Can We Reverse The Stanford Prison Experiment?
by Greg McKeown | 8:15 AM June 12, 2012
When I met for lunch with Dr. Phil Zimbardo, the former president of the American Psychological Association, I knew him primarily as the mastermind behind The Stanford Prison Experiment. In the summer of 1971, Zimbardo took healthy Stanford students, gave them roles as either guards or inmates, and placed them in a makeshift prison in the basement of Stanford University. In just days, the prisoners demonstrated symptoms of depression and extreme stress and the guards had become sadistic. The experiment was stopped early. The lesson? As W. Edwards Deming wrote: “A bad system will defeat a good person, every time.” But is the opposite true? I asked Zimbardo, “Can you reverse the Stanford Prison Experiment?”
He answered with a thought experiment referencing the infamous Milgram experiment (where subjects showed such obedience to people in authority that they administered what they believed were fatal electric shocks to patients). Zimbardo, who by an almost unimaginable coincidence went to high school with Stanley Milgram, wondered whether we could conduct a Reverse Milgram Experiment. Could we, through a series of small wins, architect a “slow ascent into goodness, step by step”? And could such an experiment be run at a societal level?
We actually already know the answer:
For years, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment in Richmond, Canada ran like any other law enforcement bureaucracy and experienced similar results: recidivism or reoffending rates ran at around 60%, and they were experiencing spiraling rates of youth crime. This forward-thinking Canadian detachment, led by a young, new superintendent, Ward Clapham, challenged the core assumptions of the policing system itself. He noticed that the vast majority of police work was reactive. He asked: “Could we design a system that encouraged people to not commit crime in the first place?” Indeed, their strategic intent was a clever play on words: “Take No Prisoners.”
Their approach was to try to catch youth doing the right things and give them a Positive Ticket. The ticket granted the recipient free entry to the movies or to a local youth center. They gave out an average of 40,000 tickets per year. That is three times the number of negative tickets over the same period. As it turns out, and unbeknownst to Clapham, that ratio (2.9 positive affects to 1 negative affect, to be precise) is called the Losada Line. It is the minimum ratio of positive to negatives that has to exist for a team to flourish. On higher-performing teams (and marriages for that matter) the ratio jumps to 5:1. But does it hold true in policing?
According to Clapham, youth recidivism was reduced from 60% to 8%. Overall crime was reduced by 40%. Youth crime was cut in half. And it cost one-tenth of the traditional judicial system.
There is power in creating a positive cycle like Clapham did. Indeed, HBR‘s The Power of Small Wins, recently explored how managers can tap into relatively minor victories to significantly increase the satisfaction and motivation of their employees. It is an observation that has been made as far back as the 1968 issue of HBR in an article by Frederick Herzberg titled, “One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?” (PDF). That piece has been among the most popular articles at Harvard Business Review. His research showed that the two primary motivators for people were (1.) achievement and (2.) recognition for achievement.
Very, Very Small Wins
The lesson here is to create a culture that immediately and sincerely celebrates victories. Here are three simple ways to begin:
1. Start your next staff meeting with five minutes on the question: “What has gone right since our last meeting?” Have each person acknowledge someone else’s achievement in a concrete, sincere way. Done right, this very small question can begin to shift the conversation.
2. Take two minutes every day to try to catch someone doing the right thing. It is the fastest and most positive way for the people around you to learn when they are getting it right.
3. Create a virtual community board where employees, partners and even customers can share what they are grateful for daily. Sounds idealistic? Vishen Lakhiani, CEO of Mind Valley, a new generation media and publishing company, has done just that at Gratitude Log. (Watch him explain how it works here).
These are just a few practices. But experimenting with the principle could have far-reaching consequences.
Indeed, Zimbardo is attempting a grand social experiment himself called the Heroic Imagination Project (watch his TED Talk here). The logic is that we can increase the odds of people operating with courage by teaching them the principles of heroism. The results are already fascinating.
The Stanford Prison Experiment was profound. But just imagine what would happen if we could consciously and deliberately reverse it.
- “Stanford Prison Experiment: The Aftermath of it all (ijojoakharoh.wordpress.com)
- Stanford Prison Experiment: 40 Years Later (drvitelli.typepad.com)
- The Stanford (University) Prison Experiment (humanchessdotorg.wordpress.com)
- How to be a hero (forfreepsychology.wordpress.com)
- The Rarely Told True Story of Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment (psychologytoday.com)
- Re: The Stanford Prison Experiment (forum.prisonplanet.com)
- The Rarely Told True Story of Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment (psychologytoday.com)
- Re: The Stanford Prison Experiment (forum.prisonplanet.com)
I was asked to submit a couple of articles to another blog which covered all concepts of Psychology. Given I say in the about section of my site if there is ever a subject that any one wants me to cover in more detail, I will be more than happy to adapt it to a specific subject. I didn’t really have an article that covered the use of my code for psychology specifically, but it is something that I have covered in my research quite extensively.
So i decided to share some of this work on here, it’s a good insight in to an application of the code for psychology as another one of it’s many uses. I think after you see my examples you may have more questions than answers to begin with. This is a new system that I developed, I’m not personally working on this methodology, rather this is just an example of how to apply my code. I wanted to test to see how accurate it was as a way to prove the accuracy of my code.
Originally this was going to be given to a local university here in my country to continue elaborating on in a form of partnership, unfortunately I never had time to form this partnership with everything else I am doing, eventually I hope to find a university or research company that is willing to continue the work where I left of. I’m not suggesting a new methodology to the process that is already used by psychologists, more this is intended to compliment the existing process.
About the code:
The code is something i developed over many years while working in a creative profession. I developed this code to sell a unique product that had more of a scientific approach to something that is usually anything but. While doing this I began to notice patterns in creative expression, and ways to measure what made certain approaches more successful than others. The more I looked in to this, the more I began to understand about how the human mind worked. Towards the end of this I realized that I had stumbled across something quite big that had almost endless applications.
