Dr. Christina Villarreal on WVON Chicago, with Perri Small Discussing American Beauty Standards

17 Jun

radio pic

Stay tuned, this week Dr. Christina Villarreal will be joining radio station WVON The Talk of Chicago.  WVON is the only black owned & operated radio station in Chicago, 3rd largest in the nation, and is now celebrating 52 years in operation.  WVON can be heard across the nation via iHeartRadio app.  Dr. Villarreal will be speaking with the host, veteran journalist Perri Small about the high price of beauty in a nation obsessed with physical appearance. The conversation will touch on a topic I covered in an article I penned in 2012:  The Kim Kardashian Effect:  America’s Obsession With Beauty

Kim Kardashian and America's obession with beauty

Millennials Do It Their Way: Optimizing Casual Sex So Everyone Wins

15 Jun
Read between the lines.

If reading between the lines isn’t working for you, try speaking up and being direct!

Millennials coming of age experience in the United States has been uniquely influenced by their access to the free, unlimited sexual content widely available on the internet.  This access has served not only as a resource for their sexual curiosity and consumption, but as a primary resource for easily connecting to people who share their sexual preferences on the dating sites of the moment.  Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University analyzed data from a survey of more than 33,000 adults in the U.S. to measure the country’s shifting sexual landscape.  The data revealed that Millennials were the most likely generation to acknowledge having casual sex; 45 percent of them said they had slept with someone other than a boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse during their late teens or 20s.  Overall, adult acceptance of premarital sex increased from 42 percent in 2000 to 58 percent in 2012, an all-time high.  “Americans are spending more of their lifetime unmarried, so they have more opportunities to engage in sex with more partners, and less reason to disapprove of non-marital sex” reports Twenge.  She opines that increasingly permissive attitudes toward sex are a sign of the rise of individualism in America.  She explains “when a culture places more emphasis on the needs of the self and less on social rules, more relaxed attitudes toward sexuality are the almost inevitable result.”

More and more young adults are supporting the current trend in sexual decision-making, where commitment and emotional connection are seen as unnecessary precursors to first time sexual encounters with others.  In theory, this allows people to get their sexual needs met, while minimizing the emotional risks and responsibilities associated with interpersonal intimacy.  In my practice as an executive/personal coach in the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s relatively common practice for both men and women to report having sex with someone they’ve just met.  Based on this first sexual encounter, they may choose not to see them again, may establish a ‘friends with benefits’ arrangement, or opt to get to know them on a deeper, emotional level through dating if a romantic relationship is something they’re seeking.  In most cases there’s a trial and error period, as people who are still very new to each other attempt to communicate their sexual preferences and get their needs met.  Millennials’ prolific use of texting as a primary form of communication, habit of avoiding vulnerabilityawkward interpersonal exchanges, and peer conflict can all contribute to frequent misunderstandings and rapid start/stops within their sexual encounters, regardless of what the end goal may be.  In some cases, getting stuck in a pattern of ineffective/unsatisfying sexual encounters can lead to anxiety, depression and an over-reliance on recreational substances.

As a coach and mental health expert I help people develop and practice the necessary skills for optimizing their new sexual experiences and increase their ability to find, establish and maintain satisfying relationships.  This article aims to provide some practical guidelines for optimizing the outcomes of your casual sex encounters while dating, and insightful tips for decoding the opposite sex along the way.

Men seeking sexual encounters with women:

