What is Cognition?

In addition to problems faced by professors who must battle inaccurate and often outrageous portrayals of the behaviorist perspectives, is the definition of cognition. The definition of cognition in textbooks is an important issue for those of use who are behaviorists. Cognition definitions are so broad that they seemly cover every aspect of psychology even those areas that were traditional first developed and stimulated by behaviorists. We rely on textbooks as one of the most important sources of information and the glossary, in particular, helps identify and highlight important terms that the author considers important.

I urge the reader to visit your bookshelves and look at the glossary of your introductory psychology or cognitive textbooks plus the preliminary comments related to the definition of cognition and the behaviorist approach. What you will find are definitions of cognition that cover the entire spectrum of psychology and therefore are essentially meaningless while the definitions of the behavioral perspective are consistent although sometimes wrong when they exclude inner events. As another exercise, use the thesaurus function on your word professor. If it is like mine, there are various entries for the word behavior such as performance, deeds, and actions. If you type in “cognition” there are no entries.

There is a real need to offer a universally accepted definition of cognition that can be compared to other perspective approaches to psychology. Without a precise definition of cognition or at least the cognitive perspective, we are left with the impression that there are no serious alternatives to the cognitive model. Those who teach psychology courses from the behaviorist perspective, find it difficult to provide materials that adequately and fairly present alternative perspectives. This is a serious issue because it affects the training of the next generation of students.

To document the inconsistencies in definitions of cognition, I took the opportunity to examine eight recent introductory psychology texts. What I found confirms the lack of consistency in the definition of cognition. In contrast to definitions of behaviorism, there is no consensus on what cognitive psychology is and the definitions are designed to cover almost every area of psychology. This is in contrast to definitions of behaviorism that all stress the focus on observables. None of the definitions of cognition mention that a cognitive psychologist does not see a “cognition” or “cognit” they, like the behaviorists only see observables.

The lack of consistency in cognitive definitions is not a surprise given the history of the field. In what is erroneously considered the first textbook in cognitive psychology defines cognitive psychology as all processes by which the sensory input is transformed, reduced, elaborated, stored, recovered, and used. Moreover, as Amsel noted, the founding editor of the journal Cognitive Psychology when asked to define this field replied that it is “What I like.” At best such a reply precludes any meaningful discussion on what is and what is not cognition and worse disrespects alternative approaches and leads to an influx of such terms as cultural cognition, analytical cognition, holistic cognitive, neonatal cognition, and cognition in the mini-brain.

Ciccarelli and White do not define cognition in the glossary but they do define cognitive dissonance, cognitive arousal theory, cognitive behavior therapy, cognitive meditational theory, cognitive neuroscience, cognitive psychologists, cognitive therapy and cognitive universalism. Behaviorism is defined as the science of behavior that focuses on observable behavior only. There is no mention of the existence of various behaviorist perspectives such as neobehaviorism, nor are the problems we investigate such as learning and problem solving mentioned. Yet in the preliminary comments, the cognitive perspective is defined as modern perspective that focuses on memory, intelligence, perception, problem solving and learning. The reader can only assume that by using the word “modern” the authors of the text believe that the behaviorist approach is antiquated. Gray also does not define cognition in the glossary but defines cognitive behavior therapy, cognitive dissonance, and cognitive therapy.

Behaviorism is defined, but the definition includes the statement that behavior should be understood in terms of its relationship to observable events in the environment rather than in terms of hypothetical events within the individual. Given my earlier comments on the various types of behaviourisms, I hope the reader is aware how uniformed this statement is. When you examine introductory texts for their treatment of behaviorism, you will see that they are wrong to characterize behaviorism this way without mentioning that there are several behaviorist approaches. This statement may or may not be true of the radical behaviorism advocated by B. F. Skinner, but it is certainly not true of the neobehaviorists such as Hull and Tolman. In the preliminary comments, cognition is defined as the term cognition refers to information in the mind—that is, to information that is somehow stored and activated by the workings of the brain. The definition of cognition offered by Gray is different than that offered by Ciccarelli and White. Yet a third definition of cognition is presented by Huffman. In the glossary, she defines cognition as mental activities involved in acquiring, storing, retrieving, and using knowledge.

Definitions are offered for cognitive behavior therapy, cognitive dissonance, cognitive map, cognitive perspective, cognitive restructuring, cognitive-social theory, cognitive therapy. Behaviorism is not defined. Astonishingly, Clark Hull is listed in a table entry as representing the cognitive perspective! This is simply ridiculous. One would have thought that Tolman would have been a better choice. For those readers who have never heard of Hull or Tolman—both were neobehaviorists.

