do you want to be more likeable?

Being liked doesn’t always come naturally. A lot of us feel less liked than we would like (heh) and fortunately, it’s a skill that can be developed. Here are three ways for you to become more likeable:

 

1. LISTEN

One of our deepest desires is a meaningful connection with others. This isn’t only pleasurable, it’s also vital to our wellbeing. Research by Steve Cole linked the experience of strong social bonds to stronger immune function and even increased lifespan.

Developing these types of beneficial bonds requires full engagement with others. This means listening and understanding actively. Practically, this involves paraphrasing, asking questions and giving relevant feedback. This level of engagement and presence gives the people in our lives the chance to share their experience completely with us, and as Pasternak wrote in Dr. Zhivago, “…an unshared happiness is not happiness”.

 

2. HELP OTHERS TO FEEL IMPORTANT

It’s scary to think that we might not mean anything to others, that we’re not important. This is a result of questioning our impact in the world. Have you felt this recently? Perhaps you didn’t get the recognition you expected at work, or perhaps a friend or your partner did not respond well to your best efforts.

We like people who authentically validate our impact in their lives, and in the lives of others. Try verbalising what you appreciate or admire about a friend or colleague. You might look out for traits like their initiative, honesty, kindness or maturity to name just a few. By doing this, we remind them of their significance, and they will probably like us more as a result!

 

3. BE POSITIVE

A happier life is one with more positive experiences. Even a luxurious, fun and exciting day can become negative if we don’t practice positivity.

Behaviours like criticism and complaining are sure to make an experience negative. Negativity is draining. it makes us feel limited, frustrated and slew of other unpleasant emotions.

Deciding instead to bring attention to the positives invites others to experience the best of what is available. This leads to far more pleasant feelings of hope, excitement and creativity. Giving others this experience makes us inspiring and uplifting to be around, both very likeable qualities! In fact, Barbara Fredrickson (2008) published a study linking positive focus to a more open mind, and a greater sense of possibility.

 

SUMMARY

Being likeable is a skill that involves discipline. You’ll need to avoid the temptation of negativity. Also, put your phone away and listening fully. Not only will this help you become more likeable, it will also force you to become more self-aware, improving you and your relationships!

There are different types of depressive disorders. Symptoms can range from relatively minor (but still disabling) through to very severe, so it is helpful to be aware of the range of disorders and their specific symptoms.

Major depression

Major depression is sometimes called major depressive disorder, clinical depression, unipolar depression or simply depression. It involves low mood and/or loss of interest and pleasure in usual activities, as well as other symptoms such as those described here. The symptoms are experienced most days and last for at least two weeks. The symptoms interfere with all areas of a person’s life, including work and social relationships. Depression can be described as mild, moderate or severe; melancholic or psychotic (see below).

Melancholia

This is the term used to describe a severe form of depression where many of the physical symptoms of depression are present. One of the major changes is that the person can be observed to move more slowly. The person is also more likely to have a depressed mood that is characterised by complete loss of pleasure in everything, or almost everything.

Psychotic depression

Sometimes people with a depressive disorder can lose touch with reality and experience psychosis. This can involve hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there) or delusions (false beliefs that are not shared by others), such as believing they are bad or evil, or that they are being watched or followed. They can also be paranoid, feeling as though everyone is against them or that they are the cause of illness or bad events occurring around them.

Antenatal and postnatal depression

Women are at an increased risk of depression during pregnancy (known as the antenatal or prenatal period) and in the year following childbirth (known as the postnatal period). You may also come across the term ‘perinatal’, which describes the period covered by pregnancy and the first year after the baby’s birth.

The causes of depression at this time can be complex and are often the result of a combination of factors. In the days immediately following birth, many women experience the ‘baby blues’ which is a common condition related to hormonal changes, affecting up to 80 per cent of women. The ‘baby blues’, or general stress adjusting to pregnancy and/or a new baby, are common experiences, but are different from depression. Depression is longer lasting and can affect not only the mother, but her relationship with her baby, the child’s development, the mother’s relationship with her partner and with other members of the family.

Almost 10 per cent of women will experience depression during pregnancy. This increases to 16 per cent in the first three months after having a baby.

