as it involves putting our responsibility for ourselves onto others. But what leads a person to being needy? And what exactly does ‘being needy’ mean?

What Does it Mean to be “Needy”?

Marcia Reynolds is the President of Covisioning, LLC, an organization which specializes in training coaches to work with clients internationally who seek to develop effective leaders. Reynolds often works individually and with executive teams to help aspiring leaders to excel beyond technical efficiency by enabling them to become effective at developing their interpersonal abilities as well. Being experienced with the ways in which individuals influence and relate with one another, Reynolds explains that “As a social animal, you have needs.” Because of this, she states that “The reason you are needy is because social needs fuel your drive to connect with others and succeed.” As a result, she believes that those who demonstrate feelings of annoyance towards those whom they deem “needy” are really responding to the fact that they may not be yearning for the same need to be met themselves. In other words, if our needs aren’t compatible we likely may misunderstand the needs of others. This, in turn, may lead us to perceive the needs of others as either unnecessary or excessive, since we are examining them as extraneous to our own needs.

Pros and Cons of Being Needy

To understand the logic of needs and how we perceive them, however, it helps if we  first look at them in context, acknowledging both the positive and the negative. According to Reynolds: “On the positive side, your needs are the drivers of your success.” In essence, needs motivate us. Our need for fulfillment motivates us to pursue our goals, our need for success motivates us to perform well, our need for rewards or acknowledgment for our achievements motivate us to put forth the extra effort to stand out from our peers, and so on. Our needs emerge from our ego identity, which is formed based on what we’ve discovered will allow us to survive and thrive. As Reynolds explains: “You found what might help you be seen and recognized, or what would keep you from standing out if that felt unsafe. You learned what you could be good at that made you feel worthwhile.  You identified what limits you could push, what brought you joy, and what lines you would or would not cross.”

Our Needs are Connected to Our Emotions

Our identities are shaped based on who we think we are at the present moment, and what we think we need from others. This can include respect, recognition, control, stability, predictability, a sense of value, independence, or being liked. But there is a negative side to all of this. After all, dependence can lead to consequences particularly if those we depend on aren’t exactly dependable. Rejection or violation of our needs may trigger certain negative emotions like frustration, anger, or hostility. Because our needs are linked to our emotional selves, we tend to become sensitive when we feel as though our needs aren’t being met. This usually happens when what we want from a person or group is different from what we believe we got, or if we begin to realize or fear that what we want won’t actually materialize. For example, consider how you might feel if you are expecting, or want, a certain reaction from someone in response to something you showed them, but received another. Or consider how a child might feel if they show their parent a piece of artwork expecting/wanting praise but instead receiving indifference. In such situations we typically either respond by identifying that the outcome isn’t what we wanted and therefore it upsets us, or deciding that we will find a way to get what we wanted, which we didn’t get initially.

That being said, because we are constantly planning how to get our needs met or how to protect ourselves from those we believe are trying to take what we want away, it can be argued that we are all, to varying extents, needy. Reynolds says: “you are needy. I am needy. Everyone you know is needy. We all want to be seen, understood, feel cared for, and feel valued for what we offer.” But, she suggests: “this reality doesn’t have to control your feelings, thoughts and behavior. You can become the master of your needs instead of letting them control you.”

The Difference Between Having Needs and Being Needy

We all have needs, but there is a difference between having them and letting them control our lives. Once our needs begin to consume us we become overly dependent on others, which can be problematic in a number of ways. Luckily, however, there are ways that we can begin to recognize not only our needs but how we respond to them. Once we begin to acknowledge our responses to unmet needs we can begin to better control these responses so we can actually learn from our situation. Rather than falling into immediate and unmediated emotional response, Reynolds advises that “Your comparative judgment blocks you from seeing what you can learn from a situation. It keeps you from having conversations that could improve your life. Reactions to unmet needs stop you from feeling content.As if you were watching a movie, notice your reactions with curiosity, respect, and compassion. Hear the noise in your head. The noise is your teacher to help you grow.”

Understanding Reactions Means Understanding Needs

When we notice our reactions, we are better able to realize what we actually didn’t get from the situation, and can address our need directly rather than being diverted by emotion. Once we acknowledge what it is we actually need, we can either: 1) ask for it directly, 2) get the need met elsewhere, or 3) learn from the experience and grow.

Needs and our reactions to them are simply a part of our humanity. But when we learn from our needs and learn how to address them we can better understand how to fulfill ourselves rather than relying on others to do so and being hurt when we don’t get those needs immediately met.

