How To Cope With An Existential Crisis

Are you exhausted from rushing through life doing the same monotonous things over and over again? Perhaps those things that were once meaningful now seem vacuous, and the passion has burned out. Do you feel that pleasures are short-lived and ultimately disappointing, that your life is a series of fragments punctuated with occasional ecstasies that flare up and then, like a firework, fade into darkness and despair? Perhaps you are lonely or pine for past loves. Or you feel empty and lost in the world, or nauseous and sleep-deprived.

Maybe you are still looking for a reason to live, or you have too many confused reasons, or you have forgotten what your reasons are. Congratulations – you’re having an existential crisis. Sometimes, the questions ‘Why am I here?’ and ‘What’s it all for?’ haunt you gently like a soft wingbeat with barely a whisper, but sometimes they can feel as if they are asphyxiating your entire being.

Whatever form your existential crisis takes, the problem, as the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55) saw it, was that living without passion amounts to not existing at all. And that’s bad for all of us because, without passion, rampant waves of negativity poison the world. Kierkegaard thought that one of the roots of this problem of a world without passion is that too many people – his contemporaries but, by extension, we too – are alienated from a society that overemphasises objectivity and ‘results’ (profits, productivity, outcomes, efficiency) at the expense of personal, passionate, subjective human experiences.

In his journal, Kierkegaard wrote: ‘What I really need is to be clear about what I am to do, not what I must know … the thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.’ Finding this truth, this passion, was what Kierkegaard thought could unite an existence, overcome melancholia, and help you to become more fulfilled. Kierkegaard had some ideas about how to harness the anguish of what we have come to think of as an existential crisis. Reading Kierkegaard won’t necessarily solve all problems, but it can help you understand some of the sources of your malaise and to see new possibilities for your life.

Sometimes, Kierkegaard is called the first existential philosopher because of his emphasis on the individual and subjective experience. Existential philosophers stress freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of your choices, and certainly one of the quintessential existentialist philosophers, Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-80), found this vein of thinking in Kierkegaard’s writing. For existentialists, it’s up to you to decide the kind of person you want to be and how to live your life meaningfully.

But these choices leaven despair because of the pressure that comes when you realise you’re free and responsible and have no one else to blame, no excuses for your behaviour. Anxiety, or despair, Kierkegaard wrote, is the ‘dizziness of freedom’. Despair is a kind of vertigo we get when overwhelmed with possibilities and choices. Kierkegaard described it as a similar feeling to standing on the edge of an abyss. You might be afraid of falling, but anxious when you realise that jumping is a possibility.

We are forced to make choices all the time, whether we like it or not. Consider toothpaste: there are so many types and it’s difficult to choose the one that’s best for your teeth. Whitening or stain-removal? Cavity protection, anti-plaque or enamel repair? What’s the difference? Why isn’t there one that does everything? It’s hard to know what the outcome of choosing one over the other will be. While choosing the wrong toothpaste probably won’t devastate your life, when you face more profound choices –

Such as what to study at college, whom to marry, whether to end a relationship, which career to pursue, whether to try to save someone who is drowning, if you should turn off a loved one’s life-support system – the closer you come to the edge of the abyss, the dizzier you will feel about your possibilities and responsibilities. Sometimes you live in ignorant bliss about your options but, once you become aware of them, wooziness is inevitable. As Kierkegaard wrote in The Concept of Anxiety (1844):

He whose eye happens to look down into the yawning abyss becomes dizzy. But what is the reason for this? It is just as much in his own eye as in the abyss, for suppose he had not looked down.

Sometimes, the dizziness of your freedom is so overwhelming that you might feel compelled to step back, to shrink from making a choice. Making no choice, or letting someone else choose for you, can feel easier. The greater the stakes, the deeper the abyss, and the further you have to fall if you misstep. But your personal growth depends on your ability to handle big choices yourself and not to shirk them. For Kierkegaard, bravely facing up to our choices and learning to channel our anxiety in constructive ways is vital: ‘Whoever has learned to be anxious in the right way has learned the ultimate.’

During his lifetime, Kierkegaard made authorities nervous because he was an iconoclast who encouraged people to think for themselves. He challenged readers to break themselves free from the brainwashing of churches and community groups that preached what to do and what to believe, particularly the Lutheran Church of Denmark, with which he was at loggerheads for much of his later life. Kierkegaard also might have been deeply suspicious of today’s social media and advertising that tells us where to spend our money and time in the elusive pursuit of happiness. In a criticism that seems to have pre-empted online trolls, he proposed that ‘the crowd’ or the public is ‘untruth’ because it enables people to be anonymous, irresponsible, cowardly, and creates an impersonal atmosphere.

Kierkegaard was a Christian, ‘albeit a maverick Christian’, as the philosopher Gary Cox put it, because Kierkegaard emboldened people to develop a personal relationship with God instead of unreflectively assuming what the clergy sermonised. For Kierkegaard, living the truth is infinitely more important than objectively knowing it. At Kierkegaard’s funeral, the archdeacon who gave the eulogy told the huge crowd not to misunderstand or accept what Kierkegaard had written because he went too far and didn’t know it.

But you don’t need to be religious to glean practical wisdom from Kierkegaard’s work. He inspired many atheist philosophers. Sartre, as I’ve mentioned, deeply admired Kierkegaard. He called him an ‘anti-philosopher’ because Kierkegaard sought ‘a first beginning’ by pushing back against boring and abstract philosophies, such as G W F Hegel’s and Immanuel Kant’s, which were very popular during Kierkegaard’s time.

Kierkegaard wrote in unconventional ways. He was witty and came up with quirky pseudonyms such as ‘Hilarius Bookbinder’. Kierkegaard wrote pseudonymously not because he wanted to hide his authorship – pretty much everyone knew which books he’d authored – but to distance himself from his work; to challenge us to question the ideas he presents; to take responsibility for interpreting the text’s meaning; to inspire us to come to our own conclusions; and to create our own subjective truths. The strategy is called ‘indirect communication’. The effect of Kierkegaard’s work is that, instead of dictating and moralizing, he provokes – because you can’t tell if he’s being serious or not – and invites readers to dance with ideas.

Kierkegaard uses indirect communication in one of his most famous works, Either/Or (1843), a fictional collection of letters and essays written by different characters and presenting different points of view: aesthetic, ethical, and religious. These three views, or phases, provide a possible framework for how to endure and overcome an existential crisis. The phases are not rigid steps, but rather offer a scaffolding of possible experiences on an existential journey to reinvigorate our passion for life.

Think it through

Enjoy the aesthetic elements of your life

Kierkegaard suggested that the first mode of living is the aesthetic sphere. Aesthetic living is fun and impulsive, focused on sensual satisfaction, like a child who is discovering the world with awe and wonder. The aesthetic sphere is a beautiful phase of life, passionate and sparkling with possibilities. Consider the thrill of falling in love, the delight of seeing your all-time favourite musician live in concert, the elation of sharing a delicious bottle of wine or meal with a good friend, or the exhilaration of skinny-dipping on a whim. These experiences can be intoxicating, extraordinarily interesting, and make you feel like your life is transformed if you submit to them.

Don Giovanni – the protagonist of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni (1787), a legendary seducer who is also sometimes known as Don Juan – is, Kierkegaard suggested, the ultimate archetype of the aesthetic mode because he lives for immediate sexual gratification and sensuality. Don Giovanni is a player. He is handsome, seductive and exciting. Women find him irresistible: he has slept with more than 2,000 women whose names he records in his not-so-little black book. Don Giovanni seeks pleasure above all else, and dances through his hedonistic life.

How can you live aesthetically? Make your life as interesting and enjoyable as possible. Fall in love a lot. Rotate crops – meaning that, if you’re bored with your life, don’t be afraid to leave behind what doesn’t serve you and start planting seeds for fresh projects and new relationships that energize you. Be impulsive. Live for and in the moment. Cultivate arbitrariness for the sheer pleasure of it: go to the theatre but watch only the middle of the performance; pick up a book and read a random passage. Enjoy experiences in disruptive ways, different than what others are spoon-feeding you. Practise the art of remembering the joys of your past. Practise the art of forgetting unpleasantness by focusing on the silver linings of your misfortunes. Burn the candle of your life at both ends.

Make existential commitments to live ethically

However, an aesthete’s actions can be self-sabotaging, because, as Kierkegaard pseudonymously writes:

As when one skims a stone over the surface of the water, it skips lightly for a time, but as soon as it stops skipping, instantly sinks down into the depths, that is how Don Giovanni dances over the abyss, jubilant in his brief respite.

Don Giovanni gets his comeuppance in the end when a ghost in the form of a statue of the Commendatore, the father of one of his conquests and a man whom Don Giovanni has killed in a fight, drags him down to hell. You might not be dragged to hell by a ghost, but living purely in the aesthetic mode – though it might offer temporary respite – puts you on the fast track to a further existential crisis.

