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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How to Parent When YOU Are in Pain?

Parenting & Pain
By Ron Huxley, LMFT

It is hard to be on top of our parenting game when you are in a lot of emotional pain. This is especially challenging if the origin of this pain comes from the children that we are trying to parent. It might be simplistic to say but pain is “painful.” It hurts! It shuts us down and drives a wall between us and others so we can’t be hurt anymore. We want to retreat to nurse our wounds before risking more in relationships. Unfortunately, the everyday tasks of life have to be completed and our children continue to need us. As a compromise to this situation we become robotic in our actions. We are hyper-functional but we are hypo-relational. We get stuff done but we are just going through the motions and have no e-motions to share. We are too raw!

If you are in this place, make a resolution to find some help through good friends, therapists, doctors, etc. There are lot of support groups and parenting educations classes in your community. Be determined not to repeat past problems. Find new ideas and new support to achieve new, less painful interactions with your family. Second, be OK with being in a place of pain but don’t let it define you. You feel bad but YOU are not bad. Hurtful feelings are normal responses to hurtful actions they are not meant to be permanent. You will have better days again but don’t allow shame to pull you deeper into that dark place of despair. Set some boundaries, find some help and get mad a shame. It is not your friend!

Take back control of your home: 101 Parenting Tools: Building the Family of Your Dreams