So this code is a way to compare thoughts and the feelings that drive them, a way to compare, and measure them. While thoughts can change from person to person, from one culture or language to the next, the actual feelings behind them, that is the sensory information that is stimulated be our bodily senses doesn’t. Because of this I was able to find a universal way to measure this, and my code is based on this system, and in this article I am going to use the example of psychology. This is part of what is different to a lot of other systems out there, we are really talking about something that can be applied universally, regardless of who the subject is, and what the application is. Some creativity is needed to be able to apply it, but here I have provided the best example I have for psychology.
In this post the most common part of the code I use is colour patterns, a post that explains the science behind this can be found here. However with the combination of words, numbers colours and other scales we can get quite an insight in to the patients emotional state.
In relation to psychology:
It such a common cliche to see in a film depicting the interaction between a psychologist and their patient, but that question which I am sure you have all asked in you professional career at least once, “and how does that make you feel?”.This methodology becomes a good starting point to do exactly that without even having to ask the question. You will probably see that this method works better with younger people, it also helps with people who are anxious about expressing their problems, or people who are withholding vital information that may assist in their recovery. Not only can it be used by the therapist, but it also helps patients to learn a form of self therapy, which they can apply on their own. The idea is to get the subject to focus on the feelings that drive the problems that they are experience.
This simple method helps to do this, it localizes the most intense and controlling of all feelings at the particular time, once dealt with the next most problematic one because the center of attention, moving from one to the other. It is very similar to the input and output testing used on computers (part of my background is in computer science which is why I compare it to this), not to compare the brain to an electronic device, more that the methodology is systematic in nature, which has it’s own benefits. If you read a little more about my work a lot of what I do is find mathematical and systematic ways to create computational models of dynamic, or in this case; organic system.
Getting the subject to use their imagination is the most important component because when using their imagination all of the sensory information that they would experience if it was really happening is the same, so this is how you can create a comparative point and accurately measure it. The other important part about using the subject imagination is that a lot of what we can imagine is controlled or driven by our own experiences, in particular what we are feeling at that given time. With people who are experiencing certain events, if you were to get them to write a short story, no doubt that at least part of it would be a reflection of their own life at that given time.
I think as most writers commonly say that they are most creative in times of despair, is usually because the feelings that drive our imagination are most apparent at this given time. So rather than explain to you every single in and out of the methodology, it’s better to show it to you an application, here is the best example I could find when I was testing it last year.
The subject “B”:
This conversation is between me and someone who volunteered to allow me to test the accuracy of my code. The person involved “B” has had a very prevalent history of mental illness growing up, she is a female of 26 years old. She was undergoing her own treatment at the time, this was an extra component to help with her existing problems, and it was the first time I had met her.
I’m not going to go in to detail about what exactly she was suffering from, her symptom list at the time was quite extensive and required more than just a simple fix. I haven’t included the entire conversation for privacy reasons, B did consent to this part being made public.
Me: Close your eyes for approximately 5 seconds, and explain to me, in the best detail when you open them again, everything you see in your imagination.
B: I have absolutely no way of describing my imagination right now. There are worlds in there!
Me: try for me that’s why I say to take a deep breath it helps a lot
B: I see a universe. Like I said, there are worlds!
– To begin with she is anxious, and having trouble narrowing down on her feelings, the universe is actually a pretty common thing for people to envision as it represents everything. Other objects such as the world, scenes of nature such as the sky, and people the subject loves are the most common starting points. In order to get this to work I need to get her to focus on something smaller, usually the first step will be quite general, people aren’t always that willing to explain what they are imagining, and it becomes a forced representation of their internal thoughts. For the code to work, you need to get the raw “subconscious” driven content, so it’s important to build trust and help them relax as the process evolves.
Me: Laughs, see you can find words to describe it, what about the universe are you so drawn to at the moment?
B: The blackness.
Me: can you see any light?
B: Of course. But I like the empty blackness best. It’s calm.
– This is interesting because there are a few observations that can be draw already. The attraction to the darkness can be a representation of the mood patterns she is experiencing, black being a dark mood. The other most common representation one can draw from black or darkness is fear, she is obviously anxious about doing this as mentioned in the previous observation, the darkness is giving her a form of comfort making this easier to endure. She is very brave in my opinion, this is just a form of coping.
Me: does it just make you calm?
B: Black is anything and everything you want it to be.
Me: so is white… but it”s different, it’s on the other end of the spectrum. Okay, lets work on narrowing down on what you might be feeling at the moment, choose one of these 3 pictures;
– Each of these pictures could have hundreds of associations, its only done to see which of the images she is more attracted to, to help narrow down on the feelings she is experiencing at the moment. In the example of the road it could represent the path that we travel, a long journey ahead of us, the pyramids could represent age, strength, endurance, and many other feelings. You won’t get the answer straight away, but by creating a path, we can at least eliminate some of the less important feelings.
B: I honestly like them all. I keep going back to the road though. But I wouldn’t call it my ‘favorite’.
Me: Okay, here is another picture, is the road still the one you are most attracted to?
B:The piano is my favorite, but I enjoy looking at the road the most.
– Once you have the answers it is easy to get a bit of an idea of what is happening. You really have to just take your best guess to begin with as to what feelings they are experiencing that is making them choose this. In the case of the road, it is indeed a willingness to move on, she wants to move forward but it seems like a long distance with no visible ending. The broken piano can represent an art form that is lost of broken, it can also represent life and her ability to function like other people. When doing this exercise I would recommend more pictures, all of which are of similar quality (tumblr and flickr are great sources for this) to give the subject a lot to choose from, you can experiment with this part a little, and find a system that works best for you.
Me: so there is something that makes you attracted to the road more, but your personal taste makes you like the piano, is that correct?
Me: okay, interesting, do you like the pyramid picture, does it make you feel in the same way like the picture of the road?
– It’s important to be able to distinguish between personal tastes and a sort of attraction that is driven by other means. Similar to the song that gets stuck in our head that we probably don’t like, that attraction can have beneficial purposes. Getting the subject to be able to differentiate between the two early on is an important part of the method. This can be accomplished by asking what it is they don’t like about the other pictures, over time you will be able to differentiate between the two better.