Why is this? The answer is that the aesthetic lifestyle demands a high price. Aesthetic living can be a source of existential despair when you become overly dependent on its distractions to fill the voids in your life. The aesthetic mode is dangerous when you live in a state of immediacy and instant gratification, constantly overindulging in such pleasures as social media scrolling, shopping, television, busyness, alcohol, drugs, serial romancing or casual sex. At a certain point, these activities cease to offer the enjoyment they promise, and the world turns grey.

Wallowing in such distractions only entrenches your alienation more deeply and pushes you more squarely into dungeons of unhappiness. As soon as you’ve satisfied one pleasure, you’re chasing the dragon of newness for the next high. Sometimes you’re so excited about taking risks on new possibilities, so in love with starting new projects and relationships, that you’re constantly flitting from one to the next, never finishing anything. Constantly on the move, you are like an ocean wave, surging powerfully, cyclically, with raw primal energy.

But waves froth and fizzle away indefinitely. If you’re constantly and busily churning through life, your existence amounts to a sum of moments without any real cohesion. Excitement fades and leaves in its wake disappointment and loneliness. The aesthete in Either/Or is envious of insects that die after copulation because they are able to indulge in the pinnacle of sexual ecstasy and then escape life’s greatest anticlimax – the ‘petite mort’ becomes a real one. An aesthetic life will inevitably leave you morbidly tired.

Kierkegaard’s aesthete is plagued with such soul-crushing tedium and torturous despair that he is numb. Because he isn’t truly engaged in life, he lives as if he were dead. Living void of passion makes him feel both chained by his anxieties and also cast adrift, like a spider plunging and flailing around, unable to grasp hold of anything:

What is to come? What does the future hold? I don’t know, I have no idea. When from a fixed point a spider plunges down as is its nature, it sees always before it an empty space in which it cannot find a footing however much it flounders. That is how it is with me: always an empty space before me, what drives me on is a result that lies behind me. This life is back-to-front and terrible, unendurable.

So if living aesthetically can only be a short-term solution to an existential crisis, how can you go beyond that and live ethically? Stop skimming over life like that stone. Slow down and do what you can to carve out pockets of time for reflection. Cultivate the space to become less robotic. And stop using aesthetic activities as a distraction from facing up to your existential despair.

‘Despair!’ Kierkegaard’s pseudonym writes. Despair is the entry price for transitioning from the aesthetic to the ethical sphere. Learning to love despair is an adventure in moving to a higher mode of self-development. Don’t hide from your existential crisis because choosing despair means choosing yourself. To cosy up to your despair is to choose against being beholden to your animalistic, aesthetic impulses, and towards becoming a definite and solidly grounded individual. Choosing yourself means making meaningful commitments, such as dedicating yourself to a vocation. It means setting goals and sticking to them. Dodging commitment means you’re simply hovering over life, not truly living, and as empty of substance as those waves.

To choose despair also means to choose humanity. In the ethical mode, you recognize that you live in a world with other people, that they matter, and that every choice you make must reflect a responsibility towards them. You act with honesty, open-heartedness, understanding and generosity. You focus more on what you can give to others and less on what you’re getting out of them. To cultivate your humanity, go people-watching for an hour and consider the beauty in each individual. Appreciate every person you meet in their particularity – their tasks, challenges and triumphs. Join a club and build a community of friends. Act more charitably. Help people. Commit to making the world better for others.

Choosing this kind of despair also prepares you for marriage in a way that a life of seeking sensual gratification is unlikely to. Getting married – ideally to your first love, in Kierkegaard’s analysis – reflects an ethical decision because marriage is a serious, definitive and life-changing choice. Marriage calls for a more sophisticated awareness of your existence than a life driven purely by sexual instincts. Sure, you can always get divorced, but Kierkegaard’s ethicist suggests getting married helps people take love more seriously than an aesthete would, by focusing on creating a relationship that’s stable and constant. In the ethical sphere, you actively rejuvenate the love with your partner, instead of skipping to the next relationship for thrills and a confidence boost as soon as your first one gets tough.

Face your existential abyss bravely because, Kierkegaard suggested: ‘Anxiety is the organ through which the subject appropriates sorrow and assimilates it,’ and ‘indeed I would say that it is only when the individual has the tragic that he becomes happy.’ The key to the ethical sphere is to use your despair to galvanise you to overcome your sorry dark states, refresh your enthusiasm for living, and arouse your appetite for something more meaningful in your life.

You develop yourself by being patient with existence, seeing the beauty in stability, and recognising that you are your own source of happiness and creativity. You don’t need to seek excitement constantly from new external stimuli as the aesthete does. You don’t need a dance floor to dance, to enjoy life; your dance floor is inside of you, wherever you are. You nurture the ethical attitude by living intentionally (not accidentally, like the aesthete), and living each day as if it were your Judgment Day.

Leap to faith

The ethical mode can help stabilise you, but it might not be enough to resolve your existential crisis. Living ethically might even be another source of existential calamity because fulfilling your social duties can be onerous. Kierkegaard’s ethicist says of the duty of marriage: ‘Its uniformity, its total uneventfulness, its incessant vacuity, which is death and worse than death.’ Marriage doesn’t make love stay. People change and break promises, making any commitment insecure. Given how many other people are unjust and immoral, being ethical might also throw you deeper into despair. And sinking too heavily into reflection can thwart your enjoyment of life. Philosophers tend to be guilty of overthinking, and Kierkegaard’s aesthete quips: ‘What seems so difficult to philosophy and the philosophers is to stop.’

The only way truly to conquer an existential crisis is with a leap. A leap is what Kierkegaard calls an ‘inward deepening’, which recognises that the world is uncertain, but you can make a bold choice about the kind of life you want to lead. A leap is beyond the realm of feelings (aesthetic sphere) and commitments (ethical sphere). A leap is an act of will to transform your life. It’s the decision to design an existence to which you can enthusiastically devote yourself and that will uplift and sustain your being.

Kierkegaard’s leap was guided by the commandment to ‘love thy neighbour’. In Works of Love (1847), written under Kierkegaard’s real name, he proposes that universal love, or agapē, is the secret to happiness because it overcomes the fleetingness and insecurity of aesthetic and ethical relationships. Love is Ariadne’s thread of life because, as long as you love, as long as you commit yourself to being a loving person, you’ll be safe from being hurt and alone. Kierkegaard thought that this sort of unwavering faith reflects a supremely developed human being.

Perhaps you live in the aesthetic or ethical modes of life, and you’re perfectly happy and see no need to leap. Or perhaps you inhabit these realms and find comfort in your melancholy. But the rub with existential despair is that, once you have caught a glimpse of it, intentionally or not, it’s extraordinarily difficult to unsee it. If that’s you, Kierkegaard’s ideas might be a way to help you find your footing. But the only thing that will alleviate an existential crisis is to find the truth that is true for you, the subjective truth, the propulsion to leap that lies in the innermost depths of your heart. If you’re not sure what your subjective truth is, Kierkegaard suggested: ‘Ask yourself and keep on asking until you find the answer.’

Ultimately, though, a passionately lived life isn’t about an either/or choice. You can’t be all frivolous or all serious all the time. A fulfilling life is about enjoyment and ethical commitment and leaping. Your life needs some of the sort of energy, pleasures and possibilities that Don Giovanni’s life exhibits (though not necessarily indulging these in the ways he does), otherwise the world would be very dull. And the world is boring without him. You also need something of the ethical: you need to acknowledge how your choices affect other people and to take responsibility for your actions, otherwise you’ll end up alone and sad.

You also need a leap to find that thing that you can devote yourself to that unites the splinters of your life, even if, for you, that isn’t a leap into religious faith. The point is to see these different dimensions of life, the ruts you might be falling into, the potential sources of ennui and malaise that stem from the way you live your life. But, ultimately, it’s up to you to choose how you juggle these spheres and how you spark your own fire to bind the fragments of your life together into a coherent synthesis. That’s the point. It’s for you to shape your life.

By: Skye C Cleary

Skye C Cleary is the author of Existentialism and Romantic Love (2015) and co-editor of How to Live a Good Life (2020). She teaches at Columbia University, Barnard College and the City University of New York. Her next book, How to Be Authentic: Simone de Beauvoir and the Quest for Fulfillment, is forthcoming in 2022.

Source: How to cope with an existential crisis | Psyche Guides

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Related Crisis:

Empathy Is The Most Important Leading Skill According To Research

Empathy has always been a critical skill for leaders, but it is taking on a new level of meaning and priority. Far from a soft approach it can drive significant business results.

You always knew demonstrating empathy is positive for people, but new research demonstrates its importance for everything from innovation to retention. Great leadership requires a fine mix of all kinds of skills to create the conditions for engagement, happiness and performance, and empathy tops the list of what leaders must get right.

The Effects of Stress

The reason empathy is so necessary is that people are experiencing multiple kinds of stress, and data suggests it is affected by the pandemic—and the ways our lives and our work have been turned upside down.

