Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: psychology

Chatter by Ethan Kross

Where did I hear about Chatter by Ethan Kross? On The Happiness Lab podcast! As you probably know, I’m a huge fan of podcasts, and before I get in the car for any trip, I load up my playlist with a few hours of “my shows.” When I saw the title “How Do I Stop Negative Self-talk?” I put it at the top immediately.

chatter by ethan kross

Negative self-talk is one of my most intrusive and upsetting habits. If you could hear it…ugg…you’d call social services and report abuse. It can get pretty bad. Something happens, I feel stupid and start to berate myself, then I get madder at myself for being mad in the first place, and then the spiral downward begins. How do I pull myself back out? I’m not sure. I know I’ve done it because I’m still here, but I have never been able to do it on purpose, until I read this book!

What was it that got my attention and helped me embrace some new practices? Science!

This book isn’t spiritual. It also doesn’t get so deep into the science of the brain that you get lost. It’s light and practical, as if a good friend (a smart one that has their shit together) is sharing some insights that they’ve found. The subtitle of the book is another clue to why I felt I could trust it, The Voice in Our Head, Why it Matters, and How to Harness It. We all have a superpower locked inside us. It’s time we start using it for good instead of evil.

While reading, I took eight whole pages of notes. Don’t worry, I’m not going to copy them all out here! Most of them are only important to me, personal thoughts and ideas. What I hope is to share enough with you to get you to go out and read this book. In my world, it’s required reading for the course!

The book took off like a shot for me with this glorious bit of encouragement.

“Introspection simply means actively paying attention to one’s own thoughts and feelings. The ability to do this is what allows us to imagine, remember, reflect, and then use these reveries to problem solve, innovate, and create.”

That’s such a better way to explain what my mind does all day long. I have been accused of “overthinking” so many times in my life and every time I hear that word I cringe. Yes, I am aware of the world around me, my actions in it, how they affect the people in my life, and consider how I can do better. I wish more people would.

Here’s another one.

“This pattern of hopscotching through time and space in their inner conversations highlights something we all noticed about our own mind: it is an avid time traveler.”

We’re time travelers! I knew it! And we all know that time travel can be a tricky thing. We don’t want to get stuck in a time loop!

“The ability to engage in mental time travel is an exceedingly valuable feature of the human mind. It allows us to make sense of our experiences in ways that other animals can’t, not to mention make plans and prepare for contingencies in the future.”

I read a lot about staying present, another skill I’ve been working on, but while reading about that I had a thought. If we stay in the present moment at all times, not considering the past or future, wouldn’t that make us the same as any other animal? One of the things that makes humans so amazing is that we CAN learn from our past and plan for the future, right? Maybe there’s a balance we can find.

In the last chapter, Kross (in his infinite wisdom) listed out the tools he had been describing in detail throughout the book, a sort of cheat-sheet! My favorite tools, ones that I have written down to practice, are:

“Distanced self-talk:” using your name and second person you. Sounds crazy, but it works immediately. Several times already, I’ve come up to some feeling I wasn’t thrilled to have and stopped in my tracks. “Listen, Michelle, you know this is only temporary. Take a deep breath and calm those nerves of yours, you can handle this.”

“Reinterpret your body’s chatter response.” This is much like meditation practice, feeling whatever you are feeling in your body and accepting its presence. When I feel sad or scared, I FEEL it all over my body. It starts as pain in my chest and radiates down my arms and into my hands, up into my throat, and into my stomach. I feel like I’m dying and panic to stop whatever I think is causing it, usually causing even more painful problems. Lately, I’ve been sitting with that pain and letting it flow over me. Instead of succumbing the negative chatter, I speak kindly to myself, “You’ve felt this before. It is not death. Just wait.”

This one is my favorite.

“Reframe your experience as a challenge.” Reframing in general is one of my favorite thought practices these days. It works wonders! Social situations are perfect for this. Instead of attempting to flee immediately, or move through it, head down, hands clenched, I can say to myself, “Can I get through this without losing my shit? Possibly. Let’s see.” The last few situations I’ve been in have been progressively better. Sure, I had a few small panic attacks, and I yelled a bit about this thing, BUT I did GO, I didn’t complain every moment, or work out different ways to get out of it, and no one looked like they were afraid I was going to explode. Progress!

One more thing before I go, and you go out and get this book.

“The human mind is one of evolution’s greatest creations, not just because it allowed our species to survive and thrive, but because in spite of the inevitable pain that comes with life, it also endowed us with a voice in our head capable of not only celebrating the best times but also making meaning out of the worst times. It’s this voice, not the din of chatter, that we should listen to.”

