- 1 Motivation and Emotion
- 1.1 Week One
- 1.2 Week 2
- 1.3 Week 3
- 1.4 Week 4
- 1.5 Week 5
- 1.6 Week 6
- 1.7 Week 9
- 1.8 Week 10
- 1.9 Week 11
- 1.10 Week 12
- 1.11 Week 13
- 1.12 Week 14
- 1.13 References
Motivation and Emotion
What is motivation? Some kind of driving force to behave. I would say ‘some kind of driving force to act’, but sometimes we are motivated towards inaction. Emotion is an internal reaction to some occurrence. The occurrence could be environmental, or it could be thought, or another emotion.
The first box in chapter one explains that the ‘lay’ thought is that people with greater self esteem do better in life, and those with lower self esteem do worse. Here, self esteem is the predictor variable. The information in the box disputes this idea, suggesting that self esteem is the dependent variable and life events are the predictors: For example, when life is going well, self esteem will rise.
In my own opinion neither have rung true. Instead, it seems that there is a third variable which is a predictor of both self esteem and life success. This third variable is a difficult construct to explain, but I see it as some kind of mix between self talk and temperament. Although temperament has been found to be fairly stable over time, self talk can change and can effect life success and self esteem. I will use examples from my own life to illustrate. Recently, my father passed away. When my self talk is constructive (i.e. “things will get easier”) my life events become more successful (i.e. I get more school work done), and my self esteem raises (i.e. I feel more confident about my appearance and feel more comfortable with my intellect). If my self talk is negative (i.e. “Why me? Life is so unfair”), my self esteem drops (i.e. I focus on the negative and start to dislike the person in the mirror), and my life success drops (nothing makes me happy, so why would i want to be around anyone? As such, interpersonal relationships start to suffer).
Like the chicken and the egg we could ask what came first, the self esteem or the life event? But it’s more likely that there is a complex interplay between the two.. And possibly a third variable that may act as a moderator.
the sentence above is now invalid since it has been found that the egg came before the chicken.
How engaging is the textbook?
Note: Unless otherwise mentioned, the term “textbook” will be used to refer to Understanding Motivation and Emotion by Reeve, 2009. Reference is below.
The textbook seems to be written in a very engaging way. Is philosophical inquiries (e.g. page 2 “why stay up until 2:00 in the morning pondering questions of motivation?”), its reference to pop culture (e.g. pp24-25 refers to the movie Back to the Future and the De Lorean time machine), and its un-pretentious language (i.e. the use of the word ‘stuff’ on page 25) makes it not only easier and more interesting to read, but makes it easier for the material to be related to our lives, thus giving us a better chance of remembering it. The authors also compare material in the book with other well known occurrences (e.g. they compare paradigm shifts in motivational psych to that of astronomy and physics) giving us references to other information which we might already know also helps us to remember new information.
The textbook discusses the emergence of the mini theories in motivational psych as both positibe and negative. They say that the mini theories era can be seen as a negative because it means that motivational psych lacks an overarching paradigm. My question is: should this apparent negative be something with which the study of psychology should concern itself? Is this psychologies way of trying to adhere to standards or hard science disciplines, standards like (claiming) to have absolute facts and truthes? Obviously, scientific rigour got psychology to where it is today: well known and well perceived by the scientific and wiser communites. But for psychology to have an overarching paradigm, a set of ‘truthes’, would dismiss much of what psychology stands for: uniqueness of experience. Whether it’s the scientist who is unique in her/his understanding of a topic, or a participant who has an unezplainable reaction to a stiumus, it seems that there will always be an area for novel experience. So to be so rigid as to expect a grand theory is naïve.
Playing around with Wiki
I designed and uploaded a picture to wiki commons for my week 3 reflection. As i made the flow chart from scratch, i didn't have to change it to an appropriate size with wiki syntax. So now i will try some experimenting with pictures and syntax!
Ode to Hubble
While im playing around with images, they may as well be some of the most amazing images in existence!
Jellyfish are cool
(camera movements are not-so-cool; neither are loading times)
At about 7:45-8:00ish the sound in the room suddenly dropped. I looked around the room to see yawning faces and watering eyes. Personally, I was ok, because I don’t sleep much anyway. Hopefully people’s bodies will become used to the late class.
