Every Friday afternoon Chase’s teacher asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored.
Jim Manske's insight:
I'm touched reading this teacher's strategies for cultivating connection and compassion in her classroom. Today, Jori and I will join a group of local educators to talk about how to integrate a "No-Fault" zone in their school, right here in our neighborhood!
They are the miracle pills that shouldn't really do anything. Placebos come in all shapes and sizes, but they contain no active ingredient. And yet, mysteriously, they often seem to work.
Over the last couple of decades, there has been a huge amount of research into what dummy pills can do and how they work.
We know that in the right situations, they can be very effective at relieving self-reported conditions like pain and depression.
But the latest research suggests they might even be able to help relieve the symptoms of a major neurological disorder, as Paul Pattison found out.
In many ways, Paul is just like anyone else with a love of the outdoors.
He spends much of his spare time cycling in the hills on the outskirts of Vancouver, where he lives.
And every day, he walks his dog through the pine forest that starts where his garden ends.
But there's one big difference between Paul and your average outdoorsy type.
Whether he's walking or cycling, Paul needs medication to help him do it, because he has Parkinson's Disease.
Without his drugs, even walking can be a major struggle.
Parkinson's is caused by an inability of the brain to release enough dopamine, a neurotransmitter that affects our mood, but is also essential for regulating movement.
Luckily for Paul, his medication can give him the dopamine he needs to keep his symptoms under control.
Given everything we know about the disease, it's hard to believe that a placebo - a 'dummy pill' with no active ingredients - could do anything to help someone with Parkinson's.
And that makes Prof Jon Stoessl's experiments all the more remarkable. He is the director of the Pacific Parkinson's Research Centre at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver.
A few years ago, Paul took part in a trial that Prof Stoessl was conducting. It required him to stop taking his medication.
The next day he headed into hospital, his symptoms in full flare-up.
He explains: "That's when they gave me this capsule, and they gave you a half-hour….a normal period of time for the meds to kick in. And boom!
"I was thinking this is pretty good, my body becomes erect, my shoulders go back. There's no way that I could be like this without having had my medication."
Except that Paul hadn't been given his medication - he'd been given a placebo.
Placebo 'is a trigger
"I was in a state of shock. There are physical things that change in me when I take my meds so how could a blank thing, a nothing, create those same feelings?"
Prof Stoessl has conducted numerous experiments with dozens of patients, and is in no doubt that a placebo can sometimes relieve the symptoms of Parkinson's.
"In Parkinson's, as in many other conditions, there is an important placebo response and that can be measured with clinical outcomes."
The placebo effect
Doctors have known for hundreds of years that when a patient expects their condition to improve, it does.
This is called the placebo, or dummy, effect.
What is new about Prof Stoessl's work though is that, by scanning the brains of people with Parkinson's disease when they experience a placebo effect, he's been able to shed light on how a dummy pill can possibly make a difference.
He has found that when someone like Paul responds well to a placebo, it isn't the case that he's simply coping better with his symptoms, or somehow battling through them. Instead, the placebo is triggering the release of dopamine in his brain.
And it isn't a small amount of dopamine that a placebo can release:
"What we found is that in somebody with Parkinson's disease, a placebo can release as much dopamine as amphetamine or speed can in somebody with a healthy dopamine system. So it's a very dramatic response."
'Brain's own morphine'
That dramatic response only appears to last for a short while - a placebo certainly isn't a miracle cure.
And even if it was, doctors could hardly start lying to their patients and replacing real drugs with placebo pills.
It's also unclear exactly how a placebo is able to spur the brain into producing more dopamine, given that Parkinson's is caused by an apparent inability of the brain to produce enough.
But what is certainly clear is that the dopamine isn't coming from the placebo pill itself: there's nothing in it. The dopamine is coming from our brains.
And that goes to the heart of how a placebo works. There's now a strong body of evidence that a dummy pill can activate the brain's natural ability to produce the chemicals that we need.
Prof Tor Wager at the University of Colorado is a neuroscientist who studies what happens in the brain when people receive a placebo that they think is a painkiller.
"When we've given people a placebo treatment what we see is the release of endogenous opioids, which is the brain's own morphine.
"What that means is that the placebo effect is tapping into the same pain control circuitry as opiate drugs like morphine."
Research 'in infancy'
It seems that a dummy pill can do different things according to what you expect it to do.
It can potentially encourage the release of dopamine if you think it's a dopamine-boosting Parkinson's drug; or it can relieve pain if you think it's a painkiller.
In many ways of course our brains are natural pharmacies, constantly giving us chemical hits of one form or another - to stop pain, or to feel it; to energise us, or to calm us down, and it seems to be this in-built pharmacy that a placebo can trigger.
In fact, the drugs that we buy in a real pharmacy are often mimicking the chemicals that our brains produce themselves.
As Prof Wager puts it, "The placebo effect taps into our natural pharmacy.
"Drugs work because we have receptors for the drugs, and that means that there's some endogenous chemicals that our brains are producing that act on those receptors - the receptors evolved to respond to those natural chemicals."
Research into the power of the placebo is still in its infancy.
There is still an enormous amount that we don't know: what exactly are the mechanisms by which it works? Why do placebos work on some people and not others?
But research in the field of placebo studies has boomed over the last decade, and the evidence is growing that a placebo effect can be a
Prof Stoessl says: "The placebo effect is real, quantifiable and in fact you're doing quite well with an active therapy if you can get as good a response as the placebo response."
And the more we understand it, the better our chances of harnessing the placebo effect, and making the most of the medicine in our minds.
Horizon's The Power of the Placebo will be on BBC2 on Monday 17 February at 2100GMT.