  • Adopt an early communication style that encourages a positive response from women.  What does that mean? Skip the crude humor in online and text exchanges- chances are, you’re likely only entertaining yourself (or infamously landing yourself in one those Buzzfeed Tinder Fail lists) and that’s not the point is it?  Humor is fine, and can be a good initial approach online, but seriously, a little goes a long way.  Increase your odds of getting a genuine response from women by taking yourself out of the dregs of online dating wasteland- try telling an original, funny story about yourself, relate to something personal on a woman’s profile, or at minimum, send a quick hello with your array of pics to see if what you have going on is of interest to her.  Have a friend (preferably female) screen your online pics.  It may seem trivial, but poorly chosen pics can make or break your online dating success.
  • Once you’re corresponding consistently with someone, be proactive and suggest a specific plan to get together.  While this seems like a no-brainer, a lot of guys fail to get the ball rolling while they have a woman’s attention.  Comedian Aziz Ansari conducted focus groups with hundreds of people for his new book Modern Romance, getting intimate details on why people have problems with dating.  He shares “The lack of clarity over whether the meet-up is even an actual date frustrates both sexes to no end, but since it’s usually the guys initiating, this is a clear area where men can step it up.” So guys, to optimize your chances of establishing a sexual encounter, strike while the iron is hot.  While you’re keeping someone around as a text buddy, someone else is closing the deal as her new sex partner by making specific plans.  It might be entertaining and easy to have an assortment of women to text and exchange photos with, but these women will eventually fade you out of the picture for someone they know in real life.
  • Be sincere and honest about what your ideal arrangement is right now.  Just because you’re wanting to keep things casual doesn’t mean you’re decreasing your chances for sexual opportunities with women.  There are plenty of women who are open to keeping things casual too!  Plenty.  It doesn’t make sense to allude to wanting a more committed relationship if you actually don’t- doing so only increases the odds of introducing drama I’m sure you’d rather avoid.  Women can absolutely relate to wanting to experience an array of people before settling into a committed relationship, and understand you may be in a stage of your life where you’re prioritizing other life goals above romantic relationships.  In short, aim for integrity when you engage with someone in pursuit of sex.  Establishing this mutual understanding up front will create a space where both of you can focus on what you’re actually there for- sexual pleasure.
  • Real talk: If you aren’t asking what you can do to help a woman achieve orgasm and/or paying close attention to figuring out what she enjoys (and spending more than a little time doing this) it’s safe to guess you’re coming up short in bed.  Which of course, is your choice.  Just consider that when a woman finally does come along that you actually care about pleasing (even if it’s years and countless women from now), you likely still won’t have much of a clue about how to get her off (especially if you’re a fan of male produced porn).  There’s a good chance you’ll pale in comparison to other guys she’s been with, which is not a good look if you want to become that person’s significant other/favorite sexual partner.  If that’s not enough motivation, consider this:  when a woman reaches full sexual attraction to a sex partner she is going to be much more agreeable and feel more confident about trying new things for the sake of her partner’s pleasure.  That sexual fantasy you’ve had since the 8th grade?  That could go down if you play your cards right. #Thankmelater

Women seeking sexual encounters with men:

Speak Up Clearly and Consistently To Avoid Confusion.  Taking a meek approach in communicating your sexual preferences is going to seriously set back your sexual pleasure (and possibly compromise your sexual safety). Remind yourself:  Men cannot read your mind (and your subtle non-verbals can go unnoticed) because men and women are culturally socialized to communicate in different styles.  Be direct with your words and your actions about what you like and what you don’t like. Think about it: when men engage sexually, most do a pretty good job of getting their sexual needs met.  Porn and sex in movies perpetuate the myth that men do exactly what women love during sex (and women are supposed love it, regardless of how ridiculous it is!)

Set The Pace:  Literally and Figuratively.  Figuring out a sexual pace that feels good between two people comes from familiarity and predictability, neither of which have been established when you’ve only recently met someone.  So in addition to communicating openly, take the time to find a pace that works for both of you. Try not to approach sex like it’s fast food eaten at 2 am after staying out all night- which is usually on a whim, followed by almost instant regret.  Take your time and do it right– these SOS Band song lyrics were a hit for a reason!

STOP FAKING IT IN BED.  Really.  Pretending that you enjoy things during sex that you don’t is synonymous with digging your own sexual grave.  Take one for the team, and stop sending guys the wrong message that what they are doing sexually is awesome when you know that it’s not.  Funny but true story:  A 25 year-old attractive Asian woman I’m coaching tells me “So I met this guy randomly, and after we talked and hung out for a while, we eventually decide to go back to his place where we end up having sex.  Right away he starts fingering me with way too much force, to the point where it’s actually hurting me and I’m going numb from it!  So I stop him and say ‘hey when you touch me like that it hurts’ and he looks at me and says a little defensively “ok well… some women like it like that.”  She deadpans, “Christina I had to break it to him… “Um NO.  NO ONE likes it like that!”  We both had a good laugh at her candor in the moment.  I could not have been more proud of her for speaking up for herself!