Bipolar disorder

Bipolar disorder used to be known as ‘manic depression’ because the person experiences periods of depression and periods of mania, with periods of normal mood in between.

Mania is like the opposite of depression and can vary in intensity – symptoms include feeling great, having lots of energy, having racing thoughts and little need for sleep, talking fast, having difficulty focusing on tasks, and feeling frustrated and irritable. This is not just a fleeting experience. Sometimes the person loses touch with reality and has episodes of psychosis. Experiencing psychosis involves hallucinations (seeing or hearing something that is not there) or having delusions (e.g. the person believing he or she has superpowers).

Bipolar disorder seems to be most closely linked to family history. Stress and conflict can trigger episodes for people with this condition and it’s not uncommon for bipolar disorder to be misdiagnosed as depression, alcohol or drug abuse, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or schizophrenia.

Diagnosis depends on the person having had an episode of mania and, unless observed, this can be hard to pick. It is not uncommon for people to go for years before receiving an accurate diagnosis of bipolar disorder. It can be helpful for the person to make it clear to the doctor or treating health professional that he or she is experiencing highs and lows. Bipolar disorder affects approximately 2 per cent of the population.

Cyclothymic disorder

Cyclothymic disorder is often described as a milder form of bipolar disorder. The person experiences chronic fluctuating moods over at least two years, involving periods of hypomania (a mild to moderate level of mania) and periods of depressive symptoms, with very short periods (no more than two months) of normality between. The duration of the symptoms are shorter, less severe and not as regular, and therefore don’t fit the criteria of bipolar disorder or major depression.

Dysthymic disorder

The symptoms of dysthymia are similar to those of major depression but are less severe. However, in the case of dysthymia, symptoms last longer. A person has to have this milder depression for more than two years to be diagnosed with dysthymia.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

SAD is a mood disorder that has a seasonal pattern. The cause of the disorder is unclear; however it is thought to be related to the variation in light exposure in different seasons. It’s characterised by mood disturbances (either periods of depression or mania) that begin and end in a particular season. Depression which starts in winter and subsides when the season ends is the most common. It’s usually diagnosed after the person has had the same symptoms during winter for a couple of years. People with Seasonal Affective Disorder depression are more likely to experience lack of energy, sleep too much, overeat, gain weight and crave for carbohydrates. SAD is very rare in Australia and more likely to be found in countries with shorter days and longer periods of darkness, such as in the cold climate areas of the Northern Hemisphere.

It has been my experience that gifted and talented persons are more likely to experience a type of depression referred to as existential depression. Although an episode of existential depression may be precipitated in anyone by a major loss or the threat of a loss which highlights the transient nature of life, persons of higher intellectual ability are more prone to experience existential depression spontaneously. Sometimes this existential depression is tied into the positive disintegration experience referred to by Dabrowski (1996).

Existential depression is a depression that arises when an individual confronts certain basic issues of existence. Yalom (1980) describes four such issues (or “ultimate concerns”)–death, freedom, isolation and meaninglessness. Death is an inevitable occurrence. Freedom, in an existential sense, refers to the absence of external structure. That is, humans do not enter a world which is inherently structured. We must give the world a structure which we ourselves create. Isolation recognizes that no matter how close we become to another person, a gap always remains, and we are nonetheless alone. Meaninglessness stems from the first three. If we must die, if we construct our own world, and if each of us is ultimately alone, then what meaning does life have?

Why should such existential concerns occur disproportionately among gifted persons? Partially, it is because substantial thought and reflection must occur to even consider such notions, rather than simply focusing on superficial day-to-day aspects of life. Other more specific characteristics of gifted children are important predisposers as well.

Because gifted children are able to consider the possibilities of how things might be, they tend to be idealists. However, they are simultaneously able to see that the world is falling short of how it might be. Because they are intense, gifted children feel keenly the disappointment and frustration which occurs when ideals are not reached. Similarly, these youngsters quickly spot the inconsistencies, arbitrariness and absurdities in society and in the behaviors of those around them. Traditions are questioned or challenged. For example, why do we put such tight sex-role or age-role restrictions on people? Why do people engage in hypocritical behaviors in which they say one thing and then do another? Why do people say things they really do not mean at all? Why are so many people so unthinking and uncaring in their dealings with others? How much difference in the world can one person’s life make?