Do you constantly replay or obsess over negative situations? Known as rumination, it can feel like a broken record. Your mind rehearses the play-by-play of what led to that horrific breakup or missing a deadline at work. Even when everything is going well, we tend to hyperfocus on the one negative thing that happened during the day, like the time our boss criticized us in front of our colleagues.
Reflecting on past experiences can be helpful in problem-solving and overcoming dilemmas, but brooding rumination takes this to the next level. It offers few new insights and often serves to intensify our negative feelings. We become narrowly focused on the things that are not going well instead of seeing the larger picture. These ruminative thoughts can keep us up late at night overanalyzing the situation.
According to Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D., professor at Yale University, research has shown that rumination is associated with a variety of negative consequences, including depression, anxiety,PTSD, substance use, and binge-eating.
What can be done to stop ruminating? Here are some tips that may help.
1. Identify the thought or fear. What is your biggest fear? Maybe you are afraid of getting fired or looking foolish in front of others. Journaling can be a great way to clarify the underlying fear.Think about the worst-case scenario. This may sound like an awful suggestion, but we can often handle the worst-case scenario, which takes away the power of the original thought.
Ask yourself two questions:
What is the worst thing that can happen?
Can I handle that?
Most likely, the answer is yes. Human beings are very resilient. Remember, sometimes our biggest hardships can turn into our biggest growth experiences. For example, I once worked with a client who was devastated after losing his job. He survived it, and as it turned out, this ended up being a blessing in disguise. It allowed him to find a position that fit his interests and lifestyle, leading to a more fulfilling and meaningful career.
2. Let go of what you can’t control. Ask yourself “what can I change, if anything?” If you cannot change the situation, let it go. For things you can change, set up a list of small goals and make the appropriate changes.
3. Look at mistakes as learning opportunities. According to David Burns, Ph.D., assistant professor at Stanford University, and author of Feeling Good, “the quickest way to find success is to fail over and over again.” For example, I was once 30 minutes late for an interview. I did not get the job and I became very self-critical of my tardiness. Once I asked myself “what is the lesson I learned?” I quickly calmed down and applied this lesson to future experiences.
I now leave my house one hour early for interviews, which has served as a valuable lesson. No need to continue to berate myself. In addition, frequently remind yourself how far you’ve come. Every time you make a mistake, you learn something new.
4. Schedule a worry break. Schedule 20 to 30 minutes a day to worry and make the most of it. This allows for a time and place to think about all your biggest insecurities while containing it to a specific period of time.
At other times of the day, remind yourself that you will have time to contemplate later.
5. Mindfulness. We spend so much time thinking about past mistakes or worrying about future events, that we spend very little time in the here and now. A good example of this is every time we find ourselves on “autopilot” while driving a car.The practice of mindfulness is a great way to reduce our “thinking” selves and increase our “sensing” selves in the here and now. For example, ask yourself what you hear, feel, smell, see and taste. This can help ground you in the present moment. 4.
Mindfulness is an important skill for enjoying the significant moments in life. Enjoying coffee with a friend can be disrupted if we begin thinking about all the things we need to do that day. When you notice your mind wandering, gently guide it back to the present.
6. Exercise. Go for a walk. A change of scenery can disrupt our thoughts and give us new perspective.
7. Try therapy. If ruminative thoughts are interfering with living the life you want to live, consider reaching out. Counseling is a great way to learn how to use these techniques with the help and guidance of a professional.
Jim Manske's insight:
Another way utilizing NVC to work with rumination is to "say yes" to the thoughts by being with yourself in empathy. Behind every thought there is a need beckoning for attention.
So, if I keep replaying a conflict with my bride, I empathize with what I am telling myself.
Often, the need for me when I am ruminating is self-acceptance and learning. What about you? What is your experience?
"This year promises to be a tipping point for a growing group of corporate innovators, who are taking on initiatives that do well for their companies and also do good for society. Social intrapreneurs are quickly becoming the most valuable employees at many companies..."
The peacemaker or mediator is often thought of as “neutral”, impartial or encouraging compromise.
Another model, based on the principles of Nonviolent Communication, is to be a vigorous advocate for a process and solutions that value everyone’s needs.
A guiding principle is that everyone gets to participate in decisions that affect them. This makes it far more likely that people will willingly abide by the decisions and, of course, that the decisions themselves satisfy the range of human needs involved.
This article describes some of the inner practices that help a peacemaker truly advocate for everyone’s needs. What is the inner work that helps a peacemaker truly value everyone’s needs?
All actions are attempts to meet needs
First, it is important to know that all actions, all words, no matter how challenging they are for us to hear or see, are attempts to meet basic human needs. Violent actions and words are tragic attempts to meet basic human needs- tragic because they cause harm to ourselves and others. We want to find solutions that meet people’s needs without these
Instead of evaluating people’s words and actions as right/wrong or good/bad, we hear and see them as attempts to meet basic human needs. The more clearly we can help people identify the needs behind the actions, the more effective we are in nurturing solutions that will satisfy everyone’s needs. Here is a list to help identify the basic life-serving energies, called needs, that are behind every action.
Developing Self Awareness
How do we stay in a frame of mind where we can see and connect with the needs, especially when we are hearing things that are disturbing for us to hear?
First, we can increase our awareness of how we feel in our body when we aren’t stressed or triggered. Take time to experience how it feels when you are present as a listener without any sense of inner pressure, when you embody the quality of listening without judging or evaluating. The more familiar you can become with this state, the more easily you will know how to return to it when needed. Perhaps right now, reading this, you are in a state of relaxed openness. Become friendly and acquainted with this way of being.