Our minds are amazing, and we should be using them, not letting them use us. We all tend to hyper-focus. We all think we are the center of the universe. There are ways to help ourselves and those around us to put some distance between us and our problems, sense the awe and wonder in the world, use our physical world to bring us peace and order, use mind magic to heal ourselves through placebo, and remind ourselves of the big picture through personal rituals.

Another piece of the puzzle set in place because I listened to a podcast on my way into the city.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

I started re-reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown on Wednesday morning and finished it today. I did a quick search of my blog and found that I first posted about it back in March of 2019. It wasn’t as long ago as I had first thought. Odd because I didn’t write the date that I finished it inside the cover and I thought I started doing that routinely more than three years ago.

These are the little things that get under my skin. I believe that I am habitual, that I’ve created systems and rituals that I never fail at, but then I find things missing, like this date or not finding a receipt in the file it should be in. It feels like catching a glitch in the matrix. Unsettling.

Anyway…letting it go.

My search also found that I mentioned adding the book to my 2020 TBR pile back in January of 2020. And here I am…just now getting to it. Time flies faster and faster. I’m starting to stress out again.


I chose this as my final book of the year for two reasons. The first is that I’d like the reminder to keep things simple. Now that I’m on my own most of the time (the kids are officially out on their own), I need to rethink and refocus, again. The second reason is, admittedly, it’s a short and light read that I knew I would finish before the end of the year. This way I can start a new book on New Year’s Day. Perfection! Yeah, I’m like that.

Because I like to post about what I’m reading “in real time,” I’ll play a bit of catch up today so that I can get to the fun 2021 Reading Review that I plan on posting ASAP! This will be a “new read” post and it will include two quotes. Three posts in one!

This book was originally written for professionals, businesspeople, entrepreneurs, etc. I am not one of those people. I’m a housewife, but I think the principles apply to anyone. I’ll apply these ideas to the things that I do when I’m writing these posts: books, housework, family and friends, and craft projects.

“There are far more activities and opportunities in the world than we have time and resources to invest in.” From Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Essentialism quote

I think we all know this instinctually but our response to it is less than ideal. What we usually do is notice it and then spend the rest of our lives scrambling to get as much in as possible. And then, like dragging everyone through Disneyland by their ears to get the biggest bang for your buck, we destroy ourselves, our peace, and our family’s happiness.

This book advises a different tactic, one that I adopted the day that I realized that I can’t read ALL the books that exist. I also can’t support every relationship in the world, eat all the food, make all the projects, or do all the upgrades and remodels that are possible for my house.

Instead, we can find a way to whittle it down to the essentials, do those first and do them well, and forget the rest. Otherwise, we’ll kill ourselves chasing in every direction and never get anywhere.

“No matter how busy you think you are, you can carve time and space to think of your workday.” From Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Essentialism quote

Now, I don’t work outside my home, but I do have responsibilities and there are things that I want to do, so one day I sat down and wrote out all the things I would want to do daily, weekly, and monthly, along with the time I believed it would take to do each. I also have a running list of long-term projects. Then I calculated how much time was in a day after sleep.

Guess what? It’s not a cliché. There really aren’t enough hours in the day, days in the week, or weeks in the year, to do all those things. I had some work to do to pare that down into a reasonable amount of stuff. Greg McKeown relates it to organizing your clothes closet and he’s spot on.

It’s New Year’s Eve and I typically get a little reflective around this day, don’t you? So here I am thinking, looking back on my journal (thinking I should do like I said I would and make dates with myself to reflect and refocus more often) and wondering. What did I accomplish this year? I have lots of things that happened, but only a few things that I personally accomplished thru my own actions. That needs to change. Or does it? I’m not sure yet.

Like the author says, I need to clean out my closet and rethink the purpose of my wardrobe. Today it begins. I’ll get the housework done, pick up my mail, and then sit down with my journals, my calendar, and my reading log to see where I’ve been, and then plan out where to go next. Life is moving way too fast to just sit here being sad that I can’t do it all and finding myself doing nothing.

Want to read more? Hop over to “Mistakes and Buffer Zones” for a New Year’s message and more quotes. And to “Routines and Habits” for my final thoughts on this great book.

The Righteous Mind: New Read

The Righteous Mind book cover on a desert background.

“The Righteous Mind – Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” by Jonathan Haidt

Sigh…I have to find a better way to keep track of why I put a book on my wishlist. Seriously. If you have any ideas, please leave me a comment. I’m think maybe I’ll start adding a section of my idea card file called “Books” and actually write it down: the title, where I heard it or the author, what I know or what brought me to want to read it, and the date. It seems that physically writing things down, not kept in an app or on a website, works best for me.