When gifted children try to share these concerns with others, they are usually met with reactions ranging from puzzlement to hostility. They discover that others, particularly of their age, clearly do not share these concerns, but instead are focused on more concrete issues and on fitting in with others’ expectations. Often by even first grade, these youngsters, particularly the more highly gifted ones, feel isolated from their peers and perhaps from their families as they find that others are not prepared to discuss such weighty concerns.

When their intensity is combined with multi-potentiality, these youngsters become particularly frustrated with the existential limitations of space and time. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to develop all of the talents that many of these children have. Making choices among the possibilities is indeed arbitrary; there is no “ultimately right” choice. Even choosing a vocation can be difficult if one is trying to make a career decision between essentially equal passion, talents and potential in violin, neurology, theoretical mathematics and international relations.

The reaction of gifted youngsters (again with intensity) to these frustrations is often one of anger. But they quickly discover that their anger is futile, for it is really directed at “fate” or at other matters which they are not able to control. Anger that is powerless evolves quickly into depression.

In such depression, gifted children typically try to find some sense of meaning, some anchor point which they can grasp to pull themselves out of the mire of “unfairness.” Often, though, the more they try to pull themselves out, the more they become acutely aware that their life is finite and brief, that they are alone and are only one very small organism in a quite large world, and that there is a frightening freedom regarding how one chooses to live one’s life. It is at this point that they question life’s meaning and ask, “Is this all there is to life? Is there not ultimate meaning? Does life only have meaning if I give it meaning? I am a small, insignificant organism who is alone in an absurd, arbitrary and capricious world where my life can have little impact, and then I die. Is this all there is?”

Such concerns are not too surprising in thoughtful adults who are going through mid-life crises. However, it is a matter of great concern when these existential questions are foremost in the mind of a twelve or fifteen year old. Such existential depressions deserve careful attention, since they can be precursors to suicide.

How can we help our bright youngsters cope with these questions? We cannot do much about the finiteness of our existence. However, we can help youngsters learn to feel that they are understood and not so alone and that there are ways to manage their freedom and their sense of isolation.

The isolation is helped to a degree by simply communicating to the youngster that someone else understands the issues that he/she is grappling with. Even though your experience is not exactly the same as mine, I feel far less alone if I know that you have had experiences that are reasonably similar. This is why relationships are so extremely important in the long-term adjustment of gifted children (Webb, Meckstroth and Tolan, 1982).

A particular way of breaking through the sense of isolation is through touch. In the same way that infants need to be held and touched, so do persons who are experiencing existential aloneness. Touch seems to be a fundamental and instinctual aspect of existence, as evidenced by mother-infant bonding or “failure to thrive” syndrome. Often, I have “prescribed” daily hugs for a youngster suffering existential depression and have advised parents of reluctant teenagers to say, “I know that you may not want a hug, but I need a hug.” A hug, a touch on the arm, playful jostling, or even a “high five” can be very important to such a youngster, because it establishes at least some physical connection.

The issues and choices involved in managing one’s freedom are more intellectual, as opposed to the reassuring aspects of touch as a sensory solution to an emotional crisis. Gifted children who feel overwhelmed by the myriad choices of an unstructured world can find a great deal of comfort in studying and exploring alternate ways in which other people have structured their lives. Through reading about people who have chosen specific paths to greatness and fulfillment, these youngsters can begin to use bibliotherapy as a method of understanding that choices are merely forks in the road of life, each of which can lead them to their own sense of fulfillment and accomplishment (Halsted, 1994). We all need to build our own personal philosophy of beliefs and values which will form meaningful frameworks for our lives.

It is such existential issues that lead many of our gifted individuals to bury themselves so intensively in “causes” (whether these causes are academics, political or social causes, or cults). Unfortunately, these existential issues can also prompt periods of depression, often mixed with desperate, thrashing attempts to “belong.” Helping these individuals to recognize the basic existential issues may help, but only if done in a kind and accepting way. In addition, these youngsters will need to understand that existential issues are not ones that can be dealt with only once, but rather ones that will need frequent revisiting and reconsideration.