Second, take notice as soon as you are in a situation and you feel tight, closed, constricted. Explore and get to know this state of being. This is how you are likely to feel when you are serving as a peacemaker and you are triggered by one of the parties.
As soon as you notice this state, ask for a brief pause (in your conversation or, if you are in a mediation, in the process). Learn to identify your bodily sensations when you are stressed or scared or agitated. Most people experience tightness in the jaw, neck or belly; or sweatiness, labored breathing etc. Become familiar with your body’s clues that you are agitated and not in the best place to listen with openness or respond to everyone’s needs.
Awareness of Feelings
Become familiar with the feelings and emotions that are held in the bodily reactions. Anger, frustration, fear, hurt, agitation…these are all emotional feelings that are triggered when something happens that isn’t in alignment with what we value. Here is a list of feelings that can help us learn to identify what is going on in us.
When you realize you have strong emotions, just take it as information. You don’t want to reinforce or create the energy of judgment, blame or shame. You just want the information so you can do something to restore your openness and presence.
Take 100% Responsibility for your reaction
Another important principle is to understand that your feelings are not caused by what other people do or say- their actions may trigger our reactions, but we react in the way we do because either we 1. Create a meaning or view about what they have done, and we have strong feelings when we hold that view, or 2. Their action is so out of alignment with our values, with what is important to us, that we get triggered. In either case we are responsible for our reactions. (This isn’t a bad thing-in fact, it is empowering- it means we can have choice over our reactions!)
In a mediation, for example, this means that as soon as we become aware that we are not open to one side’s needs, we take responsibility. We ask ourselves, what meaning am I giving to what this person is saying or doing, a meaning that is causing me to lose trust or connection?
When we realize we are giving a meaning to something someone else is doing, and that the meaning we give is causing separation. ( for example, thinking,” that person is a liar”, or, “that person needs my help more”), we want to back off of those judgments and evaluations by practicing what is called self empathy . With self empathy, we look with curiosity and openness to our own feelings and needs that are so strong that we have lost our capacity to stay open to other people’s needs. For example, giving ourselves empathy, on the spot, to ourselves, we might say to ourselves,” I feel so stressed, so angry, so upset, because trust, or honesty, is so important to me. That is what I value. I can really be with what I value, without blaming or judging the other person. “
If my feelings are too strong to work through this myself, I may call upon my co-mediator or an empathy buddy to help me connect with my feelings and needs, until I can return to a place of choosing how to be present in the room.
Nonviolent Communication Exercise
Part 1 Breaking down Judgments : Observations
Write down a judgment you have of someone (e.g.: She is selfish, he is a racist, he doesn’t care about me).Write down one thing that person did that supports your judgment of them. (What did you observe them do or hear them say? Not what you tell yourself about their action.)How does it affect you and the way you feel when you go from step 1 to step 2? Do you find value in doing this?
Part 2 Making Use of the Judgment: Self Empathy
How do you feel and what do you need when you are thinking this judgment about them? (What is so important to you, that you are thinking this way about another person?)Can you embrace your own need instead of judging them? What is challenging to do this ? Do you find value in doing this?
Part 3 Connecting: Empathy for the other person
Do you feel curious to understand what was going on in the other person when they did that? What is challenging to do this? Do you find value in doing this?What do you guess the other person was feeling and needing when they did that? ? What is challenging to do this ? Do you find value in doing this?
"A justice system that were healing rather than punitive in nature would focus not on the principle of obeying the rules, but on providing the opportunity for contrition for the actual crime itself. This is contrary to the mentality of punishment, which is, “I will make you be sorry”: instead it holds that given the opportunity, remorse will arise naturally. That implies a trust in other human beings that is the essence of valuing their dignity, and it would turn the established order upside-down."
When crime rates began to drop across the U.S. during the 1990s, city officials and criminologists were thrilled—but baffled. Violent acts, most often committed by young adults, had reached an all-time high at the start of the decade, and there was no sign of a turnaround.
By the close of the ’90s, though, the homicide rate had declined more than 40% throughout the country. Economists and criminologists have since proposed reasons for the unexpected plummet. Some have pointed to an increase in police officers. Others have suggested a rise in the number of offenders put behind bars. Economist and “Freakonomics” coauthor Steven D. Levitt famously hypothesized that the legalization of abortion in 1973 even played a role. Once the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, he argued, fewer unwanted babies grew into disturbed, crime-prone adults two decades later.
But recently, experts have been kicking around another possible player in the crime drop of the ’90s: lead. Cars burning leaded gasoline spewed the heavy metal into the air until 1973, when the Environmental Protection Agencymandated the fuel’s gradual phaseout. Lead-based paint was banned from newly built homes in 1978. Because of these actions, children born in the mid- to late-1970s grew up with less lead in their bodies than children born earlier. As a result, economists argue, kids born in the ’70s reached adulthood in the ’90s with healthier brains and less of a penchant for violence.
Today, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention considers 5 micrograms per deciliter of lead in a child’s blood to be abnormal. Studies have shown that people who grew up with blood-lead levels at or above this threshold are more likely to have impaired cognition than those who grew up with less lead in their blood. In 1976, the average U.S. resident had a blood-lead level of 16 µg/dL, according to the National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey. By 1991, when there was less lead in the air and in housing, the average had dropped to 3 µg/dL.
As the lead-crime hypothesis gains traction in economics circles, critics are invoking the “correlation does not equal causation” mantra. But scientists argue that there is evidence that lead exposure increases aggression in lab animals. And even though lead, one of the oldest known poisons, affects the brain in a dizzying number of ways, researchers are beginning to tease out some of the mechanisms by which it might trigger violence in humans.