Very sheepishly I admit that I may like the sound of my own voice. I think A LOT and like to get things off my chest. But maybe I talk too much and annoy people in my class with my ramblings. Maybe it’s time to try another tact. Maybe some kind of voice recorder will be listener that I need? Shame it doesn’t talk back. Where’s AI when you need it.
In my group, a comment was made that prompted me to reflect on something I’ve pondered in the past.
Group member A: “So, group member B, why are you studying psych?”
Group member B: “Because I’m crazy”.
Witty answer, hey? And probably an answer with quite a bit of truth in it. Why am I studying psychology? Time for a flow chart.
So, although I’ve heard (on several occasions) that people only study psychology because they themselves are crazy, the case may not be that severe. We all have psychological disturbances every now and again: grief, anger, frustration, and so on; and psychology students may or may not suffer from these more frequently than the rest of the population. The only generalizing I will make is this: that most of us psychology students have a motivation to gain a better understanding of ourselves and/or the world we live in.
Questions to ponder
Is emotion the end point of a process, or the beginning?
As far as CBT is concerned, emotions are the end point i.e. environmental stimulus -> thoughts -> emotions. And seeing as CBT has helped me deal with my environment more effectively, I tend to think this model is correct.
How much of emotion is physiological?
Interesting question, because if we go down to a small enough scale ALL human behaviour/emotion/anything is physiological (i.e. electrical impulses). Maybe a better question is to ask: how is emotion driven by hormones/neurotransmitters? How is emotion driven by cognitions?
Emotion is ultimately subjective
I like this statement because it explains why emotion is so hard to define. Also, it takes into account the uniqueness of emotional experience. For example, for some, getting a tattoo may be exciting; for others, just the thought of it is repulsive. Also, what is ‘happiness’? There are so many ways to experience this (and all other) emotions.
I always thought that 'needs' were things that one needed to survive. But this definition is not very helpful in psychology. Instead, the first sentence in the Wikipedia definition of needs is appropriate to this area of study as it talks about things needed for a healthy life. My dispute, though, is with the need for sex. I have known many people who lead happy, healthy, fulfilling lives without sex, in the short term (i.e. a few months) and long term (i.e. many years). I have even heard of people being more satisfied when they're not having sex, because time spent on seeking sexual activity can be spent on other, more satisfying things. (See this life matters article for supporting evidence that the importance of sex is relatively minimal)
What makes for a good day?
Over the past few days i have been enjoying life a little more. Why, i wonder? It could have a little to do with the weather (maybe some mild seasonal effective disorder), but i also think that it has to do with what was explained in the What makes for a good day triangle. Over the past few days i have been more autonomous (i.e. i have been making well thought out decisions about what to do in my day, rather than just going with what others want to do) and i have felt more competent (because my decisions have involved spending more time doing school work). Due to these decisions, i have had less time for relatedness, but right now my fulfilling my autonomy and competence needs is providing me with more satisfaction.
Autonomy in the workplace. On Thursday i was watching a show called Food Safari. A woman in the show commented that at her work, once every month or so, they are asked to bring in a dish that's traditional of their homeland. Although it's not really work related, it is a way to encourage and express autonomy in the work place; and this could help to foster well-being amongst staff. Also, it's a way to express cultural diversity. It encourages biculturalism (i.e. maintaining a sense of identity that incorporates both ones original culture and ones current culture), which fosters better problem solving abilities and interpersonal skills.
Textbook Chapter Brainstorm
- Contributors (what makes happiness more, less)
- Consequences of happiness
- What distinguishes happiness from other emotions like joy or enjoyment?
- How much of happiness is biological? How much is cognitive? Refer to theories.
- Functions of happiness
The role of dopamine in incentives, rewards, expectations, and pessimism
Despite having already done a unit in physiological psychology, in Motivation and Emotion a have learned even more about how dopamine effects the brain. Four points in particular caught my eye because they help to explain the "save the best till last" and "keep your expectations low" sayings. This second saying may not be as well known as the first, mainly because it's a personal one of mine, one which i have abided by since a very young age. The four points of which i speak are as follows:
- Dopamine is released when anticipating future pleasant events.
