Mar 242020
 

There are lots of two-word combos that pack an almost disproportionate amount of power. As a lover of language, I am intrigued by a number of possibilities.

  • Think big.
  • Stand up.
  • Time flies.
  • Heart health.
  • Forever love.
  • Take action.
  • Make memories.
  • Think different.
  • See success.
  • Finally bedtime.

These are all good examples of strong two-word phrases yet not one can come close to packing as much power as this one. Ready?

“I’m bored.”

(Of course to get the full impact try hearing them pronounced like this:  ‘I’m bo-ooo-r-ud.’ It is a sound that is particularly chilling for parents.)

It is a sound that is particularly chilling for parents. Click To Tweet

It may be unwise of me to raise questions about what it means to be bored: it’s not something I’ve often experienced. One of the reasons? I’m chronically curious. When I decided to revisit old blog posts about kids, parents and boredom, I tripped and fell into a rabbit hole. It’s name? “Reading about boredom.” And guess what? It was interesting. I wasn’t the least little bit bored.

To Study Boredom

Apparently the topic of boredom also appeals to social science researchers. As with many research topics, the initial struggle was with definitions. The articles I read described boredom as an emotional or psychological state that can arise when a person doesn’t have an especially engaging task or activity before them, is stuck in a “tedious time period,” or lacks interest in their surroundings.

I also learned the term “boredom proneness” and that there is a Boredom Proneness Scale. So, while many of us tend to minimize boredom as trivial, researchers have correlated it with depression and other significant life issues.

Additionally, researchers tell us there are three types of boredom:

  • circumstances are preventing us from doing something we want to do
  • we are obligated to do something we don’t want to do
  • there are factors that prevent us from being fully engaged in the task at hand

Ennui Among the Animals or Boredom at the Zoo

As I continued to think about the topic, I realized that animals get bored, too. Our dogs, ranging in age from a baby to a senior citizen, love to go to training. They love the five hour round trip. Nobody (except the human) gets to stay in for the entire class, but each dog gets enough mental stimulation to make for a very quiet, sleepy ride home.

Not to be outdone by engaged pet owners everywhere, the National Zoo now gives donors the opportunity to provide keepers with discretionary funds for added enrichment items ranging from food to toys and special scents for their charges.

I believe a high level of inborn curiosity vaccinated me against becoming boredom prone. To me, when that “meh” vibe starts to creep in, it’s a signal that my creativity needs slightly different time and space. It encourages me to check in with myself and my HALT: hungry, angry, lonely,tired.  It’s a nudge to try stuff.

Boredom is a nudge to try stuff. Click To Tweet

 

I guess that reaction is part of what makes me wonder why so many parents believe that boredom is bad for kids and  it’s their job to ‘fix’ it.  If  we respond like cruise ship activities directors on steroids what are we doing for the kids?  What do they take away from our behavior? What example are we setting?

Am I exaggerating? Just think about the number of times that, upon hearing this particular set of ‘magic words,’ you’ve seen parents leap into action. Like exhausted super heroes, they quickly shuffle through their repertoire of activities, snacks, electronic devices, and other entertainment to find the one special remedy that will most quickly put an end to the dreaded condition called boredom.

Unintended Messages

We all know that actions can undermine and contradict both words and good intentions. Attempts to alleviate another’s discomfort can be interpreted as thoughtful and kind and Boredom-Rescue behavior is no exception. All behavior can send powerful (and sometimes unintended) messages; intervening in our kids’ boredom could be interpreted as:

  • You deserve to be passively entertained
  • Your uncomfortable feelings are very important
  • Uncomfortable feelings should be avoided at all costs
  • Someone or something outside of you is responsible for fixing your feelings

And even if  those aren’t their take-away messages, how much thought have you given to what happens to your kids when you’re not around to entertain them? If we build our schedules and priorities around filling, enriching, and stimulating their every waking moment, how will the young ‘uns manage being in a group or in a classroom setting? Or alone?