During the 1960s, doctors couldn’t label a child as lead poisoned unless he or she had a blood-lead level of at least 60 µg/dL—CDC’s defined limit at the time. But researchers like University of Pittsburgh psychiatrist Herbert L. Needleman questioned the cut-off value. Surely if 60 µg/dL was toxic, 50 µg/dL couldn’t be completely harmless.
Needleman and others began observing “silent lead poisoning” in children with blood-lead levels below the established limit. Rather than overt physical symptoms like hallucinations and kidney damage, these kids had low IQ scores, attention problems, and antisocial tendencies. As more and more reports of these deficits filtered in, CDC lowered the blood-lead level it deemed acceptable for kids further and further: In 1970, the amount was 40 µg/dL, and by 1991, it was 10 µg/dL.
Some physicians noticed that children exposed to blood-lead levels below 50 µg/dL could also be aggressive or violent. In 1996, Needleman and his group followed up on these anecdotal observations by examining a few hundred 12-year-old boys in the Pittsburgh area. The researchers measured the amount of lead in the boys’ bones with X-ray fluorescence to get an idea of how much of the heavy metal their participants were exposed to during childhood. The boys rated worst by their parents and teachers in terms of aggressive and antisocial behaviors had been exposed to the highest levels of lead.
In 2002, Needleman’s team delved deeper by studying 15-year-old boys who had been arrested and sentenced by the Allegheny County Juvenile Court in Pennsylvania. The kids who had been in trouble with the law had an average bone-lead level of 11 ppm—6% higher than a control group of boys without a history of arrest.
Looking for explanations of the ’90s crime drop in the U.S., economists and crime experts latched onto these and other epidemiology studies. “We saw these correlations for individuals and thought, ‘If that’s true, we should see it at an aggregate level, for the whole population,’ ” says Paul B. Stretesky, a criminologist at the University of Colorado, Denver. In 2001, while at Colorado State University, Stretesky looked at data for more than 3,000 counties across the U.S., comparing lead concentrations in the air to homicide rates for the year 1990. Correcting for confounding social factors such as countywide income and education level, he and colleague Michael J. Lynch of the University of South Florida found that homicide rates in counties with the most extreme air-lead concentrations were four times as high as in counties with the least extreme levels.
Others have found similar correlations for U.S. cities, states, and even neighborhoods. In 2000, Rick Nevin, now a senior economist with ICF International, saw the trend for the entire country (Environ. Res., DOI: 10.1006/enrs.1999.4045). In general, these researchers see blood-lead levels and air-lead levels increase, peak in the early 1970s, and fall, making an inverted U-shape. About 18 to 23 years later, when babies born in the ’70s reach the average age of criminals, violent crime rates follow a similar trajectory.
Still, “predicting crime trends is hard,” Stretesky says. Anything that’s followed a U-shape over the same period is going to correlate, he says. One example put forward in a 2013 Mother Jones article titled “America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead” is vinyl record sales. They rose after World War II and then declined in the 1980s and ’90s, but that doesn’t mean they’re responsible for crime trends.
Seeking to strengthen the provocative lead-crime argument, in 2007, Nevin looked abroad, at countries where the crime rates didn’t necessarily follow the inverted U pattern. In every case—New Zealand, West Germany, Italy, the U.K., and so on—the data plots for blood-lead levels overlaid with plots of violent crime rates that were shifted back about 23 years (Environ. Res. 2007, DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2007.02.008).
“When people read about my work,” Nevin says, “they oftentimes blurt out, ‘Correlation does not mean causation.’ ” One of the key signs of causation, he argues, is biological plausibility.
Research has shown that lead exposure does indeed make lab animals—rodents, monkeys, even cats—more prone to aggression. But establishing biological plausibility for the lead-crime argument hasn’t been as clear-cut for molecular-level studies of the brain. Lead wreaks a lot of havoc on the central nervous system. So pinpointing one—or even a few—molecular switches by which the heavy metal turns on aggression has been challenging.
What scientists do know is that element 82 does most of its damage to the brain by mimicking calcium. Inside the brain, calcium runs the show: It triggers nerve firing by helping to release neurotransmitters, and it activates proteins important for brain development, memory formation, and learning. By pushing calcium out of these roles, lead can muck up brain cell communication and growth.
On the cell communication side of things, lead appears to interfere with a bunch of the neurotransmitters and neurotransmitter receptors in our brains. One of the systems that keeps popping up in exposure experiments is the dopamine system. It controls reward and impulse behavior, a big factor in aggression. Another is the glutamate system, responsible in part for learning and memory.
On the brain development side of things, lead interferes with, among other things, the process of synaptic pruning. Nerve cells grow and connect, sometimes forming 40,000 new junctions per second, until a baby reaches about two years of age. After that, the brain begins to prune back the myriad connections, called synapses, to make them more efficient. Lead disrupts this cleanup effort, leaving behind excess, poorly functioning nerve cells.
“If you have a brain that’s miswired, especially in areas involved in what psychologists call the executive functions—judgment, impulse control, anticipation of consequences—of course you might display aggressive behavior,” says Kim N. Dietrich, director of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
Dietrich and his colleagues have been studying lead’s effects on the developing brain for more than 30 years. In the late 1970s, he and a group of other investigators recruited some 300 pregnant women for what would become the Cincinnati Lead Study. At the time, these women lived in parts of Cincinnati—typically the inner city—that had experienced historically high numbers of lead-poisoning cases. Once the recruits’ babies were born, Dietrich and his group began monitoring the newborns too.