  • Mental Health. A global study by Qualtrics found 42% of people have experienced a decline in mental health. Specifically, 67% of people are experiencing increases in stress while 57% have increased anxiety, and 54% are emotionally exhausted. 53% of people are sad, 50% are irritable, 28% are having trouble concentrating, 20% are taking longer to finish tasks, 15% are having trouble thinking and 12% are challenged to juggle their responsibilities.
  • Personal Lives. A study in Occupational Health Science found our sleep is compromised when we feel stressed at work. Research at the University of Illinois found when employees receive rude emails at work, they tend to experience negativity and spillover into their personal lives and particularly with their partners. In addition, a study at Carleton University found when people experience incivility at work, they tend to feel less capable in their parenting.
  • Performance, Turnover and Customer Experience. A study published in the Academy of Management Journal found when people are on the receiving end of rudeness at work, their performance suffers and they are less likely to help others. And a new study at Georgetown University found workplace incivility is rising and the effects are extensive, including reduced performance and collaboration, deteriorating customer experiences and increased turnover.

Empathy Contributes to Positive Outcomes

But as we go through tough times, struggle with burnout or find it challenging to find happiness at work, empathy can be a powerful antidote and contribute to positive experiences for individuals and teams. A new study of 889 employees by Catalyst found empathy has some significant constructive effects:

  • Innovation. When people reported their leaders were empathetic, they were more likely to report they were able to be innovative—61% of employees compared to only 13% of employees with less empathetic leaders.
  • Engagement. 76% of people who experienced empathy from their leaders reported they were engaged compared with only 32% who experienced less empathy.
  • Retention. 57% of white women and 62% of women of color said they were unlikely to think of leaving their companies when they felt their life circumstances were respected and valued by their companies. However, when they didn’t feel that level of value or respect for their life circumstances, only 14% and 30% of white women and women of color respectively said they were unlikely to consider leaving.
  • Inclusivity. 50% of people with empathetic leaders reported their workplace was inclusive, compared with only 17% of those with less empathetic leadership.
  • Work-Life. When people felt their leaders were more empathetic, 86% reported they are able to navigate the demands of their work and life—successfully juggling their personal, family and work obligations. This is compared with 60% of those who perceived less empathy.

Cooperation is also a factor. According to a study published in Evolutionary Biology, when empathy was introduced into decision making, it increased cooperation and even caused people to be more empathetic. Empathy fostered more empathy.

Mental health. The study by Qualtrics found when leaders were perceived as more empathetic, people reported greater levels of mental health.

Wired for Empathy

In addition, empathy seems to be inborn. In a study by Lund University, children as young as two demonstrated an appreciation that others hold different perspectives than their own. And research at the University of Virginia found when people saw their friends experiencing threats, they experienced activity in the same part of their brain which was affected when they were personally threatened. People felt for their friends and teammates as deeply as they felt for themselves. All of this makes empathy an important part of our human condition—at work and in our personal lives.

Leading with Empathy

Leaders can demonstrate empathy in two ways. First, they can consider someone else’s thoughts through cognitive empathy (“If I were in his/her position, what would I be thinking right now?”). Leaders can also focus on a person’s feelings using emotional empathy (“Being in his/her position would make me feel ___”). But leaders will be most successful not just when they personally consider others, but when they express their concerns and inquire about challenges directly, and then listen to employees’ responses.

Leaders don’t have to be experts in mental health in order to demonstrate they care and are paying attention. It’s enough to check in, ask questions and take cues from the employee about how much they want to share. Leaders can also be educated about the company’s supports for mental health so they can provide information about resources to additional help.

Great leadership also requires action. One leader likes to say, “You’re behaving so loudly, I can hardly hear what you’re saying.” People will trust leaders and feel a greater sense of engagement and commitment when there is alignment between what the leader says and does. All that understanding of someone else’s situation should turn into compassion and action. Empathy in action is understanding an employee’s struggles and offering to help.

It is appreciating a person’s point of view and engaging in a healthy debate that builds to a better solution. It is considering a team member’s perspectives and making a new recommendation that helps achieve greater success. As the popular saying goes, people may not remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel.

In Sum

Empathy contributes to positive relationships and organizational cultures and it also drives results. Empathy may not be a brand new skill, but it has a new level of importance and the fresh research makes it especially clear how empathy is the leadership competency to develop and demonstrate now and in the future of work.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

I am a Ph.D. sociologist and the author of The Secrets to Happiness at Work exploring happiness, fulfillment and work-life. I am also the author of Bring Work to Life by

Source: Empathy Is The Most Important Leadership Skill According To Research

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What Is Financial Infidelity?

Being transparent about money matters is critical in partnerships and marriage. Here’s how to spot financial infidelity — and rectify it. When Melissa Houston and her husband first got married, they had a financial plan and laid out some joint money goals. “We knew what we were saving for and how we should spend money,” she says.

But as the years went by, Houston found herself emotionally spending, dropping $1K to $2K on weekend trips with her friends, as well as shelling out thousands on home renovations and random impulse buys. “I was using credit to cover my expenses and hid that from him,” she recalls. “As the boxes came in the mail, he asked me what was going on, and I assured him we had the money.”

Eventually, Houston told her husband the truth. She had been hiding her spending from him and had gotten the family into a financial hole. It put a giant strain on her marriage, and she is still working to gain back her husband’s trust. The duo has since gone back to their previous ways of openly discussing money. Houston is honest about her spending and runs big purchases by her partner instead of buying them behind his back.

What Houston and her husband experienced was financial infidelity. “Simply put, financial infidelity is when your spouse lies to you or keeps details about financial transactions and financial assets hidden from you,” says Sandra Radna, an attorney and the author of You’re Getting Divorced … Now What? You could be on the receiving end of financial infidelity, or you could be the one committing it, like Houston was. Either way, financial infidelity can be incredibly toxic to a marriage and is something that you should work to avoid at all costs.

What does financial infidelity look like?

Financial infidelity could be everything from declining to reveal some of your credit card purchases or other debts to your partner to stashing a portion of your paycheck into an account that your partner doesn’t know about, and making large purchases without consulting your significant other.

“We see financial infidelity occur in some really common ways, like not mentioning how much you spent on your credit card, or when one person makes a large purchase without telling their partner,” says Lauren Silbert, the vice president of personal finance with the Balance. This type of infidelity, she explains, can also occur when one person is keeping a secret account or hoarding cash or other valuables without the other person knowing.

“Another instance is the higher-earning spouse actually hiding how much money they make, keeping the majority of it for themselves, without their partner ever knowing it existed,” Silbert adds. It’s important to build a foundation of open communication and trust when it comes to dealing with financial infidelity.

The dangers of financial infidelity

Financial infidelity can break the trust in your marriage. “Arguably, the most important part of any relationship is trust,” explains Radna. She stresses that if one of the people in the relationship is not honest about what is happening in your joint financial lives, it’s a huge breach and is difficult to overcome.

“It begs the question ‘If you are lying about that, what else are you lying about?’” Radna says. And in her experience, for some couples the emotional aftermath of financial infidelity is insurmountable and can be a definite cause of divorce.

There can be significant financial repercussions as well, since, when you’re married, your partner’s debt becomes your debt. “It could also impact your credit score,” explains Ben Reynolds, the CEO and founder of Sure Dividend.

In order to avoid the repercussions of financial infidelity from occurring, it’s important to be open about your financial goals, purchases, and spending habits with your spouse. Here are some tips to keep financial infidelity at bay.

Be up front from the start

The way that you start your marriage can really set the tone for how you both talk about money. “I recommend that both parties leave everything on the table from the beginning,” says Jayden Doye, a certified public accountant and the owner of Prestige Accounting Solutions in Sandy Springs, Georgia. “They should lay out all of their assets and debts and discuss financial goals.

” Doye has seen too many couples enter into relationships with financial secrets, hiding student loans, debt, and spending habits from each other. Getting on the same page from the beginning and discussing your debt, making a plan for your spending, and working together on this can keep financial infidelity from ever occurring.

Victoria Lowell, founder of Empowered Worth and a certified divorce financial analyst and college finance counselor, agrees. “Couples need to start discussing money and finances very early on, and definitely before moving in together or marrying,” she says, noting that she often coaches clients with premarital financial counseling, which her clients find extremely beneficial.

Make money discussions routine

“Communication is the key,” says Ted Rossman, a senior industry analyst with Creditcards.com. “Most people have a hard time talking about money, but we need to get over that hurdle,” he adds. Rossman suggests scheduling regular money check-ins with your partner. “They don’t have to be long or formal. Perhaps once a month, go through upcoming bills and recent expenses and make sure you’re on track,” he says.

In addition to expenses, talk about your goals as well. This, says Rossman, can be really freeing and can reframe the discussion in a very positive way. “Do you want to buy a home in a couple years? Retire early? Send your kids to college? Identifying your money goals and values and working towards them together is so important and strengthens a relationship,” Rossman explains.

If you have been hiding things surrounding money from your partner, it’ll be easier to handle the sooner you tell the truth.

Start small

Money conversations may seem daunting at first, but it all starts with building trust and safety around money, says Silbert. She says to start with some “gentler money talks. For example, don’t try to make tough decisions right away. Instead, share about how your parents handled money. Talk about your experiences with financial institutions. Tell each other what item or experience has always represented true luxury in your mind.