Me: Ok, tell me, at the moment, what is the song that you listen to the most, do you have one? that is a song you could play on repeat a lot
The Smiths – I Know It’s Over
From the album “The Queen Is Dead”
– You probably won’t get much information from this if they can even recommend a song at all. Even just asking them for the first song that comes in to their mind, without holding back on the answer can be helpful. Reading the lyrics is an important part, the lyrics can be representative of their own nature or personality, it can give you some insight in to how they think. If in the case the subject is not a fan of music, a movie or television show they watched recently can be helpful. The idea is to try and get them to imagine something that exists outside of their mind, so you can create a sort of contrast or comparative point. If you can’t you can still work from that, but it really helps if you do have point to begin with.
Me: the next question would be, now that we are talking, if you would have a song in the background which would it be? what is the first song that pops in to your mind? regardless of how lame or inappropriate it may be, try not to adjust your answers to sound cool.
B: I don’t do ‘the cool’ thing! laughs… took me a while to think of it.
The Smashing Pumpkins Oceania: Violet Rays
Me: I know this isn’t your kind of music, but can you listen to this whole song and really focus on what it makes you feel?
Zero 7, Throw it all away
B: OK, done.
– Up until now there has been very little information of real use, and I am still a little unsure of what is going on in her mind. The idea of asking so many of these questions is to try to lower the defenses. In other words reducing the effect that her “Reason” has on the decisions she makes, and trying to get her to just say the first thing that comes to her mind. The reason I asked her to listen to a song, that was specifically chosen for this purpose was to create a form of dialogue, and to see how her mind registered an alternate sensation, one that I wanted her to feel. In this song the course is “throw it all away, never needed it anyway”. I am trying to see how she reacts to being told to let go, even if she isn’t actually being told to physically do that. But we are finally at that point once you see that there is less of a decision-making process in the answers the subject is giving you, this is the moment when you can actually get the mind to start telling you what the problem is if you know what to look for.
Me: Now I need you to choose 1 of these 3 colours, again not from personal preference, the one that stays in your mind:
B: This is hard, purple.
Me: I had a feeling you would say purple, because of the last song you said was called “Violet Rays”. I think I have found your current main problem or preoccupation…
Me: The last question will be after listening to that song, recommend me another song that springs to mind, not because i will like it, just because its springs to your mind
Within Temptation – What Have You Done (feat. Keith Caputo).
Me: (taken from the song) ”What have you done? What have you done? What have you done? What have you done?” Is that what you would live to say to me? okay, so now let me explain what this means.
Me: our mind can be grouped in to feelings and thoughts, the two aren’t totally compatible, but say something like a car and a bike generate similar sensory information, they both move, they both carry us, we can feel vibrations created by the ground, this is an example of how I group things. So when you wanted to listen to that song, its in part because you like it, but its also because part of you is feeling that same way, it’s very hard to think of something that we aren’t currently experiencing. Most of the lyrics can be adapted to what you are feeling, they are representations of your internal dialogue also, while you are slightly consciously making these decisions, it’s still easy to see what it is that you are thinking about, by trying to find a context that explains everything you are experiencing.
Me: Once you get good at being able to see this, you will be able to understand why you are experiencing certain emotions, your mind talks to it self, and while it seems totally random, they are actually connected. But you do need to work on it, the better you get at it, the less likely you are to experience the more random thoughts. For instance just seeing a billboard that says something, can actually do this in a false positive sort of way, because in a way its true, you experienced it, the mind isn’t very good at differentiating between the two. I guess the best example of this is a horror film, you know it isn’t true but you can’t help but to be scare, the more instinctual parts of the mind fall for this but we are taking advantage of this fact to see what is going on with you.
Me: I will explain what it is about the colour purple is important in a sec
B: Yes…it’s just that everything feels so random right now. I used to find meaning in everything. But now it’s all just ‘things’.
– This is probably the most common thing someone would say to you, regardless of if they are experiencing problems or not that everything seems random. That is because this code I created didn’t exists before, why metaphors did, and they are very common associations that we can all make, I have taken a lot more in depth view of the sensory information generated by just about everything, numbers, colours, objects, by then analyzing them using various methods including statistical probability I was able to figure out what they all relate to. It’s my way of mapping out the complex webbing that our brain is made of, which is why I also consulted with a couple of neuroscientists while doing this.
– I have a belief that the further our feelings get from the thoughts we compare them to, the higher level of separation we experience. The easiest example of this is “letting our hearts guide us”, this is exactly what this is about. Our heart is part of the sensory information that is generated to form feelings. Those chemical reactions are feelings, the more we ignore them or don’t see the meaning in them, the more separated we are. Again using the examples of artists, they usually are guided by their hearts because they only have a small level of separation between the two. This small amount of separation is what makes their artistic abilities so great. In the case of B, she is an artist by trade, and has been unable to create any work for a while.
Me: So think about a fever, In the case of a fever we have one because our body is already fighting an infection, it’s a way of making us consciously aware of this fact that our body is experiencing a form of difficulty and that we need to react to consciously to keep it under control. I believe that most (if not all problems) of a psychological nature are the same, our body knows what the problem is, where it is located, and it’s trying to fight back to contain the problem, A lot of the repetitive or unwanted thoughts created are the same as the fever we get, as if our mind was trying to make us consciously aware of what was causing the problem. However this part of the mind is quite primitive and it needs the assistance of the more intelligent parts of our mind to make sense of it. When we are depressed, part of what generates those feelings (chemical factors put aside) are the same as a fever, and correcting the problem can alleviated it a lot quicker, which is what psychologists attempt to do, however we are covering the basics of this to understand why this system works.
B: Yes. That’s brilliant.
Me: it can be very hard to decipher some times, but the colour purple relates to love, I could spend a lot of time explaining it to you but you responded to purple more than the other colours, because its an indication of where your mind spends the most amount of time at the moment.
– The representation of different colours is an example of the actual code, if you are interested in the theory behind colour and it’s relation to the code, you can check outthis post. The reason why I stuck with it was because she mentioned it a couple of times, in the song she selected and the colour that she choose. In the beginning we want to try and get as much information that is raw out there, then once we have this information the next step is to reanalyze it to find coincidences or other attractors (attractors are a part of chaos theory, which is one of the sciences I use a lot in my work). Essentially we are looking for anything that stands out or is mentioned more than once, from the values we can usually find the cause behind why the subject is so attracted to them. I am really good at doing this mind you, other people may need to do it for longer to get a better picture, with B I was pretty sure, by this point what her main preoccupation or unwanted thought process that was creating her emotional state was.
