Friday, 25 September 2020

A Spiritual Prescription for Perfecting Your Life

We were taught that there are two things we should try to remember and two things we should try to forget. The two things to remember are the bad we've done to others and the good others have done for us. By focusing on the bad we've done to others, our egos are forced to remember our imperfections and regrets. This keeps us grounded. When we remember the good others have done for us, we feel humbled by our need for others and our gratitude for the gifts we have received. The whole idea of this project is for the children to be in control. The adults don't mention money, but that doesn't stop the children. Marleena Stolp from the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland spent six weeks watching the theatre production, recording the children's conversations and then analysing them. The children knew they were creating something with a market value; They were only six years old, but far from viewing the play as simply an entertaining experience, they were already thinking about how to market and monetise it. There was no doubt that they loved the idea of making money. They even discussed how to select a ticket price that people would be prepared to pay, well aware that the market would not allow them to overcharge and that they risked having no paying audience if they did. So these children already had some comprehension of money, pricing and the idea of the market. Where does this understanding of the value of money come from? SAVING FOR A LUTE Make it your mantra. Whether this feels like a powerful spiritual practice or simply something to mutter under your breath, make it a habit. Before you begin something that feels stressful to you--giving a speech, talking to the boss, standing up to a friend or family member--close your eyes for just one moment, take a few deep breaths, and repeat the motto slowly with each breath. When you adopt the NO FEAR motto, you are making a commitment to the first letter of our acronym map: facing fear. Ironically, the only way to activate the NO FEAR motto in your life is to move directly toward the fear.

Don't expect to fully comprehend this all at once anymore than you would expect to simply exorcise all fear from your life. It is progress we seek, not perfection. I, like you, am a work in progress. As a clinician, teacher, writer, and human being, I claim to be no more than that. In fact, the self-help gurus who write and teach from a position of Once upon a time, when I was as screwed up as you are have always gotten on my nerves. Stay busy to keep from thinking or talking about an event Suffer memory loss about a painful event Isolate or require a significant time alone Feel disconnected to others Avoid seeking help Emotional numbing Loss of interest in prior activities Hyper-arousal is the state of being on high alert and agitated. A person experiencing this type of emotional hypersensitivity: Is always looking out for danger The two things that we were told to forget are the good we've done for others and the bad others have done to us. If we fixate on and are impressed by our own good deeds, our egos grow, so we put those deeds aside. And if others treat us badly, we have to let that go too. This doesn't mean we have to be best friends with someone hurtful, but harboring anger and grudges keeps us focused on ourselves instead of taking a broader perspective. I heard another way of thinking about this from Radhanath Swami when he was giving a talk at the London temple about the qualities we need for self-realization.

He told us to be like salt and pointed out that we only notice salt when there is too much of it in our food, or not enough. Nobody ever says, Wow, this meal has the perfect amount of salt. When salt is used in the best way possible, it goes unrecognized. Salt is so humble that when something goes wrong, it takes the blame, and when everything goes right, it doesn't take credit. In 1993, Mary Johnson's son, Laramiun Byrd, was just twenty years old when, after an argument at a party, he was shot in the head by sixteen-year-old Oshea Israel, who served more than fifteen years in prison for the killing. In a study conducted in Hong Kong, a group of five- and six-year-olds were given the word `money' and asked to free associate. They had plenty to say on the subject. Not surprisingly, they mainly associated it with the ability to buy things they wanted (similar studies in the US and Europe have found the same). They didn't tend to have views on the virtue or otherwise of money. Which is not the case with adults. When the same researchers gave adults questionnaires about whether money was good or bad, different groups took different stances. Students in particular had negative views about it. They believed it to be less good, less interesting and, strikingly, less powerful than business people did. It was just there, and they knew it was something desirable and useful, something you wanted to have, ready to spend. The notion of saving is something children learn about and appreciate even when they're quite little. Actually, anyone who denies the essential subjectivity of individual experience by claiming to have the answer for all of us, gets on my nerves. Long ago I gave up on the idea of completion when it comes to personal growth. One of the Nutshells reads: All things in turmoil in and around you are evidence that you are still alive. There will always be more to do, more to learn, and, as we will explore in a later article, each of us has certain themes that will recur in the progression of our life lessons. Fear is frequently--if not always--at the center of these lessons.

And by learning to transform our relationship to fear, we set off a powerful ripple effect that just might change everything. My goal, which certainly includes sharing my personal experience and my work helping others, is ultimately to inspire you to think and feel and explore for yourself. We all have little voices speaking to us. And if I can assist your little voice in moving you into your next growth spurt, I will have a success on my hands. On the morning after, the day I was scheduled to give my own lecture, I put on my brand-new NO FEAR motto even before I put on my eyeglasses, before I brushed my teeth. Is easily startled or frightened Suffers insomnia or non-restorative sleep Has difficulty concentrating Is irritable and angry Unable to deal with the pressures of working, many PTSD suffers must live on disability income or social services. Some end up homeless. As the inability to move past their trauma can be very distressing, PTSD sufferers are prone to self-medicating through drug and alcohol addictions, or calming their high anxiety through smoking, obsessive/compulsive disorders or eating disorders. Post-traumatic stress disorder is treatable through a combination of psychotherapy and medication. If you believe you may be suffering from PTSD, please seek out psychotherapists and psychiatrists who specialize in treating it and can help you manage your symptoms. Complex PTSD Johnson probably had the most valid reason any of us can imagine for hating someone, and hate Israel she did. Eventually, it struck her that she wasn't the only one hurting; Israel's family had lost their son too. Johnson decided to start a support group called From Death to Life for other mothers whose children had been killed, and she wanted to include mothers whose children had taken a life. Johnson didn't think she could deal with the mothers of murderers unless she truly forgave Israel, so she reached out and asked to speak to him.

