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Don’t Be Your Own Worst Enemy (Part Two) ~Self Assignments~


A number of physical exercises can help shift our unsettled emotional states to calmer, more relaxed feelings—as well as to actually alter to some degree the body’s physiological responses. For maximum effect, they should become part of your daily routine. Don’t wait until a crisis emerges and then plunge into them, looking for a quick fix, although two of them can also be resorted to when emotions are running hot.

They take only five or 10 minutes each—a small price to pay, considering the time you might spend on coffee breaks or watching TV. Because it releases endorphins, exercise has a potent effect on reducing the signs and symptoms of stress.

Also, it cheers you up; you feel (correctly) that you’re actively doing something constructive, instead of passively experiencing various sensations. This in itself imparts a sense of control over your body and, by extension, the situation that keyed the stress in the first place.

1. Diaphragmatic or “belly” breathing sounds peculiar at first, and somewhat unnatural. Usually we fill our lungs with air by lifting the ribcage when we inhale and letting it fall again as we exhale.

But this normal state of affairs can actually magnify our hot emotional states. Belly breathing involves holding the ribcage fixed and activating the diaphragm, located lower down in the stomach. Here’s how you do it:

  • Find a quiet carpeted area, free from distraction. Loosen your shirt or blouse and take off your shoes. Lie down on your back and close your eyes, then place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Breathe normally, and observe what happens—then concentrate on changing that instinctive pattern.
  • Keeping your chest and ribcage as immobile as possible, breathe through your nose and allow your belly to expand and power the inhalation.

Then exhale slowly through your partially opened mouth. With practice, you’ll be able to let your expanding belly do the inhaling for you, and allow your contracting belly to direct the breath out. Repeat this cycle for five minutes, by which time you’ll feel refreshed, relaxed and alert.

During moments of stress, you can still resort to belly breathing while sitting, standing or even walking. If you can’t close your eyes, focus on a nearby object and repeat the breathing cycle as many times as you wish.

  •  Acupressure works on the same principle as acupuncture and Shiatsu massage.

A simple exercise will show its advantages. Using the thumb and forefinger, squeeze the fleshy area between the thumb and forefinger of the other hand. The sensation should be slightly uncomfortable, but not painful. Maintain pressure for about five seconds, repeat on the opposite hand, and then repeat the entire cycle two more times. Your sense of tension should recede.

  •  Progressive relaxation was introduced by the psychologist Edmund Jacobson,5 and further refined by Robert Benson at Harvard and the renowned psychiatrist Joseph Wolpe6 .

Again, it involves a quiet, carpeted area. Remove your shoes, loosen your clothing, lie down on your back and close your eyes.

Clench both fists tight for ten seconds and focus on the degree of tension in your hands. Then ease your grip, and you’ll notice a sensation of heaviness and warmth.

Do not repeat this. Instead, go on to flex your biceps and forearms for the same length of time. Proceed to wrinkle your facial muscles, then work your way through your shoulders, chest, stomach, lower back, buttocks, thighs, calves and feet.

Throughout, tell yourself that you are indeed becoming more and more relaxed. When finished, lie still for a while before you slowly get up. At first, you may feel a trifle light-headed. This is perfectly normal, but take care to move carefully for the next few minutes. One caveat: do not attempt these exercises if you suffer from any muscle ailments.

You can probably modify them to suit your condition, but you must check with a health-care professional first.
  • Purposeful distraction serves to combat stress, and you can pursue it in several ways. First, try writing down a list of things that you can do when in the grip of stress.

The very act of putting them on paper offers a sense that you’ve planned ahead, which also boosts a feeling of control. Next, you can distract yourself when worrisome thoughts appear by replacing them with pleasant and peaceful mental images such as a seashore, a forest or shifting clouds.

Or, having learned which activities exacerbate your sense of stress, you can discontinue them. For example, if you’re stuck in a traffic jam and find yourself looking at the car clock every 30 seconds, distract yourself by switching the dashboard display to a temperature reading. Instead of listening to the local rock and talk station (which will tell you only what you already know—you’re stuck in traffic), tune in to classical music.

