D is for… Decorating

The morning after I drew this I awoke to find a nice picture on our hallway walls. Perfect timing.

“but I used the other end of the pen!”

Oh right, well that’s OK then, I guess this stuff I’m washing off the walls isn’t a drawing then.

Get Into The Flow

What is the Flow State?

Have you ever lost yourself in what you were doing only to look up and realise that it’s not been a minute but an hour? That’s flow. Flow is that feeling where you are totally absorbed by what you are doing – you forget about the outside world, give your full attention to a task and become totally immersed in. It’s generally achieved when you have a challenging task that you find rewarding and you are also good at. When people experience flow their brain activity actually changes and you get an increase in dopamine (a brain chemical involved in pleasure and motivation).

“The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile”

Csikszentmihalyi, 1990
How Do You Achieve Flow?
  • To achieve flow you have to have a task that’s not so difficult that you want to quit but also not so easy that you can still be distracted by other things and you don’t have to concentrate too hard.
  • Pick a time when you are unlikely to be distracted (whenever you get distracted it takes about 25 minutes to get back to the flow state)
  • Pick a time when you have the energy to concentrate
  • Choose a specific goal and work towards it
Why Flow?

There are lots of benefits to getting into the flow state. Not only can it help you find greater enjoyment in what you’re doing, but it can make you feel energised and motivated. It’s also been linked to better emotional regulation and greater levels of overall happiness and satisfaction. Getting into a flow state can also improve learning and creativity and at work it’s been linked to greater productivity.

Trauma, Secondary Trauma and Post Traumatic Growth

I’ve been working on a couple of research projects recently that both, coincidentally, involve the idea of trauma or secondary trauma because of the workplace. I think about trauma from the perspective of someone who has worked in the field of life events – what is it that makes something traumatic? In one sense it’s easy, think of the worst thing that can happen to you and that’s trauma, but in another way it’s actually quite difficult to pin down what specifically is it that makes something tip over from “that was really bad” to “that was traumatic”. It’s something we thought a lot about when investigating life events – what is it specifically that makes something be experienced as negative?

For me, trauma is at one end of the spectrum of negative life events and is yet to be completely defined. The official definition of trauma is threat to life or threat of serious harm. However, this can’t be the whole story as people are often traumatised by things that don’t fit neatly in to this – people whose relationships fall apart for instance can feel traumatised without ever feeling like their life was in danger. Secondary trauma is indirect exposure to trauma through listening to or witnessing traumatic events – so first responders are at increased risk for this because they have to attend to a lot of things that would be considered traumatic like accidents or fires.

Both types of trauma – direct and indirect – lead to emotional numbness, avoiding things that trigger thoughts about the event, intrusive thoughts and feeling on edge. I think people who experience trauma at work often don’t realise that they are suffering from these sorts of symptoms because they slowly sneak up on you and the sorts of experiences you are having are normalised – everyone has the same stories of seeing or hearing about something awful – so you can end up traumatised and desensitised without even realising that how you’re feeling isn’t normal.

Post-traumatic growth is a theory that explains how people who experience trauma can actually end up growing from it (it should be noted that not everyone does). They develop new ways of understanding themselves and the world, gaining a new appreciation of life and seeing new possibilities. It’s different from being resilient, which is the ability to bounce back, post-traumatic growth involves struggling rather than ‘bouncing back’ and developing a new outlook as a way of coping and integrating their trauma.

Although no one would choose to experience trauma, it’s nice to know that there are ways it can be used to grow and develop. This is especially true for people who have to endure trauma as part of their job. Jobs which often involve helping others. I hope that the research we do can play some small part in turning that trauma into something more positive.

What is Avoidant Insecure Attachment

People who have an avoidant attachment style are independent to the point that they can find intimacy difficult and find it hard to reach out to others in times of need. This trouble with intimacy can be expressed through a dismissive attitude and they can come across as disregarding the feelings and interests of others. They find it hard to tell others what they are thinking and feeling and can have a negative or cynical attitude towards other people.

Parents

Although avoidant caregivers may meet the child’s basic needs they may be emotionally unavailable or unresponsive and disregard their child’s emotional needs. They can be especially rejecting when the child is sick or hurt and discourage crying and encourage premature independence in their children. They may feel that parenting is not very satisfying or personally meaningful.

Children

They may appear not to care about whether their caregiver is there or not. They learn to suppress the natural desire to seek out their caregiver when frightened, distressed or in pain because they have learnt that acknowledging or displaying distress leads to rejection or punishment. They realise by not outwardly expressing their needs for love, closeness or affection they can at least stay physically close to their caregiver. This can lead them to believe they don’t need any one else to take care of them so they have little desire to seek out others for support.

Romance

Avoidantly attached adults will seek out relationships and enjoy spending time with their partner but will often avoid emotional closeness, instead becoming uncomfortable when the relationship becomes too close. They have a hard time being vulnerable or showing any level of dependence and may see their partners as being clingy or needy when they try and become emotionally closer. When the relationship is threatened they deny any sense of vulnerability and repress their emotions, if they do try and seek support it is likely to be indirectly by complaining or sulking. They often react angrily to perceived slights or threats to their self-esteem.

Attachment theory is useful when it comes to understanding the more subtle aspects of relationships but it’s only one factor in many. Having an avoidant attachment style doesn’t mean you are destined to have bad relationships or that you will be avoidantly attached your entire life or in all your relationships.

What is Anxious Insecure Attachment

People who have an anxious attachment style can be self-critical and insecure, and although they may have positive views of others they have a negative view of themselves. This can mean they rely on other people to validate them, but although they want approval and reassurance it does little to comfort them. Often they feel that other people will reject or abandon them and because of this they look for signs of rejection in their relationships. It also means they do things like become clingy or demanding to avoid the rejection they fear is coming but it can be this possessiveness and dependency that ultimately ruins their relationships.

Parents

Anxiously attached parents may look to their children to meet their needs, but when it is the child who needs some emotional comfort from the parent, they are distracted or preoccupied. For example, an anxious mum who has had a bad day may want reassurance from her child, but when her child has had a tough time she isn’t able to reassure them. Anxious parents may act in ways that are intrusive or more about themselves and what they need (I need a hug) than what the child needs.

Children

Anxiously attached children tend to cling to their caregivers and act desperate for their attention. They can be upset when they are separated and but have trouble calming down when the caregiver comes back. Because anxious caregivers are sometimes able to tune in to what their child needs, the child is left feeling desperate and needy, feeling they have to make a fuss in order to get what they need. They can feel drained rather than nurtured by their parents attention because the attention feels empty

Romance

Anxiously attached adults tend to be overly preoccupied with their partners, spending a lot of emotional energy on their relationship and needing a lot of reassurance. They are concerned about whether their partner loves them back, wanting signs that they are special and feeling angry or resentful if they don’t get the attention or reassurance they need. Even if they do get it, they may have trouble trusting the affection or warmth given. They are sensitive to small changes in their partner’s moods and behaviours and can take them as signs of rejection. This can lead to them acting out in ways they later regret, for instance becoming clingy, demanding or possessive.

Attachment theory is useful when it comes to understanding the more subtle aspects of relationships but it’s only one factor in many. Having an anxious attachment style doesn’t mean you are destined to have bad relationships or that you will be anxiously attached your entire life or in all your relationships.

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