When they met, he asked if he could hug her. She says, As I got up, I felt something rising from the soles of my feet and leaving me. After the initial meeting, the pair began to meet regularly, and when Israel was released from prison, Johnson spoke to her landlord and asked if Israel could move into her building. Unforgiveness is like cancer. It will eat you from the inside out, says Johnson. That said, before going to school, when children do save, the main motivation is usually the pleasure of collecting money, piling it up and counting it. It's only as children get a bit older that they begin to save for a particular item they want to buy. In my case, the cherished item was, rather bizarrely, a lute. I'd seen one at a craft fair at Hatfield House, the Tudor mansion in Hertfordshire where Elizabeth I was supposedly sitting under an oak tree in 1558 when she was given the news that she was to become queen. More than half a millennium later I became determined to save up enough to buy a lute. In order to track my progress, I carefully drew one of those fundraising thermometers. I also opened a special savings account at my favorite building society. I was extraordinarily, and rather sweetly, tenacious about my saving. After five years I had accumulated L187. Which was a good effort, but not nearly enough loot to buy a lute. I delivered my speech to a mixed crowd of students and faculty. I saw some old friends from my college days, who remarked on how much I had changed since then--they were referring to my lecture on self-compassion and personal responsibility, not my waistline and hair color. What they didn't know was how much I was only just beginning to change, thanks to my new personal motto: NO FEAR. Later that day I was joking with one of my psychology professors about a recurring dream I had had ever since leaving college. In the dream I am distressed because I have forgotten to check my campus post-office box.

Practicing the Presence of Peacefulness

If you can tolerate the situation, stay and learn what you can from it. It means detaching from your selfish interest, from being right, from being seen in a certain way, from what you want right now. Detaching means escaping the hold of the senses, of earthly desires, of the material world. You have the perspective of an objective observer. Only by detaching can we truly gain control of the mind. I've remixed some Zen stories, introducing new characters so that they're more relatable. One of them is about a monk who arrives at the entrance to a palace. She's a known holy woman, so she is brought to the king, who asks the monk what she wants. I would like to sleep in this hotel for the night, says the monk. The king is rather taken aback at this unexpected lack of respect. This is not a hotel, it is my palace! Is your heart chasing after God's heart? Is He the most important thing in your life? If not, your words will be careless, empty and idle, for no one whose heart is fully turned to the Lord speaks words that contradict their hearts' reality. Your tongue enables you to connect with God's eternal purposes for mankind. It also has the ability to connect you with or be disconnected from others. When you experience a disconnection (relational breakup) with someone, I can almost guarantee you that words were involved. The way to get reconnected with God and with people is to repent if you have hurt them through you words as well as to forgive those who might have spoken hurtful words to or of you. Words of repentance reconnect you with both God and people. Speaking yourself into defeat

In the article of Numbers article 13 and 14 we read about how the Hebrew spies came back from exploring the land of Canaan, and how they gave a negative report about the land, causing the whole community to turn and grumble against Moses. Rather than have our perceived weaknesses drive our life's course, it should be our strengths and core values that do so. We must locate them and bring them to the fore. Living with purpose and laughing at life will also help, as will adopting a more courageous approach to challenging situations. We should also try hard to think about ourselves and others as allies not enemies. I have covered a lot of ground over the last nine articles, discussing the problems social comparisons can create for our mental health and how we can take control to make them work to our benefit instead. Let's remind ourselves of the main points. How we perceive ourselves is heavily affected by the comparisons we make with others as well as those they make with us. We're all products of our comparisons. There's a large chunk of luck whether the targets for our comparisons are appropriate given that we typically choose the most convenient individuals to compare ourselves with. If they're unsuitable and we believe the results of the comparisons, which we're prone to do, we can arrive at a highly inaccurate impression of ourselves. You will be stronger and better prepared to deal with similar scenarios in the future. If you are enabling, covering up or abetting any illegal activity, get legal counsel and leave the company. If he goes down, you will too. If you decide to stay: Document everything that goes on for future reference. Educate yourself about pathological narcissism so you know exactly what you are dealing with. Trust your instincts. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Learn to distinguish between lies and truth.

Don't try to be a rescuer. The monk asks, Who owned this place before you? The king folds his arms across his chest. I am heir to the throne, he declares. Is he here now? He is dead. What is the meaning of this? And before your father, who was the owner? His father, the king shouts. The monk nods. Ah, she says, so people who come to this place, stay here for a while, and then continue their journey. They saw the giants in the land, the descendants of Anak and were afraid. What they did was to speak the problem, instead of the solution. They focused on their own inability to defeat the giants instead of focusing and confessing God's ability to do so. They actually allowed their own words to paralyze them with fear. When you use your words to sow the seeds of doubt and defeat, those seeds of unbelief quickly grow. The bad and fearful report of the spies concerning Canaan caused the whole nation to become negative, accepting defeat at the hands of these hybrid giants even before going into battle. They had more faith in the giants' ability to destroy them than in God's ability to wipe the giants out. Not only did they accept their defeat prematurely, but they sealed it by confessing it. Very often in life it is not the giants of life that destroys us but it is what we say about the giants of life that destroys us.

It is what we believe and confess that brings about our downfall. Even accurate impressions of where we stand relative to appropriate others may have undesirable effects depending on how we react to the results. Academic research confirms that comparisons can create problems for our psychological well-being, with issues of inferiority and/or superiority most commonly cited. The damaging feelings we experience are created by thoughts that are automatically triggered when we encounter particular situations. The advent and extraordinary growth of social media has dramatically altered the nature and number of comparisons we make. There's growing evidence that intensive use of many of these platforms is having detrimental effects on the mental health of young people in particular. To remedy the harmful influences of our comparisons and turn them to our advantage we must adjust our thinking. Using Thought Records and plenty of practise we need to invalidate our current negative thoughts, replacing them with constructive alternatives. If our current thoughts can't be disproved then we have a choice - Constructively Accept the situation or come up with an Action Plan to improve it. Similar methods will help us deal with mistakes and failures. Ultimately, we're aiming to achieve three things. That is not your job. Do not discuss personal things with your boss or invite him into your personal life. He will use those things against you. Do not be fooled or manipulated. Do not try to go above your bosses head or report him. You will end up on the losing end. Do not badmouth your boss to your co-workers. You don't know who you can and cannot trust. Never disagree, criticize, correct or challenge your boss.

Don't be fooled by kind gestures. Sounds like a hotel to me. This story gives a window into the illusion of permanence with which we all live. A more recent window is Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, the show where Kondo helps people declutter their lives, and at the end, over and over again, you'll see people weeping with relief and joy at having purged so much. That's because they've just dramatically decreased the number of things they're attached to. Attachment brings pain. If you think something is yours or you think you are something, then it hurts to have it taken away from you. A quote from Ali, cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammed, best explains the monk idea of detachment: Detachment is not that you own nothing, but that nothing should own you. I love how this summarizes detachment in a way that it's not usually explained. Usually people see detachment as being removed from everything, not caring. Marie Kondo isn't telling people to stop caring--she is telling them to look for joy. Verbal seeds of unbelief will cause you to focus on failure and defeat. Instead of focusing on the problem, you should always turn your attention towards God, speaking positive words as defense against the giants in your life. God's word says that with God everything is possible. Unless we remind ourselves of this and confess this steadfast victory daily, we run the risk of confessing defeat daily. Eventually Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it. Caleb understood the power of speaking positive, faith filled words. He knew that God created the heavens and the earth by speaking everything into being; Now that we have looked at the power of negative words, let's explore the power of speaking positive words. Speaking positive words is a must, but I believe we need to go further than that.