- Dopamine release decreases when events unfold worse than they were expected to.
- Dopamine release continues if things go well.
- Dopamine release increases when things go better than expected.
This first point explains the "save the best till last" phenomenon. In anticipation of the thing that is being saved for last, dopamine will be released which promotes positive feelings. Points 2 and 4 help to explain my saying. I expect the worst because a) i wont have suffer from a decrease in dopamine when things go worse than expected (because 'worse than expected' infrequently exists) and b) because when expecting the worst, things often go better than i expect, which causes an increase in dopamine. Point three doesn't seem to mediate my motivations and emotions. This may mean that my brain is very sensitive to fluctuations in dopamine, maybe because my normal level of dopamine is low. "Expecting the worst" is one of the underlying themes of pessimism. Thus, through the above rationalisation we can see that dopamine is possibly responsible for optimistic and pessimistic personalities.
In reading the chapter on intrinsic and extrinsic motivation i thought, even though grades at university act as extrinsic motivators, our level of intrinsic motivation will greatly effect our mark. The textbook explains that people who have intrinsic motivation are more persistent, more creative, and will make an effort understand and integrate a topic (as opposed to learning it by rote). If a person is persistent, they will 'soldier-on' through the tough times (like when exams are on, or when lots of assignments are due), hence they will have studied more by the end of the semester and will get a better grade. If a person is creative (or can think creatively), they are better able to look at a problem from lots of different angles, hence they're likely to come up with a better solution than someone who is less able to think creatively. The benefits of creative thought permeate nearly every aspect of university assessment, from finding novel ways to deal with difficult group-assignment members, to thinking of more key words to search for when doing research for essays. And the ability to understand a topic is of the utmost importance for getting good exam grade, because often exams questions do not test rote memory. Exam questions are hardly ever taken straight from the book, but instead they test for how well you understand a concept.
Where i work, at an after school care, there is quite a focus on extrinsic rewards for behaviour. If, for example, a child helps us clean up, we are asked to reward them with a small toy or sweet treat. I have a problem with this because using external rewards can often undermine and decrease intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is so important in many ways, some of which were discussed above. People who are intrinsically motivated also show greater self esteem and less anxiety and depression (Reeve, 2009, p. 113). Knowing this, i try as often as possible NOT to reward children with extrinsic motivators like toys, but instead i thank them and explain to them what a good job they've done and how much they've helped me. In this way i believe that instead of providing them with extrinsic motivators (e.g. "I'm going to do nice things for Nicole because she gives me lollies"), i am contributing to their intrinsic motivation (e.g. "I'm going to help Nicole because it makes me feel competent").
Psychological needs, cognitive dissonance & learned helplessness
Interesting co-incidence that each week we cover a topic that's so relevant to what's going on in my life that week. Maybe its that the things we're learning in Motivation and Emotion are in general so applicable to everyday life.
The situation goes as follows. A friend of mine violated my sense of autonomy by making a decision that should have been made by the both of us. She refused my input in to the decision. In fact, it was a decision which she said he knew would upset me, but that she was going to go ahead and do it anyway. This then violated my sense of relatedness because this situation did not reflect the closeness, kindness and mutual caring which I had hoped for in this friendship. My friend then went on to claim that they were making this decision because of something I did wrong. And this violated my sense of competentness. I reflected on my reactions to this event.
First of all, I became reactive. I wanted to see my friend but she didnt want to see me, so for some reason (probably to protect my ego) I countered her feelings by saying I didnt want to see her either.
I felt that my friend was disregarding my feelings, and this is something I have felt before in this friendship. But I dont terminate the friendship. Why? Is it possible that im so self-efficacious that I believe in my competance to make this situation better? Is it possible that I believe I have so much control over the situation that I make the decision to persist, despite the same problems occurring time and time again? But these situations prompt me to feel a kind of pessimistic sadness, something which is incongruent with self efficacy (as discussed in textbook, 'Emotionality' p239). Also, pessimism is associated with feeling lack of control, whereas self efficacy is about believing you have the skills to be in control.
