Archives for April 2013

It Is More Vulnerable to Ask for What You Want

I was talking to someone one a while back about why it can be hard for people to ask what they want. After all, it’s obvious that you’re more likely to get what you want when you ask.

As far as I can tell, the answer is that it is actually much more vulnerable to ask, especially if you’re the sort of person who typically avoids asking. 

If you habitually repress your desires, there’s a good chance there are some things that’ve been desperately wanting for a very long time that feel very scarce. It’s possible that you sometimes get these things, but you find it hard to enjoy them even when you have them, since it seems as though you can never have them to your fill. And chances are, you wouldn’t want other people to know how much you want those things.

Letting someone see where you have an unmet need is vulnerable.

If you really show someone how much you care about having something, chances are good that you’ll have a strong emotional response whether you get it or not–perhaps an unexpected one.

I can think of a time when I pushed through my discomfort, asked for something I was terrified of not getting, and felt joy and relief even when the person I was requesting it of said no!

And I can think of times when people gave me what I wanted and I cried, finally feeling the weight of all the times I’d never asked.

If you’re not comfortable having a strong, authentic emotional reaction in front of the person, then it’ll be hard to ask for what you want, and rightly so.

28 Weeks of Lydia

Lydia had her six-month doctor’s visit this week. Nothing too eventful there. We’re doing the normal vaccine schedule, and it’s been working really well to have her in the wrap for her shots. That way she’s right up next to me and she can nurse right afterwards.

Here are some stats:

The scale said 7.56 kg, which is 16.7 lbs.

She was measured at 27.5 in (though I never trust these measurements to be all that accurate).

That puts her just above the 50th percentile for weight, and closer to the 90th for height. We didn’t measure head size.

And I think Lydia is actually one of the smallest babies of the eight in our birth class! (And they’re pretty much all exclusively breastfed (plus solids in the case of the older ones) too.)

Overall mood this week has been good. We had one or two days where she was on the fussier end, but I think it had to do with interrupted naps. She seems happy these days.

[Read more…]

Conscious Judging, Mourning, and Self-Forgiveness

One day, maybe I’ll write a post about how “judgement” (like “belief”), is one of those words that is overloaded to the point where using it at all is likely to interfere with precise communication.

But today, I’ll just use the word “judgement” as best I can.

While I was working with someone the other day, it came to our attention thats he had a bunch of unresolved, quasi-specific judgements about herself.

When I say quasi-specific, I mean that they were somewhere between “I’m not good enough” and “I would have had a more fun evening if I’d remembered to download Game of Thrones a few hours earlier.”

Judgements like these can be quite suffering-inducing because (as usual) it’s easy to get stuck in a pattern of resisting them.

One solution is to take a step back and not only noticed the judgements but make space for them, hear them out, decide whether they’re true and how you’d like to change your behavior in the future. Once you’ve done that, you can mourn the past, forgive yourself, and move on.

I’ll give an example below, using a judgment that still somewhat lands for me, that “I’m lazy.”

[Read more…]

27 Weeks of Lydia

Six months plus one week!

I’m tired right now, but tiredness has not characterized my week overall. We were both pretty happy this week.

We’ve been doing solids for another whole week, so that still feels pretty new.

We also went to the zoo today, which was maybe the first kid activity I planned for Lydia. As expected, she didn’t appear to care much about the zoo activities, but it was fun for me, and she did actually enjoy the goat at the petting zoo when I held her down at its level.

I’m so glad I’ve been taking the time to write these summaries every week, because she really is so different! I know I forget a lot as it is, but I would forget much more if I didn’t keep these records.

[Read more…]

Preventing Peanut Allergies

My default position when I started looking into peanut allergies was that exposure to potential allergens (particularly the ones outside our evolutionary heritage) would sensitize children to that allergen in the future. Eliezer once described changing your mind as the penultimate technique of rationality, and I always enjoy the opportunity to stretch that particular muscle. But I’m getting ahead of myself here…

Peanut allergies are one of the most common, and yet also most severe, food allergies. It tends to begin very early (unlike seafood allergies), and persist throughout life (unlike milk and soy allergies). The incidence is hard to measure, but potentially up to a few percent of the population will suffer from them over time. This may not seem large in an absolute sense, but it is one of the more common diseases, and is potentially fatal, requiring extensive lifestyle modification to avoid exposure. Allergies themselves, in one form or another, are much more common and often annoying, so if any underlying mechanism can be revealed and averted, so much the better.

I am involved with a small rationality and parenting mailing list, and in one thread I casually mentioned that we planned to exclusively breastfeed through 6 months, in part because of allergies. The benefits of (in some cases exclusive) breastfeeding are well established, and the WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding up through 6 months. Furthermore hunter-gatherers don’t seem to supplement food until at least 6 months of age. That part is not so controversial. But I offhandedly said I’d heard the advice to avoid allergenic foods until two years of age. That prompted a response. Particularly a link to this paper.