A fourth definition is proposed by Myers. He defines cognition in the glossary as all the mental activities associated with thinking, knowing, remembering, and communication. Although behavior is not defined, there is a definition of cognitive learning as the acquisition of mental information, whether by observing events, by watching others, or through language. No examples are provided of non-cognitive learning. No definition is offered for the word behavior or the behaviorist perspective. Behaviorism is defined as the view that psychology should be an objective science that studies behavior without reference to mental processes. Most research psychologists today agree with but not with clearly, the second part of this definition is incorrect. There is some information on the behavioral perspective in the introductory chapter but presents only generalizations such as the focus on how we learn observable responses.

Schacter, Gilbert, and Wegner offer a fifth definition. Although cognition is not specifically defined, the glossary contains an entry for cognitive psychology. Cognitive psychology is the scientific study of mental processes, including perception, thought, memory, and reasoning. Other related entries are: cognitive behavior therapy, cognitive development, cognitive dissonance, cognitive maps, cognitive restructuring, cognitive therapy, and cognitive unconscious. Behaviorism is defined as an approach that advocates that psychologists restrict themselves to the scientific study of objectively observable behavior. In the introductory section of the text, Watson and Skinner are discussed. For both individuals only their extreme views are presented. Hull and Spence are mentioned not for their contributions as neobehaviorists but for their views on homeostasis. Edward Tolman is also mentioned in a section on cognitive elements of operant conditioning.

A sixth definition is proposed by Wade and Tavris. Although once again there is no definition in the glossary for cognition, they define the cognitive perspective as a psychological approach that emphasizes mental processes in perception, memory, language, problem solving, and other areas of behavior. Other related entries are cognitive dissonance, cognitive schema, and cognitive therapy. It is interesting to note that there is an entry for cognitive ethology, which is defined as the study of cognitive processes in non-human animals. Historically, the study of cognitive processes is the comparative psychological perspective. Behaviorism is defined as an approach to psychology that emphasizes the study of observable behavior and the role of the environment as a determinant of behavior.

The textbook offered by Wood, Wood and Boyd provides yet another definition—our seventh. Here, cognition is defined in the glossary as the mental processes that are involved in acquiring, storing, retrieving, and using information and that includes sensation, perception, imagery, concept formation, reasoning, decision making, problem solving, and language. Other terms defined are cognitive dissonance, cognitive map, cognitive processes, cognitive therapies, and cognitive therapy.

Cognitive psychology is defined as the school of psychology that sees humans as active participants in their environment; studies mental processes such as memory, problem solving, reasoning, decision making, perception, language, and other forms of cognition. Behaviorism is defined as the school of psychology that views observable, measurable behavior as the appropriate subject matter for psychology and emphasizes the key role of environment as a determinant of behavior. In comparing the definitions of cognitive psychology and behaviorism one gets the impression those behaviorism only study inactive participants.

Eighth definition of cognition can be found in the Zimbardo, Johnson and McCann, although not defined in the glossary. The cognitive perspective is defined as another of the main psychological viewpoints distinguished by an emphasis on mental processes, such as learning, memory, perception, and thinking, as forms of information processing. Other cognitive terms in the glossary are cognitive appraisal, cognitive development, cognitive dissonance, cognitive map, cognitive neuroscience, cognitive restructuring, cognitive therapy, and cognitive-behavior therapy. The behavioral perspective is defined as a psychological viewpoint that finds the source of our actions in environmental stimuli rather than in inner mental processes. Once again, the referent that behaviorists do not look at inner mental processes is wrong.

I also searched the glossaries and preliminary comments of cognitive texts; the results where the same. I would have expected that in an advanced text the quality and rigor of the definitions would have improved—they did not. Consider the text by Ashcraft and Radvansky who define cognition as the collection of mental processes and activities used in perceiving, remembering, thinking, and understanding, as well as the act of using those processes. Reed does not have cognition defined in the glossary but does define cognitive psychology as the scientific study of cognition. In the introductory comments cognitive psychology is defined as the science of how the mind is organized to produce intelligent thought and how it is realized in the brain.