From the time they were born until they were six-and-a-half years old, the young participants had their blood-lead levels measured 23 times. The average childhood concentration for the whole group was 13 µg/dL. Now adults in their 30s, the subjects are having their brains scanned and behaviors analyzed.
And the results are eerie. As of 2008, 250 members of the lead study had been arrested a total of 800 times. The participants’ average blood-lead levels during childhood also correlated with their arrest rate, Dietrich’s team found (PLoS Med. 2008, DOI:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050101).
Working with Dietrich, Kim M. Cecil, an imaging expert at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, has taken magnetic resonance images of the subjects’ brains and found that as childhood blood-lead levels increase, gray matter volume decreases in a handful of brain areas (PLoS Med. 2008, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0050112). Even more important, the regions with the largest gray matter loss are the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex, areas known for impulse control, emotional regulation, and decision making.
“These are the parts of the brain that say, ‘Ooh, I’ve learned from before that I shouldn’t steal that, or if I do this, then the consequences are that,’ ” Cecil says.
Still another way lead might coax the brain into committing violent acts is through IQ and learning disabilities. Although controversial when they were first reported, studies have shown that a child’s blood-lead level is inversely proportional to IQ. The extent of this relationship is still a point of contention, but most estimates have suggested that for every 10 µg/dL of blood lead, a child loses between one and 10 IQ points.
This might not seem like a lot for someone who’s been genetically gifted with an IQ around 120 or 110, Cecil contends. But for a child who might have started life with an IQ of 80, dropping to 70—a value close to impairment—is a handicap, she says.
Children who perform poorly in school and who have learning disabilities tend to have low self-esteem, get frustrated more easily, and, thus, are more likely to act out and engage in delinquent behavior, experts say.
On the molecular level, lead might be affecting learning and intellect through the N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor (NMDAR), a protein on the surface of nerve cells that gets activated when glutamate and glycine stick to it. For more than 20 years, Tomás R. Guilarte, chairman of environmental sciences at Columbia University, has been studying how NMDAR works and how it’s affected by lead.
“Lead’s a potent inhibitor of NMDAR,” Guilarte says. That’s a problem, he says, because “NMDAR is crucial for brain development, learning, and memory processes.”
Over the years, Guilarte and his team have discovered that lead somehow decreases the number of NMDARs anchored to the surfaces of nerve cells in synapses. The heavy metal binds to and disables some of the receptors, too, preventing them from ushering calcium into the nerve cells on which they reside. This in turn prevents calcium from activating enzymes such as calmodulin kinase, a protein inside the cells that goes on to participate in strengthening nerve cell connections when a person learns a fact or commits an experience to memory.
“Overall, the evidence is sufficient that early exposure to lead triggers a higher risk for engaging in aggressive behavior,” says U of Cincinnati’s Dietrich. “The question now is, what is the lowest level of exposure where we might see this behavior?”
Most kids in the U.S. today have a blood-lead level of 1 or 2 µg/dL. But there are nearly a half-million children between the ages of one and five with a blood-lead level above the 5-µg/dL threshold. These are mostly kids who are growing up in dilapidated inner-city houses with lead paint still on the walls or in neighborhoods with elevated levels of lead in the soil.
Despite progress in lowering lead levels in the environment, these kids would benefit from the reevaluation of crime policies and reinvigoration of cleanup efforts, says U of Colorado’s Stretesky. “People who are suffering the most from lead exposure are those that tend to be poor, minority, and low income.”
Jim Manske's insight:
For me, this is more evidence of the need for establishing universal restorative justice systems! How can we, as a society, ethically punish those we poisoned?
What it all comes down to is that a mindset is an interpretative process that tells us what is going on around us.
In the fixed mindset, that process is scored by an internal monologue of constant judging and evaluation, using every piece of information as evidence either for or against such assessments as whether you’re a good person, whether your partner is selfish, or whether you are better than the person next to you. In a growth mindset, on the other hand, the internal monologue is not one of judgment but one of voracious appetite for learning, constantly seeking out the kind of input that you can metabolize into learning and constructive action.
Jim Manske's insight:
Sounds familiar to NVC folks, I imagine. We often use the nickname "Jackal" to describe the activities of a fixed mind set and "giraffe" to point to the consciousness of a "growth mindset". This is a long article concerning a new book called Mindset:The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
The beauty and power of NVC is that we can use the activity of jackal to wake up to opportunities for growth, learning, connection, and compassion!
Linguistic experts argue in new research that people’s brains do not slow down with age, but actually show the benefits of experience.
Tests that had previously been taken to show cognitive decline as people age, they maintain, are actually showing the effects of having more information to process.
The linguists, from the German University of Tübingen, publish their findings in the journal Topics in Cognitive Science (Ramscar et al., 2014).
While accepting that physiological diseases of old age clearly exist, they say that the usual cognitive changes associated with age are exactly what you’d expect as the brain gathers more experience.
As linguists, they decided to test their theory using words–specifically the number of words that a person learns across their lifetime.
They set up a computer simulation to model this. As the simulation got ‘older’, it began to slow down as it learnt more words–exactly as people do with ageing.
The lead author of the study, Michael Ramscar, explained it like this : “Imagine someone who knows two people’s birthdays and can recall them almost perfectly. Would you really want to say that person has a better memory than a person who knows the birthdays of 2000 people, but can ‘only’ match the right person to the right birthday nine times out of ten?”
It’s not that people are forgetting words with age, it’s that there are more words competing for attention.
People face a similar problem with names: as they age, they learn more names, so one name is harder to recall because it is competing with a larger pool of alternate names in memory.