To summarize the methodology, the researchers sent out surveys to a few thousand Jewish families in Israel and the UK, asking them about their weaning behavior and incidence of various allergies and other atopic disease. They had some very stark findings.

[Update: the randomized controlled trials I mentioned were coming have finally started to arrive – and the LEAP study from the UK finds a dramatic 81% decrease in peanut allergies from early exposure.]

[Read more…]

IFS and Learning to Visualize

Last week, I did some first-time IFS with someone whose experience reminded me a lot of mine when I first got started. I used to be one of those people who said I had trouble visualizing. I don’t think I quite said that I couldn’t visualize, but it seemed hard to do so. When other people described stable, vivid imagery I couldn’t relate. I found forward digit span much easier than backward, because I could use auditory memory for the former and not easily for the latter. I used to experience something like writing things on a mental blackboard and having them fade very quickly.

Now, I would say that I can visualize just fine. My husband has much more vivid imagery than mine, still. Often, I get to the end of books and still don’t have clear pictures of the characters in my head. My dreams are sometimes vivid and sometimes not. But my visualizations are clearer, more stable, and much easier to access.

I attribute some of the change in my ability to doing a lot of IFS.

[Read more…]

Self-Improvement: What It Is And Why We Care

We like to talk about this concept we call “self-improvement” a lot. On the face of it, it’s a relatively simple and easy concept to understand: we are improving our selves. End of post!

…except it’s still a little bit vague what I mean by that, even in my own mind. Let’s forget about defining the “self” for a moment and just talk about “improvement”. By what standard are we judging improvement exactly? It’s not usually that clear cut. I might think adding delicious bacon to this dish is an improvement, but a vegetarian would beg to differ. Or to make it more personal, I might become a more assertive person, but to other people around me that might be relatively more off putting than allowing them to always get what they want.

Ultimately improvement ends up getting defined by my own standards. That’s one possible meaning of self-improvement: it’s my own improvement thank you very much! This is still only a partial answer, because we’ve passed the buck to the process that is setting our standards. I suspect that in many cases, we have an idealized vision of a human being in our minds, and we are trying to make ourselves look more like that vision. This can be a great motivator, and if human values are widely shared it will produce a great person. You could think of this as the virtue ethics model of self-improvement. [Read more…]

26 Weeks of Lydia

Lydia is six months old today! I find this quite exciting. We got her three new toys to play with, and she was definitely into their novelty. The caterpillar and car seem like good toys for her. The car is pretty much the only good rolling toy she has now, and it’s good for chasing around. She can’t use the stacking rings for their intended purpose at all, which is fine, but there are also a bunch of pieces that roll around a lot. I’m putting it away for now because I know otherwise I’ll be constantly getting the bits from under the couches.

The fussiness last week that I attributed to Wonder Week 26 seems to have passed. It was around the first half of this week, but it’s been a few days since I’ve noticed it, which feels like forever ago in baby world. Still no sign of teeth.

We also started solid food today! She’s been sitting up and putting everything in her mouth quite well for ages, and the last few weeks she’s also seemed particularly focused on food. I was tempted to start earlier, but I figured it would be a good idea to wait until her gut had matured. I don’t know that there’s much importance to it, but, for what it’s worth, I’ve maintained Lydia’s virgin gut until this point.

I’ll talk more about the solids thing below. As you’ll see, I’ve added a new section about it.

[Read more…]

Feeling Overwhelmed While Working?

After our recent productivity webinar, I did some one-on-one IFS work, and I (again) ran into what I think is actually a pretty common not-so-uselful belief:

“Until I’m finished, I can’t feel okay.”

I used to think this way too, that I had to feel overwhelmed and guilty until I got all my important things done. I distinctly remember the IFS I did on myself to address this issue. If you notice yourself running into the problem where you feel bad and overwhelmed even when you’re actually in the middle of doing work, I’d recommend reading on and seeing if anything I say clicks with you.

[Read more…]

25 Weeks of Lydia

Another week! This week wasn’t as hard for me emotionally as last week, nor was Lydia as happy. But continues to get stronger and learn more things. It’s hard to believe that, as of next week, we’ll have been doing this whole parenting thing for half a year!

Lydia was born a week late, so the crankiness that’s come on recently is just about on time for Wonder Week 26. Not sure how much I really trust that book, since the wonder weeks are so frequent, and they can last up to a month. But I suppose it’s nice to be able to put a label on what’s going on with her.

I also wonder about teething pains, as usual, despite nothing being close to the point of being able to feel any bumps. At one point, she went to town on her frozen washcloths, which is maybe some evidence.

[Read more…]