Life Ain’t For Sissies*


Most posts are observations, derived from my work as a clinical psychologist, teacher, writer, and aging adult.  Please join the dialogue.

*a nod to Bette Davis, who is reported to have said, “Old age ain’t for sissies.”

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Silver Linings Help Performance

In 4 related studies, the researchers showed that when we believe that our weaknesses (Dark Cloud) have corresponding strengths (Silver Lining), it gives us a dreamstimefree_84852performance advantage. For example, when we see that depression (negative) makes us practical (positive), being lazy (negative) helps patience (positive), fear of failure (negative) increases motivation (positive), or being overly analytical (negative) creates thoroughness (positive), we perform better. We make a better effort if we believe in the Silver Lining. In one experiment, the researchers told Group A and B that they were impulsive. Then, they told Group A that impulsive people were creative. Both groups were given a creativity test and da, dah, da… Group A outperformed B because, believing that their trait had an upside, they increased their efforts.

Source: Alexander Winonskyet et al, 2014. J of Experimental Social Psychology

Holiday Host/Hostess Disorder

Since we are into the holidays, I have a great disorder (it is imaginary) for you to think about – Holiday Host or Hostess Disorder, now referred to as HHD. Here are the symptoms of a person afflicted with HHD: dreamstimefree_1078352 dreidels

*Cleans maniacally before the holiday

*Buys excessive amounts of food, decorations and other holiday paraphernalia

*Feels intense anxiety before holidays

*Gets grumpy at others who do not display the same slavish devotion to holiday madness

*Loves/Hates having people over because the Host or Hostess will be highly stressed

*Feels criticized if anything is less than perfect (and nothing is perfect)

*Feels totally inadequate if one olive is missing a pimento (or something equally goofy)

Sure, I made up this disorder. You will not find it anywhere else. I just wanted to point out that the holidays are a time to be together and NOT let your perfectionism get in the way. People want to be with you, not with your perfect cheese ball or your Santa plates. I like pretty table decorations and a great meal just like everyone else and I do feel bad when I drop the dessert mold on the floor. Nevertheless, it is a mistake to confuse the wrapping with the real gifts of the season.

One Big Secret To Successful Holiday Eating

Here we go! We all began by stuffing ourselves on Thanksgiving and then following up by indulging in leftovers. I plead guilty; my new Black Friday activity was a donut crawl.

After Thanksgiving (moments after), lots of people dive into the cookie baking, sweet eating, party hopping, over-drinking, month-long December binge. If we were Santa’s reindeer, we would never be able to launch ourselves into flight on Christmas eve.

Here’s the secret to successful holiday eating – decide ahead.

Parties – Before you leave your house for a party, decide exactly what you will eat and drink. It is no good to say something vague like, “I’ll eat less” or “I’ll see how I feel when I get there” or “I’ll drink water between drinks.” Nope. Be precise. “I will have 1 slice of bread, no pop, 1 drink, and I will go heavy on the salads” – something like that. Decide ahead, don’t leave wiggle room that will allow you to cave in when you see the dessert table.

Restaurants – If you are going to a restaurant, check out the menu ahead of time and decide what you will eat; then, don’t look further.

Home – These ideas work for going out but what about at home? Do you need to make 12 types of cookies? If so, give them away. Or, start a new tradition like collecting winter coats for the neighborhood shelter.

These ideas can work because, when you decide ahead of time, you can close your mind to the other possibilities. In this instance, a closed mind is good. When you have not decided what to eat and drink, your mind remains active and unsettled; not so good.

Want something else healthy to do? Read my  mystery novel,Object of Obsession,available on

Object of Obsession

Does Shopping Therapy Work?

In honor of Black Friday, let’s talk about retail therapy.  You feel blue, maybe a bit depressed, and head for a retail store (or go home, put on your bunny slippers, and get online) to do some shopping to cheer yourself up.  Does it work? In a word, “yes.”  In a smaller word, “no.”

Retail therapy doesn’t work when the problem is serious or your need is great.  It can’t feel an empty space inside you.  You have to do some interior work before a new CD or pair of shoes makes life feel better longer than the time it takes to get shoes out of the box.

However, don’t dismiss shopping therapy. We all need rewards when we have worked hard and those shoes can really hit the spot.  Each time you wear them, you will be reminded that you are capable of success.  We also need treats when life deals us a lousy turn.  The treats are soothing; they don’t make up for a bad review at work or a break up but, a hot fudge sundae, an afternoon movie with a bucket of popcorn, or a new sweater can raise our spirits sufficiently to go back and face the world again tomorrow.

Thanksgiving Traditions

Traditions make events more special as we come to trust them to remain the same year after year after year. We depend on the people, foods, games and routine not tophoto (4) change.  No one wants new foods on Thanksgiving – everyone wants their favorites.  It is all comfort food; nothing fancy.  It isn’t a holiday of experimentation; it’s a holiday of reliability.