One way to estimate the effect that such a variety of definitions have on students is to simply ask them. I asked approximately 70 upper division psychology students to define cognition. The answers were wide ranging and there was no consensus. Representative samples include the ability to associate and synthesize multiple learned behaviors; mental processes that occur in an organism the ability for an individual to think clearly and have the ability to decipher right from wrong, or myth from reality; mental processes that help solve problems, perform tasks, remember things, and help you function in everyday life; the process of thought, attention, memory; the process of thinking; internal schemas which include thoughts, feelings, and desires; the ability to understand and perform mental abilities and produce constructs; mental processes of the mind through thoughts, feelings, emotions; to functionally process thoughts within the mind, mental thought process; and the ability to grasp and understand conceptual events.


What Behaviorism Are We Talking About?

The term behaviorism refers to the school of psychology founded by John B. Watson based on the belief that behaviors can be measured, trained, and changed. Behaviorism was established with the publication of Watson’s classic paper Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It. Behaviorism, also known as behavioral psychology, is a theory of learning based upon the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. Conditioning occurs through interaction with the environment. Behaviorists believe that our response to environmental stimuli shapes our behaviors. According to behaviorism, behavior can be studied in a systematic and observable manner with no consideration of internal mental states. This school of thought suggests that only observable behaviors should be studied, since internal states such as cognitions, emotions and moods are too subjective.

There are two major types of conditioning:

Classical conditioning is a technique used in behavioral training in which a naturally occurring stimulus is paired with a response. Next, a previously neutral stimulus is paired with the naturally occurring stimulus. Eventually, the previously neutral stimulus comes to evoke the response without the presence of the naturally occurring stimulus. The two elements are then known as the conditioned stimulus and the conditioned response.

Operant conditioning sometimes referred to as instrumental conditioning is a method of learning that occurs through rewards and punishments for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior.

A look through any introductory textbook and most cognitive texts gives the student an impression that cognition is practically all of psychology. They will see sections on, for example, Cultural Cognition, Analytical Cognition, Holistic Cognition, Neonatal Cognition, Cognition in the Mini-Brain, Cognitive Architecture, and one of my personal favorites, Unconscious Cognition.

The problems associated with principles of behaviorism within the cognitive revolution are dissatisfying, and perhaps even saddened, by a revolution that neglects some of the greatest contributors to the analysis of behavior; by a revolution that misrepresents the behaviorist position in textbooks; by a revolution where traditional behavioral issues are being tossed aside and all but forgotten.

We are never told, for example, about the wide variety of behaviorist positions, are presented with definitions of cognition that are so broad that they are meaningless at best, and at worst, overshadow the behaviorist contribution to psychology, and are not told that there are no general criteria to determine whether a process is cognitive. This voice has been expressed by many individuals including Frederick Adams, Abraham Amsel, Howard Cromwell, James Grice, Vickie Lee, Jay Moore, Geir Overskeid, Jaak Panksepp and Thom Verhave.

I am often shocked by how little general population knows about behaviorism apart from the catch-phrases and stereotypes associated with attacks on John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner. Behaviorists are often considered as out of touch, anti-intellectual, old fashioned and simple minded. The cognitivists, on the other hand, are cutting edge, forward thinking, insightful, and entering new frontiers.

One is surprised to learn that the behaviorist approach is still vital and has much to recommend it as a scientific enterprise. We are surprised that the behaviorist perspective can provide a framework to study complex human behavior, to learn that the behaviorist perspective is more than rats in mazes and pigeons pecking disks, and we become disillusioned with a psychology that fails to teach viable alternatives to the prevailing cognitive zeitgeist.

This post will also be of some value to readers who may begin to see behaviorism in a more positive light and lead them to a more accurate portrayal of behaviorism. When discussing behaviorism, we are often surprised that there are several different types of behaviorism. When one attacks behaviorism one must ask at least three questions: What form of behaviorism are we talking about? If behaviorists focus on observable behaviors what do cognitivists focus on unobservable behavior? If behaviorists do not reference mental processes, how do you explain the contributions of Hull, Tolman, and Miller and their use of intervening variables? No serious social scientist questions the inaccuracy and racism of lumping Mexicans, Spaniards, and Puerto Ricans into the general category of “Hispanic” or Arapahos, Choctaws, Poncas, or Pawnees into the general category of “Native Americans.” The use of such categories precludes serious comparative analysis, prohibits an understanding of nuances among differing theoretical positions, and leads to the grossest forms of generalization. Yet these same social scientists feel free to lump together the various behaviorist perspectives. Behaviorism has never been a unitary psychological perspective and proponents differ significantly in terms of methodology and theoretical outlook. In introductory textbooks, and textbooks devoted to cognition, typically only two types of behaviorism are mentioned those of John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner. I would encourage the reader to examine Behaviorism a battle line and to compare its outlook toward behaviorism with their own. Unlike the vast majority of contemporary introductory and cognitive texts, it clearly acknowledges the existence of several different types of behaviorism. In addition to the behaviorism of Watson, there is the behaviorism associated with John Dewey, Walter B. Pillsbury, Edward L. Thorndike, Edward C. Tolman, Howard C. Warren, and Robert M. Yerkes.