As it turns Carl Jung (psychiatrist, psychoanalyst) might be one of the least surprised by the seemingly unstoppable rise of Donald Trump in the polls, and in people’s love-hate relationships. Actually, one of Jung’s gifts to us was his educating us about the shadows, the too-dark and too-light aspects of ourselves that we can’t stand so we deny or project them.

Jung knew that lecturing would never be enough to have his concepts translated, since our fiercest urges don’t get lit up just by lessons of words and concepts alone. We would have to get to know those urges, and know them well. We would have to know them well enough so as to tame them, so as not to be so scared of them.

Jung wrote “The Undiscovered Self” in the 1950’s, at a time when he warned that nuclear war was a distinct probability if people and nation states continued to project our worst traits onto our enemies, even onto our mates and partners. We project—take the parts of us we learn to hate and fear—and push it on to someone else—our spouse, a group we scapegoat, people that scare us because they remind us of ourselves.

Interestingly, even though the more obvious side of what we “give” to the others has to do with the darker and more violent sides, sometimes we are just as scared and intolerant of the softer and weaker sides that we or our mentors reject unstintingly.

Donald Trump, as it turns out, applies almost perfectly to Jung’s assessment, which included his idea that the United States as a country could be exceedingly likely to have a dictator-like situation, or cult of personality. He felt that America being a relatively young country with little awareness, collectively that is, of evil or wrong doing or the need to apologize and work through, let’s say, the disasters and brutality of slavery, added to the possibility of a violent regime happening here. He wrote after the Holocaust and stated clearly he felt we are all capable of hideous actions, including murder— all the more so if we never become conscious of the urges involved.

Donald Trump seems to win the day on two accounts. One is that he, as many have already articulated, represents the politically incorrect harsh “in your face” New York tough guy. He can go against the grain of civil or decent respectful conversation, seducing many with the sound and air of “Fuggedaboutit” that has become a familiar and affectionate signage on the way out of Brooklyn to Staten Island.

He reminds me of the days in which the superb programming of “The Sopranos” reigned, and I found myself more than once fantasizing having a Tony Soprano in my right hand pocket, so to speak. How helpless do some of us feel—and this is relatively petty—on the phone with a whatever representative that keeps us on hold while we listen to music we detest, to sometimes have the line cut out so we have to start again. This is a really petty example for many whose blights are much more serious but for some of us can symbolize the rage we build in the midst of daily frustrations.

Donald Trump can get it done, he can hire or fire someone, get someone on television; he is a good man to know. On the back burner, he is a terrible man to know, precisely because his biggest weapon, aside from mere shows of bravado and grandiosity, is that of insult. Humiliation, as it turns out, has in fact been a key ingredient of many successful reality shows, probably for a similar reason. We like watching someone else to be humiliated, making sure it isn’t us. With Trump, that may be a satisfaction of some, while others dread a possible confrontation that could do our own egos in. I acknowledge that I find him intimidating, not because I think he is smarter than me (though probably he knows a lot more than me in some arenas) but because he could hurt my feelings. I wonder if part of the shadow of fear of vulnerability is right here as well—precisely because it is so sharply connected with humiliation in a culture that sees weakness and indecisiveness, and taking the time to hesitate—as contemptible.

The other side of Jung’s concept of the shadow is in fact about our fear of the weakness. To think is to hesitate, to court mistakes as true scientists do when they do research and experimentation. To compromise (Trump says he likes compromise as long as he is in the winner’s seat) means to consider another’s viewpoint, to allow empathy and doubt creep in to the processes involved. It is to allow ourselves to be “soft”, and in a culture in which many—certainly white people—seem to long for the cowboy mentality—“soft” can go against the grain, at least on a conscious level.

Speaking of levels, on some level all of us long for a sense of belonging, sharing, and enough safety to have a modicum of authenticity. But when the reins are so suddenly loosened, the adrenalin of victory, of feeling immortal and all-powerful, can carry the horses we symbolically ride—ourselves in other words— away.

