Naysayers and Procrastination

By Dr. Bill Knaus EdD

How many times have you heard people negate your ideas or down what you wanted to do?  You have a new idea about how to streamline an operation. A co-worker says your idea is too impractical. You want to write a children’s book. A cousin tells you the publishing market is too tough. Throughout your life you’ll meet many of these wet blanket specialists with a knack for downing ideas and spoiling good times.The naysayer effect is when you take the unstudied words of negators too seriously and procrastinate on actualizing your wishes and plans. This self-limiting is a major stress.

So, who are the naysayers? When you hear a naysaying, and accept it, does this give you an excuse for procrastinating?  When you naysay against yourself, will you procrastinate? Let’s see.

Naysayer Qualifications

Naysayings are contrary opinions.  They also are risky predictions.  Before Wilbur and Orville Wright made their first heavier than air flight, The New York Times predicted that the plane wouldn’t get off the ground.  Before the Beatles became famous, Decca Recordings rejected the group. An executive said the public had no interest in guitar groups. Some predicted that Apple’s iPad would flop.

Naysaying may be stirred by personal reasons. Here is a sample: (1) Self-doubters project insecurities.  (2) Jealousy can stir negations. (3) Perfection can be expressed through pessimism. (4)  A well-meaning friend may want to spare you from disappointment.  (5) Experts can gain status with quip, contrary, statements.  (6) A need for control.

If I accepted naysayer opinions early in my  life, I’d be sweeping floors for a living. Here is a later-in-life example. When I proposed writing a procrastination book, an editor told me that she doubted there was enough for a brief article.  There were no psychology books out on procrastination at that time. This was a pioneering effort. The editor had no understanding of the scope of procrastination. I did. Since then, I  wrote five procrastination books. The combined sales were around 1 million copies. The original two books triggered a revolution in self-help and research in this area.

Judging Others’ Judgments

Understanding naysayer motivations creates a useful context for what is going on. However, the test lies in what you do to pit your idea against reality.  Here are two thoughts for identifying and meeting this challenge:

1. Agree with the naysayer and you cope out on yourself. You might tell yourself you could succeed if you tried and mute your self-downing voice with this excuse. Now you have two forms of procrastination: (a) skirting evaluating the evaluation; (b) derailing yourself from pursuing what you want. Here are four change opportunities: (a) Dismantle dismissive arguments by matching them against your interests, incentives, and abilities. (b) Identify and examine the naysayer statement to see where the gaps lie. (c) Get second and third opinions from objective people.  (d) Form your own opinions to include probable pros and cons of your proposed actions.

2. In the Kung Fu Panda movie the hero’s father reminded Po the Panda that his role in life was to sell noodle soup.  This insecure Panda dreamed of learning Kung Fu. By accident, he gained the opportunity. He overcome discouragement, persisted, mastered Kung Fu, and saved his community from ruin at the hands of a vengeful Kung Fu master. He succeeded by learning, inventing, and melding this natural attributes in a way where he enabled himself to meet the challenge. This optimistic message appears in other stories where the main character keeps going when the going gets tough.  (Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces gives many examples of this process.)

Naysayers inspire procrastination. They also serve a useful purpose. You may feel challenged and work extra hard to achieve. If you don’t buckle, this is a measure of your conviction.

Take a studied approach to your major life changes and challenges. This preparation insulates against naysayer statements. You’ll boost your confidence in your judgments. You are more likely to make better predictions and decisions. However, preparation is not a finger snapping event.  

Defeating Procrastination Caused by Self-Negation

The more you tilt toward self-negation, the more you’ll shy from creating opportunities for yourself. This procrastination is rooted in self-doubts.

Awareness is a start in the direction of growing your potential. Reasonably objective self-awareness influences deciding the types of challenges you’ll meet and for connecting your abilities to the task. If an objective self-awareness is desirable, then what else do you need to be aware of?

1. The ancient Greek aphorism, Know Thyself, has many prescriptions.  Experimentation is one.   If a naysayer discourages you from going to college, rather than foreclose on the idea, test the waters. Take an interesting course. See what results. Let the outcome be your guide.

2. Do you too often struggle with yourself and delay because of uncertainty and doubts? Do you then numb your interests through painful doubts and inaction? Absorb yourself in this form of naysaying thinking and you may find yourself going round the same circle.  To break from this rut, identify and debunk your own false judgments. A defeatist “I can’t win. Why bother trying.” form of self-statement is especially pernicious, but also debatable.  Measure your own naysayer judgments against these criteria: (a) Where does the judgment lead me? (2) Would a reasonable person concur that this is my only direction? (3) What disconfirming evidence brings the judgment into question?  Honest answers can help balance perspective.