Our best option, as Reynolds puts it, is to remember that: “Your needs fill your life with good things. Because of them, you feel joy and passion. Honor both your needs and your reactions when they are threatened as a part of being human. In time, you will come to accept, amuse and appreciate yourself better.”

a happy middle aged couple face to face, about to kiss, smiling

Gratitude in Healthy Relationships

What does it take to make and maintain a good relationship? Many of us might answer love or affection, both of which are important, as is communication. But an often overlooked yet essential component of any successful relationship is actually gratitude. Being grateful for those we care about and the things that they do for us builds a foundation of appreciation for that person and enables us to not only recognize their importance in our lives but to respect all that they do to make us happier or improve our lives. While it may not be anyone’s initial guess as to what keeps a good relationship going strong, it is nevertheless key to the happiness of each person involved.

Gratitude Can Help Strengthen Relationships

A recent study from the University of Georgia proves the effectiveness and importance of gratitude in relationships, particularly romantic ones. Published in the journal Personal Relationships, study co-author, Ted Futris, an associate professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences reveals that he and his colleagues “found that feeling appreciated and believing that your spouse values you directly influences how you feel about your marriage, how committed you are to it, and your belief that it will last.”

The study itself involved a telephone survey which asked 468 married individuals questions about their financial wellbeing, demand/withdraw communication, and expressions of spousal gratitude. What the researchers discovered was that the latter most criteria appeared to be the most consistent predictor of marital quality. Lead author and former doctoral student in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and current postdoctoral research associate at UGA’s Center for Family Research, Allen Barton, believes that “Even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty in other areas, gratitude in the relationship can help promote positive marital outcomes.”

Higher Levels of Gratitude Can Protect Relationships from Divorce

In fact, the researchers found that higher levels of demonstrated spousal gratitude protected men and women from being more prone to divorce, as well as protected women’s marital commitment from the negative effects which can arise from poor communication during conflict. Futris explains: “we found that when couples are engaging in a negative conflict pattern like demand/withdrawal, expressions of gratitude and appreciation can counteract or buffer the negative effects of this type of interaction on marital stability.”

This study is the first of its kind to document the effects that spousal gratitude and appreciation can have on the overall quality and durability of relationships and marriages. Commenting on these findings, business psychologist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist, Dr. Douglas LaBier states: “it highlights important information about what underlies positive relationships in general, whether they are intimate, work-related, and even those in broader societal contexts. That is, feeling and showing gratitude in relationships goes a long way in building and maintaining positive, mutually supportive connections. And the latter are crucial for both personal and societal wellbeing.”

A Little Appreciation Goes a Long Way

What Dr. LaBier says is true. Mutual appreciation and demonstration of that appreciation goes a long way in any relationship and helps each member involved feel as though their time and effort means something and is valued. Gratitude is an essential, though unfortunately often overlooked,  aspect of expressing love. To truly love someone is to be grateful not only of their presence in our lives but to appreciate all of the things they do for us to make us feel happy, loved, and valued. Gratitude can also help in moments of conflict when miscommunication often occurs to enable relationships to last and endure despite moments of tension.

Futris mentions that when “couples are stressed about making ends meet, they are more likely to engage in negative ways-they are more critical of each other and defensive, and they can even stop engaging or withdraw from each other, which can then lead to lower marital quality.” But, he notes, demonstrations of gratitude can interrupt this toxic cycle, helping couples overcome these negative communication patterns in their relationship, which may be influenced by a number of different stressors.

In successful relationships, even when couples argued, as all couples do, they still felt as though they were appreciated by their partners and felt that this appreciation was communicated regularly enough that occasional conflict was not able to take away their feelings of value and love. In this way, gratitude acts as what can hold a relationship together, through thick and thin, through the best and worst of times. So long as we feel as though we’re not only wanted but appreciated, that we mean something, we are more likely to feel happy when we’re together with our loved one, instead of feeling as though we might be better appreciated somewhere else.

one man helping another man up a mountain

Understanding and Practicing Compassion

True compassion is not always easy to come by, and it’s even more difficult to communicate. Oftentimes, we struggle with feeling vulnerable. Unfortunately, this feeling frequently accompanies instances where we reveal our sensitive, emotional selves to others, such as when we’re demonstrating compassion. But compassion is integral to the development and maintenance of any good relationship, therefore it is important for us not only to remember to be compassionate towards others, but to be able to communicate that compassion effectively so that it can be received.

In this article we’ll discuss some key techniques for practicing and communicating compassion, beginning with the art of mindfulness.