One of the problems is that few of us have been oriented to looking for sources of problems within ourselves. I am really emphasizing, not blame for all the problems that are, but responsibility for continuing the same structures that are and benefiting from them. In terms of the shadow, by hiding our rage and our softer sides, we get—depending on what we are hiding—the benefits of rooting for the bad guy and loving it, without even knowing we’re doing so.

One cause for cautious hope might just be that many of us yearn to be reunited with all of ourselves, and to have intimacy that only awareness of vulnerability can yield.

By psychotherapist Carol Smaldino

In this busy world of ours, the mind is constantly pulled from pillar to post, scattering our thoughts and emotions and leaving us feeling stressed, highly-strung and at times quite anxious.

Most of us don’t have five minutes to sit down and relax, let alone 30 minutes or more for a meditation session. But it is essential for our wellbeing to take a few minutes each day to cultivate mental spaciousness and achieve a positive mind-body balance.

So if you are a busy bee like me, try using these simple mindfulness exercises to empty your mind and find some much-needed calm amidst the madness of your hectic day.

 

Mindful Breathing

This exercise can be done standing up or sitting down, and pretty much anywhere at any time. All you have to do is be still and focus on your breath for just one minute.

Start by breathing in and out slowly. One cycle should last for approximately 6 seconds. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, letting your breath flow effortlessly in and out of your body.

Let go of your thoughts for a minute. Let go of things you have to do later today or pending projects that need your attention. Simply let yourself be still for one minute.

Purposefully watch your breath, focusing your senses on its pathway as it enters your body and fills you with life, and then watch it work its way up and out of your mouth as its energy dissipates into the world.

If you are someone who thought they’d never be able to meditate, guess what? You are half way there already! If you enjoyed one minute of this mind-calming exercise, why not try two or three?

 

Mindful Observation

This exercise is simple but incredibly powerful. It is designed to connect us with the beauty of the natural environment, something that is easily missed when we are rushing around in the car or hopping on and off trains on the way to work.

Choose a natural object from within your immediate environment and focus on watching it for a minute or two. This could be a flower or an insect, or even the clouds or the moon.

Don’t do anything except notice the thing you are looking at. Simply relax into a harmony for as long as your concentration allows. Look at it as if you are seeing it for the first time. Visually explore every aspect of its formation. Allow yourself to be consumed by its presence. Allow yourself to connect with its energy and its role and purpose in the natural world.

 

Mindful Awareness

This exercise is designed to cultivate a heightened awareness and appreciation of simple daily tasks and the results they achieve.

Think of something that happens every day more than once; something you take for granted, like opening a door, for example. At the very moment you touch the doorknob to open the door, stop for a moment and be mindful of where you are, how you feel in that moment and where the door will lead you. Similarly, the moment you open your computer to start work, take a moment to appreciate the hands that enable this process and the brain that facilitates your understanding of how to use the computer.

These touch point cues don’t have to be physical ones. For example: each time you think a negative thought you might choose to take a moment to stop, label the thought as unhelpful and release the negativity. Or, perhaps each time you smell food, you take a moment to stop and appreciate how lucky you are to have good food to eat and share with your family and friends.

Choose a touch point that resonates with you today. Instead of going through your daily motions on autopilot, take occasional moments to stop and cultivate purposeful awareness of what you are doing and the blessings it brings your life.

 

Mindful Listening

This exercise is designed to open your ears to sound in a non-judgmental way. So much of what we see and hear on a daily basis is influenced by our past experiences, but when we listen mindfully, we achieve a neutral, present awareness that lets us hear sound without preconception.

Select a piece of music you have never heard before. You may have something in your own collection that you have never listened to, or you might choose to turn the radio dial until something catches your ear.

Close your eyes and put on your headphones. Try not to get drawn into judging the music by its genre, title or artist name before it has begun playing. Instead, ignore any labels and neutrally allow yourself to get lost in the journey of sound for the duration of the song. Allow yourself to explore every aspect of track. Even if the music isn’t to your liking at first, let go of your dislike and give your awareness full permission to climb inside the track and dance among the sound waves.

