The Applied Neuroscience Institute

Home of the NeuroPositive Method™
The Neuroscience of the UpSpiral Of Emotion, Health & Optimal Living

1
Focus on Strengths or Weaknesses?
2
Your Perfect Set Of Strengths
3
Can You Learn Not To Feel Good?
4
Learned Helplessness…The Way Out
5
Too Optimistic?…Really?
6
An Idle Brain, A Focused Brain?
7
Can You “Nuance” Your Emotions?
8
Addicted To Negativity?
9
The Truth About Networking
10
GOAL SETTING, HEALTHY ATTACHMENTS

Focus on Strengths or Weaknesses?

Which is it going to be for you?

The power of strengths is the dawning of whole new perspectives in the way that we’re looking at education and personal growth.

The look at strengths inside of you will be the dawning of whole new perspectives. It’s causing whole new perspectives in the way we go about what we’ve called mental health and especially the way in which we’re going about coaching.

One of these perspectives is what we know about the development of “genius.”

We haven’t paid a lot of attention to the growth of genius. Genius comes from encouraging and growing a strength; it never comes from correcting a weakness or from creating a “balanced” person.

We are a culture who loves balanced people, whatever balanced people are, and really all that being a balanced person means. It is what Tom Rath, in his book Vital Friends, calls “rounding,” and it is a way of making gifted people seem “less than” so they are not so threatening.

That means if we’re going to go making you a balanced person, what we’re going to do is look at your weaknesses, and shore up your weaknesses so they’re more in balance with your strengths.

What we teach you to do is just the opposite of that, and that is find your strengths, go with your strengths, and use your strengths to manage the weaknesses, and don’t ever worry about being a “well balanced” person.

Most people are simply ignorant of what their real strengths are.

Part of the reason we’re just beginning to get comfortable with them is because we have a lifetime of being, at least part of the time, in a DownSpiral, and a lifetime of playing to our weaknesses.

We have little or no access to strengths in a DownSpiral, and the deeper down the spiral we go, the lesser is the felt sense of these strengths.

All of us have a lifetime of being told in some way to correct our weaknesses, be a more well-rounded person, be a more balanced person.

We are taught this from the moment we enter the educational system.

The message is: learn to balance your weaknesses, or even obliterate them, so you can be “well rounded” and “balanced.” Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Suppose we decided that in our schools, we’re just going to pay attention to what students really do well first.

That what we’re going to discover and nurture is everything students do really well, not the things they do not do well, so we can compensate for those things and “fix” them.

What if that just happened every day? What if every day was simply another day for you to grasp your strengths and live in them?

What if we gave our kids, partners, spouses, co-workers, everyone in our world, this message: here’s another day for you to use your strengths . . . this is what they are, grow them and develop them. Now go try this and see how you succeed using what you are naturally good at doing.

Yes, we want you to go use and try what you are good at.

That’s very hard to get people to do. It’s a challenge to get people to apply that to their life. But not to do so is one of our greatest threats, both personally and to society at large.

© Dr. William K. Larkin

 

 

 

Your Perfect Set Of Strengths

You will only stay in an UpSpiral of feeling good by using your strengths. Your strengths can take any problem you encounter and give you the skills and answers to work through it, by simply using them.

There is nothing you can encounter that your strengths will not be a match for, bringing you to growth and solutions.

However, it is very easy, especially at first, to forget what your strengths are. In a DownSpiral, your strengths don’t even seem real, if in fact, you can even remember what they are. It is amazing to see a person in a DownSpiral struggle to even name their strengths. And if they do, it is usually reluctantly and disgustedly, as if somehow their strengths don’t work.

There is not a situation in your life that your strengths can’t address. You have a perfect set of them.

If you’ve been through our testing process and you can name your strengths, you are on the path to personal growth.

Instead of concentrating on your weaknesses and trying to change them and getting nowhere, you have learned that by growing your strengths, your weaknesses fall into your ability to manage them effectively.

We have not been conditioned to look to our strengths, but we have been conditioned to remember our weaknesses.

There are even some people who report that they feel guilty when they use their strengths because they were discouraged from doing the things they loved or were good at because it came too easy for them. They were told that they should struggle more. Work didn’t seem like work unless they were doing something that was exhausting, using too much psychic energy, and was an attempt to become good at things that were not their strengths.

Weaknesses are merely the other end of our strengths. In fact, they point to the directions of what our strengths really are.

But from the first red check marks on our school papers, or even before, we have learned what is wrong with us much better than we have learned what is good about us.