B: I know (should know) the meaning behind colours. Purple is spiritual love.
Me: correct, however I have found that it has a deeper meaning than that, its love in all senses, but more in particular, statistically for women, it represents… sorry, I am just going to say this bluntly, and while the factors causing it are a lot more elaborate then this, purple usually means, a yearning/need to have children. This is in women, for men some colours have different meanings.
B: Oh god.
M: yeah, don’t take it the wrong way, it’s more complicated than that.
B: …You are right. Completely right.
Me: This part of your mind, it on has a few ways of expressing things so I know this what you must be experiencing is very complicated, and its not as simple as just having children, but is that chain of thought that for some reason you are drawn to.
B: Recently having children is all I can think of. But I know intellectually it is the absolute worst move.
– You could see how something like this could get overlooked in therapy. A therapist if told this, may consider it to just be a passing phase, something biological, or even something that is just happening to her because of the situation, a sort of desperation to find an answer. Also the patients own unwillingness to express these feelings, given in this case she knows it to be intellectually a bad idea, could mean that she wouldn’t be very forthcoming about it in the first place. This is one of the benefits of my system, it highlights what the strongest problem is overall, it doesn’t matter if that week something serious has come up which has distracted the subjects attention, overall, whatever you spend the most amount of time thinking about, or what has the strongest effect on your emotional state, will be the first thing that stands out. Once resolved, after about a week, the next problem will become the most obvious.
M: so relationship, marriage, is something that relates to this that your body feels is the core problem, it could be as simple as the relationship you have with your parents, a possible problem with you reproductive system or anything that could be associated to this, this is looking at it generalizing but I am pretty sure I know what it is in your case.
Me: Well what I find interesting, and I do this a lot by reading the news paper, but when people have serious mental breaks (not of the drug educed or biological illness kinds) you can actually see what caused them to break by what they decided to do. It appears the more you “lose” control of yourself consciously, the more apparent what you problem is becomes, and you become more “subconsciously” driven. I then compare this to how the news story evolves, and 9 times out of 10 once the precipitating causes are brought to light by who ever investigates it, it’s usually turns out to be the case.
B:…I can’t work out exactly how you did it, but it just feels freaky to me right now that you were able to work that out. I’m not the type of person to get ‘clucky’. It’s been so bizarre.
Me: yes, but also relating to the picture, of the road, you want to move on with your life, you want more, in particular love, and a child can also have a symbolic meaning to something you create
B: YES. I want to move on…
– This is why it is important to gather so much information. You need to be able to relate to one problem back to just about everything they have said. It’s the context that fits the problem with the highest amount of accuracy that is the correct one. Purple can also mean pain in love, which would be the next one I feel could be related to all of the examples she has given me. However statistically this is only comment for men, and not so much for women.
Me: either a job or business you really want to do, or creating more art work, something that is YOURS that you create with love (metaphorically this is the same thing as birth) i’m sure you are good at that so the only advice i can really give you, your mind is talking to you, every day, try and listen to it again like you used to, if a song pops in your head, listen to the lyrics,it may be your mind try to communicate an important message to you
B: …I like it. I used to do that believe it or not. I was the one my friends would go to if they needed help decoding messages. Maybe I’ll get to that place again.
Me: Yes, if you already have this ability you will find it very easy.
– Really this wasn’t anything to special or that hasn’t been done in one way or another before. I did teach her a few methods to help her do this on her own so that she could continue to alleviate her problems for herself. After almost a year has past, she is doing so much better, she can’t even imagine undertaking the medication routine she once used to. While this took a lot of hard work on her behalf, and regular therapy session, the recovery was amazing and something that has really stuck with me.
Final observations and comments:
The ideas are quite simple and as I have already stated it can become a form of self therapy that just about any one can do, to help them find happiness in life, and lead them back on a never ending path of self discovery. Our intuitions can be so intelligent and see more than we can consciously acknowledge at times, this gives us a way to deal with the sensory overload that we are becoming exposed to more and more in our current society.
You will actually be surprised by some of the observations you can make for yourself, sometimes the hardest thing to do is look at what we do wrong, and what is preventing us from moving forward. This system can help there also, and it can alleviate these feelings really quickly. While people who are experiencing a lot of problems may require a bit of work to get rid of the feelings that have backed up, once the path has been cleared it becomes less and less necessary to consciously do this, and more automated.
This process can not only be used in therapy, but it has a lot of other applications, one that springs to mind quickly for me is the application in forensic science and police investigations. The same principles can be applied, and a lot can be found out about the person by using this methodology with the added extra of the code. Hopefully I will be working alongside some other psychologist soon to further grow the amount of evidence for this system, while this isn’t the only testing I have done, I would really like in the future for other people to test it extensively.
With the book I am working on at the moment, it will contain all of the basics of the code, and associations that people have, which is the only component you would need in order to be able to test this. A lot of examples of the code can be found on my WordPress, with more examples of how to apply it.
If you are interested in a sensationalized version of what I do, the show Hannibal which covers the forensic side of things, and the show Perception which covers the mental illness side of things are two great examples of this that are fun to watch.
- Real life psychoanalysis and the code – understanding your patients thoughts and feelings. (syntheticorder.wordpress.com)
- The universal “language”. (syntheticorder.wordpress.com)
- Psychology’s brilliant, beautiful, scientific messiness. (blogs.scientificamerican.com)
It is secreted at the base of the brain, in the hypothalamus, and the entire nervous system is sensitive to its effects. Oxytocin production is stimulated by estrogen, but it is not a female-only hormone, because men produce it as well.
