Short on time, long on feeling: Study suggests deadlines intensify
Amateur observers and scholars
alike have remarked that older people often have more intense and complex emotional lives than their younger cohorts. What
accounts for the difference, wondered psychologist Ursina Teuscher: Wisdom gained with the gathering years? A shift in values thanks to greater life experience? Or, is it a keener sense of time a precious and, of necessity, diminishing resource?
To test the notion that time
limits and approaching endings add fuel to feelings, Teuscher, a post-doctoral researcher
in the cognitive science department of the University of California, San Diego, asked 165 young subjects to imagine themselves
in several different scenarios.
Half of the scenarios included
an explicit "limited-future" condition, such as the last day of a holiday. The other half differed only in that they made
no mention of the future at all. The subjects, whose mean age was 20.68 years, were asked to read the scenarios and then indicate
how intensely (on a scale of 1 to 5) they would experience 31 different
"Given time limits, people
showed more extreme emotions on both the positive and negative ends of the scale," Teuscher said. "The test results suggest that a different time perspective
itself can cause differences in emotional complexity and intensity."
In one experimental
scenario, for example, half the participants were asked to picture an evening spent at a close colleague's home. The colleague
is a very bad cook and burns the dinner. A dessert made and brought by the participant is not much better:
It's dry and not at all what was planned.
Nonetheless, the two have "a cheerful evening and chat until late into the night."
The other half of the
participants considered the same story in light of additional information that they would be retiring next week and moving
to another city. Compared to the open-ended group, the time-limited subjects reported for this scenario that they would feel
more closeness, more patience, more respect, more sadness and less irritation.
The findings, presented at the American Psychological Society annual convention in Los
Angeles, May 26-29, may have broad implications, Teuscher said, "in the study of how people cope with endings and transitions, not only death but also separations, migration, job changes or retirement in short, any critical life event requiring people to deal with the foreseeable end of a situation."
Teuscher is also conducting research to see how a time-limited perspective affects decisions:
Do people choose something different if they think they're choosing for the last time?
In an experiment involving book and movie selections, young subjects faced with a hypothetical
limit on the future tended to go for familiar materials over reading or seeing something new. In other words, they made choices
similar to those made by older individuals (as observed by other researchers).
"The salience of an approaching ending is a potentially powerful variable that has so far received little attention," Teuscher said. "It would be worthy of further investigation both in the fields of life-span development and decision-making."
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Sharing Feelings: Information or Attack?
By Dr. Margaret Paul
December 31, 2006
When you share your feelings with a person you are
upset with, what happens? Discover when it is helpful to share your feelings, and when it is controlling.
"I'm angry with you."
"I'm feeling really hurt by what you said to me."
"I'm so disappointed in you."
"I'm feeling really irritated with you."
How often have you said these
things to others? And how do they generally respond?
Do they get defensive?
Do they get angry?
Do they withdraw?
Do they lecture or explain things
to you, trying to talk you out of your feelings?
they become people pleasers, trying to fix your feelings?
they open and curious?
Most likely, they will respond
with some form of protective, defensive behavior, because they probably feel attacked.
Why would they feel attacked
by your expression of feelings?
When someone has done something
that is upsetting to you, the question to ask yourself when you are sharing your feelings with
that person is, "What is my intent in sharing my feelings with this person?"
There are two possible answers
to this question:
- I am sharing my feelings to give information.
- I am sharing my feelings to blame the person for causing my feelings.
If you were sharing your feelings to give information, you might say, "I'm feeling angry with you, so I'm going out for a walk and try to deal with it."
If you were taking responsibility for your own feelings, you may not say anything about your feelings
to the other person. You would go inside and explore what you are telling yourself that is causing you to feel angry, hurt, disappointed, or irritated. You might share information, such as, "I'm feeling stressed, so I'm going to take a bath."
But if you just say, "I'm
angry with you," or "You hurt my feelings," then you are not taking responsibility for your feelings - you are dumping your feelings on
the other person, and he or she will feel blamed.