Thursday, 24 September 2020

What the Wise Ones Want Us to Know About the Now

The thing to remember is that you should allow yourself to choose what's right for you--never allow the moralizing whispers of society to get in your ear and distract you from your path. One common fallacy is that money is evil; Fact of the matter is, however, America rose to prominence on the backs of those who spurred this trend--entrepreneurs and artists who set off alone, with different goals. Not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, nor should everyone (or even most) strive to be. But had Edison, Steve Jobs and Jimi Hendrix become bankers or retail clerks, I suspect the world would have been far, far worse off for it. Each man had a clear goal--Edison to invent, Steve Jobs to revolutionize computing, Jimi Hendrix to change the guitar. And while there is little doubt that their level of organization differed from there on out, you'll see time and again that, if you desire a good life, you must plan to some degree. This varies from person to person; The new thoughts shouldn't just be positive for positive's sake but need to be realistic as well. A positive but unbelievable thought has little or no chance of helping. For instance, replacing our original thought of `Nobody likes me' with `I'm the most popular person in the world' is worse than worthless as we'll inevitably encounter plenty of situations that cast doubt on this. Once we have gained an increasing awareness of our thought processes and can consider more constructive alternative thoughts, we're likely to experience something called cognitive dissonance - a state of `psychological discomfort'. We've all had times when we hold a particular view only for it to be confounded by new information. The feeling we get then is the same as we should expect now and, although it sounds less than desirable, it represents an essential part of the improvement process. Because when we hold two thoughts that are inconsistent with each other, our brain works to resolve the difference. We either reconcile the two cognitions or gradually eliminate one of them. The good news is that by carefully evaluating our initial negative thought and (usually) finding that it lacks support we're already nudging ourselves in the direction of our alternative. Deliberately seeking and accepting evidence that supports the better thought will further improve the chances that it supersedes the poor one. If he does spend time with them, the activity must always be focused on his enjoyment. Family activities are never pleasant or fondly remembered by the children because they are never geared toward family fun.

The children are made to do whatever their father wants to do--no discussions, no compromise. Narcissistic men bore easily with the daily routine of having a family. Resentful of the mundane tasks of fatherhood that do not feed their egos, they'd rather spend time with other families that are impressed by their charisma, charm and grandiose stories, and are chock full of narcissistic supply. Narcissistic fathers find every reason not to engage with their families. Having little or no patience with their children, all child-rearing is left up to their wives. While their wives are busy taking care of the family, they are out looking for excitement and gratification elsewhere, often from other women. Narcissistic husbands typically have mistresses on the side. It is not uncommon for them to have second families and second homes. One afternoon a senior monk told us, Today we will have a silent lunch. Remember to chew your drinks and drink your food. What does that mean? We don't take the time to consume our food properly, the monk said. When you drink your food, grind the solids into liquid. When you chew your drink, instead of gulping it down take each sip as if it is a morsel to be savored. TRY THIS: SAME OLD, SAME NEW Look for something new in a routine that you already have. What can you spy on your commute that you have never seen before? Try starting a conversation with someone you see regularly but haven't ever engaged. They feel it will shackle their creative spirit and be a fruitless endeavor. This misconception stems from overzealous organizational texts that suggest you implement wildly detailed and obsessive principles.

The truth is, point-by-point planning and organization is right for only a select few individuals. There are some who thrive in hyper-organized environments; Most will, however, fall somewhere in the middle--benefiting from some organization, but also enjoying a modicum of spontaneity in their day-to-day lives. The reason most find it difficult to maintain organization is quite simple: they are trying to apply principles that are incongruent with their personality. You can, to some extent, change pieces of who you are. But this change will always resemble evolution, rather than a completely new species. Just as apes and humans possess a slew of common characteristics, you too will share many things in common with your former, less advanced self. If you're easily distracted, like to take constant action, and tend to address problems as they arise, it is unrealistic and foolish to plan your day step-by-step. Returning to my example, let's assume that we've reached a stage when, during time spent with our `more popular' colleague, we're sometimes convinced that nobody likes us but at other points can acknowledge our likeable qualities and the fact we have a couple of good friends. We could reconcile these conflicting thoughts by concluding `My friends are just being nice because they feel sorry for me. But by questioning these thoughts and actively recalling our constructive versions, the latter have an excellent chance of taking root and, in so doing, gradually crowding out the harmful ones. We'll know that we've succeeded when our new thoughts become the default in relevant situations - our so-called Negative Automatic Thoughts (NATs) are supplanted by one or more Constructive Automatic Thoughts (CATs). I will say more about how we can achieve this in article 9. We mustn't forget that some upward comparisons can serve a useful purpose by providing motivation and/or a method to improve. Stage 2, therefore, requires us to ask ourselves `Can I gain anything from the comparison I'm making? For instance, `My colleague seems to spend quite a lot of time emailing and calling her friends. It would be fun to do a bit more of that myself. If, however, it's `No, because I'm worthless' then we'll need to call upon our familiar, alternative thoughts again. They are highly insecure, especially when it comes to their masculinity, so validation from one woman, especially a wife, is not enough. They must keep seeking reassurance from new women through a series of affairs.

Unsuspecting newcomers rarely know these men are married. To justify cheating on their wives, narcissistic men tell themselves lies such as: She doesn't appreciate me anymore, She doesn't treat me well, She doesn't really love me, or She's lucky I even stay with her. The other women are treated much better than their wives are. They must keep up the grand facade to string these women along. If the men do have second families, those children are usually treated better than their legitimate children are. Much more narcissistic supply can be gained from a new family, one who has yet to see what these men are capable of. Some narcissistic men dump their first family and invest entirely in their new one. It is only a matter of time before the cycle of abuse starts all over again with these unsuspecting victims. Do this with one new person every day and see how your life changes. If a monk can be mindful of a single sip of water, imagine how this carries through to the rest of daily life. How can you rediscover the everyday? When you exercise, can you see the route that you run or feel the rhythms of the gym differently? Do you see the same woman walking her dog every day? Could you greet her with a nod? When you shop for food, can you take the time to choose the perfect apple--or the most unusual one? Can you have a personal exchange with the cashier? In your physical space, how can you look at things freshly? There are articles all around our homes and our workspaces that we have put out because they please us: photos, knickknacks, art objects. This neither plays to your strengths nor will result in any form of long-term success. Do not fall pretty to gurus and organizational blogs that hop up and down and tell you this is the only way.