Stop filtering and dismissing guys so quickly- be optimistic about seeing if you can develop good sexual chemistry with guys who don’t fit your bill. These days, you can swipe right to meet guys using more filters than your favorite photo editing app offers- you can specify height, body type, education level, location, age, etc. One of the most common complaints I get from women is that they rarely feel attracted enough to guys to even see them a first or second time.  But who you think will be attracted to sexually may not be a good match in real life.  Scientists working with Match.com found that we are horrible at knowing what we want; the kind of partner people said they wanted often didn’t match up with what they were actually interested in long term.  What works well for predicting good first dates doesn’t tell us much about the long-term success of a couple let alone their sexual chemistry.  Psychologists like Robert B. Zajonc explains, “while we are initially attracted to people by their physical appearance and traits we can quickly recognize, the things that make us more attracted to someone are their deeper, more personal qualities, which come out only during sustained interactions” – the “mere exposure effect” is repeated exposure to a stimulus which tends to enhance one’s feelings toward it.

This last point applies to anyone and everyone seeking sexual or romantic connections of any and all kinds:

Do Not Let FOMO Take Over.  You’ve read about, you’ve experienced it, you’re sick of hearing about how Millennials are  responsible for amplifying this toxic trend in a digital era.  That said, I’ve seen far too many people spend endless amounts of time spinning their wheels, agonizing over not meeting/dating enough people they find interest in.  A billion and one first dates later, still…nothing.  Begin to rethink what this could mean…maybe this isn’t the strategy that is going unearth the person who gets you excited and holds your attention.  Switch it up, peel your eyes away from your phone, pull your earbuds out and take a look around you.  Make eye contact and smile, maybe even say hi to the person next to you- this could be your first moment together of many better ones to come.

 

Rachel Dolezal: Why would a white woman misrepresent her race as black? Psychological insights from a mental health expert.

12 Jun

Rachel Dolezal- Now and Then.NAACP official Rachel Dolezal of Spokane, Washington has recently come under tremendous media fire for misrepresenting her racial identity as African-American for approximately the past 10 years.  Her biological parents have publicly made statements that the family’s ancestry is Czech, Swedish and German with some “faint traces” of Native American heritage as well. Her parents have also provided journalists with a copy of her daughter’s Montana birth certificate listing herself and Larry Dolezal as Rachel’s parents as evidence to validate her identity.

While CNN has yet to get comment from Rachel Dolezal directly (as of the production of this article), she has alluded to a family fight over alleged abuse, according to the Spokesman-Review.  She has also recently refused to directly answer a newspaper journalist’s questions about her racial heritage, and said she wanted to talk to local NAACP leadership first. “I feel like I owe my executive committee a conversation,” she said.  Public response to this controversy been mixed, with some reflecting a sentiment of confusion, others with speculation, cynicism, or support.  Many want to know:

“Why would a white woman pretend to be Black?”

As a mental health expert with a wide range of treatment experiences in various settings, I can offer some psychological insight regarding what might lead someone like Rachel Dolezal to identify as a member of an oppressed racial group.  Based on the information that has been made publicly available through news media sources such as CNN, I can begin to hypothesize what may be some possible reasons behind a person’s choice to racially align themselves with an African American/black racial identity in spite of having a Caucasian/white racial heritage.

In my experience as a mental health professional over the past 15 years, I have worked with a number of individuals who’ve had the unfortunate experience of discrimination, abuse, trauma and crime.  The emotional trauma of victimization is a direct reaction to the aftermath of experiencing discrimination, abuse, trauma, and/or crime.  Abuse victims can suffer a tremendous amount of physical and psychological trauma.  While some are emotionally resilient and manage to overcome the real adversity they experience, others are less so, and experience higher levels of emotional pain and suffering.  In some cases however, a person’s understanding of themselves as a ‘victim’ is not in response to actual or significantly measurable experiences of abuse, trauma or discrimination.  This can occur as a result of a personality pre-disposition that develops early on in some people, as a way for them to psychologically cope with receiving what they feel is ‘unfair treatment’ from others.

Sometimes, a person’s perception of what is ‘fair and unfair’ can be very distorted.  It may be that they are highly sensitive to feeling slighted, and/or develop a sensitivity to early criticism.  They may have difficulty coping what many other people are capable of accepting as the normal ups and downs of life.  When someone’s personality develops in this way, they can feel entitled to ‘better treatment’ than they are receiving, and when they don’t get it, they feel it’s because others are purposefully mistreating them. In their minds, it’s this perceived ‘mistreatment’ that leads them to developing an identity as a ‘victim’ as a way to process their experience of being chronically wronged.

Over time, someone who has developed emotionally in this way may be drawn towards people and experiences that reinforce their experience of being mistreated in the world.  They may even provoke people and/or manipulate circumstances so they can claim they were wronged.  Over time, they may come to rely on garnering sympathy from others as a way to benefit from the emotional support of those who are sympathetic to their experience.  Receiving this type of support can reinforce their pattern of identifying as a chronically mistreated person. Taking on the ethnic identity of a member of a systematically socially oppressed racial group could give someone an opportunity to not just experience real discrimination and racial prejudice, but also garner emotional, social and political support from equal right’s activists.

Rachel Dolezal grew up in what her parents called a diverse environment, with family friends of various ethnic backgrounds, and four adopted siblings who are black. She was “always interested in ethnicity and diversity” growing up, her mother Ruthanne said.  Media sources have pointed out a clear discrepancy between early photos of Rachel Dolezal as a blonde, fair skinned white woman and recent photos that reveal she has chosen to alter her physical appearance by darkening her skin and adopting an afro-like hairstyle with a kinky/curly texture as a way to portray herself as having an African-American racial heritage.  Many people are sounding off that Rachel Dolezal “has been dishonest and deceptive with her racial identity.”  What do you think?

Killing Out of Jealousy: Dr. Villarreal on Lifetime’s “Killer Kids”, Bernadette Protti’s Story

2 Jun

Dr. Christina Villarreal was recently featured as a mental health expert on an episode of Lifetime’s Killer Kids discussing the murder mystery case of Bernadette Protti, a teen convicted of killing 15-year old classmate and cheerleader Kirsten Costas in Orinda, California, a wealthy suburb of The Bay Area during the 1980’s.  This crime documentary episode chronicles the events leading up the stabbing murder of Kirsten Costas, and the investigators who identified the killer after the case went cold.  The murder case filled news headlines in June of 1984 when Kirsten Costas was stabbed to death on the doorstep of a neighbor.  The case remained a mystery for many months until her classmate, 16-year old Bernadette Protti finally confessed to the crime.

Friends, family and classmates in Orinda were shocked when Bernadette Protti confessed to the murder, as rumors had circulated that another classmate known for publicly disliking Kristen was responsible for Kristen’s death.  At trial, the defense stated Bernadette Protti had been teased by Kirsten Costas, and that Bernadette snapped after Costas threatened to tell everyone that she was “weird,” and “that way,” a phrase used in the ’80’s to refer to someone as homosexual.  Defense attorneys alleged that Bernadette Protti’s actions were not sexually motivated, and that Kirsten Costas had misinterpreted her intentions to befriend her. A rumor of that nature would have ruined Bernadette Protti’s chances of ever being socially accepted in Orinda, a community that was known for placing a strong emphasis on success, popularity and ‘fitting in’.

Bernadette Protti was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to serve time in the California Youth Authority, where she remained until she was released on parole in June 1992. According to Traciy Curry-Reyes, of the Movies Based On True Stories Archives, Protti changed her name after her release, causing many to relentlessly pursue her new identity for years.  Traciy Curry-Reyes discovered Bernadette Protti’s new identity in 2008, but chose not to publicly disclose her new name.  She shared with her viewers that Bernadette Protti is now married with a child.

The Bernadette Protti-Kirsten Costas story inspired the true-story movie A Friend To Die For” (“Death Of A Cheerleader” starring Kellie Martin, Tori Spelling, and James Avery which aired in 1994.  

The video segments below are of Dr. Villarreal’s commentary on the case, who provides a framework for understanding what pushes some people to kill.  The full story can be seen here in the second half of Killer Kid’s episode #12 of Season 4, titled “Rumors and The To Do List“.

Dr. Christina Villarreal’s Focus on Women’s Sexual Health, Empowerment & Wellness

29 May

15 years ago, I completed my doctoral dissertation examining cultural and gender influences of sexual risk behavior among Latino women. For the past 10 years in my clinical practice, I’ve enjoyed helping women embrace their sexuality, overcome obstacles to safe sex practices, and empower themselves for a lifetime of sexual wellness. I’ve served as a Relationship Expert on social media websites like GuysAskGirls.com, and written a range of articles on sex, dating and relationships, with media publications and interviews in popular media sites such as techcrunch.  This week I orchestrated what turned out to be an amazing workshop for nearly 40 women on Navigating Sex, Relationships, and Dating in San Francisco. I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to do this important work. Thank you to all those that participated, there will be more to come!  In the coming weeks I will be recruiting a diverse group of men in various stages of their dating life and relationship experience- from single to married.  These men will form an expert panel for an open Q & A session for an audience of Bay Area women who’d like to better understand why guys do what they do!  I will facilitate an honest and respectful dialogue that will surely be insightful, informative and instrumental in improving dating and relationship experiences for all.

Here are a few candid snapshots from the event on May 27th, 2015, we had a great time!

Hosting my first workshop on Women's Sexual Health and Wellness

Hosting my first workshop on Women’s Sexual Health and Wellness

With Rebecca Alvarez of Bodyfeminina- she is a Sexual Wellness Expert and Women's Sexual Health researcher

With Rebecca Alvarez of Bodyfeminina- she is a Sexual Wellness Expert and Women’s Sexual Health researcher

With Dr. Lina Hannigan, a Clinical Health Psychologist practicing in the Bay Area, SF.

With Dr. Lina Hannigan, a Clinical Health Psychologist practicing in the Bay Area, SF.

Dating & Sex in SF: Secrets for Success from a Relationship Coach Who’s Seen it All

20 May

Dr. Villarreal is excited to host her first women’s only workshop focusing on dating & female sexual health- it’s going to be an amazing event!  While this event has already nearly sold out, there is certainly room for a few more.  Please join us- there will be appetizers served, and a selection of wines by the glass to purchase.  We will meet in ‘La Cave’, a private lounge space downstairs in Aquitaine Wine Bar & Bistro, San Francisco, CA.  When?  May 27th, 2015, 7 pm-10 pm.

Tickets for this event may be purchased (click here for details) in advance at Eventbrite, as well as at the door.


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Dating & Sex in SF: Secrets for Success from a Relationship Coach Who’s Seen it All (Women-Only)

Navigating Your Sexual Identity: Bay Area Dating, Communicating Sexual Preferences, Managing Romantic Pitfalls, and Turning “Happily Ever After” into a Reality 

“This workshop was born in response to countless requests I received from women I’ve worked with professionally, as a way to continue the conversation about sex/relationship health, and allow a larger community of women to participate.  I will be sharing some of the most valuable pieces of what I’ve learned from helping women.  I am grateful and privileged to have had the opportunity to work with so many!  I want to pass along how they gained new insights about their patterns, overcome blind spots, change course and try new behaviors.  Along with that progress came new ways of seeing themselves as worthy of love and affection, as well as an increased ability to enjoy sex in new ways. These gains opened up doors for them in all areas of their life, as they came to see themselves with more clarity.”
– Dr. Christina Villarreal
Topics to be covered include:
(followed by a Q & A period)
  • shopping for a sexual partner/love interest:  What are we looking for, and how will we know when we find it?
  • Seizing control of your sexual identity, and figuring out what arouses you physically and mentally
  • Porn/Sex in the media– How has it affected/shaped your sexual identity and in past/current relationship? What place does porn have, if any, in oursexual relationships?
  • Body Image– how to move beyond feeling worried about being attractive to your partner to feeling hot and worthy of asking for what you like in bed
  • Mutual Fantasy Building– how to collaborate with your partner on what’s going on in his/her head AND yours for increased sexual connection and pleasure.
  • Maintaining Long Term Love– practical tips for navigating and managing committed relationships

Is Lightweight Stalking on Social Media a Relationship Killer? Stop in 3 Easy Steps.

6 Apr
How often do you keep tabs on the person you're dating online?

How often do you keep tabs on the person you’re dating online?

Have you ever wondered how much checking someone’s status updates/tweets/photo uploads is normal/harmless, and when does re-checking their online activity become problematic?  Most of us have caught ourselves clicking through someone’s social media activity because we have reason to be naturally curious them- maybe the person is someone we want to meet, or just started dating and want to know more about them.  Other times we might scroll through our partner’s online activity as a way to check their daily mood, as counterintuitive as that may sound (since you likely see them or at least communicate with them regularly in person).  Today’s prolific use of social media gives us an alternative glimpse into our partner’s emotional status and social exchanges that we may not otherwise pick up on.  Even if someone’s online persona is carefully constructed for public consumption, having access to their online activity gives us an opportunity to interpret the meaning of their coming and goings, even their level of intimacy with others.  If this person is an ex-romantic partner this may be all we have to go on- even if all we see is their profile picture and friend list, this information can still provide a rough approximation of their current situation. This dilemma recently became a topic of conversation in my coaching practice, where helping people improve their emotional intelligence is a common goal throughout the work that I do.  Victoria, a bright and accomplished 24 year-old woman shared with me that constantly checking her boyfriend’s social media activity and online communication with his ex is taking a hard toll on her mood and relationship functioning. Me: “Have you ever talked to your boyfriend about what you see on his social media sites?  That you’re concerned about who he’s interacting with online?” Her: “HELL NO! The last thing I want to do is come across as the person that I actually am- the type of person who stalks people online to see what they’re up to, and compare their successes to mine.” Checking people’s online activity, or ‘lightweight stalking‘ if you will, can run deep.  We start out taking a quick glimpse at our partner’s tweet/Instagram pic of the day, only to find their ex decided to comment suggestively.  It’s too easy to then check out our partner’s ex-boyfriend/girlfriend’s Twitter/Instagram/Facebook, etc (because dammit they have a public profile just begging to be explored).  So begins the comparisons.  Do they seem happier/sadder now? Does their taste in fashion/music/politics demonstrate that I’m a more tasteful/intelligent person?  Is he/she in better shape than me?  Our self-esteem may start to wane the more we compare ourselves to them.  We end up heading into an emotional tailspin trying to interpret their ‘Vaguebooking‘ habit on Facebook.  We’re left wondering if they’re pining for their old relationship.  Do they want to rekindle things?  Will they/have they tried?  If trust hasn’t been well established in our relationship, we might become irrationally suspicious by mistrusting and/or questioning our partner for no substantial reason.  Suddenly we’re starting arguments that undermine the health of our relationship.

FML.

Dr. Tara C. Marshall, Ph.D., explores online post-breakup fixations in her research article Facebook Surveillance of Former Romantic Partners: Associations with PostBreakup Recovery and Personal Growth.  Results based on the responses of 464 participants revealed that one-half to two-thirds of people have made contact with an ex-romantic partner through Facebook, and that over half admit to having looked through an ex’s photos to find pictures of them with a new romantic partner.  Findings from this study suggest that keeping tabs on an ex through social media is associated with poorer emotional recovery and personal growth following a breakup. Therefore, avoiding exposure to ex-partners, both offline and online, may be the best remedy for healing a broken heart.

Solution:  Put Yourself on a Stalking Diet

  1. Do not allow yourself to stalk during the time of day when you know you are the most emotionally vulnerable and/or have unlimited time to comb through the internet for new postings.  For many people this is late at night.  Give yourself an 8 pm stalking curfew!!!  Most likely after 8 pm, you’ll engage in other things that will bring your mood back to a normal, and you’ll be in a less anxious place before you sleep.
  2. If you know you’re not ready to quit cold turkey, put some “stalking hours” in place, like office hours, if you will.  You’re only allowed to check on those you stalk between 2-4 pm, for example.  That way if you find yourself curious about your ex at midnight (especially likely if you’ve been out drinking), you can rest assured you’ll have a chance to stalk to your heart’s content, just postponed a little.  Chances are, you won’t have that same aching (likely misguided) curiosity during the logical hours of the next afternoon.
  3. Delete the social media app(s) that you use the most during your sleuthing for one week.  This will allow you to see how much you actually miss compulsively scrolling through that particular social media site.  You might discover that the cost of missing out (FOMO) is not creating as much emotional damage as stalking does.
  • And if all else fails…

If all else fails…

Get A Beautiful Mind, With Dr. Christina Villarreal

2 Apr

drchristinavillarreal:

Thanks for the opportunity Kamila!

Originally posted on Kamila Dmowska:

A shift in seasons brings many changes—clothes, style, love… We asked Dr. Christina Villarreal about relationships, and the work/life balance women face these days working in start-ups (the niche she focuses on). Here is what she had to say…

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Successful Entrepreneurs Reboot with Smart Daydreaming.

11 Mar
Reboot and restore your brain with Smart Daydreaming

Reboot and restore your brain with Smart Daydreaming

I work with some of the most ambitious, driven people in The Bay Area’s tech community.  High achieving individuals who operate on the model: attain success first and foremost.  Their minds are used to operating at the speed of light- always problem-solving, always anticipating and avoiding pitfalls- essential skills for surviving the minefield of Silicon Valley and San Francisco’s booming young professional scene.  A 2003 study led by Pennsylvania College of Technology examined the relationship between entrepreneurs’ personalities to long-term venture survival, finding the only “significant personality predictor” was conscientiousness, or the propensity to plan, organize, and take care of responsibilities.  According to Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, it takes a special breed to take on the risk of entrepreneurship.  “A lot of progress in the world is driven by the delusional optimism of some people,” he told Inc. “The people who open small businesses don’t think, ‘I’m facing these odds, but I’ll take them anyway.’ They think their business will certainly succeed.”

As an executive and personal coach, I see the underbelly of the pressure of success, and how it can negatively affect people’s mood.  Many of them struggle with turning their brains away from constantly mentally building and managing their business or profession.  When the mind focuses constantly on problem-solving it never gets a chance to reboot.  When your thoughts remain hyper-focused on managing negative outcomes, it leaves no space for positive imagination- an essential part of mood management and happiness.  The end result is mental burn out, which can lead to chronic physical manifestations of stress.  Functionality becomes seriously compromised.

“Always being ON will eventually turn your brain power OFF, limiting your potential for success.”

The cure?  Train your brain in the practice of ‘smart daydreaming‘, a strategy that helps people to better engage with the pursuits that are most personally meaningful to them.  Kaufmans’s Theory of Personal Intelligence has revealed this practice as a powerful way to tap into spontaneous forms of cognition, including insight, intuition and the triggering of memories and stored information — types of intelligence often accessed through active daydreaming.  The outcome?  Improved mood and increased productivity.  This is not your run-of-the-mill “Let my mind wander aimlessly until I go back to my usual mental diet of constant worry.”  This is strategic, purposeful daydreaming, with the goal of rebooting your brain and getting your mood back on track so you can operate at your best when it counts.  How does it work?

#BestAdvice:  Smart Recipes for Daydreaming.

  • Begin with ‘The Miracle Question‘-  Begin with a clean slate and let go of whatever is on your mind.  Take the time to imagine total freedom, and that any miracle you wish to come true is now possible.  Step out of your usual ‘problem story’ and into an all new story where problems do not exist.
  • Stop and pay attention to what specifically about your story makes you feels good, what makes you say “YES!  THAT WOULD BE AMAZING!” Continue along this vein, flush it out, give it legs.  Where would you be, what types of people would be in your life, what would you do, for how long would you do this, etc.  How would your average day look in this miracle context?
  • Each time you mind wants to problem-solve for “How would THAT ever happen?  Why aren’t I working on making this happen right now?  Am I failing at life for not achieving this?”  Stop.  This is supposed to be an implausible daydream, where solutions don’t matter, obstacles don’t exist, and there is no shortage of optimal resources, supreme experiences, awesome people, and boundless opportunity.
  • After you have thought through a full on version of the ultimate experience, notice your mood.  Instead of being driven by angst, you’ve given yourself a highly personalized mental vacation, possibly revealing new insights about what you care about most.
  • Aim to practice smart daydreaming for 10-15 minutes each day.  Track themes.  Let these themes serve as a guide for what you’d like to ultimately have more of in your life.  See if you can build some of those themes into your short term and long term vision of your life.

By actively engaging in positive daydreaming you are not only giving your mind and energy level a chance to reboot, you are freeing your mind to construct a concrete, idealized vision of your preferred future.

Ask a 7 year old what they want to be when they grow up, and they nail it, every single time.

Kids are natural dreamers.  They’re too young to realize that being “a famous inventor, a marine biologist, a pop star like Katy Perry, own sushi restaurants all over the world…and become The President of The United States” is a stretch, to say the least (this is my child’s vision of her future right now, and who knows, she may pull it off!)  They might not be able to tell you HOW this future could ever happen, but they’ll definitely enjoy telling you WHY having this grown up future would be ‘the best thing ever’.  Their eyes light up, they smile and have a great time telling you all about it.  That’s the point.

“We should make sure our ideas of success are our own. We should focus in on our ideas and make sure that we own them, that we are truly the authors of our own ambitions. Because it’s bad enough, not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want, and find out at the end of a journey, that it isn’t, in fact, what you wanted all along.”  Alain de Botton, from his TED Talk, ‘A kinder, gentler philosophy of success’

Dr. Christina Villarreal is a mental health expert, executive and personal coach/consultant, entrepreneur and educator practicing in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA.  For professional inquires visit her website at www.drchristinavillarreal.com

Slow Down Your Sense of Time with One Matrix-Like Mind Trick.

4 Mar

Have a Matrix Moment

What if you could literally slow down the passing of time, would you do it?  In today’s day and age, our most valued commodity is TIME.  We want things available faster, completed sooner.  Time is money.  Aside from monetary efficiency, why are we so pressed for time?  Because the sooner the mundane tasks of the day are completed, the more time we have for enjoyable things.  Time flies when you’re having fun.  Technological innovations aside, is there a way to slow down our sense of time?  YES. Read on.

New research from Stanford GSB suggests there is a way: elicit a sense of awe. Experiencing something awe-inspiring — whether it’s the Grand Canyon, a blazing sunset over your favorite cityscape,  or a Puccini aria — can expand perceptions of time, enhancing quality of life.  The key, says Jennifer Aaker, Stanford GSB’s General Atlantic Professor of Marketing and an author of a new paper on the subject, is that awe makes us feel small, not larger than life, the way happiness can. “When you feel small, there’s a reapportioning of what’s out there,” she says. “Time is reapportioned also.”

The study, to be published in the journal Psychological Science, defines awe as something that is both vast (in size, scope, number, ability, or importance) and capable of altering one’s view of the world.  UC Berkeley psychology professor Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt, a former University of Virginia psychology professor now at New York University’s Stern School of Business, described awe as “fleeting and rare.” They examined the history of awe, tracing its role in ancient religious texts, including the Hindu Bhagavad Gita and the Christian Bible, and in influential and charismatic political leaders such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Philosophers opine that awe is most easily felt in solitude, while spending time in nature, viewing art or immersed in emotionally inspiring music.  Edmund Burke wrote that awe, which he referred to as “the sublime”, is also more likely to arise from something obscure and surprising, rather than something clear and expected.  Commonly recognized physical responses that distinguish awe from other emotions is the presence of goose bumps or chills.

“[Awe] is more of a mindset than we think,” says Aaker. “This research suggests you can cultivate it in similar ways, as you do gratefulness or happiness. Yet, when it is present, awe can transform people and reorient their lives, goals, and values.”

How can we bring a sense of awe into our daily lives?  Be in the moment.  

  • Practice focusing your attention on the elements around you that bring you moments of joy.  These are different for everyone.  Some people’s gazes will naturally be drawn to elements in nature, others to the expression of human individuality around them, others will find pleasure in noticing unique order, rhythm or sound.  Rather than expecting moments of awe, encourage feelings of awe by awakening your senses to the world around you.
  • Aim to take breaks from multi-tasking, especially while doing things for pleasure.  When I make time to enjoy dessert (or any recklessly indulgent experience for that matter), what ever it may be, it literally becomes my favorite thing ever.  In that moment.  I am a firm believer that life is better, richer, more expansive when we have ‘multiple favorites’ to celebrate.  I will happily elaborate upon this practice, just ask me.
  • Do your favorite things slowly and deliberately.  It can be a habit to rush rush rush through everything.  Understandable when dealing with the mundane, but like Keith Sweat says “make it last forever.
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