Oddly enough, I started working on this post before Covid-19  hit our shores. As people gradually start to understand how such diseases spread, they are taking responsibility for their portion of herd immunity by self-quarantining. And, in the course of staying home, some of them are feeling bored. That might not be a bad thing.

Quiet Minds, Open Minds

I’m a huge fan of new ideas and experiences.  Novelty is great for brain health which, in turn, benefits us physically and emotionally. We live in an amazing time with no shortage of things to learn and do and think about and try.  And, given the opportunity, we will discover our passions and interests. Maybe there will be powerful new interests. But in the course of pursuing those opportunities, we will need to manage more than a few uncomfortable feelings along the way. So will our kids. But to seize those opportunities we will need to make sure our hearts and minds are quiet and open enough to recognize and seize those opportunities.

Mar 062020
 

Time for true confessions: even before I became a goofy grandma, laughing baby videos have been one of my guilty pleasures. That’s true even when I haven’t spent an entire day editing stuff.  (What did we ever do without YouTube?) When I feel like I’ve been chained to my desk all day, they give my attitude AND my energy a much-needed boost.

So, having rendered myself sleep-deprived, indulged in all the bad food choices, and created the ugly messes that are part and parcel of a very long editing session, I came across this. It may have helped keep me from tearing up a manuscript section or three.

This may have helped keep me from tearing up a manuscript section or three. Click To Tweet

 

You probably know that when humans converse and have some sort of rapport, they automatically start to mirror speech patterns and mannerisms. In fact, in training programs for sales people, advocates, and other interviewers who’d like to enhance client connections, participants are invited to notice and subtly mimic the mannerisms of the other person. I know language buffs who, when conversing with someone from another region, unconsciously pick up and start using a “foreign” accent. It’s a subtle form of enhanced connection, n’est-ce pas?

So what about laughter? And puppies? And babies? What’s the deal?

Language buffs may unconsciously pick up and start using a “foreign” accent. It’s a subtle form of enhanced connection, n‘est-ce pas? Click To Tweet

 

Not to ruin a guilty pleasure, but, as neurologists, neuro-psychiatrists, and biologists continue to explore and map various parts of the brain, the concept of contagious emotions becomes more intriguing. (You know I love brain biology, too, right?)

And while the research on mirror neurons has a long way to go, we’re all familiar with the concept of being known by the friends we keep. Overweight people tend to have more overweight friends than thin folks. Same for people who are feeling negative about their world. So are we attracted to those who are like us? Or are thoughts and feelings really contagious?

Look! I've finally achieved nerdvana ~ a laughing baby AND a dog! Click To Tweet

Gotta love those two-fers.

 

Babies pay close attention to voices, especially high-pitched ones. This fact leads many of us to become fluent in baby-talk. It’s a voice and speech pattern that animal trainers sometimes use, too. And, while the sense of hearing starts to function more or less from birth, it takes time for any mammal to make sense and meaning of sounds. In dogs (sorry, new parents) this can result in some adorable head tilts as they check out the source of strange sounds. And in humans? Check out this “silly baby” who is alternately horrified and delighted as he watches his Mom blow her nose.  His expressions are fantastic.

 

So what’s your online guilty pleasure? Pretending to make all the things on Pinterest? Twitter tantrums? Cat videos? Share your favorites in the comments so we can join you!

 

 

Feb 122020
 

Did You Love High School?

Valentine’s Day is a little unusual for me this year. The Amelia Island Book Festival chose The Inner Critic Advantage as a book for a large group of high school students this year — and I get to spend the day with them!

As I sit here making notes for that event, I feel full of gratitude and love for  200 high school first years I’ve not yet met. I wonder about how best to make meaningful connections and think back to some of the big groups I’ve worked with. Although high school was a very long time ago, I remember it as a very unsettled time with concerns ranging from boyfriends to big world issues, home room to hormones. Everything is up in the air. I want to be sure to acknowledge their concerns while sharing lots of love. It’s an opportunity to share love of literacy, love of kids, and, of course, strategies to love those inner critics.