Another effective way to relieve stress is to give yourself a “worry break” by consciously setting your woes aside and promising that you’ll revisit them at a specific time later in the day. List your worries on a sheet of paper, seal the paper in an envelope and mark a specific time on it, such as 7:15 p.m. Now that your concerns have been sealed away, promise yourself that you will not think about them until the time you designated arrives. At that time, open the envelope and revisit your concerns for three minutes. Then put your list back in the envelope, write a new time on it and repeat the process.

Don’t Be Your Own Worst Enemy (Part One)

Stressed-out feelings are very often stoked by self-sabotaging self-talk. It is very easy to catastrophize the situation, along the lines of “I’m going to have a nervous breakdown. It’s absolutely impossible for me to do this.” Off-kilter beliefs such as these are guaranteed to keep the vicious cycle of stress running at full throttle. It’s difficult—if not impossible—to address the true external cause of your stressful feelings without first getting them under control.

Can you strengthen your resilience to stress and actively increase what might be called your hardiness? Indeed you can. Stress tolerance can be learned (as we’ll demonstrate later on in this chapter).

Once learned, it offers relief and improved health in both the short and longer term. That, in turn, allows us to become more flexible and adaptive when further, more severe hardships come our way. The attempt to understand the relationship between negative events and our ability to cope with them has a long history.

As early as 1915, Freud was postulating what he termed a “defense mechanism,” a largely unconscious process involving deep-seated internal repression and rationalization.3 But Freud’s theories were updated in the late 1970s by researchers who believed that, on the contrary, stressful situations usually unleash conscious strategies or styles that people under stress have developed over time to suit themselves.4 This is good news for those who wish to handle stress better. If Freud had been correct, unconscious processes would have had to be probed and uncovered by means of extensive therapy, an arduous prospect.

But if stress can be eased (or worsened)—sometimes instantaneously—by the people involved, depending on what they tell themselves and how they behave, then the condition is much more open to improvement on an individual basis. The exercises that follow will help you learn to better cope with stress.


If we develop stress responses to demanding and challenging situations, we always run the risk that the emotional experiences of anxiety, panic or hopelessness will erode our ability to reality test, problem solve and behave with confidence and certainty. Our physical symptoms of chronic tension, shortness of breath, and so forth, will deplete our sense of vitality and make it difficult for us to concentrate and focus. All of these debilities will make it less likely that we can be successful. In short, if we “cave in” to minimal environmental demands, we will not have the presence, the hardiness or the resilience to behave independently and assertively, and all of this will undercut our attempts to be successful. Individuals who do not have good stress tolerance tend to “fall apart” or become “overwhelmed” in two ways: some feel highly anxious and agitated, flustered and worried, helpless and hopeless, demoralized and apathetic; others may not experience uncomfortable emotional states, but may develop physical symptoms of insomnia, rapid heartbeat, breathing difficulties, nausea, diarrhea, unrelenting headaches or rashes. Individuals who have developed the ability to tolerate stress do not develop these symptoms, but rather stay calm and focused under pressure. They do not visit their difficulties on others.

They have the capacity to relax and wind down emotionally. Those who tolerate stress well are also described as hardy and resilient. They can present themselves with confidence, think clearly and assess their environments realistically. Stress tolerance is linked with success because it brings with it the capacity to focus and weather storms without allowing unpleasant feelings or disturbing bodily symptoms to interfere with moving forward and reaching a goal. Without the capacity for stress tolerance, reality testing, problem-solving, flexibility and impulse control are all eroded. And as these abilities are undermined, individuals become less and less able to function successfully.