These conflict situations also prompt thoughts of “I've tried everything and nothing works”, “I've even tried leaving, and that didn't work either”, “i could keep trying, but why would I bother”. These thoughts have themes of learned helplessness (Reeve, p244) in the way that im feeling like no matter what I do I wont be able to influence the outcome. To add to this feeling of learned-helplessness, my friend gives me bogus feedback, using all-or-none statements to describe things that don't seem to happen in an all-or-none way. Well, why would I try making the situation better if she can't see my effots? My actions aren't contributing to the situation. This furthers learned-helplessness.
In contradiction to learned helplessness though, is knowing that when I do try to leave the friendship, I am in control of deciding to go back. So maybe cognitive dissonance applies to this situation? When cognitive dissonance has arose in the past, i have left the friendship, thereby 'removing the dissonant beleif' (Reeve, p276). But i started hanging out with her again and the dissonance returned. This time i reduced the dissonance by appreciating my choice (returning to the friendship), and depreciating the alternative (being without my partner)(Reeve, p277).
So i had hoped for this page not to be a place that i turned to for emotional rants, but alas, it seems that i am weak. I shall return at a more emotionally stable time!
Self efficacy vs efficacy expectation
I am a bit confused about the distinction between these two phenomena. Our textbook makes a distinction between the two, but (in my opinion) it does not make clear what the distinction is. From the way the books describes the two I have come to the conclusion that self-efficacy is comprised of both efficacy-expectation (the i-can-carry-this-out part) and outcome-expectation (the will-it-have-the-desired-effect part). Though im not certain that this is correct, so I shall keep an eye out for any more information, or if time allows, do some further research.
Diagram: To approach or avoid a situation?
On account of having a week filled with interpersonal relationship stress i've been finding it quite difficult to concentrate on 'formal' study. Knowing that i must soldier on, i realised that expressing my learning in a more creative way would better suit my mood. Or maybe it would better suit emotions. What im feeling is more than a short-lived physiological or cognitive event; but it's no where near as enduring as other things which have been described as moods, such as optimism. Definitions aside, I summarised something that was said in the "Nature of Emotion" lecture. It helped me create a neat picture of the concept in my mind. Hopefully it can help someone else, too.
This week in tutorials we did an emotinoal q-sort of a couple hundred emotions. We started by grouping emotions into six broad clusters (that i believe had been mentioned in the lecture): sadness, anger, disgust, joy, interest and fear. I was assessing the experience of emotion by thinking of it in terms of valence (positive or negative) and arousal (high or low). For example, joy has positive valence (its a positive emotion), and is high on arousal (its quite an intense emotion); and sadness and anger have a rather negative valence, but anger is much higher on arousal than sadness. Sometimes this method was overly simplistic, in which case i looked at a word and tried to imagine how i felt when i was last xyz (e.g. jealous), and used this as another method for categorization. While sorting in this way, we found that many of the emotions did not fit the six categories. We came up with 2 more categories: jealous and calm. Also, i thought that 'embarrassed' did not qualify to fit into any of the other emotional categories, so it sat in a 'category' on its own.
Here are our 'jealous' and 'calm' categories:
Our calm category is of positive valence, but it is not of particularly high arousal, so would not fit in with 'joy'.
Jealousy deserved it's own category because despite its negative valence and high arousal, it feels to be a more complex emotion than anger. Jealousy can almost be explained as an emotion that comes from a combination of others; when one is jealous, they're likely to feel a bit angry and a bit fearful and a bit sad.
Also interesting was the fact that the amount of words for negative emotions well outweighed the number of words for positive emotions. This probably means that in English speaking countries we need more words to express our negative emotions. But why is this the case? Is it because we experience more negative emotions? Or is it because in our cultures there's a great emphasis on being able to accurately describe our negative emotions? Its probably a bit of both.
Cultural differences in emotion
I was very interested by something that was briefly mentioned in the lecture about the cultural differences in emotion, so I decided to do further research on the topic. I was intrigued by James's suggestion that language enables cognitive elaboration of emotions which facilitates the occurrence of emotions. If this is true, and if it's also true that cultures differ in their emotional lexicon, then we would expect to see different experiences of emotion between cultures. I found an article by Vaid, Choi, Chen and Friedman (2008) that compared emotional experiences between Korean speaking, English speaking and Korean-English bilinguals. The participants were presented with several embarrassing situations, to which they were asked to document their emotional reactions.