Fun with First Years

The task is both humbling and exciting at the same time and I’m preparing with some reading. And I can’t go wrong by bringing along some candy hearts, can I?

As always, I’m sending lots of love your way.

No reason is needed for loving. - Paulo Cuelho Click To Tweet

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”― Elie Wiesel

“One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.”― Paulo Coelho

“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow–this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.”– Elizabeth Gilbert

People Are Weird

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”– Maya Angelou

“There is no remedy for love but to love more.” – Henry David Thoreau

The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference.― Elie Wiesel Click To Tweet

“People are weird. When we find someone with weirdness that is compatible with ours, we team up and call it love.” – Dr. Seuss

“Love me when I least deserve it, because that’s when I really need it.” – Swedish proverb

“If you love a flower, don’t pick it up. Because if you pick it up, it dies and it ceases to be what you love. So if you love a flower, let it be. Love is not about possession. It is about appreciation.” – Osho

What are your thoughts on love? On Valentine’s Day? On spending the day with teens you’ve not met before? Or anything else you care to share. (I think that at the end of a long day, I’m going to need your comments!)

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Andrea Patten has managed to love her inner editor long enough to publish  The Inner Critic Advantage: Making Peace With the Noise in Your Head a little book full of big ideas about how — and why — you can learn to love “that voice.”   The Inner Critic Advantage is now available on Amazon.

Jan 212020
 

“Sorry, not sorry” is one of those expressions that makes me feel old. I don’t get it. Actually, I get it. I just don’t like it.

Professionally, I got to grow up in the addiction treatment world. I treasure that community, the changes I got to part of, and, most importantly, the life lessons that were so generously shared. It’s where I learned the difference between “apologies” and “amends.” And that sometimes “sorry” doesn’t cut it.

You’re Sorry. What’s Next?

I’m not sure that addicts are the only people who need to take a closer look. There are lots of people who say they are sorry but are unwilling to change the offending behavior. It’s meaningless. That’s one of the things that the recovery community has so right: folks are advised to steer clear of anything resembling an apology until they are fairly certain they will not repeat the behavior for which they are apologizing.

What’s an apology and when should one be sorry? When apologizing we express regret — sometimes even sorrow or sadness — for something said or done. We express regret for offending, insulting, or otherwise failing a group or another individual. That makes sense when we are aware of what we’ve done and are reasonably sure we can follow through by not repeating the offending behavior.

There are lots of people who say they are sorry but are unwilling to change the offending behavior. Click To Tweet

“Sorry” gets old when it is hollow and when it is repeated along with with the bad behavior.

What Will it Take to Make This Right?

Maybe that’s why I like the concept of amends so much better: the focus is not on the sorrow of the actor but on making things right for the injured party. When I am the bad actor, I can ask the person I’ve hurt to define what it will take to improve things. To amend is, by definition, “to change for the better, to improve.” Or, getting down the nitty gritty: words versus deeds.

If you broke, stole or lost something? Repair, return or replace it. That extends to relationships as well.

Sorry – It’s Rotten

I like to remember that, historically, amendments to the Constitution have been put in place to improve and strengthen it. We amend garden soil to nourish and enrich it — often using something rotten in the process. Injuries to those we love, however unintentional, are ingredients of that rotten stuff which, if used well, can be repurposed to help grow something better.

We amend garden soil to nourish and enrich it — often using something rotten in the process. Click To Tweet

I’ve had a ringside seat to a lot of family drama recently. There must be something in the air: people are talking openly about the family stories that keep them up at night. As I listen and love and try not to advise, I find myself wishing that my friends (or their family members) were in a program of addiction recovery largely because I don’t always know how to share the wisdom of those old-timey pioneers in recovery with others who would benefit from their foresight and compassion. I am reminded that however beautiful our words they can be easily overshadowed by our deeds.

What are your thoughts about apologies versus amends? How do you make the changes that improve and strengthen your relationships with those you love?