Readers interested in some of the history associated with very early forms of behaviorism should read Roback and Verhave. Verhave’s work is especially interesting because it highlights the contribution of a little known American Professor of Physiology Joseph R. Buchanan. Buchanan’s book The Philosophy Of Human Nature contains several laws of association that found their way into formal behaviorist approaches. One will also benefit on reading some of the early philosophical contributions to behaviorism by Gottfried W. Leibniz who was not as anti-associationist as many believe, Plato, and Francis Hutcheson. It is interesting to note that all the contributors in Behaviorism. A battle line warns that behaviorism as taught in universities and across the United States is a dangerous enterprise and must be stopped. It is now unchecked cognitivism that is rampaging through universities and colleges and producing students who know next to nothing about a still vital and vibrant conception of psychology. There is the vilification of behaviorism. Each chapter of Behaviorism: A battle line is full of malicious comments directed at Watson in particular and behaviorism in general. Many of these comments have a modern ring to them that I am sure the reader will recognize. These comments are ridiculous.

Behaviorism is called a cult, absurd, nonsense, grim, unethical, and poison. It is suggested that an acceptance of behaviorism increases anti-social and criminal behavior, that behaviorism leads to moral decay and, is at the same time a religious cult yet anti-religious, amoral and suppresses artistic expression. This tone is very similar to how democrats portray republicans. So Behaviorism appears as a pathetic figure circling around in the backwash of the widening swiftly flowing stream of science. For those readers interested in another entertaining early book critical of behaviorism see The Religion Called Behaviorism. Given such criticism, it is remarkable that behaviorism became the dominant form of psychology in the United States for several decades. It is also remarkable that those few still working within the behaviorist perspective continue to make substantial contributions way beyond the small number of contemporary practitioners. To paraphrase Winston Churchill: Never in the field of social science was so much owed by so many to so few. That various types of behaviorisms exist is an important point often overlooked. When one discuss behaviorism one must inform that there are several different perspectives just as there are different perspectives to cognitive psychology such as information processing.

Some texts claim that Watson was prepared to produce from any human infants given over wholly to his tender mercies a corresponding number of human beings of any desired type, geniuses of the first water, mathematicians, musicians, artists, scientists, statesmen, executives, anything, in fact other than theologians or metaphysicians, according to specifications given. This statement borders on the outrages and is often used to discredit the entire behaviorist approach. Watson’s full quote, on which McDougall’s is based, contains several lines that are typically and conveniently left out. These lines are: “I am going beyond my facts and I admit it, but so have the advocates of the contrary and they have been doing it for thousands of years.” When this line is included, Watson’s meaning becomes clear.

Since such states or attitudes as love, hate, fear, courage, pain, hope, loyalty, and aspiration cannot so be recorded, they are regarded by the Behaviorist as of no consequence is not true of Watson and it is certainly not true of the group of behaviorists known as neobehaviorists. The type of behavior that Watson studied is characterized as “Muscular reactions and glandular secretions.” Extreme Behaviorism denies all mental life, including conscious, purposive experience. Heredity unquestionably plays a role in our physical and mental make-up. All human behavior is a matter of stimulus and response. Even the most causal reader of the original source material by Watson knows that statements are demonstrably false as characterized by cognitivists. It is vitally important to understand the time period and the state of psychology during Watson’s era. Watson advocated observation, verbal reports, psychological tests, statistical training, laboratory training, acknowledges the importance of emotions; specifically commenting on fear, rage, love, instinctive responses, and the importance of heredity. In the opening chapter to his Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist, he suggested that the training of psychology students include the study of physiology, chemistry, and zoology.