Thanksgiving, and holidays in general, are filled with traditions on which we rely.  Traditions aren’t shallow; they serve an important function in our lives – traditions provide a form for our emotions and values.  At Thanksgiving, we value sharing the same foods with the same people. We value what we have instead of what we want next.  We are grateful for friends and family who have shlepped from long distances to be together.  Anyone traveling on Wednesday or Sunday deserves our special gratitude – and another helping of stuffing.

Happy Thanksgiving, Linda

Why not make it  tradition to buy my books………

Object of Obsession

Quiz: Are You A Perfectionist?

Professor Gordon Flett of York University provides: chgo botanic garden 9-10 045

* Ten Signs Your a Perfectionist

1. You can’t stop thinking about a mistake you made.

2. You are intensely competitive and can’t stand doing worse than others.

3. You either want to do something “just right” or not at all.

4. You demand perfection from other people.

5. You won’t ask for help if asking can be perceived as a flaw or weakness.

6. You will persist at a task long after other people have quit.

7. You are a fault-finder who must correct other people when they are wrong.

8. You are highly aware of other people’s demands and expectations.

9. You are very self-conscious about making mistakes in front of other people.

10. * You noticed the error in the title of this list.

Be honest, how many signs rang a bell for you?

source: Flett et al, 2014.


What happens when we hear shocking news? When the news is unexpected, when we have no time to  prepare ourselves, when we have no opportunity to hanging threadrehearse or accustom ourselves to a big change – we can be shocked. Shock can be the response to bad news, like an unexpected accident or death, but shock can also occur as a reaction to good news, like winning the lottery.

The results of shock are often:

1. feeling physical sensations, such as a punch, uneven breathing, or falling down.

2. experiencing a sense of unreality – it isn’t happening. Your mind is saying, ‘no’.

3. slowness in comprehending the news or confusion.

4. numbness of emotion; not feeling very much at all.

These are involuntary, protective responses. your mind cannot absorb the magnitude of the change so you take it in a little bit at a time. Don’t worry when this happens; the reaction is normal and you will slowly (it might take weeks) comprehend the reality of the news.

New, Scientific Diet Aid !!!!

Looking at endless pictures of foods can make it less enjoyable to eat, a recent study has found.

While a few photos might enhance your appetite (it works for me), contrary to what you’d expect, people are actually put off the taste by looking at loads of pictures of food. Professor Ryan Elder, who led the study, which is published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, said, “In a way, you’re becoming tired of that taste without even eating the food. It’s sensory boredom — you’ve kind of moved on. You don’t want that taste experience any more.”

What happens is that each time you look at another photograph of some food, you get less pleasure from it. Like the first taste of chocolate mousse giving you (me) a thrill, the first photograph whets your appetite, but more photos,  like more mousse — is less and less exciting, until you get sick of it.

These was true with photos of salty (french fries) and sweet (ice cream and candy) foods. They gave lower pleasure ratings to both types of food after being inundated with pictures.

Professor Elder explained,“You do have to look at a decent number of pictures to get these effects. It’s not like if you look at something two or three times you’ll get that satiated effect.” Another researcher added, “Even I felt a little sick to my stomach during the study after looking at all the sweet pictures we had.”


You Were The Best Of Times, You Were The Worst…

Four studies examined whether our most intense emotional experiences were independent (just me) or interdependent (you and me) experiences. People were Monky familyasked to write about emotionally intense events and they tended to write about experiences shared with others. In a follow up experiment, they also said that experiences with others had more emotional impact than independent experiences.

So…. other people provide us with the best and worst of times. Yeah, I bet you could have told them that.

Source: What Makes Us Feel the Best Also Makes Us Feel the Worst: The Emotional Impact of Independent and Interdependent Experiences Lisa M. Jaremka, Shira Gabriel & Mauricio Carvallo  pages 44-63


Do We Control Our Decisions?

We would like to believe that we make decisions by accumulating evidence about our options and then – prudently – we choose. Comforting thought; not so oko_1oko_1accurate.  A brand new study demonstrated that arousal is a powerful player in perceptual decision making.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

The researchers measured pupil size, a highly sensitive index of arousal, while 26 human subjects performed a motion-discrimination task – looking at a cloud of dots and deciding in which direction the dots were moving. This was designed to mimic the types of perceptual decisions we make in everyday life. Psychologists computed their results and found that pupil size was related to decisions.  Increased pupil size, reflecting heightened arousal, indicated that the person would perform WORSE.

These findings provide a uniquely clear account of how arousal state impacts decision making.  Pupil size is a measure of a person’s arousal: the more aroused they are feeling, the wider their pupils are and the worse they perform on the test.

When people’s arousal levels are low they are bored and when they are too high, they can’t concentrate. People who tend to be consistently aroused were the least consistent in the decisions they made.

Dr. Peter Murphy, who led the research, said, “We are constantly required to make decisions about the world we live in. In this study, we show that how precise and reliable a person is in making a straightforward decision about motion can be predicted by simply measuring their pupil size.”

Source: Murphy PR, Vandekerckhove J, Nieuwenhuis S (2014) Pupil-Linked Arousal Determines Variability in Perceptual Decision Making. PLoS Comput Biol 10(9): e1003854. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003854. Published: September 18, 2014

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