The authors found that embarrassment ratings of the situations were significantly higher for Korean speaking participants compared to English speaking participants. This may be the case because shame and embarrassment are said to be a more more salient situational feature in Asian cultures (Vaid et al). Also, the embarrassing situations were described as occuring in front of a group of friends and considering the increased importance of groups in collectivist cultures, it makes sense that Korean speaking individuals rated the situations as more embarrassing. English speakers were more likely to react to the situation with humour.
To specifically investigate differences in emotional experience related to lexical dissimilarities, bilinguals were asked to complete the emotional reporting tasks twice; once in each language. If lexicon doesn't effect emotional experience, we'd expect that bilingual people would give the same embarrassment ratings in both Korean and English tasks. But the authors found that when bilinguals answered the tasks in Korean, they showed higher levels of embarrassment than when they answered in English. This suggests that it is not some kind of ingrained difference within the person that causes heightened experience of embarrassment, because the same person answering twice had different reactions depending on the language they were answering in. What differed between the Korean and Engish tests for bilinguals was the emotional lexicon in each language. As such, it can be said that lexicon is responsible for the difference in emotional experience.
Coming from a background where both of my parents have English as their second language, i've always found it intriguing when, for example, my mum would try to explain something that happened to her in Fiji, and she would stop and say “hmmm, the there's not really a translation for what im trying to say”. So she was trying to explain something that is so uncommon in english-speaking countries that we don’t even have words to describe it. This is a great example of the relationship between lexicon and experience.
Arousal and performance
In the text book, extraverted people are described as having a greater ability to experience positive feelings because they are more sensitive to rewards; their behavioural activation system (BAS) is more sensitive. Neurotic individuals are said to be sensitive to punishment; they are more motivated by their behavioural inhibition system (BIS). These proccesses lead extraverted individuals to seek and enjoy stimulation, where introverted individuals will shy away from similar stimulation, for they are more comfortable in safer environments which are less likely to provide punishment.
The textbook then goes on to discuss arousal and peak performance, giving an inverted-U shaped graph, where performance is best when arousal is moderate, and performance is low when arousal is either very high or very low. I think, though, that this arousal v.s performance relationship is moderated by whether someone is neurotic (and prefers to avoid stimulation and arousal), or if someone is extroverted (and enjoys stimulation). Extraverts seek arousal because its beneficial to them, and under beneficial circumstances they'll perform better; and the opposite is true of people who are more neurotic. I've created a graph to show this relationship.
Of course, it could (and probably should) be said that neurotic individuals are not avoiding stimulation, instead they naturally feel higher levels of arousal. So in stimulating environments where extroverts feel comfortable, neurotic people may feel 'over stimulated'. In which case, the x-axis on the graph could be labelled "environmental stimulation" or "environmental arousal" to keep the graph valid.
In the first part of the chapter for this week, Freuds notions of unconscious motivation are explained. Like many other psych students, find that most of Freuds theories do not resonate well with me. His determination in pushing for the acceptance of the unconscious was one of this better ideas. But his focus on violence and sex makes the human race out to be crazy addicts of S&M which obviously, most of us aren't. Also, Freud had problems providing experimental evidence for most of his theories, so we should digest them with caution. On page 398 (2009) Reeve talks about Freuds dream analysis and suggests that although sometimes Freud may have been correct (where dreams do in fact express unconscious wishes and motivations) that dreams are often simply cognitive problem-solving and coping mechanisms. I think this is a sentiment which should be applied to all of Freuds theories.. Sometimes (or should i say VERY RARELY) boys may feel castration anxiety, and girls may feel penis envy, but most of the time the behaviours which Frued was trying to explain were caused by something else; and that Freuds intent focus on the sex and violence could mean that he unfortunately had a troubled up-bringing.
On page 402 Reeve provides a simile which i greatly appreciated "Studying repression is similar to figuring out whether the light stays on after you close the refrigerator door". Correct you are Reeve, it is a very difficult thing to do; i remember attempting to figure this one out as a child.