And so on.” As the safety grows, then move on to harder conversations. These, explains Silbert, are usually the ones that have more opportunities for disagreement or discomfort. And when having these conversations, it’s important to approach them with an open mind and to create a judgment-free zone.

Come clean if you’ve been hiding things from your partner

The longer you conceal money and spending habits from your partner, the more damage you are likely to cause to your relationship and your finances. To heal from financial infidelity, the offending partner needs to come forward. Carrie Krawiec, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Birmingham Maple Clinic in Troy, Michigan, shares her three steps for admitting to financial infidelity:

  1. Sincerely apologize.
  2. Take responsibility without excuses.
  3. Take all steps and measures to make sure the behavior doesn’t repeat itself.

“When the first three are done, there should be acknowledgment by the wounded party that one to three have been sufficiently met,” she explains.

Bring in a third party

It can be beneficial to schedule meetings with a financial adviser who can help you draw up money goals as a couple and get you thinking about a long-term financial strategy. A couple’s counselor can also assist partners with working through any conflicts that they may be having about everyday spending.

And it’s especially important to get help when you’re working through a bout of financial infidelity in your marriage, as this can be hard to navigate alone. “I strongly suggest that couples who are facing this seek counseling,” suggests Lowell, who notes that a marriage therapist or financial coach can help partners open up the dialogue to discuss their philosophy about money, debt, and so forth.

Source: What Is Financial Infidelity?

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Healing From Infidelity

The Psychological Toll of Wanting Your Kid To Be Perfect

It’s called “other-oriented perfectionism,” and it can have a negative effect on children. Here’s why it happens.

Joliene Trujillo-Fuenning, who lives in Denver, Colorado with her two kids, ages 3 and 22 months, has some pretty clear perfectionist tendencies. If she sends an email with a typo in it, she says, “It will drive me nuts for a solid week or two.” After her husband cleans the bathroom, she has to fight the urge to criticize. (Sometimes she’ll just clean it again.)

And when it comes to her 3-year-old’s education, Trujillo-Fuenning says, “I have been very much struggling with the fact that she doesn’t want to write letters,” and finds herself thinking, “You are supposed to be at this point by three and a half or four, and if you don’t do it, you’re never going to.”

What Trujillo-Fuenning struggles with is something called other-oriented perfectionism. (You may have seen a shorter piece I wrote about the phenomenon for the Atlantic back in July.) Other-oriented perfectionism bears similarity to self-oriented perfectionism, when a person puts tremendous pressure on themselves to be perfect and then self-flagellates when they can’t be.

It’s also a little bit like socially prescribed perfectionism, where one internalizes the need to be perfect thanks to perceived pressure from others. The big difference is that with other-oriented perfectionism, unrealistic expectations are directed at, well, others.

When a parent sets exacting standards for their child and assumes a critical attitude, it can change how they parent (to their child’s detriment) and leave the parent bitter, resentful, and sometimes even wishing they’d never had children. That’s particularly problematic in light of new research suggesting that both parental expectations and parental criticism have been on the rise.

The impulse behind child-oriented perfectionism comes mostly from early life experiences and societal forces outside individuals’ control, but understanding — and interventions — can help thwart it, improving the wellbeing of both parent and child.

Natalie Dattilo, Ph.D., a psychologist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has a patient roster made up mostly of young doctors, some of whom are the targets of other-oriented perfectionists who are “looking around and wondering why everybody [they] work with is incompetent.” For a supervisor like that, she said, “There is going to be an over-reliance on control, especially wanting to control how people do things.”

The other-oriented perfectionist seems self-assured. They always know the best way to do things and everything would be splendid if only others weren’t so flawed.

“On the surface it looks like grandiosity,” said Thomas Curran, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at London School of Economics and Political Science, “but at root, it’s really a profound insecurity about place in the world and whether you’re worth something.” The other-oriented perfectionist’s judgment, he said, is actually just “my way of projecting the things that I dislike in myself onto other people.”

People become other-oriented perfectionists in a variety of ways discussed in the book “Perfectionism: A Relational Approach to Conceptualization, Assessment, and Treatment.” Oftentimes a cocktail of other types of perfectionism is to blame. Trujillo-Fuenning worries about her daughter’s progress because she wants the best for her, but there’s something more than that.

“I had a friend who pointed out that her language, her enunciation, her knowledge is pretty advanced for her age,” she explained, “And immediately, I had this sense of like, ‘Ha!’ It had nothing to do with me! Yet you still have a part of your brain that’s like, ‘She speaks well. That means I did my job right.

If she reads early, I did my job right.'” The pressure Trujillo-Fuenning feels to be perfect requires being — and being perceived as — a perfect parent. “How you’re doing as a parent is a reflection of who you are,” she said, “There’s no separation there in my head.”

In a paper published in 2020, Konrad Piotrowski, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at SWPS University in Poland, reported that both mothers and fathers there “tend to accept to a greater extent the mistakes and ‘imperfection’ of their children than those of their partner.” But sometimes they don’t.

John Lockner’s experience supports that idea. He was a stay-at-home dad for years and told me, “I kind of still am,” since he works part-time and spends the rest of it with his two teenage sons. “It’s definitely a struggle not to be on them all the time,” he said, but he knows that’s more about him than them. “I never wanted to be a manager, because I know I would expect my employees to do their best, and it would be very hard for me when they don’t,” he told me.

As one of just a handful of dads involved at their old school, Lockner said, “I felt this pressure to be better, and because of that my kids needed to be better.” With up-to-the-minute access to their assignments and grades through an online portal, he’d issue reminders on the drive to school: “You have to be sure to check on that and make sure it was turned in” or “You’re going to ask for that extra credit, right?” And he’d grill them on test results as soon as they got into the car at pickup.

But now, he said, “I’m kind of working on myself, to let some of that go.” What seems to be the key determinant is which relationship—the romantic one or the parental one—is more strongly associated with the parent’s self-esteem. Those who hang their identity on their parental role, like Trujillo-Fuenning, are more likely to experience child-oriented perfectionism than those who do not, Piotrowski theorized.

The impact of other-oriented perfectionism on children

That’s likely a good thing for his kids. Curran, the British perfectionism researcher, looked at a questionnaire that’s been given to cohorts of young people for decades. He and his team found that current college students perceive that their parents were more expectant than past generations — which is problematic, because studies (old and new) tie a caregiver having performance-oriented goals to controlling, critical parenting.

Though the research is murky, because different forms of perfectionism both overlap and function in distinct ways, children of parents who are perfectionists likely have higher odds of developing psychological distress, including anxiety and depression. Even when the impact falls short of clinical classification, children whose parents expect them to be perfect often grow up in homes characterized by conflict and tension. “It’s going to be a pressure cooker,” Curran told me.

The end result is often another generation of perfectionists. A 2017 study of 159 father-daughter dyads found a tie between “controlling fathers who demand perfection” and perfectionist daughters. And Curran’s own research has found that as parents’ expectations and criticism have increased, so too have rates of adolescent perfectionism.

We make jokes about perfectionism. (Did you hear the one about the perfectionist who walked into a bar? Apparently, it wasn’t set high enough.) But it’s a truly stressful way to live, Dr. Dattilo said, “Always striving to prove that you are capable, to prove that you are worthy, prove that you are successful based on other people’s evaluations.”

It should come as no surprise then, that there are, in Curran’s words, “huge, uncharacteristically strong correlations” between perfectionism and psychological distress, including anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and anorexia.

“The data’s never that clean,” he told me. Gayani DeSilva knows what it feels like to be one of those data points. “My parents really did put a lot of pressure on me as a kid to be perfect,” recalled the child and adolescent psychiatrist who practices in Southern California. “I had to have straight As, couldn’t have an A-minus.”

When she carried a D in Calculus at one point, “I was so afraid that I actually thought that my parents were going to kill me.” Now looking back with a therapist’s eye, she said, “I couldn’t imagine them actually physically harming me, I just knew that I was gonna die.”

She internalized their exacting standards, “There was just no room for anything other than what they expected.” And when she couldn’t meet them, she said, “I faced all this guilt, like, ‘Why couldn’t I do it?'”

Josh McKivigan, a behavioral health therapist based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, sees an impact at both ends of the economic spectrum. For kids of highly educated, well-off parents, he said, “You’d see them well put together, amazing grades, but behind the scenes, they’re barely holding it together. The only type of school they feel is acceptable is an Ivy League. They say things like, ‘I couldn’t imagine going to UCLA.'”

McKivigan also works with a refugee population. With these kids, he sees pressure to make something of a parent’s dangerous immigration journey. They end up saying, “I gotta make this right. I can’t let them down,” McKivigan told me.

But some kids don’t develop perfectionism of their own, instead responding to a parent’s pressure by rejecting their goals. After all, if someone is impossible to please, why bother trying?Nicole Coomber, Ph.D., an assistant dean at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, said research on motivation explains why.