  1.  Think of a demanding, unpleasant or unexpected situation that has arisen recently at work. It might be a deadline that looms when you’re already snowed under, a lost promotion or the prospect of losing your job itself.
  2. In your notebook, write down the unpleasant feelings you experienced, any unexplained physical sensations that accompanied the incident and the ways in which your work suffered because of your difficulty in managing the stress.
  3. Now think of a similar situation that has arisen in your personal life, such as encountering problems with your significant other, parents or children. Again, record your feelings, your physical reactions and the negative impact of the stress on your relationships with these people.
  4. Think back to several recent stressful incidents, and make a note of the event that sparked the stress. Do these events form a pattern, revealing your areas of vulnerability to stress; that is, are the majority work- or family-related? Which, if any, produced a feeling of helplessness and inability to effect change?
  5. Once again, for each of these incidents, make a note of your feelings and bodily sensations.Does a pattern emerge here as well? Some of us tend to be either “feelings” or “body” responders to stress; while others get hit both ways at once. If you are the latter, how does your stress first manifest itself?
  6.  How do you deal with stress at present? List even those methods that aren’t effective and that you’d like to change.
  7.  Which of the following tactics are you most apt to resort to:

• taking a deep breath

• going for a walk

• counting slowly to 10

• ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away

• passing the buck to someone else

• looking for alternative strategies

• making lists

• letting emotions surface

• exercising

• using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

• meditating, practicing yoga or listening to soothing tapes

• taking a tranquilizer or other medication?

8. How would you prefer to deal with stress as it affects you and as you understand it? What, in your case, do you think is the ideal solution?


 A number of physical exercises can help shift our unsettled emotional states to calmer, more relaxed feelings—as well as to actually alter to some degree the body’s physiological responses. For maximum effect, they should become part of your daily routine. Don’t wait until a crisis emerges and then plunge into them, looking for a quick fix, although two of them can also be resorted to when emotions are running hot.

They take only five or 10 minutes each—a small price to pay, considering the time you might spend on coffee breaks or watching TV. Because it releases endorphins, exercise has a potent effect on reducing the signs and symptoms of stress. Also, it cheers you up; you feel (correctly) that you’re actively doing something constructive, instead of passively experiencing various sensations. This in itself imparts a sense of control over your body and, by extension, the situation that keyed the stress in the first place.

The Reaction of Other Metasciences to the Psychology of Science

Historians of science traditionally have not been much concerned with the general psychological traits and motives involved in the history of science. Ever since Whewell, many historians have documented and described the major events and trends in the history of science, and some, of course, have documented the lives of particular scientists, delving into psychological forces.

But on the whole historians have not moved beyond narrative histories of individuals’ lives; they have generally avoided “psychologizing” about individual scientists or even samples of scientists. Yet psychological forces—concept development, motivation, ambition, creativity, imagination, and so on—are implicit in much of this history of science.

Historians view these aspects at a cultural rather than an individual level. Moreover, as discussed above with Hull’s comments about philosophers, Sulloway has argued that historians often actively resist a fundamental tool in the psychologist’s arsenal, namely, hypothesis testing, believing instead that their analyses are narrative explanations that neither require nor can make use of testing and evidence.

Historically, philosophers of science have probably been more actively disdainful than historians of the psychological perspective in the study of science.

This disdain is perhaps nowhere seen more clearly than in Popper’s arguments against “psychologism.” Here we get to Popper’s real concerns of introducing psychological factors into the analysis of science. “The initial stage, the act of conceiving or inventing a theory, seems to me neither to call for logical analysis nor to be susceptible of it.

The question of how it happens that a new idea occurs to a man—whether it is a musical theme, a dramatic conflict or a scientific theory—may be of great interest to empirical psychology; but it is irrelevant to the logical analysis of scientific knowledge.

Taken at face value, Popper is making an important distinction, one first made by Hans Reichenbach. On one hand, Popper is arguing that science as a product must be evaluated completely independently of the psychological, social, and historical context. Personalities, historical contexts, and sociological influences are irrelevant to the evaluation of a scientific idea.

On the other hand, he implies that science as a process is precisely the topic of psychological, social, and historical analysis.

Of course the stage of inspiration and creativity is not amenable to logical analysis, for the process itself is intuitive and implicit. Popper was perfectly correct to point this out, but the distinction and boundary between process and product is not quite as clean as the philosophers would have us believe.