3. A self-absorbed perspective is where you draw into yourself and lose sight of the big picture because you magnify a grain of sand. Look inward in this way and you’ll know much about very little. For example, you see dangers everywhere, stay stuck worrying, and miss out on much in life.  Because you declare yourself a “worrier,” you automatically negate your ability to change.  A reasonably objective perspective is radically different. You operate self-observantly. For example, you fix your attention on what you want to accomplish. You concentrate your efforts on advancing an idea or method. This radical shift can start with a flicker of a vision of what you want to accomplish. Clarity comes from action.  Confidence is a byproduct of taking purposeful action. With confidence comes a lessening of worrying.

You have no guarantees for success in life. Failure is part of learning.  Uncertainties are inevitable.  However, listening to naysaying from others and yourself is self-limiting. There is more to the picture. Getting a broader but reasoned perspective, then acting on this perspective, puts awet blanket on the naysayer effect.  You are likely to get more out of life.

Source Psychology Today

Can You Be Psychologically Healthy In Today’s World?

by Douglas LaBier, Ph.D.

The aftermath of the Tucson shootings is likely to spawn new discussion about serious mental illness and its legal implications. Coincidentally, the mental health establishment has been debating what to include or exclude as a mental and emotional disorder, for the forthcoming revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. For example, one controversy is whether to remove narcissism as a bonafide disorder.

In contrast to discussion about mental disorders, I think we’ve neglected its flip side: What constitutes psychological health in today’s world? What does it look like? And how can you promote it in your own life, your children and in society?

These questions loom large because the most psychologically healthy people and societies will be best equipped to create and sustain well-being, security and success in the tumultuous road we’re now traveling on.

Take a look: At the start of this second decade of the 21st Century our lives and institutions are reeling, trying to cope with an interconnected, unpredictable world turned upside down by the events of the first decade: terrorism that’s come home to roost; economic meltdown at home and abroad; rapid rise of previously “underdeveloped” nations; and in our social and political spheres, the rise of hatred, bigotry and intolerance, as Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupik commented on following the Tucson shootings. This upheaval has fueled what I described in recent posts a “social psychosis” that’s locked in conflict with a societal need to serve the common good.

The problem is that we know what severe mental illness as well as “garden variety” neurotic conflicts look like in daily life. Those have become more prevalent in the current climate. But what we think of as psychological health is pretty vague. Moreover, it’s a 20th Century view that doesn’t fit in the new world environment.

That is, psychological health has been pretty much defined as successful resolution and management of childhood traumas and conflicts; coping with stress and adapting to the world around you, as an adult. The problem is, that view has assumed a relatively stable and static world. One in which you can anticipate the kinds of changes or events that might occur. And when they do, a healthy, resilient person could bounce back to the previous equilibrium that existed. But today, there’s no longer any equilibrium to return to. Psychological health requires living with disequilibrium.

Moreover, the 20th Century view equated psychologically healthy with adapting to the values and behavior that were culturally rewarded.  For example, adversarial competition; power-seeking for oneself; consuming material goods; living with trade-offs between your personal values and outward behavior; depleting resources in disregard for future generations. And that didn’t even work so well in the 20th Century: Some years ago I documented the emotional downside of with this kind of “successful” adaptation, in Modern Madness.

More recently, the Huffington Post blogger Tijana Milosevic described, from her European perspective, the negative side of American’s workaholism and hyper-focus on careerism. Economists and business writers such as Umair Haque in his Harvard Business Review blog and new book, The New Capitalist Manifesto, are also criticizing the 20th Century model of success and well-being as undermining positive development of our institutions in today’s current world.

In short, the prevailing old model creates, rather than diminishes psychological dysfunction and disturbance. It provides no useful guidance towards healthy living today, when people’s careers are uncertain, businesses struggle to stay afloat, relationships shatter with changing life goals and personal values, affairs and divorce; and when the public is confused and adversarial about the role of government in people’s lives. Moreover, old “truths” in several areas are found either to don’t work or to reflect established beliefs rather than actual evidence, as a recent New Yorker article revealed. Given all this, here’s some suggestions for beginning to redefine and rethink the essentials for a psychologically healthy life in the world we now live in. They reflect the likelihood that people who thrive in this new era will share some common features.