“Autonomy is an important piece of this where you have to actually buy into whatever the goal is,” she notes. Requiring that a child practice piano for hours each day when they’d rather be playing soccer “can really backfire,” she added. Kids can end up feeling like their parent’s project or product — and push back by quitting. No matter how much bravado accompanies that move, there’s often also a sense of having let themselves and their parents down.

DeSilva failed her first year of medical school, she said, “because I just didn’t know how to ask for help.” After a car accident, she quit residency and then spent two years in therapy: “Once I was able to admit, ‘I’m not perfect,’ I was successful at pretty much everything I wanted to do, and I didn’t have to be anxious about it. I knew I could do it, whereas before, when I had to be perfect, I was really insecure.”

After she worked through her perfectionism, she said, “I was trying for my own standard, my own goals, my own desires, instead of somebody else’s standard for me.”

Other-oriented perfectionism is bad for parents too, but they can change

Child-oriented perfectionist tendencies aren’t just bad for kids. Trujillo-Fuenning started to feel burned out by her high standards in the parenting realm. The cumulative effect of a thousand little maximizations, like “trying to make sure they were eating the right things every meal,” became overwhelming and depleting. “To be honest, that’s part of why I went back to work,” she told me.

In his 2020 study, Piotrowski found that parents who target their children with other-oriented perfectionism tend to display higher levels of stress, dissatisfaction with parenthood, and feeling so burdened by the parental role that they regret parenthood entirely. He explained, “For mothers characterized by increased other-oriented perfectionism, family life is probably associated with many frustrations and stress, hence the focus on alternative visions of themselves that seem to be better than [being] a parent.”

When she starts trying to work on literacy again, Trujillo-Fuenning said, “I have to pull back and remind myself, if she’s fighting you, just let it go.” The same thing goes for micromanaging her kids’ appearance. “I’m catching my own insecurities of like, ‘You don’t look well put together. People are going to look at you and think I’m not taking care of you.'” But to avoid acting on those impulses requires “a constant mental check,” she told me.

Every now and then Lockner’s wife would say, “You’re being too hard on them. You are expecting too much.” But that doesn’t seem to be what made him change. His sons are at an all-boys school now, and, Lockner said, “Being around other groups of dads made a difference. Listening to how they act, and how their kids are, made me think, ‘Maybe I can ease up a little. My kids really are pretty good.'”

This sort of shift is what Curran sees happening in society as a whole—only in reverse.Other-oriented perfectionist parents aren’t the only ones ratcheting up expectations and pressure. Some parents don’t want to push, Curran said, “but they feel like they have to in this world where elite college is harder to access, where you basically have an economy where the middle class is downwardly mobile with increasing costs of living and stagnated income, and you’ve got chronic and increasing inequality.”

And the pressure can be even more intense for parents like Eric L. Heard, author of “Reflections of an Anxious African American Dad.” He described feeling “the need for immediate feedback” from his son’s teachers: “I always held a fear that I would not address some problem and he would head down a well-worn road of destruction” for Black men, he wrote. “My mind was haunted by the crippling thought of how I would be judged …. I would wear a permanent brand … a large white D for being a deadbeat dad who couldn’t save his son.”

If you’re a parent ruminating on the odds stacked against your child, it is rational to drive them to work harder, achieve more, and be better. Other parents react the same way, the result of which is a frenzied, fearful “rug rat race.” Once that starts to kick in, Curran said, “it’s really hard to stop, at a societal level. It creates an echo chamber where everybody’s engaging in unhealthy behaviors and no one wins.”

He doesn’t just mean that we all lose when we succumb to perfectionism. It also just plain doesn’t work. “Everybody’s engaging in this frantic upward comparison, and no one gains an advantage,” he said. “We just move the average of what’s expected further and further. It’s looking bad.”

But individuals can push back against a trend of overwhelmed young people and parents who, like the old Lockner, feel no choice but to be “the bad guy.” Now that he’s backed off, he said, “It’s easier on me. It’s easier on them.” They do more for themselves, and “they seem more willing to do stuff if I’m not on them all the time.” Truth be told, he likes himself more now.

Therapists can help their clients get there. Dr. Dattilo would tell an other-oriented perfectionist they need to believe it when someone says, “I’m doing the best I can.” Parents can interrogate their perfectionism in psychotherapy: Why is having a perfect child so important to me? Where did this need come from? And cognitive-behavioral therapists push people to fact-check their anxiety: What level of pressure is really necessary to prepare your child to live a good life? Is parental pressure truly the most effective way to forestall your fears? What will happen if you just back off?

When it came to parenting her son, DeSilva, the perfectionist-turned-psychiatrist, said she made a conscious decision. “I was going to raise him to have his own ideas and his own set of standards and really, for me to learn about and help him develop his strengths. And also, to really be comfortable with his weaknesses and vulnerabilities.” That puts her at odds with her own parents. When it comes to her son’s homework, they think, “It’s your job.

You have to make sure his homework is done,” she said. His grandparents even tell her to fix it for him “so it’s correct.” Instead, she explained to her son the consequences of not doing homework, or not doing it well, and let him decide. “He didn’t like it that his teacher was upset with him. So the next time he did his homework, he did it as best he could.”

Tying it all together

Yet individual parents can’t reverse course alone. Putting aside economic inequality for a minute, Curran said, “I think if the pressures of things like standardized testing — for young people to perform perfectly in school at such a young age — could be recalibrated downwards” it would take pressure off parents too. He called online grade portals “even scarier.”

If kids were just allowed to learn, to be, without all the tracking, assessing, and ranking, maybe more parents would feel like they can afford to break — and encourage their kids to break — the link between one’s accomplishments and one’s worth.

As Curran talked, I realized that much of the ground we’ve covered in my Are We There Yet? column is more related than I’d thought. Pressure on parents, including around the “one right way” to parent, produces intensive parenting and lack of autonomy for kids, and it also contributes to parents’ perfectionism and even abusive behavior, all of which lead to faltering mental health in adolescents, often with their own perfectionism as the mechanism. It’s a perfect storm for stressed out, sexless parents who worry they don’t measure up raising stressed out, helpless kids who worry they don’t measure up. To borrow Curran’s words, “It’s all interconnected.”

By Gail Cornwall

Gail Cornwall works as a mother and writer in San Francisco. Connect with Gail on Twitter, or read more at gailcornwall.comMORE FROM Gail Cornwall

Source: The psychological toll of wanting your kid to be “perfect” | Salon.com

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Electric Sleep: The Gadgetry Tracking and Hacking The Way We Rest

As activity tracking goes mainstream, an arsenal of consumer technology is rolling out for sleep. But how much do these interventions help?

At 2.16am, I stumble to the bathroom. I catch a glimpse of myself. The light from the red bulb is flattering – I’ve been told to eliminate all blue light on my nocturnal trek – but the sleep-tracker headband, currently emitting the sound of gently lapping waves, kills any woke-up-like-this vibe. I adjust its double straps and feel my way back to bed.

The next time I wake is at 6.30am – after fractured dreams in which the Dreem 2 headband makes many cameos – to birdsong, also from the headband. When I check the app, I see I have slept six-and-a-half hours of my anticipated eight. Anxious to remedy this, I head out for my first coffee. In his new book Blueprint: Build a Bulletproof Body for Extreme Adventure in 365 Days, athlete Ross Edgley warns that this sort of overriding behaviour can bring about “biochemical bankruptcy”. Not now, Ross.

Health influencers like Edgley are all over sleep lately, and no wonder, when so many of us obsess over it. A 2021 report released by the Sleep Health Foundation estimates around one in 10 Australians have a sleep disorder, while a report from 2019 found that more than half are suffering from at least one chronic sleep symptom. Studies have suggested that sleep deficiency can lead to weight gain and a weakened immune system and that poor sleep patterns may contribute to later dementia risk.

In recent years, sleep-fretting has intersected with fitness-tracking, with the latest bio-hacks regularly featured on the podcasts of personal-development heavyweights such as Joe Rogan, whose Whoop Strap – worn around the wrist – told him he was getting four or five hours a night, not the seven or eight he’d thought; and Aubrey Marcus, whose Oura ring measures various biomarkers overnight and gives him a total score in the morning. “If I can get close to 80%, I’m golden for the day,” Marcus told the authors of My Morning Routine.

Wearables, such as watches, rings and headbands, appeal to those of us who enjoy geeking out on our stats, but could they also be cultivating anxiety and feeding into insomnia? Associate Prof Darren Mansfield, a sleep disorders and respiratory physician who is also deputy chair of the Sleep Health Foundation, thinks some balance is needed.

“These devices in general can be a good thing,” he says. “They’re not as accurate as a laboratory-based sleep study, but they are progressing in that direction, and technology enables the person to be engaged in their health. Where it can become problematic is people can become a bit enslaved by the data, which can lead to anxiety or rumination over the results and significance. That might escalate any problems, or even start creating problems.”

As a clinician, Mansfield thinks that the most useful role of these devices is monitoring routine, not obsessing over the hours of good-quality sleep. “There will be some error margin, but nonetheless when we’re looking for diagnostic information, like timing of sleep and duration of sleep, they can capture that,” he says.