Watson’s perspective is characterized by an attempt to catalog behavior, to make observations under laboratory and field conditions, to study developmental influences, to conduct controlled and repeatable experiments in an attempt to understand human nature. He was one of the first to study development, human sexual behavior, behavior modification, and imprinting. This is a behaviorism not of the “glandular squint” as portrayed in textbooks and by cognitivists but a dynamic approach that has impacted many fields including behavior therapy and industry. It has earned the right to be properly discussed in textbooks used to train the next generation of psychology professionals.

The portrayal of Skinner’s version of behaviorism, known sometimes as radical behaviorism, is also given “short shrift” in textbooks and discussions. Perhaps the most entertaining example of this can be found in a collection of his seminal papers with commentary. What is unique is that he is given the opportunity to respond to the commentaries. His commentaries on the commentaries are interesting because he spends a large portion of his time correcting the inaccuracies the commentators have on his positions. It is well worth reading and incorporating his comments.

In between the so-called extremes of Watson and Skinner’s approaches to behaviorism is an entire group of behaviorists that are shamefully neglected in introductory and cognitive texts. This type of behaviorism is known as neobehaviorism. Neobehaviorism is an approach to theorizing arguably that makes extensive use of intervening variables. The Hullian approach is also known as molecular behaviorism in contrast to the molar behaviorism of Tolman, the contiguity approach of Edwin R. Guthrie, and the radical behaviorism approach of Skinner. All the various behaviorist approaches regularly consider what are now called cognitive processes.

Even a shallow look at the Psychological Review papers of Clark Hull reveals a real concern with tackling issues such as “Knowledge and purpose as habit mechanisms,” “Goal attraction and directing ideas conceived as habit phenomena,” “The mechanisms of the assembly of behavior segments in novel combinations suitable for problem solution”, “Mind, mechanism, and adaptive behavior”, “The problem of intervening variables in molar behavior theory.” These and other topics related to Hull’s Psychological Review papers are conveniently collected with commentary in the edited volume of Amsel and Rashotte. At least some of these papers and their commentaries should be mentioned in introductory and cognitive texts, if readers are really to be given a legitimate opportunity to understand what the behaviorist approach has to offer the cognitive one.

Webster and Coleman offer some insights why the influence of Hull’s theory declined. Hull is certainly not alone in investigating issues that are considered cognitive. The psychological literature from the 1920s through the 1960s literally overflows with behaviorists tackling problems now thought to have originated with contemporary cognitivists. One nice example was reported by the “Connectionist Behaviorist” E. L. Thorndike on learning without awareness known now as unconscious cognition. The neobehaviorist Neal E. Miller’s work with John Dollard on the application of behaviorist principles to Freudian theory is especially exciting and worth reading. Miller’s efforts represent a fine example of the vitality and scope of behaviorism—a behaviorism that one never experience.

A glance through his volume of collected papers reveals richness in subject area and methodology that one never thought possible for a psychological perspective that is considered “absurd, nonsense, grim, unethical, and poison.” Miller’s collected papers are full of interesting experiments on what is now considered cognitive topics—all of them conducted within a behaviorist perspective. His experiments include work on “Theory and experiment relating psychoanalytic displacement to stimulus-response generalization.” “Learning resistance to pain and fear: effects of overlearning, exposure, and rewarded exposure in context,” and “Failure to find a learned drive based on hunger; evidence for learning motivated by “exploration.”

Another example of the behaviorist interest in complex human processes is in the seldom cited work of Arthur W. and Carolyn K. Staats. Staats and Staats cogently demonstrate the richness and vitality of applying the behaviorist approach to complex human behavior. They examine a host of what are now considered cognitive topics. These topics include child development, personality, language, and motivation. Of course, they are not the only behaviorists who attempt to tackle the intricacies of human behavior and are part of the tradition of Watson, Hull, Miller, Tolman, Guthrie, Mower, and Skinner among others.

Attempts at reconciliation of the cognitive and behaviorist positions are also not mentioned in textbooks. The positions are portrayed as one having replaced the other. This is unfortunate because it further suggests that the behaviorist position is outdated and has little to recommend it. A paper by Denny is especially useful in this regard. Denny shows that by modifying the definitions of stimulus and response, cognitive and behaviorist approaches can be reconciled. This attempt is similar to the efforts of MacCorquodale and Meehl that endeavored to reconcile Hull’s theory with the cognitive behaviorism of Tolman. In doing so, they revealed many points of agreement. Miller has also shown that modifying some neobehaviorist concepts can help psychologists better understand motivation and conflict. These papers should be assigned to students to get them to think critically about how the behaviorist and cognitivist perspectives can be combined.