Oxytocin lowers the heart rate and blood pressure, quiets the brain’s fear centers, and suppresses the production of stress hormones. Childbirth begins with a flood of oxytocin that contracts the uterus and stimulates milk production. Nursing stimulates the production of more oxytocin, as does the sight or sound of the baby. New mothers will even produce oxytocin at the mention of their baby’s name or upon seeing a photograph. It’s oxytocin that puts new mothers in the brain-addled state that allows them to spend hours gazing at their babies, finding new and fascinating details in their faces and tiny bodies. The equivalent of a “hunter’s trance” in the mother ensures survival for the otherwise helpless infant. It is secreted at the base of the brain, in the hypothalamus, and the entire nervous system is sensitive to its effects. Oxytocin production is stimulated by estrogen, but it is not a female-only hormone, because men produce it as well.
With a team of researchers, Zak took blood from thousands of test subject from all walks of life in a variety of circumstances. When Zak artificially boosted levels of oxytocin, people were more caring, more giving and less likely to cheat. He also found that merely acting in a trusting manner triggered the body’s own production of oxytocin, creating what Zak refers as the ultimate virtuous cycle.
Stroking animals increase their oxytocin level. Stroking rats 40 times a minute for 5 minutes reduced lab rats’ stress chemistry, increased their pain tolerance, and calmed them so deeply, some feel asleep. And that she could produce the same anti-stress effects by giving rats shots of oxytocin.
“A study published Tuesday in the Journal of Neuroscience has uncovered a surprising new property of oxytocin, finding that when men in monogamous relationships got a sniff of the stuff, they subsequently put a little extra space between themselves and an attractive woman they’d just met,” wrote the LA Times recently. The results surprised researchers. They had assumed oxytocin would make all men inch closer to cute females. Instead men in committed relationships moved farther away when dosed with oxytocin (and only when dosed
What happens when a little girl decides to set up a lemonade stand for peace outside the Westboro Baptist Church headquarters in Kansas? Members of the community step out in droves to show support, even as the hate group tries to quash it.
Five-year-old Jayden, the daughter of Jon Sink, founder of the philanthropic arts group FRESHCASSETTE – Creative Compassion, decided to set up a stand selling pink lemonade at The Equality House on Friday afternoon. The Equality House is a rainbow-colored building directly across the street from Westboro’s Topeka compound. The house, which was painted the colors of the pride flag in March, was bought by Aaron Jackson, one of the founders of Planting Peace, a multi-pronged nonprofit set up in 2004 and aimed at spreading goodwill and equality around the globe.
Jayden, who is from Kansas City, decided to set up her stand at the Equality House after her parents explained to her the significance of its construct. After being told that the church across the street had a message of hate, she set a goal of raising money to go towards a message of love and peace.
So she painted a banner for the event reading, “Pink Lemonade for Peace: $1 Suggested Donation.” She put the stand in the grass and waited. But the waiting didn’t take long. Supporters came in by the droves and $1 turned into hundreds of dollars.
During the day, Westboro sent representatives outside to try and find a way to stop the event. They apparently attempted to call the local police and stooped to yelling profanities when that didn’t work, like calling a group of soldiers who rode out on their motorcycles to suport the event “bastards.”
Westboro’s hate couldn’t stop Jayden. She not only raised $400 during the day on Friday, but she has also collected over $1000 with an online campaign set up through Crowd Rise. Some people donated as little as $10 and as much as $230. One person gave $26, dedicating it to every person killed six months ago in the Newtown, Conn., massacre.
“As we all know, the Westboro Baptist Church puts a lot of hate into the world,” Jackson told HuffPost in an email Friday. “Since we cannot stop them, the next best thing is to smother it with love. That is what 5-year-old Jayden accomplished today! Jayden set up a lemonade stand in front of the church. Not only did she quench the thirst of a lot of loving supporters, the money she raised was donated to Planting Peace so she could help Planting Peace promote a more peaceful world.”
“Jayden represents the natural humanity we are born with,” Davis Hammet, Director of Operations at Planting Peace, added. “We come into this world compassionate, caring beings and only become hateful if we are taught to be.”
- ‘Lemonade for Peace’ stand generates $23,000 (cjonline.com)
- 5-year-old girl’s lemonade stand draws ire of Westboro Baptist Church (fox2now.com)
- ‘Lemonade for Peace’ raises funds for Planting Peace (cjonline.com)
What is REBT?
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a form of psychotherapy and a philosophy of living created by Albert Ellis in the 1950’s.
REBT (pronounced R.E.B.T. — it is not pronounced rebbit) is based on the premise that whenever we become upset, it is not the events taking place in our lives that upset us; it is the beliefs that we hold that cause us to become depressed, anxious, enraged, etc. The idea that our beliefs upset us was first articulated by Epictetus around 2,000 years ago: “Men are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of them.”
The Goal of Happiness
According to Albert Ellis and to REBT, the vast majority of us want to be happy. We want to be happy whether we are alone or with others; we want to get along with others—especially with one or two close friends; we want to be well informed and educated; we want a good job with good pay; and we want to enjoy our leisure time.
Of course life doesn’t always allow us to have what we want; our goal of being happy is often thwarted by the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” When our goals are blocked, we can respond in ways that are healthy and helpful, or we can react in ways that are unhealthy and unhelpful.
The ABC Model
Albert Ellis and REBT posit that our reaction to having our goals blocked (or even the possibility of having them blocked) is determined by our beliefs. To illustrate this, Dr. Ellis developed a simple ABC format to teach people how their beliefs cause their emotional and behavioral responses:
A. Something happens.
B. You have a belief about the situation.
C. You have an emotional reaction to the belief.
A. Your employer falsely accuses you of taking money from her purse and threatens to fire you.
B. You believe, “She has no right to accuse me. She’s a bitch!”
C. You feel angry.
If you had held a different belief, your emotional response would have been different:
A. Your employer falsely accuses you of taking money from her purse and threatens to fire you.
B. You believe, “I must not lose my job. That would be unbearable.”
C. You feel anxious.
The ABC model shows that A does not cause C. It is B that causes C. In the first example, it is not your employer’s false accusation and threat that make you angry; it is your belief that she has no right to accuse you, and that she is a bitch. In the second example, it is not her accusation and threat that make you anxious; it is the belief that you must not lose your job, and that losing your job would be unbearable.