Those are lies and misconceptions. These people are trying to sell you something or convince themselves of their own brilliance and importance; You should not feel guilty about being somewhat disorganized--so long as it consistent with your character. However, it is best to reiterate that certain principles are non-negotiable, the hallmark of almost every successful person on the planet. Unless you are extraordinarily unusual--and while most of us believe this ardently, the truth is generally otherwise--then you would be best served by applying these ideas to your own life. How granular and obsessive you get is up to you. You will find all these principles within article two; To that end, I invite you on a two month challenge. Once we've completed this process and can deal successfully with a couple of specific situations that triggered hurtful comparisons we're likely to find that those resembling them should become much easier as well. Our aim, with practise, is to reach a position where all upward comparisons can only have two possible outcomes - we either gain something helpful from them or we move on because there's nothing that can be gained. Crucially, our hurtful, inferior thoughts are no longer triggered by such comparisons: we don't feel a sense of threat when using them in any circumstances. In time we may even learn to stop making upward comparisons where we're unlikely to receive any benefit from them, reserving them for more promising situations. This is the third and final Stage and, once there, we'll have met the first of our key objectives. I compare upwards. Looking at Stage 3 you may be wondering why we carefully chose and practised alternative thoughts when we don't end up using them here. Why not miss out this step? The answer is that they're an essential part of eliminating our entrenched negative thoughts. If we don't work hard to replace them, we'll risk a relapse whenever we compare upwards. Should the first wife leave or divorce her husband before he abandons or divorces her, he will wage a tireless war of revenge aimed at destroying her life and decimating the family unit. Suddenly transforming from worst father ever to Dad of the Year, he will rally the children around him.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Five Ways to Raise Your Level of Spiritual Freedom

None of us wants to go to work tired and then get to the end of the day feeling like we could have done more. The energy and mood of the morning carries through the day, so making life more meaningful begins there. We're used to waking up just before we have to get to work, or to a class, or to a workout, or to shuttle children off to school. We leave ourselves just enough time to shower, eat breakfast, pack up, etc But having just enough time means not having enough time. You run late. You skip breakfast. You leave the bed unmade. You can't take the time to enjoy your shower, brush your teeth properly, finish your breakfast, or put everything away so you'll return to a tidy home. While friendly enough, she left me completely to my own devices, which allowed me quiet and solitude. She seemed completely oblivious to the tear-stained cheeks I woke up with (inexplicably escaping from my eyes as I slept) or my muffled sobs into a washcloth in the shower on the morning of what would have been my anniversary. Nor was she in the room anytime I wanted breathing space between sessions. Much of the conference was a blur in grief-induced fog, but certain moments remain crystal clear. I remember the beautiful music that began each morning and had me bolting from the room in tears. I'll never forget author Jane Rubietta who found me in the hallway and took hold of my hands to pray for me, or Cynthia Ruchti's workshop that I ended up in by accident, with a message I copied down so I can share it now. God doesn't waste anything. Let the Lord use it. God will refresh you and revive you, she said as a lump formed in my throat and tears filled my eyes. Brave writers all write from a dwelling place, or a history of pain. To be resilient to upward comparisons that will represent a genuine source of motivation and learning Currently, we're `damaged' by most upward comparisons as the perception that somebody is better than us automatically makes us believe that we're inferior to them.

Often, we don't just feel that we're a lesser person than the individual we're comparing ourselves with but more generally as well. As such, these comparisons serve no constructive purpose whatsoever, simply filling our mind with hurtful thoughts. Our Target-Selves think in a completely different way. Upward comparisons don't undermine our sense of self-worth but are deemed genuinely useful, potentially representing a handy means to motivate and improve. We even actively seek out those more expert than ourselves as a source of learning. The targets of our upward comparisons can be younger or older; These are no longer the criteria we use to determine whether, or who, to ask for help. The only thing that matters is that the person may have insights that we currently lack. I was musically talented but he never acknowledged that. If it seemed like things were going my way or that I was happy, he would try to make me feel bad. I was called every name in the article. He once called me a slut because I wore flip flops to school. As a teenager preoccupied with myself and my problems, I did not realize how bad my father was treating my mom and how much damage was being done to her. My dad has laid guilt on my mom for just about everything that has happened since the day they were married. Anytime he was unhappy with his life (basically all the time) he blamed her. If they did not have enough money, he blamed her. He blamed her for the size of our house. She was also blamed for the fact that his brother and his family were more well off than we were. You can't do things with purpose and care if you have to speed through them. When you start the morning with high pressure and high stress, you're programming your body to operate in that mode for the rest of the day, through conversations, meetings, appointments.

Waking up early leads to a more productive day. Successful businesspeople are already onto this. Apple CEO Tim Cook starts his day at 3:45 a. Richard Branson is up at 5:45. Michelle Obama rises at 4:30. But it's important to note that while lots of high-impact people rise early, there's also a movement among top executives to reclaim sleep. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos makes it a priority to get eight hours of sleep every night, saying that less sleep might give you more time to produce, but the quality will suffer. So if you're going to rise early, you need to turn in at an hour that allows you to get a full night's rest. Mine the pain. Don't waste it. I don't have to search my memory for the sign I discovered the final day of the conference because I've saved it as a reminder. The piece of paper--that hadn't been there just moments before--was attached to a tree on a pathway that reminded me of the University of Northern Iowa campus I'd walked with David the previous year. The handwritten sign declared: If a tree does not suffer great winds and storms, its bark will not grow thick and strong. The tree, thin, naked, and weak, will fall over and die. Storms will bring strength, majesty, and growth. God brings storms to build us. When He builds us, we will go forward. I carefully removed it from the bark, certain its message was meant for my wounded soul, just as that morning's guest pastor's devotional had been. Being intimidated by others is a thing of the past. To no longer rely on downward comparisons to inflate our ego