In addition to presenting the view that the cognitivist position has supplanted the behaviorist position without mentioning attempts to reconcile the two perspectives, textbooks for introductory or cognitive psychology have never in my experience given the student the sense of the excitement and discovery associated with the efforts of behaviorists. The period from the 1920s through the early 1960s is one of the most exciting times in the history of behaviorism, indeed in the history of psychology. This time period is characterized by laboratories working to replicate and extend findings, developing new experimental designs in the area of, for example, latent learning, successive negative contrast, and avoidance learning, creating new apparatus and techniques, and testing the limits of differing conceptualizations of animal and human conduct.

I am sure that I am not voicing the popular opinion but it is a real intellectual tragedy, and I would further say intellectually dishonest, that one is not exposed to an accurate account of the behaviorist perspectives in introductory and cognitive texts. This work will never be brought to attention of a new generation if their own faculty does not know of its existence and journals refuse to allow authors to cite the relevant historical literature.

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The history and controversies associated with the term “cognition” and taking a critical look at this term is both important to practicing researchers and to students entering the field of behavioral analysis. The term “cognition” is widely used but seldom defined. When it is defined, definitions vary widely. A brief survey of psychology textbooks, for example, identified 15 different definitions. Some of these definitions focused only on human behavior and others include both human and animal behavior. The term cognition is also making its way into the study of invertebrate behavior. We now read that snails, for example, possess “mini-cognitions” and honey bees and fruit flies can serve as a cognitive model for the study of human behavior.

The history of the term cognition is also unclear and in need of analysis. In an American Psychological Association interview conducted with Ulric Neisser in 1983, it was suggested that he coined the term “Cognitive Psychology.” This is not true. In 1939, Thomas Moore, a Benedictine Monk and Professor of Psychology at Catholic University published a textbook titled Cognitive Psychology which predates Neisser’s 1967 text by 28 years. Moreover, the “cognitive behaviorism” of neo-behaviorists is seldom discussed in contemporary histories of cognitive psychology as are the contributions of Greek philosophy with the possible exception of the “big three” of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

In addition to an analysis of definitional issues and historical issues, one has to tackle a wide range of theoretical problems associated with the term including the lack of a coherent theory that is to say “cognition is anything I want it to be”, lack of motivational constructs, and no discussion of the work of neo-behaviorists such as Hull, Spence, Tolman, Amsel, and Logan.

A prevailing concept of cognition in psychology is inspired by the computer metaphor. Its focus on mental states that are generated and altered by information input, processing, storage and transmission invites a disregard for the cultural dimension of cognition, based on three implicit assumptions that cognition is internal, processing can be distinguished from content, and processing is independent of cultural background. Arguably, culture affects cognitive processes in various ways, drawing on instances from numerical cognition, ethno-biological reasoning, and theory of mind. Given the pervasive cultural modulation of cognition on all of Marr’s levels of description and cognition is indeed fundamentally cultural, and that consideration of its cultural dimension is essential for a comprehensive understanding.

Practice Safe Stress

Burnout is the gradual process by which a person, in response to prolonged stress and physical, mental and emotional strain, detaches from work and other meaningful relationships resulting in lesser productivity, cynicism, and confusion, a feeling of being drained, and having nothing more to give. No matter what you say or what you do, results, rewards, recognition and relief are not forthcoming, and you can’t say no.

The signs of being caught up in this erosive spiral are physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, shame and doubt, cynicism and callousness, failure, helplessness and crisis. Normally, you pride yourself on doing a thorough job, a high quality performance. Now you are looking for shortcuts, if not cutting corners and this gnaws at your self-esteem. There are pangs of guilt. The brain strain is developing, accompanied by an energy shortage and feelings of exhaustion. If stress levels continue unabated, you head to shame and doubt. You catch yourself emitting heavy, labored sighs. You are chronically grappling with a profound sense of vulnerability or uncertainty. No surprise then we will progress to cynicism and callousness.