What Does it Mean to be Mindful?

In most cases when we think of the word mindfulness we’re conditioned to associate it with therapy and meditation, but in reality being mindful just means being self-aware, which is why mindfulness techniques are often applied in healing settings. Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Adrienne Glasser, explains that: “Mindfulness isn’t just about being peaceful and loving no matter what. Unless you’re a monk who spent decades in a monastery on the brink of enlightenment, that isn’t realistic.  Moreover, this is not what mindfulness looks like. Mindfulness, simply put, is remembering to come back to the present moment.”

It is in this present moment where compassion lies. Sometimes when our mind wanders we become overwhelmed by worrying about things that will or won’t happen or things that happened our pasts or are looming in our futures. In these instances, we lose track of ourselves, and in doing so, lose our sense of compassion. Practicing mindfulness can help us learn to be aware of when our emotions are affecting us so that we remain in control of our emotional selves versus the other way around. Being mindful allows us to pause so that we can experience something different, something new. How does this apply to compassion? If we acknowledge when we are feeling overwhelmed or overly emotional we can better address those emotions as they are rather than allowing them to negatively impact others. For example, if we recognize when we are feeling frustrated from work we can address that feeling directly rather than taking it out on someone else. In this way, we are enabling ourselves to think and act compassionately, rather than be motivated by overpowering emotions.

Being Compassionate is About Caring How Others Feel

Another good way to practice compassion is to try to understand the emotions of others, particularly when they’re suffering, as it is in these instances when we are often at our most vulnerable and in need of compassion from others. In order for us to be compassionate towards anyone we must first be interested in finding out what’s wrong in the first place. Think of it this way, when we ask someone how they’re feeling or how they’re doing it’s a sign of care and concern. If we didn’t care about that person we likely wouldn’t be asking after their wellbeing. Likewise, to be compassionate essentially means to care and to demonstrate care unto others. By showing others that we care about how they feel and about what is hurting them, we are practicing compassion. Ms. Glasser reveals that: “Being curious about the underlying belief or emotion in the body can lend clarity to what’s really happening.” So, too, can we better understand others and show them compassion if we are actually care enough to learn what’s beyond the surface.

Self-Compassion is Just As Important

That being said, compassion isn’t solely for the benefit of others. We can and should be compassionate towards ourselves as well. Self-compassion means that we validate our own emotions without telling ourselves that we’re wrong for experiencing them. We allow ourselves to be vulnerable and we accept that vulnerability as a necessary part of our emotional expression. Oftentimes this seems easier said than done, but self-compassion is essential not only for our own health and well-being but also because it is a necessary step towards being able to demonstrate compassion to others. We must learn to clarify how we feel and accept it as being an aspect of ourselves before we can begin to address it. This includes emotions such as sadness or anxiety.

We can say “I am feeling anxious” and then we explore the source of that feeling and accept it for what it is, without necessarily letting it rule over us. For example: “I am feeling anxious because I have bills to pay. It is ok to feel this way because this is a natural reaction to a stressful situation, but I do not have to let my anxiety take over.” In this instance, we are acknowledging our emotion, anxiety, and accepting it as being natural, but reminding ourselves that we are in control, not our anxiety. We might even find ways of dealing with this or other powerful negative emotions, just as we might propose solutions to a friend’s problems. In any case, by taking time to address our vulnerabilities without berating ourselves for having or experiencing them we are showing ourselves compassion, which is unbelievably important. We must remember to show ourselves the same consideration we would show others. Compassion is individual as much as it is social.

Honesty Is Not a Sign of Weakness

No one likes to feel vulnerable, but vulnerability is a natural part of human existence. There is no shame in vulnerability, despite what we might initially think. With it comes an honesty to ourselves and others about what we’re experiencing emotionally and mentally, which can lead to better understanding. It is through this better understanding, and the desire to understand, that we learn how to be compassionate, and how to communicate that compassion effectively. Compassion can make any challenge seem more bearable, and is a good way of reminding others if and when we care.

