In Defense of Self-Help Books

I'm totally loving this Psychology Today post by Deborah Hill Cone on how it's snobbish to put down self-help literature: I will come clean. At my grimmest moments I would turn again and again to books which helped change my perspective and get “another way of thinking about life” although they might not be the ones I put on my bookshelves alongside high-brow economic texts or prize-winning novels. But hidden under my bed, as though too risqué, are the books I find most medicinal during the long dark tea time of the soul. They include The Grief Recovery Handbook by John. W. James and Russell Friedman, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers and You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. Lately I have also found The Tools by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels very helpful. "The motivation book that everyone in Hollywood is obsessed with,” as Vanity Fair described it, niftily avoiding the S and the H words. I’m not the only one who has a secret self-help book stash. You don’t get anyone more intellectual than … [Read more...]

The Eroticization of Equality and Social Justice

Note from Hillary: this is a reprint of an article I published elsewhere a few years back that I wanted to archive on this blog. The topic remains timely; thanks for reading!     To begin with, check out the romantic presidential couple at the bottom of the right-hand group of pictures (near the date) in the above image. Isn't it wonderful that we elected someone who, among his many other virtues, is so loving? That's not a trivial thing, as psychologists Kathlyn and Gay Hendricks write in their article, The Obama Relationship: a Major Benefit Nobody's Talking About.Okay, back to that first link. It's to the Love as the Practice of Freedom conference, the first national meeting devoted to romance fiction and American culture. I attended it a couple of weeks ago at Princeton University, and had a blast being surrounded by academics, authors, editors, and readers who were not only passionate about their emerging field and its importance in the larger culture, but passionate about … [Read more...]

“Mean” Duck Mom and Unhelpful Bystanders!

So...check out this video of a mother duck forcing her ducklings to jump down a high ledge onto a concrete walkway: Ouch! I found it painful to watch. The Mom Duck is just doing her thing, but I've seen similar videos where a kindly bystander finds a plank or other mechanism to give the baby ducks safe passage. (Some perfectionists, and I'm not kidding, would call that "cheating.") Here the bystanders don't, and I wish they had. Whenever you witness yourself or someone else being disempowered try to create additional options. … [Read more...]

Tiger Moms Don’t Just Suck, They Don’t Even Exist as a Category

Slate writes up the study by University of Texas psychology professor Su Yeong Kim analyzing children of so-called Tiger Moms. Yes, "tiger parenting" stinks: "Authoritarian parenting combines coercion with less responsiveness, and leads to higher depressive symptoms and lower self-esteem.... [they] produced kids who felt more alienated from their parents and experienced higher instances of depressive symptoms. They also had lower GPAs, despite feeling more academic pressure." Moreover, Kim found that, despite the hype, “Tiger Parents" don't even exist as a dominant category of Asian-American parenting. So the whole concept is a racist fabrication. I wrote about "Tiger Mom" Amy Chua here and here. Oh, and here. … [Read more...]

Coming Out of Your Closet: Teyonah Parris, Adam Chandler, David Leavitt, and You

Yesterday's piece on Betty Ming Liu's quest for self-liberation got me thinking about authenticity. Today, I ran across stories about two people, each on their own quest for it: For Teyonah Parris (who plays Don Draper's secretary Dawn on Mad Men) the quest was to accept her beautiful natural hair: "I was walking down the street with one of my girlfriends and I saw this young lady who had the most amazing, bomb twist-out. I said to my friend, "Oh my gosh, her hair is so beautiful. I wish my hair could do that." My friend looked at me like I was crazy and said, "Uh, it would if you stop relaxing it." I stopped and thought to myself, wow, duh. I kind of felt dumb because of course I knew my hair was naturally curly, but it had been so long since I had been relaxing. I realized that I had no real relationship with my natural hair. "At that very moment, I decided to change that. I wanted to see what my own hair felt like because I really didn't know. I had no clue. In the back of my mind, I always figured I … [Read more...]

Study: College Students Motivated by Intrinsic Rewards do Better Than Those Motivated by Money

The trouble is that many lower-income students don't have the luxury of studying an unremunerative field just because they're interested in it. According to this University of Rochester study, many choose a major more on the basis of whether they feel they can earn a living doing it than any intrinsic liking for it. This may be one reason why lower-income students as a group don't do as well in college as upper income ones: The study found that students motivated by a desire for autonomy and competence tended to earn higher grades and show a greater likelihood of persistence than did other students. (The findings were controlled for academic background and various other factors, and were based on surveys of 2,500 students at a community college and a liberal arts college that were not identified.)... For instance, wealthier students appeared more likely than low-income students to achieve success based on their interest in studying certain subject areas. It's not that low-income students don't want to … [Read more...]