By making this distinction between product and process, it would appear that Popper was amenable toward a psychological perspective if it focused on process rather than product. Later writings, however, made quite clear that Popper had no sympathy for a psychological (or historical or sociological) perspective under any circumstance.

T. Kuhn wrote a critique of Popper’s work, entitled “Logic of Discovery or Psychology of Research?” in which he critiqued some of Popper’s most basic assumptions. The sparks really started to fly when the issue of logic versus psycho-logic arose, the essence of Kuhn’s chapter. For Popper, logical analysis is absolutely paramount and any evaluation of scientific theory must be limited to either logical or empirical criteria.

Kuhn, on the other hand, argued that Popper has provided not a logic of knowledge but rather an ideology of knowledge and that there are forms of scientific knowledge to which logical analysis does not apply.

No, this is not the way, as mere logic can show; and thus the answer to Kuhn’s question “Logic of Discovery or Psychology of Research?” is that while the Logic of Discovery has little to learn from the Psychology of Research, the latter has much to learn from the former.

A Psychological Argument for Depth

Our second contention for why profundity produces importance originates from crafted by one of the world’s best-known (and most incorrectly spelled) therapists, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In the mid 1980s,

Csikszentmihalyi, working with Reed Larson, a youthful associate at the University of Chicago, designed another method for understanding the mental effect of ordinary practices.

At the time, it was hard to precisely gauge the mental effect of various exercises. On the off chance that you brought somebody into a research center and requesting that her recall how she felt at a particular point numerous hours prior, she was probably not going to review.

On the off chance that you rather gave her a journal and requesting that her record how she felt for the duration of the day, she wouldn’t probably keep up the passages with constancy—it’s basically as well much work.

Csikszentmihalyi and Larson’s leap forward was to use new innovation (for the time) to convey the inquiry to the subject right when it made a difference. In more detail, they equipped exploratory subjects with pagers.

These pagers would beep at haphazardly chose interims (in present day incarnations of this strategy, cell phone applications assume a similar part).

At the point when the beeper went off, the subjects would record what they were doing at the correct minute and how they felt. Now and again, they would be given a diary in which to record this data while in others they would be given a telephone number to call to answer questions postured by a field-specialist. Since the beeps were as it were intermittent however difficult to overlook, the subjects were probably going to finish the trial method.

What’s more, on the grounds that the subjects were recording reactions around a movement at the exact second they were occupied with it, the reactions were more precise.

Csikszentmihalyi and Larson called the approach the experience inspecting strategy (ESM), and it gave remarkable knowledge into how we as a matter of fact feel about the beats of our day by day lives.

Among numerous achievements, Csikszentmihalyi’s work with ESM approved a hypothesis he had been creating over the previous decade: “The best minutes more often than not happen when a man’s body or, on the other hand mind is extended as far as possible in an intentional push to finish something troublesome and advantageous.” Csikszentmihalyi calls this mental state stream (a term he advanced with a 1990 book of a similar title).

At the time, this finding pushed back against standard way of thinking. The vast majority expected (and still do) that unwinding makes them glad. We need to work less and invest more energy in the loft. Yet, the outcomes from Csikszentmihalyi’s ESM thinks about uncover that a great many people have this off-base:

Amusingly, occupations are really less demanding to appreciate than spare time, since like stream exercises they have worked in objectives, criticism standards, and difficulties, all of which urge one to wind up noticeably engaged with one’s work, to focus and lose oneself in it.

Extra time, then again, is unstructured, what’s more, requires considerably more prominent push to be formed into something that can be delighted in.

At the point when measured observationally, individuals were more joyful at work and less glad unwinding than they suspected. What’s more, as the ESM examines affirmed, the all the more such stream encounters that happen in guaranteed week, the higher the subject’s life fulfillment. People, it appears, are taking care of business when inundated profoundly in something testing.

 In the event that we give riveted consideration regarding critical things, and in this way too overlook shallow negative things, we’ll encounter our working life as more essential and positive.