Downward comparisons can represent a quick and easy way to feel better about ourselves. Consciously or not, some of us use them for exactly this purpose, bolstering our self-esteem as a result. But we need to be careful here. Frequently putting others down to feel better about ourselves is to live a blinkered, negative life, akin to that of a bully, without (hopefully) the use of their physical or verbal intimidation tactics. There's another issue to be aware of as well. A 2006 research paper examined the relationship between the self-esteem of a random selection of more than 60 adults and their experience of `destructive' emotions and behaviours. Put another way, we can have a relatively high level of self-esteem - by always comparing downwards for example - and yet still experience a wide variety of adverse traits. The study discovered that the people most likely to experience these damaging behaviours and emotions were precisely those who compared themselves frequently with others. When my father was diagnosed as clinically depressed my mom tried to hide it from me and my brother, though we eventually found out. He used to tell my mother every day that he wanted to kill himself and then blamed her for his misery. He actually did attempt suicide a few times. I remember the abuse escalating when I was 13 years old. At the time my father had been unemployed for a couple of years and was home all day, so there was no way to escape the abuse. My brother, mother, and I walked on eggshells around him, trying not to upset him, but nothing we did helped. His explosions were random. From the moment I came home from school until the moment I left he made our lives a living hell. My mother spent a lot of time outside of the house trying to avoid my father. She eventually separated from him, but that only added fuel to the fire. Life gets more complicated if you have kids or a night job, so if these or other circumstances make the idea of waking up an hour earlier unfathomable, don't despair. Start with manageable increments (see the Try This below).

And notice I didn't name a specific time for you to get up. I'm not asking for 4 a. The hour doesn't even have to be early--the goal is to give you enough time to move with intention and do things completely. That spirit will carry through the day. Create a time cushion at the beginning of the day or you'll spend the rest of the day searching for it. I guarantee you will never find that extra time in the middle of the day. Steal it from your morning sleep and give that sleep back to yourself at night. See what changes. I see you, Mary. His booming voice startled me at the back of the room, and his eyes seemed to look straight into mine, yet I'd never met him and was convinced he'd chosen a random common name. I see you, Mary. Take courage. Be filled with courage. Every follower of Jesus Christ can survive their deep water and dark night experiences because we have the knot of reassurance that even when we can't see Jesus, Jesus sees us. I am here for you,' he says. Don't be afraid to take the next step. Thanks to the conference, I knew my next step: I'd be writing a article about grief. That fall, I traveled to the Maranatha Christian Writers' Conference to personally meet and thank the man who was responsible for the scholarship I'd won. A much better way of living is to have a sufficient, genuine sense of security and self-confidence not to require the use of downward comparisons to boost our ego. We'll still make such comparisons but mainly to generate empathy for others and to track our progress (see below).

Some take the road filled with dreams

We're aggressive when dealing with authority figures, seeing them as enemies which threaten us in some way. We're reluctant to listen and respond positively to other people's points of view, believing that we know best and are always right. I would wager that everybody reading this article will have thought or behaved in ways that resemble at least one of the descriptions mentioned. My focus is on those of us who persistently experience many of these symptoms and feel that their lives are being seriously affected as a result. If, like me, you're one of those people, it's time to take action. If you're not, then you may know somebody who is and will want to understand more about what is happening. Comparisons, schemas and mental health The first thing to recognise is that people are not necessarily coming up to us and pointing out our relative inadequacies. She has no tolerance for his childhood neediness. If she has to tend to his needs for any reason, he will somehow be made to suffer for the inconvenience. From very young ages, mothers hold these boys responsible for feeding and dressing themselves. They are forced to grow up far too early. Neglect is the hallmark of the invisible son, but there are extreme cases of total abandonment where these boys are deserted, given to someone else to take care of, or put in foster care. Invisible sons who are lucky will end up in better homes with families who care about them, but there is no guarantee of that. They can just as easily end up in more abusive situations. Whether neglected, rejected or discarded, the invisible son feels abandoned. Logic tells him that he must be an unlovable person or that he must have done some reprehensible, unforgivable act to make his mother despise him. The responsibility and guilt he feels for causing his mother's rejection never goes away. Knowing your purpose and fulfilling it is easier and more fruitful when you use your time and energy wisely every day. In the next article we will talk about how to get the best start to your day and how to follow through from there.

SIX ROUTINE Location Has Energy; Time Has Memory Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. There are twelve of us, maybe more, sleeping on the floor, each on a thin yoga-type pad, covered by a simple sheet. The walls of the room are made of packed cow dung that feels like rough plaster and gives the place a not-unpleasant earthy smell. The unfinished stone floors are worn smooth, but a far cry from memory foam. There are no finished windows in this building--we're in an interior room that keeps us dry in the rainy season and has plenty of doors for ventilation. Did you see that mixed media piece I created to represent my article's message that I posted on Facearticle? That's what our life is like: little bits and broken pieces. Everything we went through and experienced up until that moment when our beloved took their last breath. There are ugly moments we'd rather not remember and beautiful ones. There are precious memories. There is a pattern to our life that has made us who we are. Picture your life as a mixed media collage. Whatever you add to the collage from this point forward is up to you. You can keep moving those broken parts around. You can add similar pieces. Instead, we've become conditioned to think about ourselves in an unhelpful way as a result of previous or ongoing comparisons. Whether we're aware of it or not, we are usually the ones telling ourselves that we're inadequate or incredible.

After all, this is consistent with the picture we have of ourselves and, as everybody knows, pictures never lie! These images, known as schemas in the language of psychology, are usually activated automatically by internal thoughts and/or external prompts. For example, our boss may ask us to deliver a presentation to a large audience, triggering our public speaking schema. We perceive ourselves to have done much worse than colleagues in the past and conclude, `I'm bound to fail again and make a fool of myself in the process. My reputation will be destroyed. With these thoughts occupying our mind, we waste precious time considering how to get out of the talk, rather than what we can do to make it as interesting and informative as possible. If, having given the presentation, we believe that we've performed poorly our public speaking schema will be supplemented by the negative images and thoughts associated with the experience. Our internal beliefs may now be so firmly set that if we're persuaded to present again and receive positive feedback we don't believe it. No form of surrogate nurturing will ever make up for the loss of his mother--the one person in the world who is supposed to love him. The pain of maternal neglect leaves an indelible mark on him. The emotional wounds fester for a lifetime. Many invisible sons self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to block the painful memories that haunt them. Maternal narcissistic abuse is severely damaging no matter which role sons are assigned. The repercussions of it last a lifetime. Narcissistic mothers never allow their sons to earn anything in their own right. They don't like to be shown up by their children. If they can somehow take credit for their sons' achievements, they will. If they cannot, they will devalue or ignore what they do. Although I sleep here every night, there is no particular space that I consider mine. We steer clear of ownership here--no possessions, no material attachments.

