This research on labeling the affect (naming your feeling) will not be new to anyone who has been reading this blog (see, for example, this post) or who has attended my programs but I wanted to call your attention to an excellent article posted by Dana Foundation with an overview of related research . (The article contains some new information, too; I recommend reading it.)
Brain imaging now supports what psychotherapists, writers, and the philosopher Baruch Spinoza have observed: Simply recognizing and naming an emotion quells its effect, making thoughtful management of subsequent behavior more likely. Psychotherapists employ this phenomenon when treating patients. Writers who turn their attention on themselves often discover it. And in his Ethics, Spinoza observed that “An emotion, which is a passion, ceases to be a passion, as soon as we form a clear and distinct idea thereof.” At that point, Spinoza observed, the mind becomes less submissive to the emotion, and can exercise greater control over it.
Brief training program improves resident physicians’ empathy with patients
Resident physicians' participation in a brief training program designed to increase empathy with their patients produced significant improvement in how patients perceived their interactions with the residents. This contrasts with several studies showing that empathy with patients usually drops during medical school and residency training. The report from a team of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers will appear in the Journal of General Internal Medicine and has been released online.
"The most exciting message from this study is that empathy can be taught and, most importantly, that improved empathy can be perceived by our patients. Many medical educators have thought that you are either born with this trait or you aren't," says Helen Riess, MD, of the MGH Department of Psychiatry, who led the study. "We are also very happy to see that participating residents liked the training and found it interesting and helpful."
Several studies have found that medical training is often accompanied by a drop in empathy – the ability to understand and respond to another person's feelings – and some have pinpointed the third year of medical school, when students first become involved in patient care, as the most vulnerable period. Riess notes that possible contributors to the decline in empathy among medical trainees include self-protection against their own emotional distress and a desensitization that results from performing many potentially painful procedures. A lack of overt empathic behavior among senior residents and other role models, along with the escalating demands of training on residents' time and energy, could be additional contributors.
Recent studies have revealed the neurobiological basis of empathy– for example, showing how areas of the brain involved in the perception of pain can be activated simply by watching a loved one experience
Early next year, a new book he and Dr. Rebecca Gladding are writing will be available. For those of us who want to make positive changes in our lives—and brains, this book will be a valuable tool and guide because the the authors have broadly expanded the use of the four steps beyond the realm of OCD.
For a brief taste of the new book, I recommend that you read an interview of Jeff by Dr. Elisha Goldstein about how to use the four steps to reduce stress. An excerpt from this just-posted interview:
Elisha: In your book Brain Lock you present a four step process for working with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) that has gained prominence and is being used by therapy centers around the world. Tell us a bit about this 4 step process and why it works?
Jeff: The four steps came out in brain lock published in 1996. I have a new book that’s going to be out in the beginning of 2011 and the co-author, Rebecca Gladding, is former Chief Resident in Psychiatry at UCLA and now UCLA faculty. In this new book we apply these same 4 steps in OCD to a much broader application and really use it as a means for stress management.
I’ll give you both versions.
First step is the same in both, Relabeling. There’s been great work by Matthew Lieberman OF UCLA on the tremendous power of labeling on emotional faces and other things to manage Amygdala hyper-responsiveness, in other words to manage fear and stress responsiveness. This research says if we put a label on our emotion, we can help manage our response to it. So Step 1 is Relabel.
In the article, neuroscientist Matt Lieberman takes a look at self-control of several kinds: emotional, motor, perspective-taking, cognitive, and financial. He says all these kinds of self-control involve the same part of the brain, the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (RVLPFC), which he calls the "brain's braking system." An interesting point: Because of the RVLPFC commonality, when we engage in one kind of self-control, that braking system may cause other kinds of self-control to kick in, too.
Lieberman then writes that naming your feelings (labeling your affect) can regulate your emotions.
The affect labeling data suggests that putting feelings into words is a form of emotion regulation. The problem with this account is that affect labeling does not feel like emotion regulation. When you try to suppress your emotions you know you are doing it – it is quite conscious. Although people sometimes put their feelings into words in order to generate new insights and improve their emotional well-being, we often put our feelings into words without any expectation that mere affect labeling will have an emotional benefit.