Whenever I test a group of people and ask them to write down their strengths, they can usually only list one or two that are actually accurate; they are much better at listing their weaknesses.

Going to a strength, playing to a strength, thinking from a strength is foreign behavior for most people. When we are troubled, stressed and worried or frustrated for very long, it is easy to go to our weaknesses and to play from the opposite end of our strengths. Read the testimonials on our website about people who have learned to play to their strengths.

And then tell us your stories about your encounter with your strengths and how you use them.

You never become a well-balanced or a “whole” person, whatever in the world that might be, by trying to correct your weaknesses.

You become more of who you authentically are by playing to your strengths and letting them guide you to your own inner brilliance.

© Dr. William K. Larkin

Can You Learn Not To Feel Good?

Pessimism is an overwhelming factor in health-related issues and in personal success and achievement. Being tight with money and time makes you tight at the cellular level of your body.

It really is our number one health problem and the greatest deterrent of well-being and life satisfaction.

The answer to research that shows the dangers of optimism is not that you need to be more negative but that you be more effectively positive.

Optimism is a very basic way your perception sees the world. It’s measuring a very elemental thing that started with you genetically and continued with you in your nurturance. It’s a very basic way about the way you see and judge the most elemental events in your world.

Consciousness starts with what we do with the most elemental events in our world.

That’s where we’re going to find out how hopeful we are.

The ego is always going to give itself away, evolve, change and morph and become a “new and different” ego.

But you will recognize when it tells you, “Don’t be proud, be humble, don’t share this with your neighbors, you know, don’t tell everybody about this.” The ego gives itself away when we’re feeling badly.

The ego is giving itself away when we’re feeling negatively. When we’re engaged in believing in the permanence and pervasiveness of bad events, or when we are not giving the good the permanency that it needs or the pervasiveness that it needs, we’re going to experience the ego giving itself away.

We are going to be feeling less than good, or we are going to be feeling the feelings of negativity, feeling the feelings of going into a DownSpiral.

We’re on to one of the central causes of moving into that DownSpiral that is not a fun place and certainly not a healthy place to live.

Pessimism narrows your options and your access to your strengths.

Optimism, on the other hand, is a “force multiplier.” It broadens and builds an UpSpiral mindset.

And here is the key issue: Do you know what your strengths are?

Optimism, especially high levels of optimism that might have a tendency toward impulsiveness, need to be grounded in one of your positive strengths that provide a balance for you in your life.

We learn not to use positive emotion in our lives because of any number of reasons.

I call that “learned-non use of positive emotion.”

We can forget to exercise positive emotion just like we forget to use our muscles or work our bodies.

That’s why we have invented “The Emotional Gym.” It is a way of exercising positive emotion, of keeping it strong and evolving for a life where we are able to feel strong levels of love, peace, gratitude, joy and hope.

© Dr. William K. Larkin

 

Learned Helplessness…The Way Out

(Source: Dr. Martin Seligman)

The feeling of oppression and not being in control or in charge is the opposite of the top of the UpSpiral which is “feeling good and feeling free.”

These feelings of either the threat or the actual loss of control create DownSpiraling, and then we lean toward one end or the other of either passively internalizing anger and rage or externalizing it.

When we DownSpiral, we do characteristically one or the other.

Some of us internalize and smolder, and others of us “shoot from the hip.”

What do you do when you want to control and can’t, and the only resort is to admit that you are powerless? Even as this significant speck of the Universe, connected to a vast Universal intelligence in some unique and perfect way, the experience is still the same: powerlessness.

Go ahead, you can admit it, there are times when you feel up against the wall, backed into a corner, it’s piled on top of you and a squeak of a pulsing “peace” “peace” “peace” seems to be a million miles away, if you can remember it all.

The truth is that we want it our way, in our time, and like we think it ought to happen.

Why not just begin with admitting that we are powerless and let it unfold? Why not just throw open the whole process of living and just take it as it comes in a resigned acceptance that does not provoke frustration or a sense of oppression?

Why not just give in to the past oppressors, to the past cues and threats that we have so well learned, and be as passive as we have learned to be hostile and rage?

And let the whole thing just unfold as it will…

Why not just move to this place of just generally, as best you can, accept whatever comes down and try to do your best with what you cannot control, never will control, and admit that you are powerless and just let a power beyond yourself do the deal?

What I have just described is “learned helplessness.” And it is a state that happens when you feel that no matter what you do, nothing matters, that you have no control over the outcomes.

The result of learned helplessness exactly matches the state of clinical depression except for one feature, and that is the absence of suicidal tendencies.