On top of this, names have become varied.
The authors give the example that in the 1880s, when trying to recall a woman’s first-name, there were about 100 equally possible alternatives.
Due to the greater variety in first-names now, however, you’d be trying to choose between 2,000 likely alternatives.
Age and experience
Even better news for the ageing population, the linguists argue, is that older people are actually making better use of the extra information that comes with experience.
On some tests, related to learning pairs of works, older people do better as they have access to more words which have been learnt over a lifetime.
What, you might wonder, about all the neurobiological evidence that the brain’s cognitive powers decline with age?
Well, excepting real diseases like Alzheimer’s, scientists have only discovered that the brain changes with age, not that these changes are the cause of any cognitive decline.
It has only been assumed that neurobiological changes in the brain are related to cognitive declines, since these two were thought to be happening simultaneously.
Now that there are questions over whether cognitive declines are really there, these neurobiological changes may have to be reassessed.
Is cognitive decline a myth?
If cognitive decline with age really is a myth then, the authors worry, simply being told that your brain slows down with age is damaging.
That’s because when people are told they are getting more stupid, they behave as though this were true.
The authors conclude by saying: “…population aging is seen as a problem because of the fear that older adults will be a burden on society; what is more likely is that the myth of cognitive decline is leading to an absurd waste of human potential and human capital. It thus seems likely that an informed understanding of the cognitive costs and benefits of aging will benefit all society, not just its older members.” (Ramscar et al., 2014).
Many of us grew up in religions that warned about the perils of desire. Greed and gluttony are two of the seven deadly sins that imperil our soul. Buddhism, which many view as a psychology more than a religion, is often understood as teaching that desire is the root cause of suffering; the path toward liberation is one of freeing ourselves from its seductive grip.
No doubt, our desires and longings have brought a heap of trouble with them. But an open question remains: is suffering created by desire itself or how we relate to it? Perhaps it is how we engage with desire — or fail to engage with it in a wise and skillful way — that generates the bulk of our discontent.
Desire has gotten a bum rap. Without desire, we wouldn’t be here. Since desire has the awesome power to create life, how could it be anything other than sacred? As psychiatrist and Buddhist teacher Mark Epstein puts it in his book, Open to Desire: Embracing a Lust for Life: “To set desire up as the enemy and then try to eliminate it is to seek to destroy one of our most precious human qualities.”
According to Buddhism, “tanha” creates suffering. This Pali term has often been translated as desire, but “craving” is a more accurate translation. A psychological equivalent would be compulsion or addiction. We often cling to substances, activities, or things that distract us from seeing things clearly and impede our connection with ourselves and others.
For example, craving excessive carbohydrates or sugar might bring temporary pleasure, but they are poor substitutes for our desire for love. Craving alcohol might numb us to our pain, while offering a surge of pleasant sensations. But this addiction comes with an obvious cost and does not satisfy the deeper needs of our soul.
Differentiating between craving and desire might alleviate any shame we might feel to honor and pursue our human longings. Greed, gluttony, and craving might be understood as secondary reactions to our frustrated, primary longing for love, intimacy, acceptance, and respect. When our longing to love is thwarted, we may get consumed by a search for power, wealth, or fleeting pleasures that take us on a journey away from ourselves and life.
Differentiating between craving and desire might alleviate any shame we might feel to honor and pursue our human longings. The scientific research that led to Attachment Theory, pioneered by John Bowlby, tells us that we’re wired with a need for connection — what he calls human attachment. Without strong bonds, our immune system languishes and we’re more prone to anxiety, depression, and other ills.
A useful and illuminating practice is to inquire into the nature of our desires, exploring what they’re about. As Buddhist teacher and psychologist Tara Brach explains in her book, Radical Acceptance:
“Longing, fully felt, carries us to belonging. The more times we traverse this path — feeling the loneliness or craving, and inhabiting its immensity — the more the longing for love becomes a gateway into love itself.”
As we welcome our longings and uncover how they’re guiding us, we might find that our deepest longing is to love and be loved. Now, how can that be anything other than sacred? Our challenge is to welcome our experience just as it is — exploring which desires lead to suffering and which ones lead us toward greater connection, openness, and freedom.
You’ve probably heard a thousand times that as you age, your body and mind begin to “go”—you can no longer move the way you used to and your health deteriorates. But those “facts” couldn’t be further from the truth. Aging doesn’t have to mean decline, in fact, just the opposite.
Contrary to popular belief, getting older is not synonymous with declining health. Deepak Chopra, M.D., tells you the good news.
A professor at the University of New Hampshire who studies school violence says teaching our students civility and empathy can help make schools safer for kids.
Malcolm Smith is extension professor at the UNH Department of Education. He worked with lawmakers in 2011 to develop a law on school safety and bullying prevention, and he’s the founder of the Courage to Care program, a curriculum aimed at increasing empathy and civility in middle school students.
a curriculum aimed at increasing
empathy and civility in
middle school students.
Recently UNH’s teaching program began a course in Courage to Care training in the Department of Education.
"A recent report entitled 'Making Education Work' urges the British government to introduce radical changes into the English education system. The independent advisory board emphasized the need for 'team-working, emotional maturity, empathy, and other interpersonal skills,' which, according to them, are 'as important as the proficiency in English and Mathematics in ensuring young people’s employment prospects.'"
In "The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain," Tali Sharot argues that we have a neurobiological basis for imagining a positive future.
"Humans," she writes, "do not hold a positivity bias on account of having read too many self-help books. Rather, optimism may be so essential to our survival that it is hardwired into our most complex organ, the brain."