"But he did make me angry!" you might be thinking. "She did hurt my feelings." "He did disappoint me." Behind these statements lies a major false belief - the belief that others cause your feelings.
It is not what another person
says or does that causes your upsets, but your expectations and what you tell yourself about another's behavior that causes your painful feelings.
If you expected a birthday gift and didn't get one, you will feel disappointed, but it is your expectation that caused the disappointment. If someone ignores you or rejects you, what do you tell yourself?
Do you tell yourself that
you are not good enough, not lovable enough? This is what will hurt you or make you feel angry. You will feel hurt and angry when you allow yourself to take others' behavior personally. If you then blame them for your feelings, you are being a victim rather than taking responsibility for having taken their behavior personally.
Others will likely feel manipulated, blamed and controlled when you make a statement such as "I'm angry with you," or "I'm feeling hurt by what you said." If the other person says "That's your problem," or responds with anger, defensiveness, or withdrawal, and then you respond with "I'm just sharing my feelings," the interaction
can get really convoluted.
Next time you share your feelings and the other person gets angry, defensive, or withdrawn, take a moment to investigate your own intention. The chances are you are covertly blaming the other person for your feelings. Once you discover that this is what you are doing,
disengage from the interaction and do an Inner Bonding process to explore how you might be causing your own feelings.
What are you telling yourself and how are you treating yourself that is causing your upsetting feelings?
You will discover that your
interactions with others greatly improve when you stop being a victim by blaming others for your feelings and start to take responsibility for your own feelings through your Inner Bonding practice.
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Relationships: Empathy vs. Responsibility for Feelings
By Dr. Margaret Paul
October 03, 2008
Are you stuck in a relationship system where one of you is often angry and the other is often
withdrawn? Discover the underlying cause of this and how to heal your relationship.
William grew up with a mother
who was depressed much of her life. As the oldest of three children with a father who was not around much, William took on a lot of responsibility for his mother's wellbeing. He grew up as a kind and caring man, believing that he was responsible for another's feelings, especially a woman's.
grew up in a family where she received constant criticism from her father. From the time she was little, she had learned to
try to do everything right in order to have control over getting her father's approval and avoiding his disapproval. Lauren learned early in life to make others responsible for her feelings.
As so often happens, William
and Lauren got together at their common level of woundedness, with William feeling responsible for Lauren's feelings and Lauren making William responsible for her feelings. But it didn't take long for William to feel engulfed by Lauren's demands
and to shut down as a way to protect himself from being controlled by her. The more William shut down, the angrier and more demanding Lauren got, and the angrier Lauren got, the more William shut down. Both felt deeply lonely in the relationship, each reacting to the other's wounded self.
as William believed he was responsible for Lauren's feelings, he was unable to feel any of his natural caring and empathy for her. And as long as Lauren believed that William was responsible for her feelings, she was unable to feel any of her natural kindness toward him.
The fact is that we cannot feel both empathy toward another and responsibility for their feelings at the same time. We cannot feel empathy for another when we feel burdened by responsibility for their feelings, or when we believe that the other is responsible for our feelings. As long as William continued to believe that he was responsible for Lauren's feelings, all he knew to do was shut down. As long as Lauren believed that William was responsible for her feelings, all she knew to do was get angry and blaming.
Fortunately, William and Lauren were willing to learn and practice
Inner Bonding. William did deep work on understanding the sources of his wounded self's belief that he was responsible for Lauren's feelings, and was eventually able to let go of this false belief, as well as learn how to take responsibility for his own feelings when he felt attacked or pulled on by Lauren. As he developed his
loving Adult, he was able to take loving care of himself while staying open and caring about Lauren.
Lauren did her own deep Inner Bonding work to finally let go of her
long pattern of making others responsible for her feelings. She discovered that her current feelings
of abandonment were not because of William at all, but rather because she so often abandoned herself by ignoring her own feelings.