Small difference, huh?

When oppression happens we are holding on to a way of exercising our power that doesn’t work.

You are probably being your mother or your father, or reacting as if it were some past situation rupturing your world. That doesn’t mean you need analysis and 60 weeks of insight.

It means that you have to reassess how to use your strengths differently, or for some, just begin to use them at all.

In learned helplessness, some strength isn’t being used, but rather its opposite. Our perception or belief that we are “on top of it,” that we are “in control,” that we are “free” and “feeling good” is always a perception grounded in using our strengths. It emerges from using our strengths, and then learning how to use them even better.

Learned helplessness comes from knowing you have strengths and not using them, which results in believing that you have no power.

© Dr. William K. Larkin

 

Too Optimistic?…Really?

Optimism is about thinking and feeling in a positive way.

Positivity is a much broader expression in behavior, motivation, creating, and living.

It is about thriving, feeling good, and feeling free.

Why are some so worried about too much optimism and too much positivity? What’s all the hesitancy about?

Not enough research about benefits? There’s plenty.

Scarcity thinking and stinginess, “watching every buck like it will get away” is a significant display of pessimism.

Pessimism is an overwhelming factor in health-related issues and in personal success and achievement.

Being tight with money and time makes you tight at the cellular level of your body.

It really is our number one health problem and the greatest deterrent of well-being and life satisfaction.

The answer to research that shows the dangers of optimism is not that you need to be more negative but that you be more effectively positive.

You don’t have to move from safety to feeling threat to manage your optimism.

Optimism is a very basic way your perception sees the world. It’s measuring a very elemental thing that started with you genetically and continued with you in your nurturance. It’s a very basic way about the way you see and judge the most elemental events in your world.

Consciousness starts with what we do with the most elemental events in our world.

The truth is that we are still tripping over the negative and cleaning up its spills more than exercising the fullness of the potential of positivity, not only to heal and integrate, but to create and build new people and new worlds, with a more solid, embodied experience of optimism.

IT’S ALL about A LITTLE MORE, Just a Little EVERY DAY.

What is trending in your feelings?

Your TENDENCY tells your story.

It is your TENDENCY that is most important.

Where are you TRENDING in your feelings? In your experience of open-ended optimism?

The higher you are in the UpSpiral, the better you’re going to feel, the better you’re going to do, the more optimistic you will become, and the more you’re going to get out of life what you want.

The research resources abound.

THE TENDENCY OF OUR FEELINGS AND THOUGHTS TELLS THE STORY.

What is most desirable is not to be always high, high, in this UpSpiral. But it is true that you can live in the 90’s most of the time, if you learn to do so and are consistent in building the NeuroPositive™ plasticity of your brain.

However, what is more important is that each day you are a little higher, a little better, feeling a little more positive, seeing things with a little more optimism, enjoying life a little more, letting a little more light in, feeling a little more joy, a little more peace, a little more love, a little more gratitude, and a little more hope.

Let this process begin to build in you.

© Dr. William K. Larkin

An Idle Brain, A Focused Brain?

The brain is never idle, especially when we sleep.

We think that daydreaming is idle time, but the brain is still working.

Studies show us that idle time, where the brain can wander, can be very creative.

But we need to tell the brain what we want it to do, and to train it to focus and pay attention.

As an example, today I went to the 99 cent store to pick up one thing. I went in without a list and I spent $34.00 on 34 things but I’m happy to report that I did get the one thing I went to get!

It’s a simple story, but the lesson is there – the brain needs a list or a specific goal in focus or it shops everywhere, for everything.

We need to practice focus and attention even during idle time, to avoid letting our thoughts go off in a negative direction – resulting in anxiety, dread, fear or discomfort.

That moves us into the sympathetic nervous system of fight/flight, our cortisol rises and the stress hormones kick in. Thyroxin, which is long-term adrenaline, can stay in the system for as long as four days.

So idle time spent day dreaming that goes in a negative direction is not healthy.

Negative issues that need to be addressed are those that continue to arise in one way or another. If we get everyday needless negative feelings out of the way and build up a positive reservoir, the truly negative things will only come up because you will have a greater sense of security in allowing them to do so.

It is often the negative feelings of an idle brain that create rumination, worrying dreams, and a sense of threat.

Research shows us that we don’t accomplish much when we are threatened on the most basic level.

© Dr. William K. Larkin

Can You “Nuance” Your Emotions?

Do you have the capacity to distinguish between love, joy, hope, peace, and gratitude?