I’m fairly certain that I heard Jonathan Haidt interviewed on a podcast recently and that’s why I added The Righteous Mind to my Thriftbooks wishlist. The subtitle alone would make you want to read it, right? Why are good people so divided?

The past few years I’ve felt more and more pushed away by my friends and family over politics. Religion? Well, it sure looks like our whole nation has created a new religion centered on politics, so maybe they’re one and the same these days. Maybe The Righteous Mind will help me sort that out.

The great divide came to my notice when Donald Trump was elected, but I know it was growing long before that. People were getting heated and upset, arguments were getting nastier and more personal, debate and discussion, even among close friends, was ending, but the day after the election is what really started to scare me.

Years ago, a friend started a group order from an online organic food company that brought the whole order by truck to our area once a month. We’d all meet there and sort through it, getting our bulk quinoa and whole grains. It was a cheap way to get all the things we couldn’t find in our rural desert town and, when it was small, it was a great monthly meetup for all of us, too.

As the order grew, the management of it was passed to someone else and it started to be less fun and more of a chore, but still worth the time because I got things I couldn’t get at the store. Since my sons were nearly grown and not so much interested in going to homeschool events and park days, it was a chance to see and catch up with other moms I didn’t get to see that often anymore.

The day after the 2016 election was the last day that I picked up an order at that truck. I knew it was going to be a strange time by the tone people were already using on social media. But I believed that in person, things would be different.

When I arrived, the truck was already there and unloading. People were gathered in small groups at their cars, talking and waiting for their name to be called, as usual. I saw a few people I knew, stopped to talk to one friend and then heard my name. As I walked over to get my few things, I overheard conversations that made my blood run cold. I know, I’m dramatic, but it did scare me. And the past eighteen months has built on that feeling in tremendous ways.

I heard tears and actual wailing. I heard comments like, “If I know anyone that voted for him, I’m going to kill them.” “We should find them all out and do something.” “I can’t imagine what kind of a horrible person would vote for someone like that.” There were actual threats over national politics, by people I thought were peace lovers. I said nothing to anyone. I loaded my truck and drove away. Since that day, I’ve spoken to only one person that was there. These are my neighbors, and some were friends.

I could go on about this, but I don’t think I need to. The point is not that one politician, or party, is better or worse than another. The point is that good people, people I had no problem talking with before an election, now were standing there threatening people for disagreeing with them. Standing there among them I heard tones of a mob, Nazi brownshirts, and the Spanish Inquisition. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition at a food truck pickup!

And it seems things have only gotten worse over the last five years. And it has nothing to do with the politicians themselves. It’s us. We’re doing this to each other voluntarily. When I heard Jonathan Haidt interviewed, I had to run out and get this book. Maybe it will help me learn why this is happening. Why are we treating each other like enemies? Why are we separating into sides instead of working together? And how can people I have always believed were open-minded and reasonable adults become so violently opposed to the “other side?”

From the introduction, “I’m not saying we should live our lives like Sen-ts’an. In fact, I believe a world without moralism, gossip, and judgement would quickly decay into chaos. But if we want to understand ourselves, our divisions, our limits, and our potentials, we need to step back, drop the moralism, apply some moral psychology, and analyze the game we’re all playing.”

That’s exactly what I crave when I check social media, read articles and books, watch videos, and talk with friends and family, “to understand ourselves.” None of us is outside the battle of division. The best way to calm things down, in my opinion, is to try and understand the other side of every argument. Hopefully, The Righteous Mind will be enlightening.

Want to read my final thoughts on this book? Click over to Moral Foundations Theory: A Book Review. Heads up: There’s a giveaway there!

“Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell

Blink book cover on a desert background.

I’ve been looking forward to reading “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell since I pulled it, and a couple of its brothers, out of my friend’s personal library redistribution project back in December. I redistributed those babies directly to the top of my TBR pile! If you’re curious, I wrote a bit about that adventure at the beginning of January, “What Did My Book Blog Accomplish in 2020?”

The first book I read by Malcolm Gladwell was “Talking to Strangers” and it was far more than I expected the book to be. “Enlightening” doesn’t begin to explain it. He writes about complicated human behavior in a way that makes you feel like you’re discovering it yourself. You know you’re being led somewhere, but you don’t know where. When you begin to arrive, you feel like you’re the smartest kid for finding it. And at the end of the book, you’ve incorporated what he’s said into your thinking without feeling like you were hit over the head and dragged there.

