Thursday, January 22, 2009
In his book The Hypomanic Edge, John Gartner suggests there is something uniquely American about the hypomanic experience. He offers illustrative historical figures such as Christopher columbus, Alexander Hamilton, and Andrew Carnegie as evidence that hypomania may be related to success, or some component of potential success and that it can actually be rewarded in certain organizations or systems or cultures. He's referring here to the risk-taking, slightly grandiose, euphoric feelings associated with hypomania. Others, too (e.g., Dr. Ronald Fieve
and Tom Wootton) have pointed to the impact of manic experience on productivity and creativity.
Patients who suffer with bipolar disorder are unlikely to see the "advantage" or benefit of the condition, but are likely to report that when they are hypomanic they enjoy a sense of well-being and a capacity to get things done. And it may take several cycles or crashes to fully appreciate that the highs come at a real cost.
Still, many have mused that they wish there were some way to enjoy the productivity and pace of the "moderate" hypomanic experience - before the sleep deprivation and disorganization kick in.
As reported in the journal Emotion, Pronin, Jacobs, & Wegner found that test subjects who are instructed in thought acceleration (reading quickly or brainstorming or even narrating a silent video in fast forward) report positive affect. For these test subjects, it feels better to think faster. Here's a .pdf of the article, and here's a summer in Boston Globe article . No clinical application is described, but the obvious hypothesis emerges: could the mildly depressed individual experience a subjective mood with some of these practices, either as part of therapy or as self-administered mood management?
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Awareness of key values and motivators,
Daily consideration of time stewardship, and
The Big 5 Self-Assessment, available for free download here , allows the user to consider one's awareness of these domains and commitment to taking good care of his or her physical and mental health. I'm hoping for feedback as I continue to sketch this out and consider clinical applications.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
A 2007 study by Shamay-Tsoory and colleagues, published in the journal Brain, suggests that the ventromedial prefrontal cortex may play an important role in the experience of gloating and envy. The ability to process these emotions may depend upon the cognitive ability to put oneself in another's shoes, to recognize that others have thoughts and feelings which differ from one's own. These are central aspects of the "theory of mind" , referring to a set of cognitive capacities which may be weaker among, for example, individuals with autistic spectrum disorders.
In a way, then, our capacity for schadenfreude is the "flip side" of our brains' capacity for empathy.
And we might not always be the one observing the suffering....recognizing that we may play a role in other people's experience of schadenfreude, the cast of Avenue Q remind us that "The world needs people like you and me who've been knocked around by fate. 'Cause when people see us, they don't want to be us, and that makes them feel great!"
Friday, January 2, 2009
- the leverage associated with creating a society of happier, more engaged people.
Former U.S. Senator from Rhode Island Claiborne Pell passed away yesterday. Under his leadership, thousands of students were able to access higher education through the Pell Grant. In fact it's because of grant and student loan programs that I'm able to do what truly makes me happy now.
...now if only they'd taught html classes when I was in school.....