Overall, think of psychological health as an overall mentality of using emotional, cognitive, creative and relationship capacities in ways that help sustain and enhance the well-being of all, based on the recognition that all lives are interconnected and interdependent.

Put differently, this view of health reflects embracing a set of values — what a person believes in as important or vital in life; what he or she wants to use their powers for. For example, someone’s values might include, self-aggradizement, subjugation of others, power-lust and so forth. Such values fuel unhealthy behavior because they undermine rather than enhance well-being for all people. Ultimately, they lead to some form of dysfunction in relationships and career.

In contrast, values that are the underpinnings of psychological health include, for example, positive, supportive engagement with and respect toward diverse people; actions that contribute to the well-being of all, not just oneself; collaboration and compromise to achieve shared goals; self-regulation of stress through honest self-examination and reflection.

Values are a foundation for health. Then, several capacities support psychologically healthy living. Here are two important ones that research has confirmed.

Positive Emotions – We now know that you can train the brain to build new capacities, through meditation and “practice.” Among the most important for psychological health are empathy and compassion. These capacities enable to you develop greater wisdom and effectiveness in dealing with problems.

This reflects what researchers call the neuroplasticity of the brain. Recently, the eminent neurologist Oliver Sachs described the remarkable capacity of the brain to learn and regenerate. Research also shows that positive emotions increase your capacity for resilience by strengthening your ability to handle stress and adversity.

Broadened Perspectives – This is the capacity to step “outside” of yourself and view problems from an enlarged viewpoint, including that of people you disagree with. In a previous post I’ve used the term “constructive disengagement” to describe this as a positive way to handle relationship conflicts. Research shows that you can move forward, emotionally, when you detach yourself; that is, disengage from the emotions that have been stirred up. In fact, we now know that even the infant is able to recognize another’s point of view.

Another aspect of a broadened perspective that research confirms is that you can enhance your cognitive powers for problem-solving when you engage in positive rather than adversarial relations with others. Moreover, other research shows the positive benefit of simply behaving contrary to your usual personality traits — another form of stepping “outside” of yourself.

Of course, building positive emotions and enlarging your perspectives are intertwined. Actions that strengthen one also strengthen the other. These are just two capacities that I think are part of a psychological health, today. They support the behavior that will be increasingly recognized as essential for creating and building lives and institutions that sustain, grow and develop in our interconnected world. For example, being able to let go of purely self-interest as the driver of one’s relationships and work. Being flexible, transparent and nimble. Shifting and redeploying emotional, creative and other capacities towards positive engagement and collaboration, in order to achieve common goals. That is what supports both outward success and internal well being. And that’s psychologically healthy.

Web Source:

UNC Researchers Investigate Estrogen Replacement Therapy To Prevent Depression And Cardiovascular Disease

Article Date: 13 Jan 2011 – 2:00 PST

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have launched a new clinical trial to determine if estrogen replacement therapy may help prevent depression and cardiovascular illness in women between the ages of 45 and 55.

It’s a move that may raise eyebrows in some quarters, given that a Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study was halted in 2004 due to findings that estrogen therapy resulted in an increased risk of stroke and blood clots.

But there’s an important difference between the UNC study and the WHI estrogen study, said David Rubinow, MD, UNC’s chair of psychiatry and one of two principal investigators of the new 5-year study, which is funded by a $4.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The other principal investigator is Susan Girdler, PhD, professor of psychiatry.

“The Women’s Health Initiative study led to the mistaken belief that estrogen replacement therapy is bad for all women. And as a result, it has served to deprive some women of a treatment that might greatly and favorably impact their lives. Much of the negative impact of estrogen that they found was related to the fact that most of the women in the Women’s Health Initiative study were far past the menopause and up to 79 years old,” Dr. Rubinow said.

“There are now a large number of studies that demonstrate what has been called the timing hypothesis. That is, giving estrogen within a year or two of menopause has beneficial effects, but giving estrogen in women more than five years beyond the menopause can actually be harmful.

“When the women who were close to menopause were looked at separately, the adverse effects on the heart were not seen and in fact some suggestion of beneficial effects was seen. Perimenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative who received estrogen had significantly lower coronary artery calcification compared to the women who didn’t take estrogen.

“That raises the question: Is estrogen potentially beneficial for women in the perimenopause – the years surrounding the menopause? It’s really an unanswered question at this point. Our study is an effort to find out what puts an individual woman at risk for heart disease and depression and what predicts beneficial effects of estrogen replacement during the perimenopause on affective well-being and cardiovascular well-being.”