In response to prolonged feeling of insecurity or vulnerability, one feels there is only one thing left to do that is to say put on the heavy armor. We develop an attitude and become sufficiently abrasive or obnoxious, but this hard exterior can eventually become a burdensome, self-defeating strategy. We may be basically down to earth nice guys who become increasingly bitter with hard attitude. One is pulled in all directions with compelling demands, favors, complaints, bribes. Still, what do you think is the biggest stress trap? You are such a nice guy. What can’t nice guys and nice gals do? They can’t say no. They are not confident in establishing boundaries. They have difficulty with authority like being one or interacting with one. The nice folks tend to avoid conflict; they don’t want to hurt others’ feelings. They are not comfortable with anger, or don’t know how to express their frustration or displeasure in a focused manner. The personal mantra is being fair and accommodative while feeling deep rejection when others aren’t fair or accommodative.

The accommodators, despite having a full workload, when asked to take on new work will just allow others to pile on more stuff. Being a team player doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your integrity or health. Sure, we’ll have to renegotiate our priority list and timelines. This does not mean there are no extraordinary and emergency situations. There is a difference between urgent and important. When everything is urgent, nothing is important. Setting realistic limits is not a negative reflection on work ethic or in the ability to go the extra mile. Without boundaries, that mile often morphs into a marathon. Burnout is less a sign of failure and more that you gave yourself away. Burnout doesn’t facilitate a hardening of the psyche. When your stress starts to smolder into frustration and anger; then it turns to suspicion and mistrust as you enclose yourself in embattled armor. This is not just how you harden an attitude, but it is a formula for hardening the arteries. Cardiovascular complications, high blood pressure, even premature heart attacks can ensue. Of course, failure, helplessness and crisis sound terrible. But hitting bottom means there is no more downward spiral and there is no where to go but up.

Failure, helplessness and crisis often signal the final phase. Your coping structure seems to be coming unglued. Next stop is the psychiatric ward. Burnout is like trying to race a marathon at full speed, nonstop. Can anyone race 26 miles full speed, nonstop? Even Olympic marathon runners must pace themselves. If not, the body parts will break down with burnout, over time, the mental apparatus also wears out.

The reason fourth stage is so disorienting is that a person’s psychological defenses wore down. Cracks start appearing in the defensive armor. Painful memories and old hurts normally contained by emotional defenses are leaking through the cracks. An emotional bump can set off an overly sensitive and personal reaction. Before throwing up your hands, remember burnout is not for wimps. A lot would have jumped ship much earlier. Many reach the farther stages of burnout because of their tenacity and dedication. They have a strong sense of responsibility and don’t like being deterred from reaching goals. All are noble qualities unless compelled by rigid perfectionism and there is only one right way of thinking. Now, pursuing goals takes a back seat to proving others wrong and overcoming humiliation. You are chasing maybe, also, being chased by ego-driven goals. Especially in times of overload, uncertainty and major change, driven and rigid responsibility can quickly transform a performance benefit into a personal and professional liability.

Also, these people are usually not just responsible; they often are quite responsive to others. People lean on them for support. Are you a pillar of strength for those around you? If so, will those dependent upon you be quick to notice when you are feeling shaky? That you may need a shoulder? Often not, as their sense of security is contingent on you always being strong and available. Are you the emotional sponge in the office, frequently absorbing your colleagues’ complaints? Can you hear that screeching, scratching sound? That’s the stress knot twisting and turning tighter and tighter about your neck.

No wonder people start jumping out of jobs or school, out of relationships, sometimes just jumping. For those not into jumping, may be into mood swinging, that is, between short highs and or prolonged depressive lows. Is it Prozac Time? It is exactly the key for transforming a danger into an opportunity. Fourth stage burnout is the crisis point. One recovers and expands his or her strengths and possibilities through a crisis when one gets proper and sufficient support; someone trained in crisis intervention and loss, on confronting denial, false hopes, cynicism or helplessness, grieving past and present losses while turning guilt, hurt, anxiety and aggression into focused energy and by acquiring and applying skills and technology for turning new problem-solving options into productive attitudes and actions.

For the phoenix to rise from the ashes one must know the pain to transform the fire to burning desire. Will you Practice Safe Stress?

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Fine-Tune Subconscious

Fine-Tune Subconscious

In the Law of Attraction, the masters talk about letting go of trying too hard and struggling because we don’t have to. It’s a waste of energy. The Universe will help us make our desires a reality. We just need to take inspired action. You try too hard on making things better. You will take action but it feels like a struggle, it really feels awful in chest and gut. So I guess something is amiss here. How come it feels bad when we know that our life will become better by following the steps that the famous and successful people shared? You may begin to think in the long-run, will it always be like this even when you are successful? Will it forever be a chore?