The Three Basic Musts
Although we all express ourselves differently, according to Albert Ellis and REBT, the beliefs that upset us are all variations of three common irrational beliefs. Each of the three common irrational beliefs contains a demand, either about ourselves, other people, or the world in general. These beliefs are known as “The Three Basic Musts.”
1. I must do well and win the approval of others for my performances or else I am no good.
2. Other people must treat me considerately, fairly and kindly, and in exactly the way I want them to treat me. If they don’t, they are no good and they deserve to be condemned and punished.
3. I must get what I want, when I want it; and I must not get what I don’t want. It’s terrible if I don’t get what I want, and I can’t stand it.
The first belief often leads to anxiety, depression, shame, and guilt. The second belief often leads to rage, passive-aggression and acts of violence. The third belief often leads to self-pity and procrastination. It is the demanding nature of the beliefs that causes the problem. Less demanding, more flexible beliefs lead to healthy emotions and helpful behaviors
The goal of REBT is to help people change their irrational beliefs into rational beliefs. Changing beliefs is the real work of therapy and is achieved by the therapist disputing the client’s irrational beliefs. For example, the therapist might ask, “Why must you win everyone’s approval?” “Where is it written that other people must treat you fairly?” “Just because you want something, why must you have it?” Disputing is the D of the ABC model. When the client tries to answer the therapist’s questions, s/he sees that there is no reason why s/he absolutely must have approval, fair treatment, or anything else that s/he wants.
Albert Ellis and REBT contend that although we all think irrationally from time to time, we can work at eliminating the tendency. It’s unlikely that we can ever entirely eliminate the tendency to think irrationally, but we can reduce the frequency, the duration, and the intensity of our irrational beliefs by developing three insights:
We don’t merely get upset but mainly upset ourselves by holding inflexible beliefs.
No matter when and how we start upsetting ourselves, we continue to feel upset because we cling to our irrational beliefs.
The only way to get better is to work hard at changing our beliefs. It takes practice, practice, practice.
Emotionally healthy human beings develop an acceptance of reality, even when reality is highly unfortunate and unpleasant. REBT therapists strive to help their clients develop three types of acceptance: (1) unconditional self-acceptance; (2) unconditional other-acceptance; and (3) unconditional life-acceptance. Each of these types of acceptance is based on three core beliefs:
I am a fallible human being; I have my good points and my bad points.
There is no reason why I must not have flaws.
Despite my good points and my bad points, I am no more worthy and no less worthy than any other human being.
Other people will treat me unfairly from time to time.
There is no reason why they must treat me fairly.
The people who treat me unfairly are no more worthy and no less worthy than any other human being.
Life doesn’t always work out the way that I’d like it to.
There is no reason why life must go the way I want it to
Life is not necessarily pleasant but it is never awful and it is nearly always bearable.
Clinical experience and a growing supply of experimental evidence show that REBT is effective and efficient at reducing emotional pain. When Albert Ellis created REBT in the 1950’s he met with much resistance from others in the mental health field. Today it is one of the most widely-practiced therapies throughout the world. In the early days of REBT, even Dr. Ellis did not clearly see that consistent use of its philosophical system would have such a profound effect on the field of psychotherapy or on the lives of the millions of people who have benefited from it.
This introduction to REBT is based on Shameless Happiness, a concise booklet that outlines the basics of REBT.
About The Author:
Will Ross — is the webmaster and co-founder of REBTnetwork.org; he tutors REBT self-helpers and is the author and publisher of online REBT self-help materials.
- Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT). (childhoodtraumarecovery.com)
- Aristotle and REBT (therapypons.wordpress.com)
- Therapy; Shoulding on people (bfbirthmother.wordpress.com)
- About REBT
- hold on to musts
- Rebt network
Like people might know, this blog is eager to share positive new and hope. Look at our page “Let us change the world” for more on the same. Hope you like this reblog from “Hope”, a girl who has a really interesting blog and thoughts.
I love a good romance or friendship story. My heart has a special connection with those the world sees as disabled or handicapped. I love dogs, and stories of rescues. My Enos was on his way to the pound, a high kill pound when we rescued him.
So you can imagine the feeling in my heart as I read the story of Eve and Dillon this morning in the Huffington Post.
What Caffeine Really Does to Your Brain
“Legend has it that an observant goatherd named Kaldi discovered coffee in Ethiopia somewhere between about 300 and 800 A.D. He noticed that his goats did not sleep at night after eating coffee berries. He took the berries to a local abbot, who brewed the first batch of coffee, noting its effects on arousal and cognition.” (Smith et al, 2004)
Ever since then humans have been fascinated with caffeine, and rightly so.
Some of its effects are strange and contradictory. In many ways caffeine’s effect on your mind is much more about what you expect than what it actually does.
Hopefully you’ll find at least one or two things here to surprise you…
1. Caffeine doesn’t stop most people sleeping
The goatherd Kaldi may have been right about his goats, but not necessarily about humans. Despite all the fuss made about caffeine and sleeping, there’s little evidence that it’s a problem.
The research finds that the vast majority of people have worked out how to use it. It’s not that complicated: don’t have a double espresso at midnight. Duh.
Even then, there are studies where they give people caffeine secretly before they go to bed. Surprise, surprise it doesn’t generally affect their sleep that much!
2. People blame caffeine for anything and everything
It’s not just poor sleep, because people think caffeine is at least a bit bad for them, they blame all kinds of non-specific problems on it: headaches, bad night’s sleep, feeling jittery, and so on.
Researchers sometimes give people placebos and tell them they’ve had caffeine. People subsequently claim to have slept badly, developed headaches and all the rest.
But it can’t be due to caffeine, because they haven’t had any. So it must be down to what we expect caffeine to do to us.
3. Coffee plus nap?
It might seem mad to have a cup of coffee and then go for a nap. But if you’re sleep deprived, this may be the answer.
Studies have tried giving tired people 200mg of caffeine (a cup or two of instant coffee), then telling them to take a nap.
The caffeine plus the nap often has an additive effect on performance. In other words the caffeine improves performance above the nap on its own.
Try it: have a coffee and a nap of around 5-15 minutes and see you feel. Even people who don’t normally nap can find this beneficial.