From modern-day financial analysts to world leaders, newlyweds, the Los Angeles Lakers, and even birds, optimism biases human and nonhuman thought. It takes rational reasoning hostage, directing our expectations toward a better outcome without sufficient evidence to support such a conclusion.
Sharot argues the root of optimism starts with mental time travel.
Optimism starts with what may be the most extraordinary of human talents: mental time travel. That is, the ability to move back and forth through time and space in one’s mind. To think positively about our prospects, it helps to be able to imagine ourselves in the future. Although most of us take this ability for granted, our capacity to envision a different time and place is critical for our survival. It allows us to plan ahead, to save food and resources for times of scarcity, and to endure hard work in anticipation of a future reward.
While mental time travel has clear survival advantages, conscious foresight came to humans at an enormous price — the understanding that somewhere in the future, death awaits. This knowledge that old age, sickness, decline of mental power, and oblivion are somewhere around the corner, can be devastating.
Close your eyes for a second. Imagine five years from now. What pops into your head? How do you see your family life? How do you see yourself professionally?
Though each of us may define happiness in a different way, it remains the case that we are inclined to see ourselves moving happily toward professional success, fulfilling relationships, financial security, and stable health. Unemployment, divorce, debt, Alzheimer’s, and any number of other regrettably common misfortunes are rarely factored into our projections.
These (likely) unrealistic predictions of an amazing future extend to everything. We expect to do more work this week than last. Today was a bad day? No worries, tomorrow will be better.
Challenging the assertion that the key to life is low expectations:
Some people believe the secret to happiness is low expectations. If we don’t expect greatness or find love or maintain health or achieve success, we will never be disappointed. If we are never disappointed when things don’t work out and are pleasantly surprised when things go well, we will be happy. It’s a good theory — but it’s wrong. Research shows that whatever the outcome, whether we succeed or we fail, people with high expectations tend to feel better. At the end of the day, how we feel when we get dumped or win an award depends mostly on how we interpret the event.
Maybe that’s why most of us wear rose-colored glasses:
We wear rose-tinted glasses whether we are eight or eighty. Schoolchildren as young as nine have been reported to express optimistic expectations about their adult lives, and a survey published in 2005 revealed that older adults (ages sixty to eighty) are just as likely to see the glass half full as middle-aged adults (ages thirty-six to fifty-nine) and young adults (ages eighteen to twenty-five). Optimism is prevalent in every age group, race, and socioeconomic status.
Sharot argues that one of the reasons the optimism bias is so powerful is precisely because, similar to our other biases, we’re largely unaware of its existence.
Yet data clearly shows that most people overestimate their prospects for professional achievement; expect their children to be extraordinarily gifted; miscalculate their likely life span (sometimes by twenty years or more); expect to be healthier than the average person and more successful than their peers; hugely underestimate their likelihood of divorce, cancer, and unemployment; and are confident overall that their future lives will be better than those their parents put up with. This is known as the optimism bias — the inclination to overestimate the likelihood of encountering positive events in the future and to underestimate the likelihood of experiencing negative events.
Having an overly positive sense of the future can be destructive. So what benefit does it serve?
Although the belief in a better future is often an illusion, optimism has clear benefits in the present. Hope keeps our minds at ease, lowers stress, and improves physical health. This is probably the most surprising benefit of optimism. All else being equal, optimists are healthier and live longer. It is not just that healthy people are more optimistic, but optimism can enhance health. Expecting our future to be good reduces stress and anxiety, which is good for our health. Researchers studying heart attack patients have found that optimists were more likely than non-optimistic patients to take vitamins, eat low-fat diets, and exercise, thereby reducing their overall coronary risk. A study of cancer patients revealed that pessimistic patients under the age of 60 were more likely to die within eight months than non-pessimistic patients of the same initial health, status, and age.
Yes, optimism is on one level irrational and can also lead to unwanted outcomes. But the bias also protects and inspires us: It keeps us moving forward, rather than to the nearest high-rise ledge. To make progress, we need to be able to imagine alternative realities, and not just any old reality but a better one; and we need to believe that we can achieve it.
Such faith helps motivate us to pursue our goals.
"The Optimism Bias" explores the optimism bias by investigating when it works for us and when it is destructive and gives examples of how it promotes well-being. If you’re not in the mood for a full book but still want to know more, read the shorter edition (Kindle only), "The Science of Optimism: Why We’re Hard-Wired for Hope," which, in addition to the book, I quoted from above.
Empathy: Connecting with a multitude of diverse, demanding, and sometimes unpredictable constituencies is an inescapable reality of today's world. This point was driven home time and again at Davos 2014. In a networked environment relationship management can hold the key to unlocking value in an infinite variety of ways -- with customers, colleagues, subordinates, strategic partners, unions, activist investors and corporate board members.
Possessing the ability to really put yourself in the shoes of another individual and understand where they're coming from, how they're feeling, what they're thinking, what their underlying agenda is and motivations are all key leadership requirements. There are two sides to empathy. One is cognitive empathy, the ability to understand what another individual is thinking. Second is emotional empathy, the ability to understand how another person is feeling.
Empathy shouldn't be confused with its first cousin, compassion. A compassionate leader can help set the right cultural tone in an organization. But too much compassion can actually be counterproductive for a leader, particularly when tough interpersonal decisions need to made that will inevitably cause collateral damage.
An interesting paper in the snappily titledInternational Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology examines what we know about the psychology of revenge.
It has a fascinating section where it discusses how often people take vengeful actions and whether they actually bring any relief.
It seems that taking revenge is rare, but when it happens, it is not only remarkably unsatisfying but counter-productive in terms of dispelling the desire for retribution.