Three Tips for Making Difficult Decisions

Everyone finds themselves having to make tough decisions from time to time. Such choices are a natural part of life and often mean that we are transitioning into a new stage of ours. The biggest challenge with making difficult decisions isn’t the choice itself, it’s worrying whether or not we’re making the right choice: the choice that will be of the greatest benefit to ourselves and potentially to others. While we can’t really guarantee the outcome of our decisions any more than we can predict the future, we can take into consideration how exactly we make decisions and in what ways we can improve that process to our greatest benefit. Read more

a man in fear

Four Rare Phobias You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

Fear is a common and essential human emotion. Without fear we would act recklessly and end up endangering ourselves and even risking our lives. Fear allows us to be cautious, to think before acting, and to avoid certain people and situations which may compromise our health and wellbeing. However, experienced in excess, fear can become limiting and restrictive, impeding our quality of life by holding us back from new experiences or making us wary of things unnecessarily. When fear is experienced in irrational excess, objects of that fear are known as phobias. Properly defined, phobias are irrational and extreme fears. For example, many of us may not particularly enjoy the circus or find humor in clowns, but those of us who may be classified as coulrophobic have an extreme fear of clowns which can lead to strong adverse reactions upon seeing a clown or hearing the word mention. This might include triggering a panic attack. This is characterized by trembling or shaking, increased heart rate, sweating, and shortness of breath, to name a few more obvious symptoms.

While many of us may be familiar with certain popular phobias such as claustrophobia, or fear of closed, confining spaces, or arachnophobia, fear of spiders, there are actually a myriad of existing phobias that many people suffer from all over the world. In this article, we shall discuss 4 lesser known phobias and what they actually mean as well as possible triggers to look out for should you or someone you know struggle with any one or more in particular.

Four Rare Phobias You May Have Never Heard Of

1. Ailurophobia

Ailurophobia translates to fear of cats. This phobia is characterized not necessarily by a hatred or loathing of felines, but rather by a response to cats that is similar to how many people might react to seeing a rat, spider, or snake in their path. Triggers for this phobia include any situation in which an individual may see, hear, or feel a cat, or if they imagine a situation in which they do. Like many phobias, ailurophobia varies in severity on an individual basis, but in many cases it is perfectly treatable. Treatment is normally conducted by a psychiatrist or therapist who works with the patient to understand their phobia, its origins, and slowly work with them to lessen the intensity of their phobia so that they might be able live more happily without having to worry of whether or not they might encounter the popular household pet.

2. Bibliophobia

Bibliophobia is the irrational fear of books. More than just a dislike of the tangible object, those with bibliophobia tend to fear what books represent or the effects that they can have on people. After all, knowledge is very influential, and it is this very influence that a bibliophile may fear. However, some bibliophiles are less afraid of the function of books and instead fear the very act of reading, particularly if aloud. Bibliophobia may arise if an individual has an existing reading disability in which case they are predisposed to becoming nervous when confronted with having to read, especially in front of others. Although, is is not necessarily always the case. The roots of bibliophobia are varied, but the focus on books and reading remains. Bibliophobia, like most phobias, is incredibly life limiting, and thus it is recommended that individuals with bibliophobia seek treatment immediately. A therapist treating someone with bibliophobia is likely to encourage their patient to adopt a different perspective about reading and even work with them to get them to grow comfortable with the act of reading according to their own pace. In any case, treatment can be a pivotal means of healthy and normal life function for the bibliophobe in a word surrounded by the importance of books and literature.

3. Leukophobia

This phobia is one of the rarer phobias that exist. Leukophobia is fear of the color white, which, although seemingly straightforward in terms of object of fear, is actually more complex once examined more closely. Those who are Leukophobic are most likely not just afraid of the color white but afraid of the connotations of that color and what it might represent to them. For example, an individual who experienced a traumatic incident with snow or an accident may associate this experience with anything that is colored white and, consequently, transfer their fear of that incident onto the color which they feel represent it. Leukophobia can be obsessive, with individuals suffering from this phobia going out of their way to make sure their homes and wardrobe contain as little to no white as possible to avoid triggering their phobia or agitation. Some individuals with leukophobia, however, appear to have no obvious traumatic basis for their fear and simply dislike the color. In any case, the best way to treat leukophobia is to discover the real cause of the phobia and address that. In doing so, individuals suffering from leukophobia may be able to overcome their irrational fear and live life as a normally functioning person unlimited by their chromatic phobia.