4. Boosts in sustained attention
Most people feel more alert after a coffee, but are they any sharper when scientifically tested?
The answer is: in some ways yes, but in many ways not.
The strongest positive finding is that caffeine increases sustained attention and vigilance. This is the kind of attention you need to keep doing a relatively routine task that is unchallenging. That’s why it’s often so good at work: it keeps us plodding on through boring stuff that we’ve got to get through.
This finding is particularly strong for people who haven’t had enough sleep, which is most of us nowadays.
When we stray away into other psychological areas like reaction times, learning and memory, things become much less clear. Sometimes caffeine improves them, sometimes it makes them worse and sometimes there’s no difference.
In general, though, there’s little evidence that caffeine makes much difference on tasks that require pure thought.
5. Two cups good, five cups bad
Like everything in life, you can have too much of a good thing. And caffeine is no different.
In the studies mentioned above, when people have around 200-300mg of caffeine, they get the benefits mentioned. That’s around three espressos or 2-3 cups of instant coffee.
Upwards of 500 mg, though, and there’s no increase in performance and people start to experience negative effects.
Naturally, though, this will depend on your usual level of intake; as the body and mind gets used to caffeine, like any drug.
6. No withdrawal symptoms when giving up?
If you fancy giving up caffeine then prepare for withdrawal symptoms between 12 and 24 hours after your last cup of coffee. Then you may start to develop a headache and feel irritable, tired and anxious.
Or will you?
Even withdrawal symptoms may be at least partly down to our expectations about the effects of caffeine. It’s little studied, but there’s a suggestion that if you don’t expect to get withdrawal effects, then you won’t actually get them.
That’s probably why some people report having no withdrawal symptoms when they give up caffeine. So giving up may not be as hard as you think.
7. Feeling good
No caffeine drinker needs me to tell them that some coffee makes them feel better and too much makes them feel bad.
Moderate doses are the key. What counts as a moderate dose will depend on your usual intake and your genetic susceptibility, which is inheritable. So if your parents can take a triple espresso without their heads exploding, then you probably can as well.
But even an inherited sensitivity to caffeine can be overcome with real dedication to the cause.
8. Coffee kills pain
There is some suggestion in the research that caffeine can help reduce pain.
If you’ve got a tension headache, for example, then studies suggest that acetaminophen (paracetamol) plus caffeine will provide better pain relief than acetaminophen alone.
Rather than causing non-migraine headaches, caffeine has been shown in one study to cure them!
9. Caffeine sharpens the senses
Caffeine ramps up the senses a little in all sorts of interesting ways. Here are a few:
- Studies find that after a cup of coffee or two people can actually see better in the dark. The boost is between 20 and 38%.
- People can discriminate between colours better when they’ve had some caffeine.
- Caffeine helps people ignore distracting stimuli in the environment.
10. Caffeine probably isn’t addictive
Technically caffeine is not really addictive because of the way it works in the brain and because many people don’t suffer withdrawal symptoms when they give up.
However a small number of people do look like they’re addicted to it. But when you compare caffeine to the drugs that are really addictive, like cocaine or heroin, it’s pretty clear that caffeine is not properly addictive.
[Studies described here are cited in Nehlig (2004)]
Image credit: Eric
Making Habits, Breaking Habits
In his new book, Jeremy Dean–psychologist and author of PsyBlog–looks at how habits work, why they are so hard to change, and how to break bad old cycles and develop new healthy, creative, happy habits.
→ “Making Habits, Breaking Habits”, is available now on Amazon.
The man who did not have
Nicolae tells a story of a man who sought entry into a monastery, although he didn’t feel qualified. The man approached the abbot, and confessed:
Know, Father, that I have neither faith nor light, nor essence, nor courage, nor trust in myself, and I cannot be of any help to myself, much less to any others; I have nothing
“How could such a man be accepted into a monastery?” one might think.
But the abbot replies, “What does that have to do with anything? You have no faith, have no light; giving them to others you will have them, too. Searching them for another, you will gain them for yourself. Your brother, your neighbor and fellow man, him you are duty bound to help with what you do not have.”
And with that, he accepts the man into the monastery. “Go, your cell is on this hallway, third door on the right.”
The thoughts of this man are echoed in the minds of many men and women around the world. I have neither faith, nor essence, nor courage. I cannot be of any help to myself. How do we develop these things?
How, indeed? The abbot’s answer: Giving another that which you do not have – faith, love, confidence, hope – you will acquire them as well.
Humanistic Theory and Therapy, Applied to the Psychotic Individual
Sometimes people understand psychosis or schizophrenia to be unrelenting, even with the intervention of psychotherapy. It is contended herein that therapy, and humanistic therapy in particular, can be helpful to the psychotic individual, but, perhaps, the therapist may have difficulty understanding how this approach can be applied to the problems of psychosis. Although it is a prevalent opinion in our society that schizophrenics are not responsive to psychotherapy, it is asserted herein that any therapist can relate in a psychotic individual, and, if therapy is unsuccessful, this failure may stem from the therapist’s qualities instead of those of the psychotic individual.
Carl Rogers created a theory and therapy indicated by the terms “umanistic theory” and “person-centered therapy”. This theoretical perspective postulates many important ideas, and several of these ideas are pertinent to this discussion. The first of these is the idea of “conditions of worth”, and the idea of “the actualizing tendency.” Rogers asserts that our society applies to us “conditions of worth”. This means that we must behave in certain ways in order to receive rewards, and receipt of these rewards imply that we are worthy if we behave in ways that are acceptable. As an example, in our society, we are rewarded with money when we do work that is represented by employment.
In terms of the life of a schizophrenic, these conditions of worth are that from which stigmatization proceeds. The psychotic individuals in our society, without intentionality, do not behave in ways that produce rewards. Perhaps some people believe that schizophrenics are parasites in relation to our society. This estimation of the worth of these individuals serves only to compound their suffering. The mentally ill and psychotic individuals, in particular, are destitute in social, personal and financial spheres.