I found the information about thought suppression and the rebound effect very interesting. I've always wondered why, when someone says to me "dont look!" (e.g. when a friend says "my ex is over there.. No dont look!"), i suddenly have this desperate desire to look at what i've been asked to avoid. Why? As the text book explains (pp. 403-404), this is a process known as the rebound effect. When we've been asked to suppress a thought or action, let's say we use the example of me not looking at my friends ex, my subconscious starts keeping an eye out for any urges to turn around to look at her. This is because it needs to suppress these urges if they come up. This 'keeping an eye out' leads the subconscious to dedicate much attention to the topic, so our mind becomes pre-occupied with it, and the conscious perceives this as a greater urge to perform the act. The textbook explains that the only way to avoid this unconscious preoccupation process is to welcome such thoughts into the consciousness, which i think is how i deal with situations in which im asked to keep a secret. I welcome the 'secret' into my conscious, knowing that i can and will keep it a secret. This relieves my subconscious of any duty it may have had to attend to keeping the secret, so i do not become preoccupied with it. This makes it very easy to keep secrets, and often i'll do such a good job of keeping the secret, that i'll forget it all together.
I think that this rebound effect also helps me to explain my particularly overly emotional nature. My wonderful, but very conditional-regard orientated mother (who shall be mentioned in the next part of this blog) has always tried to quell my emotional expression. She tells me to 'sshh' when i laugh out loud, she tells me not to cry at my uncles funeral, she tells me to dance less and sing less and have less fun because i should be studying or working more. She tells me to be less angry at the people around me, and less upset when I'm hurt. But i dont feel any of these emtions less. Instead, i feel them more. As explained by the rebound effect, this could be because my subconscious is so busy keeping an eye out for these emotions (so it can suppress them if they show up), and this preoccupation feeds my emotions and gives them more power. Maybe, instead of trying to suppress my emotional experience which gives them more power, i should focus on really feeling my emotions (making sure not to express them in ways that harm my interpersonal relationships), acknowledging them and accepting them.
Chapter 15 (pp 418-419) explains that the best time to observe 'temperament' is when a child is aged 3-5 years. At this age, a child is young enough that their behaviour hasn't been influenced by social and cultural norms, so we can more clearly see temperamental behaviour. The chapter explains that any discrepacy between ones temperament and how one actually behaves will cause emotional discomfort (say, a naturally introverted person acting as an extravert just to fit in with their peer group). I've written this here to help remind myself to ask my mum (when she gets back from overseas) what my behaviour was like when i was 3-5 years old. I've always had problems figuring out whether im an introvert or an extravert, because sometimes i thrive in a busy, social environment, and other times i'd rather be by myself to just sit and ponder life.
Also, i've just realised that the way the textbook spells 'extravert' is different to the way this spell checker and Google spell 'extrovert'. I wonder which is more correct....
On page 427 of the textbook, it describes how growth experiences are given a green light so a person goes towards and seeks them; whereas growth-blocking, detrimental behaviour is given an orange or red light so a person stops or avoids them. This is an important part of the chapter because it shows that positive psychology can not do much to explain things like addiction and other self-detrimental behaviours. Apart from the fact that positive psychology does not claim to be able to explain the more negative aspects of human nature, this statement highlights the importance of an integrative approach to explaining human behvaiour, where one paradigm is better at explaining one aspect, and others schools-of-thought are good at other areas.
Despite Positive psychology being interpreted as it's own paradigm, there are many aspects of Positive psychology that are used in Cognitive Behavioural therapy (CBT). For example, the emphasis on 'top-down processing' in Positive psychology is a central part of CBT, which is based on the premise that what we think is how we feel. Also, where CBT is effective at treating psychopathology, it is also used to help 'healthy' people get the most out of life, and this is also a focus of Positive psychology.