4. Sesquipedalophobia (Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia)

The irony here is incredibly strong. Sesquipedalophobia, alternatively known as Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, is perhaps more easily referred to as the irrational fear of long words. The exact cause or causes of this phobia are unknown, but some suspect that it may be rooted in a lack of education as that may make larger words more difficult to read or pronounce, leading to potential experiences of embarrassment and/or humiliation. However, these claims require closer examination before they can be determined to be true or not. In any case, individuals with this phobia may be triggered by any instance in which they are confronted by long, complex, or difficult to pronounce words. That being said, this phobia, as well as each of the others, can be treated through therapy and self-reflection to determine the true source of the phobia and how the patient might be able to gradually overcome their aversion to long words.

young woman experiencing negative emotions

The Importance of Accepting Painful Emotions

It’s no secret that emotions are an integral part of being human. However, emotional experiences are many and varied. In fact, it is suggested that human emotions fall along a spectrum. By its very definition, a spectrum is a continuous sequence or range, making it an apt way to described the many and varied ways in which we feel. Unfortunately, this means that in addition to positive, euphoric emotions, we will also experience our own fair share of sadness and negative emotional experiences. What we must remember is that these emotions are equally as valid as their positive counterparts. As Dr. Judy Scheel, founder and former executive director of Cedar Associates, a non-profit organization for the prevention, education, and research of eating disorders states: “Whether we are willing to face it or not, the truth is that we all experience pain. We experience loss and separation as well. And often we experience those emotions because of or along with the people we love most — those with whom we share attachments.”

“Pain Is An Outcome of Love”

Dr. Scheel argues that pain is often the outcome of love, and as such the relationships we form with the deepest bonds have the greatest capacity to cause eventual pain. But does this make those relationships not worth having? Not in the slightest. However, Dr. Scheel points out that “Given this reality, you would think that as a society we would have developed ways to handle painful emotional experiences — especially among our family and friends. Yet often this isn’t the case. In many family settings positive emotions like love, happiness, and peace are far more acceptable than negative emotions.”

Of course, it’s far more easy to accept positive emotions than it is negative ones. Dr. Scheel believes that this is natural, seeing as in her work experience she has witnessed many families have difficulty with accepting and integrating negative emotions within their family framework, particularly when a loved one is dealing with an eating disorder. Unfortunately, this may be because in many households, and in our society, we have a tendency to categorize emotions as exclusively “good” or “bad”, thus essentially compartmentalizing our emotions into forms that are either acceptable or unacceptable.

Using the example of recovering from an eating disorder, Dr. Scheel notes that “Just as recovery requires eating a full range of foods, including food with fat, carbohydrates, and sugar, it also involves the integration of all emotions. We need to deal with both those that are ‘positive’ and those that are ‘negative.’” Integration of our emotions is essential to our overall happiness and wellbeing. Too often we are taught to “push past the pain” even though that doesn’t allow us to confront what we’re feeling and deal with it directly. We are encouraged not to dwell on negative emotions, which, consequently results in our inability to process or deal with them at all since we instinctively push negative feelings away. This is because we aren’t taught how to properly deal with them, so escaping them becomes the only logical solution.

Dismissing Negative Emotions Harmful in the Long Run

Dr. Scheel explains: “While these seem like well-meaning attempts to minimize and soothe a child’s discomfort, they usually fail because they do not address the underlying issue at hand. They do not take into consideration how the child is feeling and what she needs from her parents. They tend to discount the child’s emotional needs and teach her to keep her feelings ‘inside’ or deny them entirely.”

Disconnection is an Issue of Attachment

Disconnection from emotions is ultimately an issue of attachment. When children express needs or fears to it’s an opportunity for parents to bond with them. However, when a parent dismisses or minimizes these emotions, it can result in a premature independence being fostered where the child becomes incapable of fully experiencing their feelings or understanding the motivations behind their behavior. This emotional infrastructure is ill-equipped for mature independence, where we end up being guided by what we think we should do rather than how we really feel about a given situation. Dr. Scheele suggests that “Rather than encouraging a healthy emotional dependence on us, so that they can learn to identify, experience, and accept their emotions (whatever they may be,) we teach our children to distance themselves from their emotional world: to bury feelings or, even worse, deny their existence. At the same time, we give them a false sense of dependency by providing comfort with the latest toy or apparel.  We teach them nothing of dealing with the pain, loss, or separation that is part of life.”

Emotional acceptance or lack thereof is not something that can be disguised by material possessions. Attempting to do so can lead to frustration and a tendency to determine our self-worth based on cultural norms and the perceptions of others. By defining ourselves according to the expectations of others, we set ourselves up for a number of image problems and future behavioral disorders such as eating disorders as we struggle to keep up with unrealistic ideals and standards of beauty.

Important to Acknowledge Negative Emotions

Everyone experiences emotions but it is pivotal that we learn to address these emotions and give a name to how we feel. Accepting our emotions, both positive and negative, and everything in between, is an integral part of accepting our own humanity and learning to be comfortable with ourselves. Life is not all smiles, but it is every emotional experience and nuance that makes life truly worth living.

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