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Human Parts
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Humans 101

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Humans 101

Discontentment begins and ends in your head

Recently, I sat with my wife in our back garden, a small fire burning in front of us, smoke curling up, the earthy smell of peat hanging in the cool air. I looked up at the stars and planets, sparkling bright in the clear, pitch-black evening sky. A peaceful feeling wrapped me like a warm blanket. I felt so good.

After about an hour, my wife said she wanted to go inside. Seconds after she left, my mind kicked in: “Why is she going in? She should stay out here with me. If we were on a date, she wouldn’t…


Humans 101

Many of us neglect our own needs to avoid seeming self-centered — and then we wonder why we’re so unhappy

Portrait of a person—wearing a bob haircut, big dark sunglasses, and an orange knitted sweater—looking to the left side of the image in a very dark space. Reflected in the sunglasses is an open window showing a sliver of blue sky on each lens.
Portrait of a person—wearing a bob haircut, big dark sunglasses, and an orange knitted sweater—looking to the left side of the image in a very dark space. Reflected in the sunglasses is an open window showing a sliver of blue sky on each lens.

In my early twenties, the subject of “selfishness” came up frequently in my therapist’s office — specifically, my fear of being selfish. In my attempts to avoid selfishness, I was living in its opposite — and equally self-centered — extreme: self-negation.

My therapist explained it like a thermometer: Boiling hot was selfishness. Freezing cold was self-negation. And somewhere in between, right around the normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees, is a self-caring and responsible zone (which involves moving through a challenging zone of self-doubt that lies between 98.6 and ice).

“I feel like you’re freezing to death. I’m trying to…


Humans 101

Our culture’s fear of laziness is destroying us

Black and white photo of a cat resting on a ledge.
Black and white photo of a cat resting on a ledge.

I’m a social psychologist, clinical assistant professor, and the author of the book Laziness Does Not Exist. My book is all about how our culture’s fear of laziness leads to overwork, exploitation, and alienation. In it, I also discuss how each of us can unlearn our hatred of laziness and build more authentic, socially connected lives. For anyone who doesn’t have the energy — or time — to read a full book about how busy and overworked we all are right now, here are five key insights from my book you can read in a single sitting:

1. The laziness lie

The “laziness lie”…


Humans 101

Your curiosity does not take precedence over another person’s comfort

Painting of many colors.
Painting of many colors.

Recently, a friend of mine asked me why people of color often get defensive when White people ask where they are from. She had a new friend whose heritage she was unsure of. She genuinely wanted to learn more about him and asked where he was from. Her question led to a disagreement, hurt feelings, and offense on both sides.

For people who don’t fit the stereotypical social expectations of an American identity—whether because of their skin color, accent, or any number of factors—this question can come up a lot.

And it’s almost always a White person who asks.

If…


Humans 101

What I learned after a stupid meltdown

Before I share what I learned about why we get into arguments, I want to tell you a story. I’m not proud of my behavior; in fact, it’s downright embarrassing to let you know what I did. But it was a wake-up call that stirred things up for the better. Believe me, I don’t always have such a short fuse.

I was watching my 12-year-old son play in a tennis tournament. The kids were playing for rankings, which over the next few years would determine college tennis scholarship offers. You could say there was money on the table.

A cellphone…


Humans 101

How to feel less bummed and more grateful as you age

Blurry image of pedestrians walking against overlay of clock hours.
Blurry image of pedestrians walking against overlay of clock hours.

My husband and I went for our annual eye checkup, and I was told I needed reading glasses. My husband, who is 10 years older than me, smiled and said, “Darling, this is just the beginning.”

I glared at him. The beginning of what exactly? The end?

I turn 43 this year, and I am officially having a midlife crisis.

I’m in the middle. The beginning is over. The next stop is “the End.”

I am looking at my life — my wonderful life. I have loving husband, who is my best friend, personal masseur, and chef; a fulfilling career…


Humans 101

Start by recognizing the three Ps

Have you ever felt yourself on the verge of a downward spiral? I’ve been there.

What kind of mother can’t get her baby to sleep?
There must be something wrong with me.
If I don’t get some sleep soon, I cannot continue to function.
Will this sleep drought ever end? I can’t take it anymore.

These thoughts swirled in my brain as I felt myself on the precipice of a sob fest. My baby had been teething and struggling with sleep, and I’d had just nine hours of sleep in 72 hours. …


Humans 101

The power of positive intentions and a generative mindset

We never really know what the day holds for us. Sometimes it’s smooth sailing. Other times we get surprised and run into challenging situations, complex issues, and ornery people. Sometimes we’re the ornery ones.

The way we handle any challenge significantly impacts our emotional, mental, and physical well-being. When we resolve an issue skillfully, we’re able to move on with our lives. The alternative, however, might leave us feeling stressed and stuck wasting our time and energy. The residue of those unresolved challenges stays in our minds and bodies.

There are two keys to feeling at peace with an outcome…


Humans 101

My article on verbal aikido couldn’t save me from an avoidable argument

Silhouette of man writing on book behind textured glass.
Silhouette of man writing on book behind textured glass.

A few months ago, I wrote a well-received article about using verbal aikido to avoid stupid arguments. Aikido is a modern Japanese martial art that uses the principles of nonresistance to neutralize an opponent. The philosophy can be applied to resolving differences of opinion without being aggressive or defensive.

Too bad I wasn’t able to apply it when I got into a meltdown with my wife recently.

But I was reminded that, as relationships mature and move through the romantic phase into real life, debris from the past will come up at unexpected times. …


Humans 101

The answers are in the darkness

I watched 10 minutes of American network news on January 2nd. The gloom and doom were in full swing: infections, political vetoes and overrides, deaths, and snowstorms. I didn’t stick around for the short feel-good story at the end that’s supposed to make me all warm and fuzzy after being shoved into a vat of burning tar.

2021 is off to a dark start.

Or maybe not?

It depends on what you know about black holes.

A black hole is a place in space where a tremendous amount of matter is packed into a very tiny area. Think of a…

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