The subtitle to this one is, “The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.” It looks into all those snap judgements that we make, why we make them, and how can we harness that understanding. Those unconscious decisions we make so many times a day aren’t useless!

I’m only a chapter in this morning and I’m already thinking, “Whoa…THAT’S what’s happening!” It’s already confirming a few things for me, like why it was a good idea for me to stop watching the news and leave social media. It’s made me think about how I get my best writing done. And made me begin to rethink a few things that I’ve taken for granted.

“All that from the first 80 pages, Michelle? Really?”

Yes! He sets things up in an amazing way, expands on them over the bulk of the book, and then brings them all together in fascinating and useful way at the end. Like the Stephen King of psychology books!

Intrigued? You know you are! You can read more about Malcolm Gladwell and his books at his website. And if you decide to read the book, leave me a comment! As usual, I’ll be posting some quotes from the book along with my thoughts in the coming weeks. Be sure to subscribe to get them!

Can More Faith in Yourself Lead to More Faith in Others?

faith in yourself quote with background image

“Only the person who has faith in himself is able to be faithful to others, because only he can be sure that he will be the same at a future time as he is today and, therefore, that he will feel and act as he now expects to.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

Find the book on Amazon, HERE!

Loving others starts with having faith in yourself.

We simply lived without school. But that doesn’t mean that we didn’t learn. The outcome proves that.

My sons are both out on their own, living productive lives. One traveled Europe, and now has a good job with potential for growth, along with his own car and apartment. He’s 20 years old. The other has been at community college here in town for two years, working, and has his own car. He’s transferring to university next semester and will be leaving the state to live in the dorm and focus on his studies for the next couple of years.

What did we do instead of school?

Our faith in our own drive to learn led me to believe my children had that same drive.

We lived and learned together. We read books, watched movies, built things, went places. We talked and laughed and loved together. We cried and fought, worked things out as best we could so that everyone had their space and got as much as they wanted without stepping on anyone else’s toes. I rarely said no to things they wanted to try out. I spent a lot of time searching for new experiences, and then making it possible to do them. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

I had faith in them from the moment they were born. I knew myself and so did their father. We didn’t need an authority to guide, protect, and direct our lives. What we wanted more of growing up was less direction and more support, so that’s what we gave our kids. We knew they would find their own unique way to adulthood if we gave them a loving and supportive home, if we led by example and followed our own interests, served our own needs, without sacrificing anyone else’s lives in the process.

I had faith in them because I had faith in myself.

And I have faith in others because I have that faith in myself. I know that others can take responsibility for themselves and their families if they want to. I’m not special. My family is not special. We are not more intelligent or lucky than anyone else. The only thing that is different is that, for some reason, we have faith in ourselves.

Real love starts with you loving yourself, believing in yourself, and taking responsibility for your own life. And no one can give that to you. I believe all of us have the ability, but somewhere along the line we have lost the knowledge of it.

I’m telling you that you have it. Start using it.

If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on the book, “The Art of Loving,” check out the following links.
Where Did Our Words For Love Go?
We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have
Learning to Concentrate by Being Alone
How to Parent by Respecting the Individual

You can find “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm at Thriftbooks.com.

Have you read this book? If so, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you think.

“Four Reasons a Newsletter is Better Than a Social Media Feed”
Bypass the social media algorithms and sign up for my weekly newsletter. Each week will give you a rundown of my favorites posts, podcasts, and few funnies. Read what you want, when you want, without getting sucked into the endless scroll mode!

Learning to Concentrate by Being Alone

learning to concentrate quote from book on a desert background

“The most important step in learning to concentrate is to learn to be alone with oneself without reading, listening to the radio, smoking or drinking.
Besides such exercises (meditation), one must learn to be concentrated in everything one does, in listening to music, in reading a book, in talking to a person, in seeing a view.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

In writing a blog post.

Learning to concentrate and focus.

That’s my trouble right now as I write this. I have too much to do today and the thought of that list of things to do is keeping me from getting anything done. I’m unfocused, so everything I do is taking longer to get done AND not getting done well.

I’m certainly not very good at being alone with myself. It’s something I have been actively attempting to cultivate. Living in a small house, married with children, and sharing space with my mother-in-law, hasn’t led to much time to practice in the past, that’s for sure. These days, things are different. Life is getting quieter, which has led to some fairly serious panic attacks.

In my search for peace and focus, I’ve learned to meditate and make space for these feelings.

It’s strange, really. All these years of having so much to do with the family, just wanting a few hours of quiet to myself, and here I am panicking the moment I start to gain that time. What happened?