She discovered that the moment
she made William responsible for her feelings, she felt abandoned because making him responsible for her feelings was an abandonment of herself. As she learned to take loving care of her own feelings, her anger toward William gradually disappeared.
This is the most important work any individual
or couple can do to bring about their own happiness and improve all their relationships. Learning to take responsibility for your own feelings and not for another's feelings
is vital for your inner peace, joy and loving relationships.
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Putting feelings into words produces therapeutic effects in the
brain; UCLA Neuroimaging Study Supports Ancient Buddhist Teachings
By Stuart Wolpert
6/21/2007 3:40:42 PM
Why does putting our feelings
into words - talking with a therapist or friend, writing in a journal - help us to feel better? A new brain imaging study by
UCLA psychologists reveals why verbalizing our feelings makes our sadness, anger and pain less intense.
Another study, with the same participants and three of the
same members of the research team, combines modern neuroscience with ancient Buddhist teachings to provide the first neural
evidence for why "mindfulness" - the ability to live in the present moment, without distraction - seems to produce a variety
of health benefits.
When people see a photograph of an angry or fearful face, they have increased activity in a region of the brain called the amygdala, which serves as an alarm to activate
a cascade of biological systems to protect the body in times of danger. Scientists see a robust amygdala response even when
they show such emotional photographs subliminally, so fast a person can't even see them.
But does seeing an angry face and simply calling it an angry face change our brain response? The answer is yes, according to Matthew D. Lieberman, UCLA associate professor of psychology
and a founder of social cognitive neuroscience.
"When you attach the word 'angry,' you see a decreased response in the amygdala," said Lieberman, lead author of the study, which appears in the current issue
of the journal Psychological Science.
The study showed that while the amygdala was less active when
an individual labeled the feeling, another region of the brain was more active: the right
ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. This region is located behind the forehead and eyes and has been associated with thinking
in words about emotional experiences. It has also been implicated in inhibiting behavior and processing emotions, but exactly what it contributes has not been known.
"What we're suggesting is when you start thinking in words
about your emotions - labeling emotions - that might be part of what the right ventrolateral region is responsible for," Lieberman said.
If a friend or loved one is sad or angry, getting the person to talk or write may have benefits beyond whatever actual insights are gained. These effects are likely
to be modest, however, Lieberman said.
"We typically think of language processing in the left side
of the brain; however, this effect was occurring only in this one region, on the right side of the brain," he said. "It's
rare to see only one region of the brain responsive to a high-level process like labeling emotions."
Many people are not likely to realize why putting their feelings into words is helpful.
"If you ask people who are really sad why they are writing
in a journal, they are not likely to say it's because they think this is a way to make themselves feel better," Lieberman
said. "People don't do this to intentionally overcome their negative feelings; it just seems
to have that effect. Popular psychology says when you're feeling down, just pick yourself
up, but the world doesn't work that way. If you know you're trying to pick yourself up, it usually doesn't work - self-deception
is difficult. Because labeling your feelings doesn't require you to want to feel better,
it doesn't have this problem."
Thirty people, 18 women and 12 men between ages of 18 and
36, participated in Lieberman's study at UCLA's Ahmanson-Lovelace
Brain Mapping Center.
They viewed images of individuals making different emotional expressions. Below the picture of the face they either saw two
words, such as "angry" and "fearful," and chose which emotion described the face, or they saw two names, such as "Harry" and "Sally," and chose the gender-appropriate name that matched
Lieberman and his co-authors - UCLA assistant professor of
psychology Naomi Eisenberger, former UCLA psychology undergraduate Molly Crockett, former UCLA psychology research assistant
Sabrina Tom, UCLA psychology graduate student Jennifer Pfeifer and Baldwin Way, a postdoctoral fellow in Lieberman's laboratory
- used functional magnetic resonance imaging to study subjects' brain activity.
"When you attach the word 'angry,' you see a decreased response
in the amygdala," Lieberman said. "When you attach the name 'Harry,' you don't see the reduction in the amygdala response.