Empirical research by Crombag, Rassin, and Horselenberg (2003) showed that most people do not actually take revenge but merely have thoughts, feelings, and fantasies about it (see also Crombag, 2003). Most people become reconciled with the offender and many people decide to let bygones be bygones. Some of the people who did take revenge could not explain their reason for doing so.
It should be noted that, in the study of Crombag et al., the group of people who took revenge even after a period of time still struggled with more vengeful feelings than the people who did not take revenge. Although 58% experienced satisfaction and 16% experienced triumph, only 19% reported their vengeful feelings to be completely gone, compared with 40% of the people who did not take revenge.
A 2008 study found that one reason that people who do take revenge find it hard to move on is that taking action keeps them ruminating about the events.
Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.
Rudyard Kipling spoke these famous words to the Royal College of Surgeons in London in 1923.
Not only do words infect, egotize, narcotize, and paralyze, but they enter into and colour the minutest cells of the brain. . . .
Kipling understood how words can change the way another person thinks and feels, and influence people to do things they might not otherwise do.
Just like drugs.
At the time Kipling spoke, Adolf Hitler was on the rise to power. What was one key to Hitler’s success? Words. Hitler’s use of hypnotic language helped persuade an entire culture toward hatred, war and willingness to look the other way.
Other timeless words, spoken thousands of years ago, still ring in our minds today:
Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
These words, often attributed to Jesus, are responsible for stirring the conscience of countless millions.
Words can destroy. Words can heal.
A lesser known fact about words:
Words retain their power even when they remain unspoken. Because the meaning packaged in words can alter your life in an instant, you need to be thoughtful about how you communicate.
Refusing to express yourself through words, however, can create a burden on your psyche from which there is little relief. Your unspoken message rings in your own soul as long as it is unexpressed. If that message is one of pain, then you suffer in isolated misery. Because words have consequences, it’s remains dilemma for many: To speak or not to speak?
My vote is to SPEAK. And do it with a great deal of maturity.
Here are six reasons why you should speak up, plus four resources you’ll need:1. Unspoken words pour salt on old wounds.
Old hurts fester when they are kept inside and words are the vehicle that transports those wounds out of your mind and body. Keeping your feelings inside is just that – trapping them in your body. Words are perhaps the best way to express feelings, putting them into the stream of social consciousness so that they can be sorted and dealt with.
2. Silence keeps you trapped in bad situations.
Many are suffering poor treatment by others simply because they will not speak up. So often, when someone knows you are unhappy, he or she will change the circumstances for you so that you can get relief. This is not always the case, but if you never speak up, you’ll never know.
3. Unspoken words create emotional distance.
If you’re feeling ill toward another person and you don’t let them know, you’ll likely keep your ill feelings and begin to act differently toward the other. Your actions will betray your silence, of course, and possibly lead to passive aggressive behavior on your part.
4. Unexpressed opinions enable wrongdoing.
As long as you withhold, you are essentially consenting to whatever is going on. When you disagree, but remain silent, you may portray yourself as one who agrees.
When others do wrong and you say nothing – you are colluding with the wrongdoer. When you are the one being mistreated, you mistreat yourself by not speaking up. Countless millions allow themselves to be used or taken advantage of in this way.
5. Staying silent can be selfish.
Not participating in conversation, opening up and sharing yourself is self-centered. Of course, you may have a history of being hurt because you spoke up at one time. Even so, remaining silent is not the solution, as it prevents you from joining in with others who would like to hear what you have to say.
6. Remaining silent is lonely.
Words enable connection like nothing else. When you withhold your words, you refuse to allow others a chance to agree, disagree, support or withdraw from you. You may think you’d rather not risk others disagreeing, withdrawing or even rejecting you. However, as you reduce your risk of being rejected, you also eliminate the possibility of being accepted. The end result is loneliness. Nobody knows who you are.
Find your voice….
Finding your voice will change your life. If you don’t believe you have the right or the confidence to speak up when you know you should, you’ll suffer.
If you resolve to develop confidence, you’ll change through your words. Learning to speak your mind may involve:
1. Better communication skills: Learning how to deliver your words with rapport, sympathy and clarity.
2. Resolving old hurts: You may have unfinished business from the past that affects your present life. Learning to let go of these memories and emotions that still drive you is critical to freeing yourself. It can be done, but you may need help.
3. Greater self-control: Some people don’t speak up because if they did, they might lose control of their emotions. They don’t want to fly into a rage or sink into pain or despair that may never end. Learning to manage emotions – not fear them – is the key. This requires experience, education and practice in a safe environment.
4. Courage: It may all boil down the having the courage to confront the issue. It takes time to find your voice, and courage is the fuel you’ll need to sustain you. Of course, when you begin to reap the rewards that your unique voice has to offer, you will no longer need courage. Speaking up will be the obvious choice.
Of course, if you already know that you need to speak up more often and know how to do it, yet somehow still refuse, then your silence may be a form of self-sabotage. In this case you must watch this free video. It will explain exactly how self-sabotage works and how to release yourself from its chains.
Jim Manske's insight:
Yes, please speak up! Say what you see/hear, how you feel about it right now, link your feeling to your need and end on a clear and present request! Thanks to Mike for some inspiration!
How experts think, the power of framing, the miracle of attention, the weird world of cognitive biases and more…
Jim Manske's insight:
Ah, another sign that reassures me of at least two things. First, I am now and will forever be "mostly ignorant", that is there will always be more that I do not know than I do know. Second, I am inspired that I do not have to do it all, that the rest of us all have a role to keep studying, learning and offering that which benefits us to meet more needs with less cost!