Resilience – Evolutionary Advantage

There is a spot in our backyard garden where the same weeds pop up every spring – and which I spray each spring. Over time, the spray seems to be lessening its effect on them and now, the weeds simply cannot be killed using those sprays I’ve used before – they have survived and learned to be resilient.

For years I’ve believed that victimhood is the key to therapeutic inaction and failure. Clients who believe they are the victim of abuse feel powerless and helpless against the intense feelings that boil within them. “I can’t help it – I was beaten as a child. It’s DADDY’S fault I’m fat!”

What if you were to look at yourself instead as a survivor imbued with a strength called resilience? Rather than feeling helpless and hopeless, might you feel more empowered? And what if you were to learn that by putting your strength to work for you, you might actually make your life work better? What if you considered resilience an evolutionary gift rather than a problem needing correction?

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Originally posted 2010-02-24 16:47:55. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Fear – It’s in the Eyes!

“There are reasons to believe that the brain has evolved mechanisms to detect things in the environment that signal threat. One of those signals is a look of fear,” David Zald, associate professor of psychology and a co-author of the new study, said. “We believe that the brain can detect certain cues even before we are aware of them, so that we can direct our attention to potentially threatening situations in our environment.”

Researchers set out to determine if we become aware of fearful, neutral or happy expressions at the same speed, or if one of these expressions reaches our awareness faster than the others.

The team found that subjects became aware of faces that had fearful expressions before neutral or happy faces. They believe a brain area called the amygdala, part of the emotions-processing limbic system, shortcuts the normal brain pathway for processing visual images.

“The amygdala receives information before it goes to the cortex, which is where most visual information goes first. We think the amygdala has some crude ability to process stimuli and that it can cue some other visual areas to what they need to focus on,” Zald said.

Zald and his colleagues believe the eyes of the fearful face play a key role.

Fearful eyes are a particular shape, where you get more of the whites of the eye showing,” he said.”That may be the sort of simple feature that the amygdala can pick up on, because it’s only getting a fairly crude representation. That fearful eye may be something that’s relatively hardwired in there.”

“We are interested in now exploring what this means for behavior,” Yang said. “Since these expressions are being processed without our awareness, do they affect our behavior and our decision making? If so, how?”

The research was supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health. Blake and Zald are Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development investigators. Randolph Blake, Centennial Professor of Psychology, and Eunice Yang, doctoral student, were co-authors of the study, which appeared in the November 2007 issue of Emotion.

Originally posted 2007-11-02 18:46:34. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Adversity’s Silver Lining

A little trauma actually strengthens your resilience.

Mark D. Seery of the University at Buffalo published a paper on the psychological effects of adversity vs resilience. He concludes that a little adversity is actually good for you. But, how much is “too much” adversity depends on each person’s resilience. Many studies have shown that traumatic events can cause long-lasting psychological damage.

The common wisdom is “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” – which is not supported by scientific evidence. Quite the contrary, most evidence points to the opposite – that which doesn’t kill you makes you weaker, at least psychologically.

However, Seery contends that a little trauma actually strengthens your resilience – a bit like exercise traumatizes yet strengthens muscles. Just like in the case of strengthening muscles by traumatizing them (to build muscle, one must damage muscle cells a little), a few traumatizing events in one’s lifetime can strengthen their resilience after future traumas.

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Originally posted 2012-02-01 10:00:47. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Rapid Switching

You can either learn or remember. Researchers at Duke University used functional magnetic resonance imagery (fMRI) to demonstrate this competition in a group of college age adults. Their evidence is compelling. Many psychological studies have also shown that you can either listen for new information or consider your response to that information (remembering similar past events). One or the other – not both simultaneously.

New OR old rather than new AND old. You can either listen to your partner’s complaint OR search your memory for a snappy comeback – not both simultaneously.

The problem, of course, arises when the switch is turned to focus the brain on remembering when learning is indicated – or visa versa. Too many times I’ve come back with a response to my wife’s information that was completely off or indicated that I was not intent or focused on what she was saying. Rather, I was “remembering” similar information – and probably getting side-tracked by a mind tangent – rather than “learning” I was “remembering”. Oops!

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Originally posted 2009-03-18 12:15:02. Republished by Blog Post Promoter