Since Mansfield admits his sleep doesn’t need much hacking, I seek out an insomniac-turned-human guinea pig. Mike Toner runs the dance music agency Thick as Thieves, and has been on a mission for five years to fix the sleep issues earned from a decade of late nights in Melbourne clubs and reaching for his phone to answer international emails at 3am.

“I tried everything,” he says. “Magnesium capsules and spray, melatonin and herbal sleep aids. I even signed up for treatment at a sleep centre. You sleep in this room with all these wires connected to you, things coming out of your nose, cameras trained on you. Ironically, I slept better that night than I have any other night.”

He decided to start monitoring his body in earnest, learning about the latest devices from the Huberman Lab Podcast and The Quantified Scientist. Sleep-monitoring wearables have progressed from having an accelerometer to track movements which are fed through an algorithm to predict when a person is asleep, to being able to track sleep latency; sleep efficacy; heart-rate variability; light, deep and REM sleep and sleeping positions.

Toner’s accumulated a few as the technology becomes more sophisticated. He estimates having spent around $1,500 on them, and a further $3,500 for the sleep-centre treatment.

Then there are the cooling devices. Toner beds down on a Chilipad as soon as the weather gets warmer – a hydro-powered cooling mattress.

The idea is that lying down in a cool room – perhaps after taking a warm shower – tricks the body into slumber, since our body temperature drops when we’re asleep.

Non-techy strategies include having hands and feet out from under the covers, or using a fan. Lifestyle guru and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss recommends a short ice bath before bed. Be warned, though: Dave Asprey – founder of Bulletproof, which sells high-performance products – once tried putting ice packs on his body right before bed. As he told MensHealth.com: “I ended up getting ice burns on about 15% of my body.”

Mansfield says that ensuring you’re cooler in the evenings may help with sleep. “Generally, a lower-level temperature is better tolerated at night … 25C can make a beautiful, comfortable day, but can be unbearably hot at night when our own core temperature drops, so 18C or 19C is more tolerable.

“Then in the last two hours before getting up, your temperature rises again – you might have thrown off the blanket in the night and then might wake up at 5am feeling freezing cold.”

And what about the new frontiers of technology? According to neuroscientist Matthew Walker, in his influential book Why We Sleep, in the future, we can expect the marriage of tracking devices with in-home networked devices such as thermostats and lighting.

“Using common machine-learning algorithms applied over time, we should be able to intelligently teach the home thermostat what the thermal sweet spot is of each occupant in each bedroom, based on the biophysiology calculated by their sleep-tracking device,” Walker says. “Better still, we could program a natural circadian lull and rise in temperature across the night that is in harmony with each body’s expectations.”

Mansfield thinks this kind of integration is feasible, and that a thermostat linked to a device measuring circadian rhythms offers plausible benefits in preparing people’s sleep, but he predicts that automated control of room lighting will wind up being manually overridden, because technology can’t necessarily gauge when we’re in the middle of reading a book or having a conversation. “It’s liable to just irritate people,” he says. He’s more interested in technology that will track conditions like sleep apnoea.

As Toner has concluded, no device is a silver bullet. Ultimately, it was a $70 online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) course that his GP referred him to that fixed his sleep over three months of strict adherence. Now he just uses technology to make sure he’s not drifting off track.

The key lessons? Only use your bedroom for sleep and sex. Set your alarm for the same time, no matter how late you get to bed. Screens off early. No day-napping. Alcohol is a bad idea. All of these things are easily monitored yourself using a good old notebook, and they don’t cost a cent. They just take persistence.

With those good habits in place, Toner is now mindful of how he will put the CBT pointers he’s learned during lockdowns into practice once his life picks up its pace again.

“I used to put this obligation on myself to be there all the time with my artists, but interestingly, coming out of this pandemic, a lot of the artists are having the same train of thought as I am, wanting to avoid late nights,” Toner says.

He’s even coaching some of them for a charity run – quite the lifestyle change for many. “I’ve spent so long fixing this that one of the things I’ve realized, when we eventually go back to work routines, is I’m going to be fiercely protective of my sleep.

By:

Source: Electric sleep: the gadgetry tracking and hacking the way we rest | Sleep | The Guardian

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3 Tips for Increasing Happiness at Work

Given that many of us will spend up to one-third of our lives at work, it’s not surprising that happiness at work is a topic of concern. Research shows that our happiness at work determines how motivated, productive, and engaged we are.

As an ACHIEVE trainer for the Psychological Safety in the Workplace workshop, I have had many discussions with participants and teams about workplace well-being and satisfaction. I am often asked, “What actions and circumstances best lead to happiness at work?” 

The answer? Happiness at work is complex. Various influences and factors contribute to our well-being at work including organizational culture, the alignment between our values and the organization’s, and the level of job compensation and security.

While some of these factors may be beyond our control, happiness can be enhanced through specific behavioural and cognitive practices, referred to in positive psychology as “positive interventions.”

Here are three positive interventions you can use to increase your happiness at work:

Strive for the Happiness Zone

Research shows that 40 percent of personal happiness results from our own actions, behaviours, and thought patterns. This 40 percent zone is where you have some control over your happiness and where practicing positive interventions will be most helpful. However, this practice will be different for everyone. Some people are happiest when they accomplish a goal at work, while others feel most happy when they are connected and collaborating with colleagues. It’s important to understand which activities contribute to individual happiness at work.

Prioritize the behaviours, actions, and conditions that lead to a sense of well-being during the workday.

One way to begin is to prioritize the behaviours, actions, and conditions that lead to a sense of well-being during the workday. Take note of activities that seem to uplift your mood during the week. Carefully observe your workdays, becoming mindful of the activities, behaviours, or situations that create a sense of a good day versus a bad day. Look for a pattern across the days and weeks. Are there certain activities, situations, or circumstances that consistently seem to contribute to a positive workday? Make a conscious effort to prioritizing doing more of them.

Focus on Meaningful Interactions

The importance of interpersonal connections at work is noted in ACHIEVE’s book, The Culture Question: How to Create a Workplace Where People Like to Work. People are more apt to feel satisfied and engaged when they have positive relationships at work.

A first step to creating meaningful connections at work is to improve your listening skills and increase the depth and value of your interactions. During a workplace interaction, consciously choose to actively listen to what someone has to say and invite them to share more during the conversation. Researchers refer to this as listening generously – we allow the person to have the entire spotlight to feel genuinely listened to and validated.

Simple responses like “That’s great, I’d like to hear more,” or “It sounds like this is important to you, I’d like to learn more,” can make a team member feel more valued, resulting in increased well-being at work. As the listener, you feel good too because you are creating a more meaningful interaction. Remember, the more connected and positive interactions we have with work colleagues, the happier our work experience.

Generate Gratitude

Completing a gratitude exercise even once a week has been proven to increase happiness over time. There is no better place to practice gratitude than at work, given the amount of time we spend there.

People are more apt to feel satisfied and engaged when they have positive relationships at work.

One of the most simple and effective ways to practice gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal. Record the things in your workweek you felt grateful for. Examples may include compliments you received about your work, small wins or accomplishments, or completing a difficult task. To make this team-based, try keeping a gratitude jar.

Invite your colleagues to join you in recording things they are grateful for. Use sticky notes, or if you are a virtual team, post something on a virtual collaborative whiteboard. On Friday, go through the notes. The best part of this simple exercise is the immediate uplift in mood and perspective shift that occurs from recognizing just how many things went well during the workweek.

Workplace happiness takes effort and practice, but the result is improved well-being, greater productivity, and stronger workplace connections – all of which can result in decreased stress and more work satisfaction. Happiness at work is truly worth the effort.

By:Jennifer Kelly

Source: 3 Tips for Increasing Happiness at Work | ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership

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Scientists Figured Out How Much Exercise You Need to ‘Offset’ a Day of Sitting

We know that spending hour after hour sitting down isn’t good for us, but just how much exercise is needed to counteract the negative health impact of a day at a desk? A 2020 study suggests about 30-40 minutes per day of building up a sweat should do it.

Up to 40 minutes of “moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity” every day is about the right amount to balance out 10 hours of sitting still, the research says – although any amount of exercise or even just standing up helps to some extent.

That’s based on a meta-analysis across nine previous studies, involving a total of 44,370 people in four different countries who were wearing some form of fitness tracker.

The analysis found the risk of death among those with a more sedentary lifestyle went up as time spent engaging in moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity went down.

“In active individuals doing about 30-40 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, the association between high sedentary time and risk of death is not significantly different from those with low amounts of sedentary time,” the researchers wrote in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) in 2020.

In other words, putting in some reasonably intensive activities – cycling, brisk walking, gardening – can lower your risk of an earlier death right back down to what it would be if you weren’t doing all that sitting around, to the extent that this link can be seen in the amassed data of many thousands of people.

While meta-analyses like this one always require some elaborate dot-joining across separate studies with different volunteers, timescales, and conditions, the benefit of this particular piece of research is that it relied on relatively objective data from wearables – not data self-reported by the participants.