"When you put feelings into
words, you're activating this prefrontal region and seeing a reduced response in the amygdala," he said. "In the same way
you hit the brake when you're driving when you see a yellow light, when you put feelings
into words, you seem to be hitting the brakes on your emotional responses."
As a result, an individual may feel less angry or less sad.
This is ancient wisdom," Lieberman said. "Putting our feelings into words helps us heal better. If a friend is sad and we can get them to talk about
it, that probably will make them feel better."
The right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex undergoes much of
its development during a child's preteen and teenage years. It is possible that interaction with friends and family during
these years could shape the strength of this brain region's response, but this is not yet established, Lieberman said.
One benefit of therapy may be to strengthen this brain region.
Does therapy lead to physiological changes in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex? Lieberman, UCLA psychology professor
Michelle Craske and their colleagues are studying this question.
Combining Buddhist Teachings and Modern Neuroscience
After the participants left the brain scanner, 27 of them
filled out questionnaires about "mindfulness." Mindfulness meditation, which is very popular in Southeast Asia and elsewhere,
originates from early Buddhist teachings dating back some 2,500 years, said David Creswell, a research scientist with the
for Psychoneuroimmunology at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.
Mindfulness is a technique in which one pays attention to
his or her present emotions, thoughts and body sensations, such as breathing, without passing judgment or reacting. An individual simply releases his
thoughts and "lets it go."
"One way to practice mindfulness meditation and pay attention
to present-moment experiences is to label your emotions by saying, for example, 'I'm feeling angry right now' or 'I'm feeling a lot of stress right
now' or 'this is joy' or whatever the emotion is," said Creswell, lead author of the study, which will be featured in an upcoming issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, a leading
international medical journal for health psychology research.
"Thinking, 'this is anger' is what we do in this study, where
people look at an angry face and say, 'this is anger,'" Lieberman noted.
Creswell said Lieberman has now shown in a series of studies
that simply labeling emotions turns down the amygdala alarm center response in the brain that triggers negative feelings.
Creswell, who conducted the mindfulness research as an advanced
graduate student of psychology at UCLA, said mindfulness meditation is a "potent and powerful therapy that has been helping
people for thousands of years."
Previous studies have shown that mindfulness meditation is
effective in reducing a variety of chronic pain conditions, skin disease, stress-related health conditions and a variety of
other ailments, he said.
Creswell and his UCLA colleagues - Lieberman, Eisenberger
and Way - found that during the labeling of emotions, the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex was activated, which seems to turn down activity in the amygdala. They then compared
participants' responses on the mindfulness questionnaire with the results of the labeling study.
"We found the more mindful you are, the more activation you
have in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and the less activation you have in the amygdala," Creswell said. "We also
saw activation in widespread centers of the prefrontal cortex for people who are high in mindfulness. This suggests people
who are more mindful bring all sorts of prefrontal resources to turn down the amygdala. These findings may help explain the
beneficial health effects of mindfulness meditation, and suggest, for the first time, an underlying reason why mindfulness
meditation programs improve mood and health.
"The right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex can turn down the
emotional response you get when you feel angry," he said. "This moves us forward in beginning to understand the benefits of mindfulness meditation. For the first time, we're now applying scientific principles to try to understand how mindfulness works.
"This is such an exciting study because it brings together
the Buddha's teachings - more than 2,500 years ago, he talked about the benefits of labeling your experience - with modern
neuroscience," Creswell said. "Now, for the first time since those teachings, we have shown there is actually a neurological
reason for doing mindfulness meditation. Our findings are consistent with what mindfulness meditation teachers have taught
for thousands of years."
The research was supported by the National Institute of Mental
UCLA is California's largest university, with an
enrollment of nearly 37,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The UCLA College of Letters and Science and the university's
11 professional schools feature renowned faculty and offer more than 300 degree programs and majors. UCLA is a national and
international leader in the breadth and quality of its academic, research, health care, cultural, continuing education and
athletic programs. Four alumni and five faculty have been awarded the Nobel Prize.
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