Right now the room is dark as a cave, but from the tenor of the birds outside, our bodies know that it's 4 a. We're due at collective prayers in half an hour. Without speaking a word, we move to the locker room, some of us showering, some of us pulling on our robes. We wait in line to brush our teeth at one of the four communal sinks. No one from the outside world is witness to our activity, but if they were, they would see a group of seemingly well-rested men, all of whom appear perfectly content to be getting up at this early hour. It wasn't always that easy. Every morning my brain, desperate to remain shut down just a little bit longer, thought of a different excuse for why I should sleep in. But I pushed myself to adopt this new routine because I was committed to the process. That is your comfort zone, and there is nothing wrong with that. There's a reason it's called the comfort zone; But God might have something more for you, and if you continue saying `I can't' or `I'd never,' you are essentially saying `NO. He can use you in so many ways if you let him. You can grow in him and share in the masterpiece he wants to make of your life's collage. Is God asking you to do something today? Is there something you are feeling led to that sounds too difficult, is uncomfortable, or you don't feel qualified for? What might you be saying NO to? Ordinary women become extraordinary when they find a way to tap into the wellspring of creativity. THE GREAT COLLABORATOR We conclude either that people are `just being nice' or it was a one-off. On another occasion, we're invited to a party.

Based on experience we know that we won't enjoy it or, worse still, it will upset us. I'm so boring in comparison. I haven't done anything exciting and I don't have any funny stories to tell. At this stage, I should note that it's perfectly possible, if not likely, to feel inferior in some circumstances and superior in others. This happens when our comparisons have led us to adopt contrasting schemas for different situations. Having done much better than our classmates in a previous music test, for example, we may approach future such exams with confidence - `I'm good at music and I'm certain I'll do brilliantly again. By continually accessing one negative schema or having many different harmful schemas that are triggered frequently it's not hard to see how our mental health can deteriorate. In some cases, we might as well have somebody shouting hurtful things in our ear for the majority of the day; Should their sons fail at something, they will relish in it. The only efforts narcissistic mothers support are the ones they initiate or those that make them look good. Image is everything to the narcissistic mother. She uses her sons to replicate her perfect image--the self she wants the world to see. Tony's mother, whom he discusses in his letter at the beginning of this article, perfectly exemplifies that: Tony's mother is of Cuban refugee descent. As an adult woman living in the United States with a medical doctor as a husband and two boys of her own, she strived to project an image of wealth. Though middle class and comfortable, she pretended to be an educated woman of culture, affluence and social prominence. She used her two young sons to perpetuate the false family image. Their youth was anything but normal. The fact that it was hard was an important part of the journey. Eventually, I learned the one infallible trick to successfully getting up earlier: I had to go to sleep earlier.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

A Higher Lesson in Life Levels That Leads to a New Life

The last of these may surprise some, but those with children will know how endemic they are at this stage of life. Not only do the vast majority of us actively compare our parenting abilities with fellow parents but we're acutely aware of how our child(ren) are performing relative to their peers. This tends to be particularly true of the first child where we have no previous experience to fall back on. Dysfunction is a legacy that is easily passed on. If you don't want to hurt your children, get your own issues cleared up. The best gift you can give your children is an emotionally whole mother. The legacy of my family stopped when I decided to get help. I wanted to make sure that I didn't repeat any dysfunctional patterns with my own children. I am proud to say that I raised two emotionally healthy children. Although this takes a conscientious effort, it is fully possible to overcome the legacy of dysfunction. Many daughters of narcissistic mothers have successfully achieved this. Narcissistic Mothers and Sons Tony shares his Close Encounter However, if the world is sending you a very strong message that it won't pay for or does not otherwise need or want your passion, then fine. Accept that. There's a critical need for soccer in the world, but there's no need for me to play soccer. Still, the soccer matches I organized at Accenture were the highlight of my week. If it's not your dharma, it can still give you joy. Quadrant Three: Not Good at, Don't Love Do whatever you can to crawl out of this soul-sucking quadrant.

You will always have unpleasant chores, but they shouldn't be the biggest part of your life. If at all possible, you should work toward outsourcing the chores in this category. Hurt the pocket, save the mind. In the ensuing thirty years, Irma Amy Potter would produce 544 pieces of art, according to a ledger that tracked each piece. The entries are not dated, but they begin with the first wood carving in 1970 and end with the relief wood carving that was commissioned for the Delaware County courthouse in 1996. Anything Mom had crafted before the age of forty-two--the wall hangings, pastel pictures, quilts, or homemade dolls--were not included in this tally. Neither was the body of work she continued to produce between 1996 and her death in 2010. That includes countless pillows; Christmas stockings; I could not begin to guess how many additional pieces of art my mother produced in those last fourteen years of her life, or why she stopped keeping the log, but suffice it to say, my mother was a prolific artist in the second half of her life. Ironically, the valiant attempt to save her brain for that one last creation may have been the very thing that cut Mom's life short. Recuperating at home after completion of radiation treatment, she impatiently waited for her energy to return so she could begin the painting that existed only in her imagination. When my sister Joan stopped to check on her one late October day, she discovered Mom disoriented, confused, and too weak to go to the bathroom by herself. Often these comparisons are extremely valuable. If, for example, we discover that our child is significantly behind others of the same age in reaching key stages of development it may point to problems that are better dealt with sooner rather than later. Also, if our comparisons lead us to conclude that we're considerably stricter or more lenient than our fellow parents this could sensibly lead us to reassess our parenting style. Nevertheless, as with all comparisons, there are plenty of things that can go wrong. Given how important our children are, it's very easy to make too many comparisons and worry overly about their outcomes. The comparisons themselves may also be unreasonable, such as comparing our perfectly able son or daughter with a child who is particularly gifted or one experiencing learning difficulties for instance. We might envy peers who appear to have exceptionally well-behaved children, possibly learning the wrong lessons about the `correct' way to parent.