I have had a lot of people tell me that they believe the 5 feelings of the Emotional Gym are basically the same.

I tell them that is not the case, that they are different, and that there are clear differences.

An MRI of the brain shows these emotions showing up in different ways.

However, I also tell them that the sameness in this emotional experiencing is an out-picturing of “enmeshment.”

“Enmeshment” refers to unhealthy relationships where boundaries are blurred and self/other differentiation is poor.

No one likes that answer, but it’s the case.

The inability to differentiate between the emotions of the Emotional Gym, or any other emotions for that matter, is a function of appropriateness and boundaries.

If you consider the difficulty we have in just getting people to feel their feelings, is it any wonder that we would have difficulty with differentiation?

Consider the image of our “UpSpiral,” with varied levels of height and depth. The DownSpiral narrows almost to a point, the experience of the narrowing effects in the brain of negativity, often expressed as overwhelm.

The UpSpiral has a broader, wider, more open at the top look and feel to it. And so it’s not a stretch to say that, for example, there are multiple shades of gratitude, a variety of ways in which we can feel love, hope, peace, or joy.

The UpSpiral is the brain on “broaden and build,” building the capacity to nuance our feelings as well as out thoughts and beliefs.

And so, with less enmeshment comes greater distinction between and among the 5 positive emotions of the Emotional Gym.

How?

As you pulse more over time, you move away from “emotional sloppiness” into an experience of greater clarity, not only in what you can feel, but in what you want for your life.

Clarity of desire also begins to move you in relationships from a “sloppy unity” which is usually forced, or even phony, to what we call “embodiment,” the felt experience of real connection.

That is why it is often difficult for very bright people to behave in ways that fit what they know and believe, but fail to do so because they have not developed the emotional integration to carry it off.

© Dr. William K. Larkin

Addicted To Negativity?

Here is the short case for positivity.

You either live most of the time in an UpSpiral of positivity, in a DownSpiral of negativity, or, like most people, yo-yoing up and down.

The goal here is very simple. It is to enable you to get you into an UpSpiral and its benefits, and to get you to keep you there, at a high level of “feeling good,” most of the time. Sound unrealistic? Then your idea of what is real will need to change!

We aren’t aiming for bliss or ecstasy, just “feeling good” most all of the time. You will learn how to manage and have great agility over positivity in such a way that you will develop positive emotional muscle and have a mastery over the use of positive emotion. Do the work and the work will work for you.

Simply put, you can be a happier person and your emotional set-point can grow and become constant in a higher level of positive emotions. Your neuro-positivity can increase as a reality in your own brain.

Here are just a few of the benefits of positive emotions from the emerging research in the field.

Positive emotion enlarges the scope of attention. It broadens your personal access to strengths and increases your choice of options and behavior from your own larger repertoire. Negativity creates a sense of being trapped with no choices because it narrows focus and attention.

Positive emotion increases intuition and creativity. Positive emotion changes our body systems and speeds up recovery from cardiovascular surgery. It alters the nature of frontal lobe asymmetry and increases immune system response. Positive affect predicts good mental and physical health outcomes. It is predictive of increased happiness, stronger resilience to the negative, psychological growth and lower levels of cortisol, as well as reduced inflammation in response to stress. Positive emotion is correlated with resistance to sinus infections and reductions in stroke.

Positivity predicts how long people will live. Positive affect means that you will solve problems more easily, be more creative, and have greater access to the higher functions of strengths and to their range. People stronger in positive emotion score higher on every test of well-being, every test of life satisfaction, and there is increase of healthy functioning at a cellular level.

Positive affect is negatively correlated with generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive behavior, agoraphobia, and social phobia. The list could go on and on.

And with all of these research results firmly in place, we still have a great investment in negativity, in illness, in negative core beliefs, and we have sold out to a notion of “healing” that focuses on the negative, the idolization of modern medicine, and the largest pill-popping culture in history.

We are brainwashed at looking at the problem and finding solutions to them. We are steeped in the co-dependency that fixes and rescues.

If there is such a thing as negativity addiction, it is the culprit here.

We believe that we need negativity to perceive accurately, to be smart, to be clever, to appear intelligent and insightful, and to protect ourselves against our own imagination and our power to create and be great. We believe that we need negativity to be “balanced.”

How much of this “balance” do you want or think you need?

© Dr. William K. Larkin

The Truth About Networking

Networking

There is a part of the widespread beliefs about networking that is puzzling – the importance of the sheer number of social contacts, the extent of personal and professional networks, vs. the sense and experience of being known.