Carl Roger’s disapproved of conditions of worth, and, in fact, he believed that human beings and other organisms strive to fulfill their potential. This striving represents what Roger’s termed “the actualizing tendency” and the “force of life.” This growth enhancing aspect of life motivates all life forms to develop fully their own potential. Rogers believed that mental illness reflects distortions of the actualizing tendency, based upon faulty conditions of worth. It is clear that psychotic people deal with negatively skewed conditions of worth.
It is an evident reality that the mentally ill could more successfully exist in the world if stigmas were not applied to them. The mentally ill engage in self-denigration and self-laceration that culminate in the destruction of selfhood. This psychological violence toward the mentally ill is supported by non-mentally ill others. The type of self-abuse by psychotic individuals would certainly abate if the normative dismissal of the mentally ill as worthless is not perpetuated.
In spite of a prevalent view that psychotic individuals are unsuccessful in the context of psychotherapy, Roger’s theory and therapy of compassion cannot be assumed to be unhelpful to the mentally ill. The key components of Rogers’ approach to psychotherapy include unconditional positive regard, accurate empathy and genuineness. Unconditional positive regard, accurate empathy and genuineness are considered to be qualities of the therapist enacted in relation to the client in terms of humanistic therapy. These qualities are essential to the process of humanistic therapy.
In terms of these qualities, unconditional positive regard is a view of a person or client that is accepting and warm, no matter what that person in therapy reveals in terms of his or her emotional problems or experiences. This means that an individual in the context of humanistic psychotherapy, or in therapy with a humanistic psychologist or therapist, should expect the therapist to be accepting of whatever that individual reveals to the therapist. In this context, the therapist will be accepting and understanding regardless of what one tells the therapist.
Accurate empathy is represented as understanding a client from that person’s own perspective. This means that the humanistic psychologist or therapist will be able to perceive you as you perceive yourself, and that he will feel sympathy for you on the basis of the knowledge of your reality. He will know you in terms of knowing your thoughts and feelings toward yourself, and he will feel empathy and compassion for you based on that fact. .
As another quality enacted by the humanistic therapist, genuineness is truthfulness in one’s presentation toward the client; it is integrity or a self-representation that is real. To be genuine with a client reflects qualities in a therapist that entail more than simply being a therapist. It has to do with being an authentic person with one’s client. Carl Rogers believed that, as a therapist, one could be authentic and deliberate simultaneously. This means that the therapist can be a “real” person, even while he is intentionally saying and doing what is required to help you.
The goal of therapy from the humanistic orientation is to allow the client to achieve congruence in term of his real self and his ideal self. This means that what a person is and what he wants to be should become the same as therapy progresses. Self-esteem that is achieved in therapy will allow the client to elevate his sense of what he is, and self-esteem will also lessen his need to be better than what he is. Essentially, as the real self is more accepted by the client, and his raised self-esteem will allow him to be less than some kind of “ideal” self that he feels he is compelled to be. It is the qualities of unconditional positive regard, accurate empathy and genuineness in the humanistic therapist that allow the therapist to assist the client in cultivating congruence between the real self and the ideal self from that client’s perspective.
<a href=”schizophrenia” title=””>What the schizophrenic experiences can be confusing. It is clear that most therapists, psychiatrists and clinicians cannot understand the perspectives of the chronically mentally ill. Perhaps if they could understand what it is to feel oneself to be in a solitary prison of one’s skin and a visceral isolation within one’s mind, with hallucinations clamoring, then the clinicians who treat mental illness would be able to better empathize with the mentally ill. The problem with clinicians’ empathy for the mentally ill is that the views of mentally ill people are remote and unthinkable to them. Perhaps the solitariness within the minds of schizophrenics is the most painful aspect of being schizophrenics, even while auditory hallucinations can form what seems to be a mental populace.
Based upon standards that make them feel inadequate, the mentally ill respond to stigma by internalizing it. If the mentally ill person can achieve the goal of congruence between the real self and the ideal self, their expectations regarding who “they should be” may be reconciled with an acceptance of “who they are”. As they lower their high standards regarding who they should be, their acceptance of their real selves may follow naturally.
Carl Rogers said, “As I accept myself as I am, only then can I change.” In humanistic therapy, the therapist can help even a schizophrenic accept who they are by reflecting acceptance of the psychotic individual. This may culminate in curativeness, although perhaps not a complete cure. However, when the schizophrenic becomes more able to accept who they are, they can then change. Social acceptance is crucial for coping with schizophrenia, and social acceptance leads to self-acceptance by the schizophrenic. The accepting therapist can be a key component in reducing the negative consequences of stigma as it has affected the mental ill patient client.
This, then, relates to conditions of worth and the actualizing tendency. “Conditions of worth” affect the mentally ill more severely than other people. Simple acceptance and empathy by a clinician may be curative to some extent, even for the chronically mentally ill. If the schizophrenic individual is released from conditions of worth that are entailed by stigmatization, then perhaps the actualizing tendency would assert itself in them in a positive way, lacking distortion.
In the tradition of person-centered therapy, the client is allowed to lead the conversation or the dialogue of the therapy sessions. This is ideal for the psychotic individual, provided he believes he is being heard by his therapist. Clearly, the therapist’s mind will have to stretch as they seek to understand the client’s subjective perspective. In terms of humanistic therapy, this theory would seem to apply to all individuals, as it is based upon the psychology of all human beings, each uniquely able to benefit from this approach by through the growth potential that is inherent in them. In terms of the amelioration of psychosis by means of this therapy, Rogers offers hope.
Ann Reitan, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist and well published essayist of fiction and creative nonfiction. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from University of Washington, Master of Arts in Psychology from Pepperdine University, and Doctorate of Clinical Psychology from Alliant International University. Her post-doctoral research at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, involved personality theory, idiodynamics and creativity in literature.
- U is for Unconditional (motherwifestudentworker.wordpress.com)
- What’s It Like To Have A Psychotic Episode? (wnyc.org)
- Psychology in Writing: Unconditional Positive Regard (wtjowett.wordpress.com)
- Suffering in the Shadows: Resources exist for those who need help (enewscourier.com)
- Improving Emotional Intelligence in Psychosis with Art Therapy (brainblogger.com)