Despite the fact that he would likely concur with the exploration refered to by Gallagher, his hypothesis noticed that the inclination of diving deep is in itself extremely fulfilling. Our brains like this test, paying little respect to the subject.

The association between profound work and stream ought to be clear: Deep work is a movement appropriate to create a stream express (the expressions utilized by Csikszentmihalyi to portray what produces stream incorporate ideas of extending your brain as far as possible, thinking, and losing yourself in a movement—all of

which additionally portray profound work). What’s more, as we recently learned, stream produces bliss. Joining these two thoughts we get a capable contention from brain research for profundity. Many years of research coming from Csikszentmihalyi’s unique ESM tests approve that the demonstration of diving deep orders the awareness in a way that makes life beneficial.

Csikszentmihalyi even goes so far as to contend that advanced organizations should grasp this reality, proposing that “occupations ought to be upgraded with the goal that they look like as nearly as conceivable stream exercises.”

Noting, in any case, that such an upgrade would be troublesome and problematic (see, for instance, my contentions from the past section),

Csikszentmihalyi at that point clarifies that it’s significantly more imperative that the individual figure out how to search out open doors for stream.

This, at last, is the lesson to leave away with from our concise invasion into the universe of test brain science: To fabricate your working life around the experience of stream delivered by profound work is a demonstrated way to profound fulfillment.

Common research methods

Of course, there are many different ways of testing the research hypotheses.

Although this is an oversimplification, the following three general research methods may be distinguished:

  1.  experiments;
  2. surveys/non-experiments; and
  3. observation.

This is not a complete list by any means. However, it does include most of the research methods likely to be used by beginning researchers.

It is difficult to imagine psychology without experiments. The experimental method is so common in psychological research that it is almost a defining characteristic of the discipline.

The use of experiments in psychology reflects the intellectual origins of psychology in disciplines such as physics and biology in which experiments were commonplace.

Experiments involve intervening in a situation in order to see whether this intervention changes things.
The following should provide enough information for immediate purposes.
  •  Experiments in psychology are almost always controlled experiments. This means that at a minimum they involve an experimental group and a control group which are treated differently. Differences in the way in which the two or more groups are treated may influence differentially measurements of a particular variable.
  • No other research method in psychology is able to explore causal relationships between two variables as effectively as the best experiments can. A causal relationship is merely one in which a particular variable influences another variable. In the real world outside the psychological experimentitis often very difficult to say whether a relationship between two variables is causal or not.

For example, if parents treat their daughters differently from their sons we cannot say whether this difference is because of the behaviour of the parents or the behaviour of the children. Boys may differ from girls and it may be this difference which influences the behaviour of their parents rather than the behaviour of the parents causing the differences between the boys and girls.

Daughters and sons may behave differently which causes their parents to behave differently towards them.
  • A cause-and-effect relationship is another way of saying causal relationship. It merely means that one variable is causing an effect on the another variable. The variable doing the causing is called the independent variable and the variable being affected is called the dependent variable.
  • Many psychologists believe that the most appropriate method for determining causality is the experiment. On the other hand, many others suggest that for some kinds of research experiments result in trivial and confusing findings.

• Randomisation is crucial in experiments. The term refers to an unbiased way of allocating individuals to the experimental and control conditions. Tossing a coin is one possible random procedure for allocating participants into the experimental and control conditions.

If the coin lands heads then we would allocate the next participant to the experimental group, if tails to the control group. Without random allocation one cannot be certain that the people in the experimental group are similar to those in the control group on some pre-existing basis.

  •  Because it is essential to standardise procedures, experiments sometimes appear more contrived than other forms of research. However, every research method has its limitation and different methods have different limitations as will be seen.
  • An example of an experiment may involve testing the hypothesis that sexual arousal increases feelings of love for one’s partner. We could randomly assign people with partners to one of two conditions. In one condition, people would read a sexually exciting passage from a magazine before rating how much they loved their partner while in the other condition they would read a passage which was not sexually exciting.

A sufficiently large difference in the average rating in the two different conditions would reflect the causal influence of sexual arousal on feelings of love.

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