In the textbook, on page 425, there is a wonderful list of things to do to help reach self-actualization. I think this list has much wider applications. Rather than it just being to help those who are at the stage of seeking self-actualization (i.e. have satisfied all the other needs in Maslow's hierarchy), the attitudes in this list can be used by people who sit at nearly any stage in the hierarchy (i.e. these attitudes probably wouldn't be used by someone who's seeking to fulfill their physiological needs.. Being 'open to experience' while you're starving and without a roof over your head is completely nonsensical). I already use some of the listed attitudes myself. Recommendation no.2 on the list is Be Honest and describes the value of non-conforming. I feel that i am a non-conformist and I'm very quick to stand up for my beliefs. Whilst this means that I'm not particularly popular, it does mean that the friendships i have are very deep and fulfilling. Recommendation no.1 is to Make Growth Choices, which is my favourite on the list. It's particularly potent and in a way it covers all the other recommendations too. It describes the value in having a 'make every choice count' attitude, where each decision we make should be towards something which helps us grow, rather than something which causes us to regress. The book then gives an example of making growth choices, where one should choose a challenging university course which will cause one to learn and progress, rather than an easy course which will not offer any growth benefits. Again, i think this recommendation has wider applications.. One can make growth choices when they choose to 'take time out' from a tense situation, rather than becoming angry or aggressive, because their 'growth' involves being a calmer person. Another growth choice would be where a person accepts a blind date set-up by a friend because they want to meet more people, rather than being motivated by their fear and declining the date.
Discussed above (in the section about "rebound effect") was my intention to process my emotions in a more beneficial way. I will strengthen this intention by writing this here: From now on one of my 'growth choices' will be to process my emotions in a more constructive manner. Instead of trying to suppress them, i will recognise, experience and accept them, which should allow them less power than if i attempted to suppress them.
Conditional regard and perfectionism
This was another interesting part of this weeks topic and it led me to reflect on the relationships in my immediate family. My mum, although she is my rock, my mentor and my best friend, often provides me with conditional regard. Nothing ever seems to reach her exceptionally high expectations. When i do all the housework, she asks me why i haven't mowed the lawn. When i speak of how happy my partner makes me, she asks me why he hasn't bought me flowers recently. When i came 3rd in a class in college, she asked me why i wasn't first. I know that all she wants is what's best for me but it has led me to be very hard on myself (this effect is further discussed on page 432). Having the abilities to be a high achiever (and having done very well in the past), i felt that only my absolute best was good enough. This is a fine attitude to have, till some other factor is thrown in the mix.. Like a particularly hard or uninteresting class, or falling in love, or a death in the family; just to name a few. When my grades dropped (from HD's down to D's) i felt extremely uncomfortable within myself, i felt that i'd failed, i felt worthless and shamed. And then i realized this is not how i want to be. Good grades are important, but they shouldn't be so important as to prompt such negative feelings within myself. So recently, i've been focusing less on school, and trying to do more of the things that are emotionally important to me, like spending time with my two beautiful dogs, being near the water, and reading novels. This causes me some discomfort, because my grades can't be as high as they used to be, but i believe that in the long run it will be good for my well-being; eventually I'll be comfortable experiencing the there's more to life than good grades phenomena.
On page 444 of the textbook, some happiness exercises are provided. They remind me of a couple of the exercises a therapist gave me once, so i made a combined list of the textbooks recommendations and my therapists recommendations. Where the textbook recommends to list three things that went well in a day, i changed it to my therapists recommendation which was to write down five things that you did that went well. I think this is a better list to create because instead of listing events that you were passively involved in, you get to list events that you actively influenced. This helps to foster a sense of autonomy and competence, and is better for well-being than the textbooks suggestion. Also, i added a fifth point to the list which was "things to do that make you happy". This is a list which you add to every time you do something or think of something which enhances your well-being. The list can include big to-do-before-i-die things (i.e. 'skydiving'), or they can be small things (i.e. 'watching Seinfeld' or 'bowling'). This works well as a protective mechanism. When you're feeling a little down, you can go to this list and do something to treat your negative affect before it gets any worse.
Despite having read the chapter for this week, time is running out before the submission deadline, so I'd like to summarise the feel of this chapter (and possibly the feel of the entire book) in one sentence: It's more about the journey than the destination. What this means is that the aim or accomplishment could be the same, lets say, getting a university degree; but if during this time, one person studies with intrinsic motivation and makes growth choices and challenges their negative beliefs, they will have gained so much more by the end than someone who didn't.