While this area is hugely under-researched, there's no doubt that any of these situations can have profound consequences. In the last section we saw how parental favouritism creates behavioural and psychological problems in siblings and the same must logically apply to children whose caregiver(s) persistently tell them how badly or fantastically they're performing relative to their peers. Inappropriate comparisons may also affect the mental health of the parents themselves, making them feel as though they have `failed', while disagreements over child rearing techniques sometimes lead to relationship difficulties. On the day I was born, my mother didn't go to the hospital to deliver me; My NPD mother had two sons who she never saw as individual people. She saw and treated us only as extensions of herself and a means through which to satisfy her own wants and dreams. She planned our whole lives around that dream--and never bothered to consult the interested parties. It didn't matter how sad or upset it made us. We were here to live up to her illusion. Anything that came from us--true dreams and personalities--was deemed insignificant, made invisible and dismissed. My mother deluded herself into believing she was of high-class status. She often referred to people by some sort of caste classification. She'd often say things like so-and-so is low-class, and Only low-class people wear blue jeans. And remember, just because you don't like it doesn't mean nobody likes it. Can you work out a trade with a friend or colleague, where you take on each other's least favorite tasks? If you can't offload the chore, remember the lesson I learned at the ashram--every task is an essential organ. None is less important than the others, and none of us is too important to do any chore. If you think you're too good for something, you succumb to the worst egotistical impulses, and you devalue anyone who does that chore. When you're satisfied in your dharma, you can, without envy or ego, appreciate others who are good at another skill. I have great respect for people who can do Excel, I just don't want to do it myself.

When I encounter doctors or soldiers or people in any number of other careers, I think, That's extraordinary. It's amazing. But it's not me. She went downhill fast, likely having suffered a stroke. Within days, our beautiful, brave mother was gone. Having lost our father some twenty-five years before, we were thrust into the role of orphans, feeling every bit the part. We lamented the loss collectively and individually, staggered by the enormity of our grief. One sister confessed to rocking back and forth on her couch, sobbing into a pillow Mom had made. Another who'd visited our mother several times a week seemed completely bereft without the regular visits. From my youngest sister in her mid-forties to the oldest in her early sixties and the eight siblings in between, grief adversely affected our thinking patterns, muddling minds we believed were already experiencing glitches attributed to middle age: forgetting names, losing our keys, not being able to think of the right word. I remember talking to my sister Angie on the telephone one morning as I filled the washing machine in the basement. Later that same day, I stumbled around the house searching aimlessly for the ringing phone. I wondered what was wrong with my brain that I could lose a telephone I would later discover still in the basement. Marriage counsellors have estimated that parenting disputes contribute to about 20% of divorces in the West. There's an unusually strong consensus within the research community concerning the direction of the comparisons made by children in school and the effects they have. After reviewing more than a hundred relevant studies, five academics summarised the situation as follows. Such upward comparisons not only lead pupils to perform better but evoke negative affect and lower academic self-concept. Put another way, most students want to improve and attempt to do so by looking to those who have similar characteristics but are marginally `superior' to them in important respects. The evidence strongly indicates that the comparisons work - children generally do improve academically by comparing upward. But there's a catch.

The upward comparisons also lead students to feel worse about themselves, particularly - and ironically - with regard to their academic abilities. An important word in the quote above is `prefer'. The obvious question is what happens if the ideal target for academic comparisons simply doesn't exist or is too time-consuming to find? My mother surrounded herself with friends she considered to be high-class and other wealthy people, usually medical doctors. This extended to her choice of a husband. My father was a medical doctor. As that bolstered my mother's illusion, they married. But it became clear over time that it was a loveless marriage. They slept in different rooms and had separate lives. As for my brother and me, my mother tried to indoctrinate us and her friends into believing her illusion. As children, she would often tell my brother and me that we were royalty. Supposedly there was a distant cousin of an uncle of a grandfather in Spain who was a duke. She would tell us elaborate stories about this duke and his noble sacrifice to the church and crown. TRY THIS: IDENTIFY YOUR QUADRANT OF POTENTIAL You may have been doing this exercise in your head as you read about the Quadrants of Potential. Nonetheless, I want you to go through the exercise of acknowledging how close you are to living your dharma today. Do you like your job? Do you love your job? Are you good at your job? Do other people need and appreciate your work?

Monday, 21 September 2020

Hidden Within You Is a Gift Too Big to See

A more practical approach is to find innovative ways to move toward Quadrant Two within the jobs that we already have. What can you do to bring your dharma where you are? When I first left the ashram, I took a consulting job at Accenture, a global management consulting firm. Over the next three years, as he underwent treatment, he ended up in the hospital for days, weeks, and even more than a month after he underwent a stem cell transplant. Greeting cards, small toys, DVDs, and handheld game systems were invaluable to making the hospital bearable, for him and also for his mother, who slept on a couch in his room. Ask your local children's hospital how you can help cheer up a child's stay. In the patient's best interest, they have rules and regulations as to what they can accept, but even a cheery greeting card can go a long way in brightening a child's day. This group collects cards for hospitalized children: http://www. Send gift cards to the parents of hospitalized children. When you send greeting cards to children in the hospital, you might want to think about their parents too. While my grandson had meals served to him, my daughter had to eat food she brought, utilize the vending machines in the hospital, or go to a nearby cafe. The cost of gas to get back and forth to his many appointments and treatment was exorbitant too. Generous donations of gift cards for local coffee shops, fast food places, and gas stations were invaluable. Self-reporting them normally involves answering survey questions to form an aggregate measure of, say, `agreeableness'. Do you `cheat to get ahead, use others for your own ends, believe that you are better than others and have good intentions? But our answers may vary from one day to the next according to our mood, and, in some instances, will be influenced by who we compare ourselves with to reach a judgement. I also wonder how truthful our responses will be: not everybody who is disagreeable will want to admit this after all! Many researchers have tried to circumvent these issues by using third parties to assess the personality traits of others. In practice, though, nobody could know a sufficiently large number of individuals - in a statistical sense - well enough to accurately assess their level of `agreeableness'. Some people will be agreeable when meeting face-to-face, but disagreeable in other situations which the researcher doesn't experience.