Compelling Links: Racial Profiling, Rhino Sanctuary, Hillary Clinton’s Image Inspires Women to Speak Publicly

A really eloquent essay on how it feels to be racially profiled your whole life. Inspiring obituary of Anna Merz, who founded a rhino sanctuary. A new study finds women give longer and more confident political speeches when they are exposed to images of female role models. "Female role models eliminated the gender gap, though. Women gave longer speeches and evaluated themselves more positively when they were primed with with images Hillary Clinton and Angela Merkel than when they saw Bill Clinton or weren't primed at all. The outside observers also rated their speeches higher." (ht: Annie Paul Murphy's Brilliant Blog) … [Read more...]

To John Cole: In Defense of the Brontes

Woke up with a burning desire to respond to John Cole's assault on the Bronte sisters: Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre was a thorough attack on the British class system, not to mention sexism. The bestselling book was decried by conservatives who considered it a major force promoting Chartism (universal male suffrage), among other evils. Emily Bronte's Wuthering Height's was a feminist reimagining of Paradise Lost, and far weirder and creepier than Poe. After enduring an abusive marriage, the protagonist of Anne Bronte's Tenant of Wildfell Hall DTMFA and lives an independent life as an artist, about 150 years ahead of her time. The Bronte sisters also lived lives of marginalization and privation, and so I won't have their work disparaged by a guy who named his cat Zsa Zsa. … [Read more...]

How to Read The New York Times

Every time I check out a substantive New York Times article, I do this: 1) skim the article 2) go to the comments and sort them so that the ones most recommended *by readers* (not the paper's editorial staff) come first. 3) read the most popular comments carefully, and learn from them how to interpret the information given in the article. Today's example is an article about how more colleges are starting to teach a "top down" version of the history of capitalism that focuses less on workers and more on bosses.  The article is blandly interesting and neutral, but it's the comments that really tell the story. … [Read more...]

Where Veal Comes From

I hope none of my friends eats veal, but if you do, here's where it's from. A tiny, newborn calf separated from its mother and raised in terrible isolation. This should be (but alas isn't) a scene from a horror movie. These are all unwanted male calves from dairy cows, so please try dairy alternatives. Many fine suggestions around the web, or email me. … [Read more...]

New Study Shows “Tiger Mom” Wrong

Last year, I wrote about Amy "Tiger Mom" Chua, who wrote a book celebrating her abusive parenting practices, which she said were both typically Chinese American, and yielded a better outcome than supposedly permissive mainstream American ones. ("Better outcome," of course, defined narrowly as a compliant child who excels in school and work). After widespread condemnation (mixed in with a few plaudits from conservative organs like The Wall Street Journal), she recanted somewhat and admitted that her daughters do receive compensatory nurturant parenting from their dad. No matter--Chua got her fifteen minutes of fame and thousands of book sales. … [Read more...]

Harsh Parenting Linked to Depression, Unhappiness, and Other Problems in Kids and Adults

"A review of two decades worth of studies has shown that corporal punishment is associated with antisocial behavior and aggression in children, and later in life is linked to depression, unhappiness, anxiety, drug and alcohol use and psychological maladjustment. Beyond beating, parents can also hurt children by humiliating them, labeling them in harmful ways (“Why are you so stupid?”), or continually criticizing their behavior." Link … [Read more...]

He Gets It!

"We must act knowing that our work will be imperfect." Barack Obama, 2d inaugural address, January 21, 2013 … [Read more...]

More on Millennials

Got a great response to my last blog post defending millennials (who should need no defense). Colorado-based writer Teresa Funke, author of the Home Front Heroes series of kids' books about World War II—which would make a great holiday present for any book-loving kid you know (hint, hint)—wrote a particularly stirring reply and gave me permission to share it with you: Right on! Although, I was a college student in the 80s, as you were, but I had an unpaid internship. So did my husband. Kids today take a lot of flak for not getting jobs in high school, etc, but their homework loads are much heavier than we had, and there's a push to take more advanced classes in high school in order to get into college (and advanced classes are harder classes). And high school activities are now huge commitments. When I was a kid, soccer was a two-month sport. Now, it's year-round. Not to mention that kids are supposed to do more volunteering in the community because that looks good in their college interviews, etc. AND the … [Read more...]

Are Millennials Spoiled?

In my workshops I teach the benefits of an antiperfectionist viewpoint: one that is compassionate, empathetic, nonjudgmental of yourself and others, etc. Yesterday, a 20-something participant raised the question of whether her and her generation had been too indulged (and thus weakened and infantalized) by excessive praise and other support from parents and others. The question got me hot under the collar, and here's what I told her: NO. There are people in the world who conflate kindness, compassionate, empathy, and understanding with being soft, indulgent, and weak. Many of them have authoritarian personalities, which means that they crave harshness and hierarchies and control for themselves and others. All that is their dysfunction: do not let it define your view of yourself or others. Beyond that, we have the age-old game of, "Let's Dump on Young People!" a perennial favorite of those whose bones are starting to creak, particularly if they are not happy with the results of their own life … [Read more...]