It’s about superficial connection, depth of connection, and the experience of being heard, of what creates the degree of resonance.

Here is the essential question for networking.

How integrated is your own personal experience, that it is sufficiently embodied that you can bring it to bear upon how you listen, how deeply you listen, and most importantly how deeply you can identify and really HEAR and receive the nature of another person and the degree of resonance?

This is the social media issue of our time, the issue of connection and meaningful bonds that last not so much because of the drive to achieve higher number of ”networked” associations, but the depth and quality, the authentic, believable, felt resonance of fewer ones.  It is the hole in the ship of the research on social relationships.

It is possible to share with someone who responds back with an immediate text that is so quick, that you know by the speed of the answer that it claims to understand who you are and what you have shared.

It’s realistically more a nodding head and agreement, a little resonance, some meaning, but the true experience is one of being cheated or of paying too much for the return you got, trying not to look like you are expecting too much, or worse, are ungrateful and insincere.

It is like expressing at an “8” of heartedness with meaning and connectedness returned at a “2.” There is enough to connect but not enough to sustain, unless there are more micro moments added cumulatively and regularly.  What seems to be enough is social connectedness at a “1” often enough, and that is sufficient.

Superficial connection can be enough, some people are content, and the research on networking is built on that superficiality which seems to do the job of the research.  It’s like feelings felt at a “2,” and the projection of the receiver is that it was an “8,” and its wonderful because the belief is that any connection is better than none.

When a person is not understood at the depth of their expression and a text flies back with 20 ideas and observations and 16 questions, there is connection, but there is also what I call connection “shortchange.”

HOW a person listens, WHAT they listen for.  HOW they hear.  These are the fundamental concerns with heart-t-heart connection.

You have to teach the person what to hear and how to listen for it.  It is like being able to hear inflections in language that are the truer signals of the meaning of the word than the use of the word itself.

If you can understand IN ORDER TO RESPOND and look right and with it and bright, significant and competent and capable, even interested, you miss it. You can connect but there is little resonance with the person sharing.

You are not listening in the right place.  To hear and receive the person who shares, one has to abandon their own intent to respond, and listen for the feelings of the other, the meanings of the other, their wanting, and not judge their intent.  It is something like flow, “getting” the other person is the passion, and doing the listening non-judgmentally absent of that filter.

© Dr. William K. Larkin

 

 

 

GOAL SETTING, HEALTHY ATTACHMENTS

Goals Post Its

 

Wanting what we want and owning that we do can be a difficult thing to do. There is a hesitancy to wanting what we want because we have beliefs that we are being selfish and self-centered.

Denying ourselves what we want seems to have some special virtue. The guilt of “having” can cause us to be less than honest about what we are wanting. Living with less can seem to be more “spiritual.”

There is the idea that if we live with less, the goods of the world will somehow magically become a more equitable distribution of good. And so we hang back for a while, denying ourselves, before we impulsively and compulsively give ourselves what we’ve been depriving ourselves of having.

The simple truth is that you’re playing less than, you’re having less than, you’re holding back from being and having the fullness of who you are, and what you want helps no one.

Your acting like you don’t want lovely things serves no one. Your being “less than” for the sake of some misbegotten notion of modesty and humility keeps you from entering into the wholeness of the person that you have been created to be. It also keeps you from contributing to a consumer economy which is, by far, the greatest means by which you are likely contribute to the good of the world.

Healthy patterns of attachment mean an ability or capacity to want what we want and to be able to attach to it with appreciation, full of enjoyment and a sense of ownership that is proud and grateful.

Attachment also applies to job and professions, to friends, associates, and to relationships. The attachment is a mark of mental health. Healthy patterns of attachment are developed from childhood, and even when they are weak and not so healthy, they can grow and develop by being honest about our wanting.

Ambivalent patterns of attachment cause low self-esteem because we are never fully able to attach, to own, to be a part of, to have and to hold nearly and dearly those people and things that are significant aspects of our wanting.

Goals are mechanisms of attachment to life. They seek to create a fuller, more satisfying life and their very nature is to believe that the goal is possible to reach.

So goals are healthy indicators of attachment to life, especially when they are pursued with intention. The difficulty with “attachment” shows itself in a lack of hope, in fear, in the dread of being disappointed and let down.

This disappointment-oriented thinking results in flat-lining and in depression. It is a deeply rooted pessimism.

Goals are expressions of positive expectation and of hopefulness. Goals expect to be met. To grasp the goals means to grasp the hopefulness that keeps the believing going that the goal will be met.

© Dr. William K. Larkin

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute