Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The story of our lives...

The NYT has an article in Mental Health and Behavior on psychologists' views of how the narratives we tell about our past reflect our personality and outlook, on not only our past, but our present and future too.

Sometimes I tell stories from my past, and it is very true that how I relate the story depends on my mood at the time. Sometimes my past seems miserable and haphazard, and other times it seems like a wonderful breadth of experience that has made me who I am today. According to Cognitive Therapy, not only will my mood affect how I tell my story, but how I tell and think about my story will also affect my mood.

The Times article goes on to say that psychologists have found correlations between our moods and behavior with how we picture past events: whether we experience them again in the first person, or whether we view ourselves in the third person as if we were watching a movie. In a 2005 study at OSU, college students asked to visualize embarrassing moments from the third person tended to identify less with the bumbling fool in the story, and to feel more confident and social after their visualization, as measured by a research mole waiting to hit them up for conversation in the exit room. Students asked to visualize embarrassing events in the first person were more likely to state that they hadn't changed very much since high school, and were less friendly to the undercover lab coat outside. In a 2004 study, people who pictured themselves voting at the poll booth during the presidental election were more likely to go vote than those who did not. Can these technique help people achieve other goals? Who knows! I rarely picture myself in the third person. Frankly, I find it disturbing to look at myself. I'm really glad I don't have a twin.

But I'll try picturing myself on the big screen today, and you try it too. Picture yourself running a marathon, successfully completing projects at work, exercising, or being calm in congested traffic, and see if it helps you achieve those goals. I'm going to picture myself finishing a manuscript I'm working on and sleeping, because I've been an insomniac lately.

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