You just need to take baby steps to achieve what you want. A lot of people think that they need to do a lot to make things happen when you just need to take inspired action. This is a type of action where you suddenly get an urge, feeling in your gut, head, or chest that you need to do something. This is the Universe giving you a sign on what action you should take to allow the dreams you have into physical reality. This actually feels well and inspiring. Basically, this type of action feels good and it seems as though the action occurred through you. I’ve experienced this type of taking action many times and I’m a big believer in it. It’s because when I followed my gut, I made things happen; I mean I got what I wanted.

Try to discover about tuning your inner game so the law of attraction works for you better. Practice a lot of techniques like practical living and harmony with three levels of consciousness or selves, simple method for easing emotional pain, and uncover your natural ability to let go of any painful or unwanted feeling, belief or thought in the moment. There is a very different concept of taking action. I don’t like forcing action because it feels awful. It feels like you have to give so much just to experience something you desire which in reality, rightfully yours from the moment you asked for it. Trying really hard to take action will only stress you out every time and if you don’t do any healing technique, the stress will accumulate in your body and eventually manifest into a disease. Another disadvantage about this approach is when you lose everything you’ve worked really hard for, you’ll feel depressed because it took a lot of time and hardcore effort to just get where you were and now you’re going to do all that again? This is why you need to learn to listen to yourself whenever you feel that urge you really need to know when and how to take inspired action.

This is a major sticking point for many when they learn that working hard and feeling awful is not the answer to a happier, leveraged life. They become lazy. This is the chief barricade for us. This is the reason, in my perspective, why so many people in the world who learn about the law of attraction and watch them miserably fail to manifest the life of their dreams. That’s one of the unlimited reasons why they complain that the law of attraction is a sham and a marketing propaganda to make money. No, no! It’s true that you can just sit or lie down but you have to do some action like visualizing and affirming mental action. While you do these proven techniques, you must give your undivided attention and focus. Avoid just going through the motions, but really put everything you’ve got into these rituals. When you keep doing this for a consistent period of time, usually the first time you do both of these, you will be inspired and motivated to take physical action. See the difference? It’s not about just sitting down and waiting, you have to shift your energy and manipulate it so you take an action that feels really good.

I really had a hard time understanding this for a time. It was very confusing and I had a black and white thinking and it was practicing and believing consistently for many years; on and off, in the law of attraction that I gradually began to see the gray area. When learning to feel good while taking action, you still have to force yourself to take action initially. That’s it. That’s the key word; initially. Forcing yourself doesn’t have to take forever since, like any skill when mastered or practiced for a long period of time, it’s going to become automatic. At the beginning, learning the law of attraction will take some hard work and discipline because you’ll be practicing a new way of thinking, feeling, and behaving. But the payoff will be for the rest of your life, the ability to take inspired action whenever you want to.

I always watch out for when the Universe gives me a sign, I don’t like having to wait when to take action. I just do things when I want to do them. I work first on my emotions before taking any action though. I think about feeling good and disciplined if I stick through my task till the end. I think about how good it will be when I finish the task and that feeling of accomplishment just flows through my body and I feel inspired. I think about writing as an expression of art, the human creativity, and the wondrousness of life; a perfect unfolding of a life worth living.

Start mastering your emotions first. Use all your willpower to become good at emotional mastery. This will give you a huge leverage when taking action as you will have the ability to shift your perspective when things get boring and less fulfilling. By having the ability to think about the advantages and the good feelings you will get when you finish a task, you will be way more productive than the average. You will achieve more and feel passionate in the process. Isn’t that the ultimate goal in life? Program your subconscious mind. Willpower will dry out quickly so you need a boost to stay focused and motivated. Remember that the subconscious mind is the source of 90% of your thoughts, emotions, and actions. A research on the brain showed that before you even consciously think about something, the subconscious mind already thought about it and it’s making you aware of that thought. So program yourself to be more positive and confident about your abilities. Use hypnosis, subliminal suggestions or whatever method resonates with and works for you. Allow yourself several months to master your emotions. Like with any skill, it will take consistent practice to become an expert at it. By giving yourself several months to practice, you will achieve big and astonishing results. You need to give yourself at least 90 days to master one of your programs. When you give yourself a minimum of 90 days, it will seep into your subconscious and become a permanent part of your life. Well, in this case… it’s twice as that so it becomes cemented into our mind.

So make sure to work hard on yourself and you’ll master ease and flow eventually. A lot can happen in 90 days.

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