Gathering an Audience of Appreciation

Gathering an audience of appreciation

Have you been faced with a stressful situation where it is crucial how you perform, only to choke just when you need to be at your best? We all have! An article, by Scientific American journal, studied this experience and found some interesting insights.

The researchers found that negatively stereotyped social groups are some are at the greatest risk of choking under pressure. For example, if women are told that they are not as good as men at math, right before a math test, then they tend to do poorer on that test then if they were not told this statement.

One reason for the may be that the women are having to fight off the negative thoughts as they are trying to also person a complex task like solve math problems. This is what the researchers called “Increased Cognitive Load”. Others studies suggest that a negative stereotype increases feelings of anxiety and stress which affect performance.

As an artist, I feel the pressure of creating a painting when someone asks me to do one or wants to commission a specific image or scene. I can do great art, when I follow my muse and don’t worry about the outcome. That is because I am not worrying about whether someone will like it or question myself about my artistic abilities.

There is also the element of our identity. How we “see” ourselves or thing that others see us can affect our performances. Another researcher studied how positive stereotypes affect complex activities and found that this actually boosts ability to perform. Why don’t positive intrusive thoughts cause people to choke like negative ones? Because positive thoughts don’t focus on our feelings of worth as a member of a particular social group. As an artist, positive thoughts about my artistic skills increase my worth in this group of people.

Is the answer than to just pump ourselves up before a difficult task or pay others to tell us nice things about we are? Probaly not! As a psychotherapist, I tell my clients to explore their audiences of appreciation. Who values them? Who will be able to notice their efforts to change and will accept them unconditionally? A lot of emotional sufferers just don’t have enough awareness of their audiences of appreciation. Maybe my role as a psychotherapist is to be one of those audience members.

So instead of finding people to be “accountable to” in your efforts to set up a new New Years Resolution, try gathering together an audience of appreciation. Now wouldn’t that feel nice for a change? S

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Putting your worst parenting foot forward

I have spent a lifetime being defensive. The world, frankly, is a harsh place to live and over time one can become quite hyper vigilant and self-protective. It takes some risk to put yourself out there after suffering rejection and betrayal. Unfortunately, that is the only way to live in an intimate relationship with other people, like your family.

I get that there are abusers out there and it may not be wise counsel to open yourself to that. I am not asking for anyone to be a victim. I am addressing the more basic, day-to-day willingness to be open and non-defensive. I have spoken about the benefits of this in other posts on TransPARENTcy, etc. It may be worthwhile to read those posts.

Try an experiment with me: Put your worst foot forward. Instead of covering up your mistakes or telling little white lies about your parenting performance, try sharing a parenting issue you really want to change about yourself. You will have to pick the right moment and to be safe, the right person at first. After you do that, ask for some honest feedback. I mean really honest. Look the person in the eye and don’t talk until they are done. If they hedge their comments, ask for further clarification until you get to the bone of truth. Finally, state your appreciation and willingness to consider incorporating that information. Take the next 24 hours to do just that.

I wonder what response this will initiate in others? I am curious what it will do to you if you can live in a non-defensive position? Protecting ourselves takes energy. Lots of it. What would happen with all that creative juice if you applied it to making your parenting better versus avoiding change?

Change is uncomfortable but nothing real and satisfying is achieved by avoiding it. The biggest therapeutic truth I know (I didn’t say I always practice it) is that you have to go through the pain to get to the other side. I wonder what that other side will look like for you in your closest relationships.

Share your experiences with this by leaving us a comment or tweet us @ronhuxley or go to our Facebook page!