It was interesting to ponder the Case Studies on page 457. My recommendations are as follows.
- Scenario 1: Poor teeth brushing behaviour. I work with children at an after school care so i can see how difficult it can be to encourage good behaviour in stubborn children. I find that most of the time children are being stubborn in response to feeling a lack of autonomy. To give the child a greater sense of autonomy, it would be good to let her choose her own teeth-brushing time, and slowly suggest more appropriate times. Even if she decides that brushing her teeth after school is the best time for her, this it better than not brushing her teeth at all and we can slowly encourage more suitable times, like after breakfast and after dinner. Education is also useful, and children respond well to knowing why they're being asked to do something. Maybe talking to the girl about what will happen if she doesn't brush her teeth, and using a salient example, like remember smelly uncle Fred, well he didn't like brushing his teeth either. Finally, some children respond really well to challanges. So maybe challenging the child to see how many brush strokes she can get in a minute might help.
- Scenario 2: Employee frustrated at work. I think that it might be a good change for this employee to find another job. Feelings like hers come up when we're not satisfied with a situation. If these feelings motivate the employee to find another job, she might end up in a job that she likes more, is more motivated to participate in, and subsequently receives more encouragement and praise for. Also, she might end up in a job that she is intrinsically motivated to do, like working with people with disabilities. This would satisfy some of her inner needs, and is much better for well-being that her current quota-based extrinsically-motivated employment.
- Scenario 3: Struggling musician. In this situation, it's important that the musician is honest with herself about her skill levels. To become an elite, paid performer takes a lot of work, but a certain amount of talent too (although this is a debatable point: is there such a thing as 'talent', or is it just 'hard work'?). Has the musician sought advice from her teachers and fellow musicians? Do other people think 'she has what it takes'? Obviously, she need not take other people's words as gospel, but for a balanced view it is always good to hear others' opinions. Becoming an acclaimed musician is a very long process, and can be un-fulfilling when it takes so long to reach your goal. So it would help if she made smaller goals (like to learn a challenging piece of music, or to learn a new technique) and she should acknowledge and celebrate these accomplishments when they occur. This will help to keep her motivated in the long-run.
- Scenario 4: Dieting and exercise isn't worth the effort. People need to live their life in a way that is best for them. If this man does not think that living a longer and more healthy life is worth the effort, than who are we to say he's wrong? It's his life and his body so he's the only one who can make the decision to change. However, it would be good to educate this man.. Does he know that his choices lead to and increased chance of a heart attack? Does he know that a heart attack can lead to death? Has he thought about the people he will leave behind? Does this man know that he has institutions and family and friends to support him if he makes the choice to live a healthier life? If this man is making an informed choice, then there is probably not much we can do to motivate him to act differently. Also, do we think so highly of ourselves to impose our way of living on everyone else? Who actually said that our healthy way is the right way? Unfortunately, this is a topic particularly close to my heart. Since my early teens i have been encouraging my dad to live a healthier lifestyle, but earlier this year his life choices led to his death. I gave him all the tools and education i possibly could, but he honestly preferred to live his life in a less-than-healthy way. He had a life in which he had a lot of fun and fulfillment, and he died happy; so who knows? Maybe it's him, not us, who had it right?
And finally, despite having read the rest of the chapter for this week, time is running out before the submission deadline; so I'd like to summarise the feel of this chapter (and possibly the feel of the entire book) in one sentence: It's more about the journey than the destination. What this means is that the aim or accomplishment could be the same, lets say, getting a university degree; but if during this time, one person studies with intrinsic motivation and makes growth choices and challenges their negative beliefs, they will have gained so much more by the end than someone who didn't. This has been a very encouraging unit, and i look forward to applying many of the principles i've learned to my own life.
Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding motivation and emotion (5th ed.). New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.
Vaid, J., Choi, H., Chen, H., & Friedman, M. (2008). Perceiving and responding to embarrassing predicaments across languages: Cultural influences on the emotion lexicon. Mental Lexicon, 3, 122-148. doi:10.1075/ml.3.1.08vai