The study was published alongside the release of the World Health Organization 2020 Global Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior, put together by 40 scientists across six continents. In fact, in November 2020 BJSM put out a special edition to carry both the new study and the new guidelines.

“These guidelines are very timely, given that we are in the middle of a global pandemic, which has confined people indoors for long periods and encouraged an increase in sedentary behavior,” said physical activity and population health researcher Emmanuel Stamatakis from the University of Sydney in Australia.

“People can still protect their health and offset the harmful effects of physical inactivity,” says Stamatakis, who wasn’t involved in the meta-analysis but is the co-editor of the BJSM. “As these guidelines emphasize, all physical activity counts and any amount of it is better than none.”

The research based on fitness trackers is broadly in line with the new WHO guidelines, which recommend 150-300 mins of moderate intensity or 75-150 mins of vigorous-intensity physical activity every week to counter sedentary behavior.

Walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift, playing with children and pets, taking part in yoga or dancing, doing household chores, walking, and cycling are all put forward as ways in which people can be more active – and if you can’t manage the 30-40 minutes right away, the researchers say, start off small.

Making recommendations across all ages and body types is tricky, though the 40 minute time frame for activity fits in with previous research. As more data are published, we should learn more about how to stay healthy even if we have to spend extended periods of time at a desk.

“Although the new guidelines reflect the best available science, there are still some gaps in our knowledge,” said Stamatakis.

“We are still not clear, for example, where exactly the bar for ‘too much sitting’ is. But this is a fast-paced field of research, and we will hopefully have answers in a few years’ time.”

The research was published here, and the WHO guidelines here, in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

By: David Nield

Source: Scientists Figured Out How Much Exercise You Need to ‘Offset’ a Day of Sitting

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How To Support Kids Who Are Anxious About Returning School

Back-to-school jitters are normal every fall. But as families prepare for the beginning of the 2021–22 school year, these run-of-the-mill worries are colliding with fresh uncertainties about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, leaving kids and parents more anxious than usual.

Parents can use many strategies to help their children handle this challenging situation, according to Elizabeth Reichert, clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

“I often talk to parents about being the lighthouse in their child’s storm, the light that shines steadily in a predictable rhythm and doesn’t waver no matter how big the storm is,” Reichert said. “Their job is to be that lighthouse.”

Reichert spoke with science writer Erin Digitale about how parents can help ensure that budding students of any age—from preschool to high school—are ready to handle anxieties as the school year begins.

Erin Digitale: What are some concerns kids may have?

Elizabeth Reichert: Lots of things come to mind. Many kids are going to a new school for the first time: Maybe they’re starting middle school, preschool, or kindergarten. Those are big transitions in nonpandemic times. With the pandemic, we might see more stress in kids of all ages.

Children may have concerns specific to the pandemic, such as the mandate that California students must wear masks while indoors at school. Kids who are more anxious may ask a lot of questions: “How am I going to keep my mask on all day? What if I want to take it off? What are the rules around it?” They may have increased fear of getting sick, too.

For some children and teens, it will be the first time they’ve been in close proximity to groups of people in a very long time, which brings up concerns about social interactions. For kids in middle and high school, social dynamics are especially important. They’ve just had a year and a half of navigating their social lives in the virtual world, and now they’re re-navigating how to manage social dynamics in person. Social interactions may feel more emotionally draining.

Also, not all kids are the same. With virtual learning, some children really struggled to stay engaged and motivated, grasp the material, and remain connected with friends and teachers. But there were other children, often those who were shyer or had difficulties in large-group settings, who thrived. For those more introverted kiddos, if they’ve been in a comfort zone at home, going back to large groups may be a more difficult transition.

ED: What signs might parents see that children are feeling anxious or otherwise struggling emotionally?

ER: This depends on the age of the child. Among little ones, parents may see increased tearfulness about going to preschool or day care, clingy behavior, or regression in milestones such as potty training. With school-aged children, parents may see resistance to going to school, oppositional behavior, and somatic complaints such as stomachaches or headaches.

That’s going to be really tricky to navigate because schools now have strict guidelines about not coming to school sick. For teens, there may also be school refusal and withdrawn behavior, such as staying isolated in their rooms, or more irritability and moodiness. Risky behavior such as substance abuse may also increase.

Parents can expect some distress and worry during the first few weeks after any transition—especially now, when children are being asked to do many new things all at once. That can affect energy levels and emotional reserves. But if there is a major change from a child’s or teen’s baseline behavior that doesn’t dissipate after a couple of weeks—such as a teenager who is withdrawing more and more and refusing to engage in typical activities, or a child who is progressively more distressed—that is a red flag. Parents may want to consider seeking help at that point.

ED: What proactive steps can parents take before school begins?

ER: Parents can start talking about going back, listening to what’s on their child’s mind, and engaging kids in the fun components of returning to school, such as picking out school supplies or a new T-shirt—something they can get excited about. They can also walk or drive by the school or visit its playground to build excitement. It may also be helpful to start practicing saying goodbye and leaving the house, encouraging independent play, and helping children adjust to being away from their parents.

If bedtimes have drifted later during summer vacation, parents can shift the family schedule during the week or two before school starts to get back in the habit of going to bed and waking up earlier. They can also reestablish other pre-pandemic routines that worked well for the family.

ED: If a child still feels distressed, what should parents do to help?

ER: If a child remains anxious, there are key steps parents can take. When our children are upset, our natural is instinct to remove the distress they’re experiencing. But the first step is not jumping straight to problem solving.

The first step is to listen, to create space to hear the kid’s concerns. Acknowledge what they’re feeling even if you don’t agree with it. The child should feel that they’re being heard, that it is OK to feel what they are feeling, and that they have space to talk to Mom or Dad.

Once parents have a better sense of what’s going on, they should try to work collaboratively with the child to figure out a plan. They can ask: What does the child feel like they’re capable of doing? What can Mom or Dad do to help? Who else could help—a friend, sibling, another family member? If, for example, a child refuses to go to school, parents can say, “How can we make it feel easier?” while also communicating to the child that, ultimately, it’s their job to go to school.

By creating small opportunities for getting through difficult situations and coping with their worries, children will build the confidence and the independence they need to feel more in control and less afraid. It’s important to remember that children are resilient and adaptable, and, for many, after a period of transition, they will find their groove.

Parents can also elicit the help of the school and teacher. Teachers know this is a big transition for kids, and they are gearing up to help.

ED: Parents feel anxiety about this transition, too. What healthy coping strategies can they use to make sure they manage their own stress instead of expressing it in ways that may increase their child’s distress?

ER: Parents are the biggest models for our kids. If our kids see us really anxious about something, they’re going to feed off that. Parents need to be mindful of their own emotions so they can self-regulate and become present for their child.

We want to be steady sources of support for our children. It’s also fine to say we feel worried or we don’t know the answer, because that shows it’s OK to feel those things. The problem is when our worries get too big, when we’re no longer calm, or we are saying and doing things we don’t want to model for our children.

It’s essential to find moments for self-care. Taking even just a couple of deep breaths in the moment, taking a bathroom break, getting a drink of water, or doing other things that create a brief transition for yourself, a moment to regulate your feelings, is helpful. Think back to what worked for you before the pandemic, and try getting even a small inkling of that back, such as five minutes a day of moving your body if exercise helps you. This is not only important for you as a parent, but it also shows your child that you have strategies to take care of yourself.

We can also invite our children into healthy coping activities with us: A parent can say to a school-aged or older child, “I’m feeling pretty stressed about this, and for me, going for a walk helps me clear my head. Do you want to go for a walk with me?” Parents and young kids can blow bubbles together—small kids enjoy it, and you can talk about how big breaths for bubbles help everyone feel better.

If they need more help, parents can seek resources from the teachers and support staff at their child’s school, from their pediatrician, and from online resources at the Stanford Parenting Center at Stanford Children’s Health.

Source: How to Support Kids Who Are Anxious About Returning…

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What Does Empathy Have to do With Success?

Simply put, empathy is being able to feel the experience of another person. If you’ve ever noticed a small child try to comfort a distressed playmate or even a baby closely watch a crying infant, you have seen the early signs of empathy. It appears as if the ability to sense the pain or emotions of others is part of us from the beginning.

In fact, it is. The development of empathy is a neurobiologically based competency that includes several awesome processes that lead to a well-rounded social experience. And life success is highly dependent on our social-emotional skills. Strengthening our ability to understand a variety of perspectives and share the lives of those we love and work beside is incredibly valuable to our own sense of well-being.

Two types of empathy have been identified in research. The first is the easiest to notice – emotional.  When we see someone in great pain or misery, we can immediately remember that powerful emotion welling up inside and cringe or even shed a tear. The more we recognize ourselves in that moment, the more intensely we feel that same emotion. And on the opposite end, the less we relate to the individual, the less we share in their suffering.

It’s much more difficult to see someone from a completely different walk of life and feel that twist in the gut. That’s not to say we should constantly weep or involve ourselves in everyone’s distress. If we did that, we would be absolutely spent.