If I could start my life over, I’d learn to be alone with myself, and be happy about it, before I moved in with a partner or got married and had kids. I don’t think that was ever presented as an option when I was growing up. Every fairy tale, book, movie, and song was about finding your person, your people, being part of a whole group. I think it would have been easier if I had built up a better sense of who I was as an individual before I voluntarily became part of a community of any kind.

I think, I hope, I gave that to my children. In choosing to home educate and keep our children outside of any school system as small children, it was my intention to allow them to develop themselves as individuals. The point wasn’t to create self-centered monsters, as many assumed would be the outcome, but to give them the space to know themselves before they voluntarily chose a community. And it seems to be working so far.

For myself, I believe doing that for them also did the same for me. I learned a lot raising them with my husband, and I’m learning even more as I watch them go off into the world to continue to follow their own path.

It’s my turn to focus on myself more, to pursue my passions and interests.

It started with mediation and continues with yoga, walking, reading, and writing here. It grows every day in ways I never expected, in ways that delight and inspire me to do more. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and worried about where the path will lead to. It feels futile and excruciatingly slow paced. “What is the point of any of this?!” I frequently scream to myself and scribble in my notebook.

There is no point. It just is. I refocus on the task at hand, do what I can, and see what happens. I’m learning to enjoy the process itself, not reach for an outcome.

My next project? Learn to listen better and react less. There’s room for everyone.

If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on the book, “The Art of Loving,” check out the following links.
Where Did Our Words For Love Go?
We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have
How to Parent by Respecting the Individual
Can More Faith in Yourself Lead to More Faith in Others?

You can find “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm at Thriftbooks.com.

Have you read this book? If so, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you think.

“Four Reasons a Newsletter is Better Than a Social Media Feed”
Bypass the social media algorithms and sign up for my weekly newsletter. Each week will give you a rundown of my favorites posts, podcasts, and few funnies. Read what you want, when you want, without getting sucked into the endless scroll mode!

Where Did Our Words for Love Go?

words for love quote from book on a desert background

“The first step to take is to become aware that love is an art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art, say music, painting, carpentry, or the art of medicine or engineering.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

Let me start by saying, as I did in my monthly “What in the World is She Reading” newsletter, that I got so much out of this little book and I’m still processing it. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says. Some of it was a bit to “far out” for me. But, wow, there was a lot of usable material here. I know…I promised only to post a few pieces per book but this one is going to be hard to narrow down. I took so many notes!

Do you consider love something you work at doing well?

Or is it something that you “fall into” and passionately experience?

Fromm believes they are two different things and I think I agree. There is that immediate attraction to another human that is based on hormones, pheromones, and instinct. And then there is the higher cerebral order that humans are capable of, that of actively loving people. I think we confuse the two, and debase or idolize one or the other, on a regular basis.

Like Fromm, I believe we should be putting more of our energy into cultivating the art of love.

What’s crazy is that we have to define what we mean by “love” since we don’t have separate words for different kinds. Why is that? Why do we lump so many different ideas into one word and then expect everyone around us to know what we’re talking about? Doesn’t that create chaos?

I say to my children, my husband, by friend, the kid that makes my sandwich just right, “I love you!” That’s crazy. What happened? Where did our words go?

If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on the book, “The Art of Loving,” check out the following links.
We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have
Learning to Concentrate by Being Alone
How to Parent by Respecting the Individual
Can More Faith in Yourself Lead to More Faith in Others?

You can find “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm at Thriftbooks.com.

Have you read this book? If so, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you think.

“Four Reasons a Newsletter is Better Than a Social Media Feed”
Bypass the social media algorithms and sign up for my weekly newsletter. Each week will give you a rundown of my favorites posts, podcasts, and few funnies. Read what you want, when you want, without getting sucked into the endless scroll mode!


You are the hero and your
mentor/gaurdian is inside you.

A while back…when I had more time to think…I thought, “Maybe I should post these to my blog as well and maybe elaborate just a tad.” And then I forgot because there were pretzels to make, a garage to paint, and my son needed me to listen.

I thought of it a second time, but got caught up in how I should, if I should, and then…well…I’m already in the middle of this book, so I’ll wait until I start a new one. It would take too much time right now to go back and catch up. Then I forgot about the idea when I started a new book.

Today…I’m starting where I am.

I’m having a lot of dreams lately, as I have in the past, but they’ve changed focus. It dawned on me in the shower this morning (as things usually do) that they are “accommodating” dreams. Making room for things and people, ideas and concepts.

The work continues.

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