Can you improve your ability to put feelings into words in order to regulate them? Although more research is being done by Lieberman, results so far seem to indicate that practicing mindfulness meditation can make that ability sharper. Another good addition to the growing list of benefits of mindfulness
We have ... demonstrated evidence suggesting that putting feelings into words serves as an unexpected
Note (added September 29, 2009): Two ways to get significant savings on the fee until October 8. Click for details.
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Dinner on Friday Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner on Saturday Breakfast and Lunch on Sunday
Rooms beginning with check in on Friday, November 13, 2009 through checkout approximately noon on Sunday, November 15, 2009. Rooms are double occupancy. You may upgrade to a single room for an additional $50. per night.*
A University of Toronto study provides the first direct evidence that our mood literally changes the way our visual system filters our perceptual experience suggesting that seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses is more biological reality than metaphor.
"Good and bad moods literally change the way our visual cortex operates and how we see," says Adam Anderson, a U of T professor of psychology. "Specifically our study shows that when in a positive mood, our visual cortex takes in more information, while negative moods result in tunnel vision. The study appears in the Journal of Neuroscience.
What are some of the advantages of seeing more when in a conflict? To name one: Improved communication can result from paying close attention to people's demeanor, posture, gestures, expressions, and other non-verbal cues. What are other advantages?
In the past, I have posted about ways to regulate moods and emotions. Examples:
[Lehrer's] new book How We Decide ... is a set of cautionary tales about the limits of the rational brain, that peculiarly human pre-frontal cortex, and by implication the limits of rational science. It is not reason — certainly not reason alone — that tells quarterback Tom Brady which receiver should get the pass, or that tells the pilot of a disabled plane how to land it. It’s not even reason that brings the best of our human gifts into balance. Lehrer quotes G. K. Chesterton: “The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.”
Jonah Lehrer identifies himself with the modern doctor who tells you not to choose the MRI for your lower back pain but to study patience, or perhaps Yoga, instead. Not only have MRIs not solved the problem of back pain. “In fact, the new technology has probably made the problem worse. The machine simply sees too much. Doctors are overwhelmed with information and struggle to distinguish the significant from the irrelevant… This is the danger of too much information: it can actually interfere with understanding.”
In the interview, he talks about why neuroscience is becoming so popular and says it's because the science is becoming practical. He also says the way to avoid the consequences of the flaws in our
Think about the critical role acts of decision play in conflict resolution. Then click to hear Jonah Lehrer talking about his book How We Decide. He discusses the role of the brain in decision making. I think you will agree this interview is very interesting.
Decision-Making in the Cereal Aisle
The Life-Saving Power--and the Limits of Rational Thinking
The Science of 'Choking'
The Power of Placebo
The Irrationality of Commuting
'Metacognition' and Thinking About Thinking
Artistic Precursors to Scientific Discoveries
He talks about the importance of cultivating meta-cognition—thinking about your thinking— to improve your ability to make good decisions. Since I have mentioned before on this blog the importance of self-awareness and the observing self, I definitely agree!
In a book I am reading Una Vida: A Fable of Music and the Mind (more about the book here), I found a quote that beautifully describes what our brain does, whether we are in conflict or not. I hope some of you appreciate this paragraph from Una Vida as much as I.
The human brain is a creative organ — it interprets events, nor just records them. It functions more like an abstract painter than a realist. Its view of what happens is more important than what actually happened. Pain, smell, taste, touch, and fear are the visionaries of what we see. There is no pure, unmediated seer; no objective reporter. Our images are shaped by the context in which we choose to live. We see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear — or what we need to in order to preserve the image of ourselves and others that provide us with a sense of purpose.
In contrast to the brain, the mind can be an "objective reporter" but we must train it through attention and awareness before it becomes that "unmediated seer." The training process is simple but not easy; it takes discipline and, just as important, strong commitment. It's easier to let the brain run our life — and that is what most of us do.
In the interview, Jeff described self-awareness, and the observing self, and explained some of the benefits of watching what your brain is doing. One of these benefits is the positive use of emotions. Awareness of what our brains are up to allows us to use emotions wisely—instead of them using us. The wise use of emotions is probably one of the most important skills in conflict resolution. As Jeff said in the interview, this awareness allows us to "use emotions in a way that enhances communication rather than perhaps getting in the way of communication which emotions sometimes do."
Yes, they sometimes do, don't they? Emotions are often an impediment to resolving a dispute. So the more people's minds are in charge of