Alternatively, if a large number of third parties are involved, each with the task of judging a few people, they'll almost certainly have different standards by which they assess them. With this in mind, it's perhaps no coincidence that the area where the strongest consensus regarding birth order effects exits, is the only area where a truly objective measure is available to test for it - intelligence, as measured by IQ. Both of the recent research papers I referred to found a relationship between intelligence and birth order, with IQ test scores falling slightly from first to later borns on average. There is also a very extreme, off the charts version of narcissistic mothers. These are the ones who commit the heinous crimes against children we sometimes hear about. They are known as malignant maternal narcissists. These women are deranged and inhumane to the core. They either do cruel and torturous things to their children or have others facilitate the abuse and then enjoy watching it. Casey Anthony, the woman who murdered her child Caylee so she could enjoy the single life, exemplifies the malignant maternal narcissist. Malignant maternal narcissists are the ones who emotionally torture their children by hurting or threatening to hurt their beloved pets. They are the mothers who beat their children to death or within one inch of their life. Some sexually exploit their children. You can well imagine the other horrific things they do without me having to be graphic. We were constantly dealing with numbers, data, and financial statements, and it quickly became clear that a talent for Excel was essential in order to excel in my position. But Excel was not my thing. In spite of my efforts, I couldn't force myself to get better at it. I just wasn't interested. As far as I was concerned, it was worse than mucking out the cow stalls. So, while I continued to do my best, I thought about how I could demonstrate what I was good at. My passion was wisdom and tools for life like meditation and mindfulness, so I offered to teach a mindfulness class to my working group.

The lead managing director loved the idea, and the class I gave was popular enough that she asked me to speak about mindfulness and meditation at a company-wide summer event for analysts and consultants. I would speak in front of a thousand people at Twickenham Stadium, the home stadium of England's national rugby team. When I got to the stadium, I found out that my turn at the podium was sandwiched between words from the CEO and Will Greenwood, a rugby legend. Write to your children or grandchildren. When I left home for college, I'd always check the mailbox at the dorm. My parents and a couple sisters did not disappoint; I still have those letters, some forty years later. Even when I lived a block away from my grandchildren, I'd surprise them with a card in the mailbox occasionally, or splurge and have a cookie bouquet delivered, always with a coupon code that made them affordable. Now that I live an hour away, it's even more important to keep in touch. I'm not one for FaceTiming, but I will make sure there's something in their mailbox from Grandma Mary. Mail a postcard to Postcrossing. Like postcards? If you'd like to get postcards in your mailbox, you can register with Postcrossing (http://www. This is thought to reflect the impact of the eldest child (generally) receiving more parental attention than their later born siblings during the first couple of years of life - a crucial period in the development of intelligence. As a younger sibling myself, I hasten to add that the eldest child only has about a 52% chance of having a higher IQ than his/her brother or sister in a two child family! By implication, children with no siblings should presumably also do relatively well in IQ tests once other potential factors, such as genetic influences, are accounted for. Toni Falbo, an expert in the field, looked into this, concluding that only children outperform later borns from larger families (those with at least three children), although they typically underperform first borns in smaller families and those with just one sibling. While it's hard to pin IQ differences on comparison effects, it's interesting that the large study of US, UK and German individuals I mentioned earlier, found that respondents' perception of their intellect also fell in tandem with their birth order position: later borns often believe they're not as clever as their older siblings. As we've just discovered, there may be an element of truth in this, but crucially the effect persisted even when taking account of `actual' intelligence. It seems highly likely that the typical direction of the comparisons made between siblings (upward by the youngest and downward by the eldest) accounts for the result.

The same factor probably explains why studies designed to explore the impact of birth order on self-esteem have usually unearthed a link as well. The results of another Toni Falbo investigation involving 1,785 university undergraduates, for instance, demonstrated that first borns typically have slightly higher self-esteem than last borns. The effects may have been even stronger if it wasn't for those instances where younger siblings consistently outperformed their older brother(s) or sister(s), reversing the normal direction of the comparisons and hence the likely effects on self-esteem. The majority of narcissistic mothers are not that extreme, but they are all a danger to their child's emotional well-being. After a lifetime of seeing your mother as the all-powerful Oz, it may be hard to accept that she is nothing more than a weak little lady hiding behind a curtain. No matter how old and big you get or how old and small she gets, it is hard to shake that frightening image. This is a trick your mind plays on you. The only power your mother has over you now is the power you give her. It is time to put her in her place. It is only natural for mothers, good or bad, to eventually get blamed for something they did, whether responsible or not. If your mother is a narcissist do not feel guilty about placing that responsibility upon her. Take comfort in knowing that it is not you who has the problem, it's her. Narcissistic Mothers and Daughters I sat in the audience listening to the lineup, thinking Crap, everyone's going to laugh at me. Why did I agree to this? All the other speakers were at the top of their fields and so articulate. I started to have second thoughts about what I had planned to say and how to deliver it. Then I went through my breathing exercises, calmed myself down, and two seconds before I went on stage, I thought, Just be yourself. I would do my own dharma perfectly instead of trying to do anyone else's. I went up, did my thing, and afterward the response couldn't have been better.

The director who had organized it said, I've never heard an audience of consultants and analysts stay so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Later, she invited me to teach mindfulness all across the company in the UK. This was a tipping point for me. When you send a postcard, you'll receive a postcard back from another participant somewhere in the world. With nearly 800,000 members in 210 countries, approximately 350,000 postcards are traveling to mailboxes right now in this manner. Have a secret? Share it with PostSecret. Whether it is a secret regret, fear, betrayal, desire, confession, or childhood humiliation, you can reveal anything, anonymously, on a postcard, briefly but creatively. This is a group art project, and shared postcard secrets can be viewed at www. Get creative with envelopes and stamps. You can find envelope templates online, or take apart an envelope and lay it on an old map, decorated scraparticle paper, or even a article from your favorite magazine to cut out your own envelope pattern. Fold, and glue the edges shut. Use blank white address labels or a black marker to write the recipient's address. Also, as with personality traits, it's not necessarily straightforward to accurately quantify people's self-esteem. A more helpful framework than Adler's, designed to explicitly assess the impact of comparisons on siblings' psychological well-being, was devised by Abraham Tesser in the late-1980s. His `Self Evaluation Maintenance Model'6 suggests that siblings' reactions to comparisons depend largely on three factors: How they perform relative to their brother or sister in a particular task - do they win or lose? How (psychologically) close they are to their sibling - is he or she somebody they frequently compare themselves with? The relevance of the task to their `self-concept' - does the task matter to them? Tesser proposed that a child who underperforms a sibling they're close to - particularly a younger one - on an activity that's important to them will experience the most negative effects, feeling worse about themselves as a result of the comparisons they've made.