The idea is to just listen, to become fully entwined with the composition without preconception or judgment of the genre, artist, lyrics or instrumentation.

 

Mindful Immersion

The intention of this exercise is to cultivate contentment in the moment and escape the persistent striving we find ourselves caught up in on a daily basis. Rather than anxiously wanting to finish an everyday routine task in order to get on with doing something else, take that regular routine and fully experience it like never before.

For example: if you are cleaning your house, pay attention to every detail of the activity. Rather than treat this as a regular chore, create an entirely new experience by noticing every aspect of your actions: Feel and become the motion when sweeping the floor, sense the muscles you use when scrubbing the dishes, develop a more efficient way of wiping the windows clean. The idea is to get creative and discover new experiences within a familiar routine task.

Instead of labouring through and constantly thinking about finishing the task, become aware of every step and fully immerse yourself in the progress. Take the activity beyond a routine by aligning yourself with it physically, mentally and spiritually. Who knows, you might even enjoy the cleaning for once!

 

Mindful Appreciation

In this last exercise, all you have to do is notice 5 things in your day that usually go unappreciated. These things can be objects or people – it’s up to you. Use a notepad to check off 5 by the end of the day.

The point of this exercise is to simply give thanks and appreciate the seemingly insignificant things in life; the things that support our existence but rarely get a second thought amidst our desire for bigger and better things.

For example: electricity powers your kettle, the postman delivers your mail, your clothes provide you warmth, your nose lets you smell the flowers in the park, your ears let you hear the birds in the tree by the bus stop, but…

Do you know how these things/processes came to exist, or how they really work?
Have you ever properly acknowledged how these things benefit your life and the lives of others?
Have you ever thought about what life might be like without these things?
Have you ever stopped to notice their finer, more intricate details?
Have you ever sat down and thought about the relationships between these things and how together they play an interconnected role in the functioning of the earth?
Once you have identified your 5 things, make it your duty to find out everything you can about their creation and purpose to truly appreciate the way in which they support your life.

 

In Summary

The cultivation of moment-by-moment awareness of our surrounding environment is a practice that helps us better cope with the difficult thoughts and feelings that cause us stress and anxiety in everyday life.

With regular practice of mindfulness exercises, rather than being led on auto-pilot by emotions influenced by negative past experiences and fears of future occurrences, we harness the ability to root the mind in the present moment and deal with life’s challenges in a clear-minded, calm, assertive way.

In turn, we develop a fully conscious mind-set that frees us from the imprisonment of unhelpful, self-limiting thought patterns and enables us to be fully present to focus on positive emotions that increase compassion and understanding in ourselves and others.

( Alfred James )

gay cure

Britain’s top psychiatrists unite to condemn ‘gay cure’ therapies as abusive and scientifically unsound
The country’s leading psychiatrists have united to condemn so-called “gay cure” therapies as an “abuse” of patients which is neither ethically nor scientifically sound.
A consensus statement undersigned by professional bodies including the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) said that practitioners who offered “cures” and “treatments” for homosexuality were harming their patients.

In a statement requested by the Department of Health, the group said that to suggest to “vulnerable people” who sought psychiatric help that their sexuality was the cause of their difficulties was “misleading and prejudiced.”

David Pink, chief executive of the UKCP, said that high profile cases of gay cure therapy featured in the media had led the profession to speak out.

“The public needs to know where responsible professionals stand on this,” he said. “Using psychotherapy to change or convert gay people is an abuse.”

Gay cure therapies are often based on religious interpretations of sexuality.

Its website says they are difficult to find in the UK because “gay activists and those who support their agenda are determined to outlaw therapeutic help for those wanting to move quietly, honourably and respectfully out of homosexual practice.”The religious organisation Core Issues, whose bus advertisements reading: “Not gay! Ex-gay, post-gay and proud. Get over it!”, were banned in 2012, has raised the profile of the therapies.

James Taylor, head of policy at the charity Stonewall, said that so-called gay cures were no more than “voodoo”.

“In 21st century Britain, lesbian, gay and bisexual people should be able to access therapy and counselling services without fear of discrimination or judgement,” he said.

 

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