The study, which began in August 2010 and will be conducted entirely at UNC, seeks to enroll a total of 320 women ages 45 to 55 who are in the menopause transition. All will be randomized to receive treatment with estradiol (estrogen replacement) skin patches or placebo.

Women in the study will be tested three times: before treatment and then again after 6 months and 12 months of treatment. These laboratory tests will measure their cardiovascular and inflammatory responses to mental stress, indicators of cardiovascular health and metabolic markers such as a glucose tolerance test, waist/hip ratio and lipid profiles. In addition, assessments of their moods, vital signs, side effects and compliance with the treatment regimen will be conducted on each participant

“Given the mortality and morbidity associated with depression and heart disease, and the tremendous increase in risk of these disorders during the perimenopause, it is critical that we identify those women who will be helped by estradiol,” Dr. Rubinow said.

The research study is currently enrolling participants. Eligible women will receive free study related medical evaluations and up to $1,200 in monetary compensation for completing all study visits.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine

View drug information on Estradiol Transdermal System.

The Year of Living Anxiously

by Henry Emmons, M.D.

The Anxiety Resolutions

There are sure-fire ways to make yourself anxious, if you wanted to do so. No one would do this on purpose, yet without knowing it that is exactly what many of us do every day. How do we do it? Here’s my list of some of the most common mistakes that aggravate the condition we call anxiety. But first I’d like to comment on stress.

In my opinion, stress has gotten a bad rap. Life is stressful, and always has been. Yet when we feel like ourselves, we are naturally resilient. We adapt to stresses remarkably well, often finding ourselves stronger or more skilled by having confronted life’s unavoidable challenges.

Stress alone is not the problem. Instead, we become our own enemy. The common mistakes that follow will reliably turn everyday stress into overwhelming anxiety:

1.) Keep thinking about what is wrong.
Neuroscience has confirmed what we already know: when we replay worrying thoughts again and again, we strengthen the neural pathways for those thoughts, so that they become ingrained in our mind like bad habits. It is as if we are rehearsing worry and anxiety. As with anything, we get better and better at it with practice.

2.) Keep talking about what is wrong.
Pop psychology has given us the notion that it is good to express our feelings. That can be true, but many of us take that to mean that we should “vent”. If someone is willing to listen, we often share our stories of woe. Repeated unloading keeps our anxious feelings alive and may even strengthen them.

3.) Over-stimulate yourself.
Caffeine, tobacco, loud noise, driving fast, working without breaks, skipping meals-there are so many ways to keep the body and brain on overdrive and keep the anxiety levels high.

4.) Don’t allow for time to refresh and renew.
After a stressful experience, it is normal and healthy to take time to rest and recover. That lets the body’s stress response system calm down, reset and get prepared for the next challenge. Our ancestors ran and then they rested; we stay on the treadmill. Not allowing for downtime differentiates our response to stress from every other time in human history.

5.) Stay constantly busy.
This is a variation on the last point. It is not only during the stressful times in life that we overdo. Most of us do too much every single day. You may have heard the phrase: “We are human beings, not human doings.” We are simply not designed to be on the go 24/7.

6.) Give in to your cravings.
Most of us reach reflexively, without thinking, without deciding, for something to soothe ourselves when we feel stressed or anxious. We often eat comfort food like sweets or other food laden with carbs and fats. Whatever we crave, we crave it because it makes us feel better-for much too short a time. Unfortunately, the comfort is brief and we almost always end up feeling worse in the long run.

7.) Short-change your sleep.

If there were a single sure-fire way to break a person down, it would have to be too little sleep. Lack of sleep is an accelerator toward most mental illness, and anxiety is no exception. Getting an average of 7-8 hours per night is not only helpful, it is essential.

8.) Stay sedentary.
Think about what happens in nature: the “fight or flight” reaction means that stress hormones flood the body, priming it for some kind of physical action. Sitting most of the day means the stress hormones have nothing to do but re-circulate. Moving your body helps to discharge the effects of all of those stress hormones and reset yourself back to a normal resting state.

9.) Isolate yourself.
It is a wonder that so many have become isolated and alone when we are clearly wired to connect. As the Dalai Lama has said, “We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection.” Meaningful connection doesn’t solve everything, but it goes a very long way toward helping us endure the difficult side of life.

10.) Believe that you’re in it on your own.
The spiritual traditions give us a consistently reassuring message: “All will be well.” But when our brains get locked into anxious patterns, we can’t believe that. We see our small, individual selves as being solely responsible for our lives without any support. It is an illusion. If we can see through it, we can tap into a deep well of reassurance and hope.