In an effort to balance that healthy dose of empathy, it helps to tune into the other type of empathy – cognitive. That refers to empathic accuracy which is more of a skill. We really do have that biological component that kick starts our skill in reading others and tuning into their thoughts, feeling, and emotions.

Our mirror neurons are ready to help us imagine how others experience life around us every day from early on. Cognitive empathy skills improve by accessing our higher levels of thought. Our medial prefrontal cortex provides us with the capacity to expand those “feelers” and accurately predict and understand people even beyond our own realm of experience.

When a typical child reaches five, they develop something referred to as theory of mind. That’s when they can figure out what others are thinking and feeling and practicing that skill sets the stage for a healthy life. Teaching and reinforcing those early emotional connections are important. You probably remember being asked how it would feel if little Susie took your toys away.

Once we reach adulthood, we can let those early lessons slide and find ourselves focusing on the humdrum aspects of our busy lives. We have snippets of conversations that include highlights and low points of our rushed existence. Can we improve those empathic skills as adults?

Just like any skill, empathy can improve with effort. A well-developed empathic response to people like us as well as those we have little in common with is related to an overall positive well-being and interactional profile. Attending to our more compassionate side expands our minds and relationships with a greater range of people. Our desire to comfort, engage with, and help others increases as we take the time to deepen connections.

The more we can engage with those around us, the more likely we are to sense needs and act on them. Really being present for others means listening without formulating what we want to say. Reflecting underlying feelings can come naturally once we tune in with greater concern. That transfers to improved relationships and a heightened sense of joy from meeting needs around us. We can’t be fully available to everyone at all times, but it is possible to deeply engage with those you feel especially drawn to.

Our lives can ring full of purpose when we intentionally engage with people and support their journey in life. We come away with a beautiful memory of connecting with our fellow humans and will often gain more by doing so. The happiest individuals are those who give out of their own need.

I encourage you to seek out opportunities to flex your empathic senses. Your effort will only lead to more of the same – respect for others and yourself.

By: Sharon Blevins

Source: What Does Empathy Have to do With Success? – Sharon Blevins

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What’s The Difference Between Sympathy & Empathy? Psychologists Explain

The suffix -pathy comes from the Greek word for “suffering,” pathos. The U.S. medical system is built around pathology, which simply means diagnosing suffering and treating disease. Similarly, mental health professionals find social connections critically important to the ways that people cope with and overcome suffering, grief, and trauma. Words like sympathy, empathy, and even apathy describe the nuanced differences between the very complex social connections and reactions humans display when we are suffering or when we witness others in pain.

While subtle behavioral differences might seem obvious to therapists, counselors, and psychologists, it’s not so easy for everyone else. So we spoke to Atlanta-based therapist Habiba Zaman, LPC, NCC, Pepperdine University professor of psychology Steven M. Sultanoff, Ph.D., and licensed clinical psychologist Bruce L. Thiessen, Ph.D., about simple ways to define sympathy and empathy—and their relationship to compassion.

Defining sympathy.

“Sympathy is when you understand someone else’s suffering and feel sorrow or pity for the experience they are facing,” Zaman explains. “It involves having a value judgment on someone else’s experience.”

While often well intentioned, this value-judgment-centered response often creates a palpable distance between the person in pain and the person who is listening. So, Zaman says, sympathy is often extended when a person doesn’t necessarily relate to, fully comprehend, or appreciate the circumstances of suffering facing someone they know or love.

“The emotion of sympathy is my experience of (reaction to) your situation. Sympathy lacks understanding,” Sultanoff adds. “When you are sympathetic, you get caught up in your own emotional reaction to how you are experiencing the world. This, for the most part, does not demonstrate any understanding of the person in distress.”

He notes that sympathy can create a barrier to understanding that can be activated because a sympathetic person may shift focus away from the person in distress to focus on themselves instead. Sympathy is the emotional reaction of the listener, who might say things like “I feel so sorry that this is happening to you,” or “I get so angry just listening to your story.” Other common ways it can show up are as pity (e.g., “I feel so bad for you”) or even as envy (e.g., “I’m sorry for your loss, but I sure wish I had as much time with my loved ones as you did”).

Defining empathy.

“When one expresses empathy, one draws upon personal experience, in relating to another person in the midst of a similar experience or hardship,” Thiessen explains. “An example of an empathetic statement might be, ‘I also have recently lost a loved one and know what it feels like to experience that deep sense of sorrow and grief.”

He says that this sense of commonality is a key differentiator between empathy and sympathy.

“Empathy is the ability to feel intimately and see the other person’s perspective. It is not just to understand what they are going through but rather, being able to walk in the other person’s shoes,” Zaman explains. “It is being able to say, ‘I am here to feel with you’ and let you know you are not alone.”

She adds that empathy is best defined by how the listener connects with the person in pain. Without judgment, an empathetic person would try to create and hold space for a person’s feelings and experiences. Empathy, which can be taught and honed over time, involves honoring how a person in pain sees their own situation, even if that is not how others might view it.

Understanding the key differences.

When it comes to understanding the key differences between empathy and sympathy, there are both internal and external factors to keep in mind. Sympathy and empathy are largely distinguished by external behavioral and performative aspects, which most people believe are a reflection of how the listener internally feels about the person who is suffering. Instead, the experts say that the difference is more about the relationship between the listener and the sufferer.

On the outside, sympathy often appears socially distant, like a one-off message of condolences, with no follow-up. Zaman says this is because sympathy lacks intimacy, but there may be situational reasons why that might be the case. In certain corporate settings or power structures, it might be appropriate to emotionally withhold to maintain decorum or to preserve group dynamics that extend beyond just the listener and the person in pain. Social dynamics and the appropriateness of displaying curiosity toward a person in pain might make a listener moderate their naturally emotive behavior.

“Sympathy is used in social situations where there isn’t an intimate connection between two people. It would be perfectly appropriate in a corporate environment to experience sympathy from coworkers or a boss. A card or flowers that share in acknowledging grief is perfectly acceptable and is expected in those environments because anything more could be perceived as inauthentic, unless that initial and genuine connection is there,” Zaman says.

Meanwhile, she says, that very same gesture of sending a card and flowers might be wholly inadequate for lifelong friends. Thus, the relationship and social context between the people involved is very important.

Also, no matter how close or distant the relationship, Sultanoff says that empathy is an internal experience of feeling caring, concern, and understanding toward another human being or living creature that is best shown through active and reflective listening.

“Responding by repeating back (but not parroting) what you heard from the other person, while especially attending to their feelings, demonstrates focus on the person and letting go of your own internal distractions,” he says.

In an attempt to be empathetic, a person who genuinely wants to help might share problem-solving advice, but Sultanoff says that this behavior does not necessarily show empathy for the other person’s immediate emotional state. In many ways, the difference between sympathy and empathy is the desire to understand the experience of a person who is suffering, not necessarily the drive to stop their suffering.

What about compassion?

“Both empathy and sympathy, when coming from a place of sincerity, are sensations and open expressions of compassion,” Thiessen says. After all, compassion, which simply means “to suffer together,” is an expression of caring and warmth.

He says that compassion from empathy typically comes from sharing similar experiences with another person, but compassion from sympathy can be just as useful. “For example, the act of researching the types of suffering experienced by an abused child might increase a person’s sympathy for abused children, regardless of whether or not the researching party had ever been a victim of child abuse,” offers Thiessen.

And this ability to extend emotions beyond one’s own personal experience is good because compassion allows humans to be motivated to alleviate harms they, personally, have never experienced.

“Expressions of compassion, be they in the form of empathy, or sympathy, or some palpable act of kindness, can be experienced as a healing balm on the psyche and the soul,” Thiessen says.

Moreover, that emotional inspiration can spark activism, philanthropy, or public advocacy in the service of moral causes that are far-reaching and socially impactful. In this way, actively cultivating compassion can allow an observer in one situation to be a force for change in many others.

The bottom line.

In the simplest of terms, empathy is an internal emotion that is directed outward toward another person, Sultanoff says. It demonstrates a true understanding of the other person, without any personal biases interfering with that understanding. Sympathy, however, is internally directed.

If you are watching someone in mourning or grief, empathy is focused on understanding the person in pain, while sympathy is focused on your reaction to watching that person deal with their pain. “From a mental health perspective, empathy is very healing, and sympathy is not,” Sultanoff says.

“Generally, it feels better to be the recipient of empathy than simply sympathy, because it allows for a point of connection and intimacy. Also, an expression of sympathy may be more difficult to trust unless it is coming from a genuine relationship and a place of genuine concern,” Thiessen summarizes.

All that said, both feelings can serve socially positivity purposes when tied with compassion and action.

Nafeesah Allen, Ph.D.

By :  Nafeesah Allen, Ph.D.

Nafeesah Allen, Ph.D., is an American writer and independent researcher with a particular interest in migration, literature, gender identity, and diaspora studies within the global

Source: Sympathy vs. Empathy: The Key Differences & Social Uses

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