11.) Watch the news daily.
You’ve heard that we are what we eat. We may also be what we take in through our eyes and ears. A study in Scandinavia showed that watching the evening news, filled with stories of tragedy, violence or other bad news, had a strong effect on rates of anxiety and depression. Does that mean that we should keep our head in the sand? No, but it may be wise to pay attention to what we are feeding ourselves through our minds, especially when we are going through personally hard times.

12.) Play video games.
It should come as no surprise that a game that simulates trauma and violence would put the brain into a state that is similar to the real thing. Researchers have found that common video games do just that. They may even create lasting brain changes so that things don’t go right back to normal when the game is done. The news is not all bad for video games, though. Soldiers in Iraq who played an absorbing game like Tetrus shortly after witnessing a trauma were able to protect themselves from developing post-traumatic stress symptoms.

13.) Become addicted to stress.
Some people appear to thrive on stress. They choose to remain overly committed, or constantly create high drama in their lives, and they seem to do fine. But if the stress stops, things begin to crumble. It is as if they have become addicted to stress and the high level of stress hormones that flood their body. Take the stress away, and they go into a form of withdrawal. Since no one can remain stressed forever without consequences, they should heed the warning signs and get a handle on their stress level.

We would do well to avoid what we can of the above pitfalls, but we won’t do it perfectly any more than we can keep all of our resolutions to do the right things. If we are in the game of life, stress cannot be avoided. That is all the more reason to become better at dealing with it.

Fear of Success

by Susanne Babbel, Ph.D., MFT

“Why are some people afraid to succeed but not to fail? Why are some more afraid of failure? How can one learn to embrace these two fears? What is the difference between them?”

A young Canadian woman wrote to me recently with these inquiries. I thought they were excellent questions, and decided to share my thoughts and findings here.

We are all so complex, and the way we react to situations and anticipate results is based on many physiological and psychological factors. So many, in fact, that it can be difficult to generalize why different personality types might handle success versus failure in such drastically polarized ways.

As a psychologist specializing in trauma and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) I’ve had firsthand experience coaching clients whose past experience feeds their current fear of success. For them, the excitement of success feels uncomfortably close to the feeling of arousal they experienced when subjected to a traumatic event or multiple events. (This feeling of arousal can be linked to sexuality, in certain cases where trauma has been experienced in that realm, but that is not always the case.) People who have experienced trauma may associate the excitement of success with the same physiological reactions as trauma. They avoid subjecting themselves to excitement-inducing circumstances, which causes them to be almost phobic about success.

There is another layer to the fear of success. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that the road to success involves risks such as “getting one’s hopes up” – which threatens to lead to disappointment. And many of us-especially if we’ve been subject to verbal abuse-have been told we were losers our whole lives, in one way or another. We have internalized that feedback and feel that we don’t deserve success. Even those of us who were not abused or otherwise traumatized often associate success with uncomfortable things such as competition and its evil twin, envy.

In order to have a healthy relationship with success (and it’s flip side, failure, or disappointment), the first step is to learn to differentiate between feelings of excitement and a “trauma reaction.”

Here is an easy exercise:

  1. Recall an event where you were successful or excited when you were younger, and notice what you are feeling and sensing in your memory. Stay with the sensation of for 5 minutes. 
  2. Recall an event where you were successful and excited recently in your life, and notice what you are feeling and sensing. Stay with this sensation of for 5 minutes.
  3. Now tap into the sensation of a memory of an overwhelming situation. I suggest not to start with a truly traumatic event, at least not without a therapist’s support. Start with something only moderately disturbing to you. 
  4. Now, go back to visualizing your success story. Do you notice a difference?

While corresponding with the young Canadian woman, I asked her to do look up bodily response to fear and excitement and let me know what she found. This is what she wrote back:

“I was looking up how the body responds to fear, and it said that when we sense fear the brain transmits signals and our nervous system kicks, in causing our breathing to quicken, our heart race to increase… we become sweaty, and we run on instinct. When we get excited or enthusiastic, doesn’t our nervous system work the same way?”

I assured her that, yes, the physical reactions to stress and to excitement are very similar. So, when we experience a traumatic event—such as a car accident or a school bullying incident—our body associates the fear we experience with the same physiological feelings we get while excited. Once we have been through enough trauma, we start to avoid those types of situations that trigger memories of fear. For this reason, trauma victims can tend to avoid excitement, and that can lead them to avoid success.

I work with trauma victims to get past their fears and associations and help them embrace and follow the path to success and healthy recovery.