Weekly choice: on anxiety, championism and hypersexuality

Chronic Stress Early in Life Causes Anxiety and Aggression in Adulthood

Neuroscientists have found that social stress early in life can cause long-term problems with anxiety and aggression.

The conclusion comes from experiments on mice which were exposed to chronic levels of stress at a young age (Kovalenko et al., 2014).

The mouse equivalents of adolescents were placed in a cage with an aggressive mouse for two weeks. Although the mice were separated from each other, the adolescent was exposed to repeated short attacks from the aggressive adult mouse. After their experience, the mice’s behavior was tested.  The stressed mice showed high degrees of social defeatism, a lack of enthusiasm for social interaction and a lower ability to communicate with others. Their brains also showed less growth in an area of the hippocampus that is affected in depression.


Another group of mice were given a rest period after the exposure to the aggressive adult mice.

During the rest period, these mice recovered in terms of their brain cells and their behavior.However, they were still abnormally anxious and aggressive.

One of the study’s authors, Dr. Enikolopov, explained:

“The exposure to a hostile environment during their adolescence had profound consequences in terms of emotional state and the ability to interact with peers.”



5 Obsessions Common To Champions

Communication: The teams that win will communicate better than their opponents.  They obsess over it.  These in-game communications focus on monitoring and modulating three important team competencies—knowledge, energy and emotion.  The teams that do this best will move on.

Purpose: The teams that win will emphasize a greater purpose. Winning is seen as a means to the bigger purpose rather than an end in itself.

Excellence in Little Things: The winning teams will obsess over little things.  John Wooden famously taught his teams how to wear their socks and shoes correctly because he knew that a blister or a loose shoe could disrupt a play, a game and ultimately, a championship.  When we watch the games, we’ll see exciting improvisation—fancy dribbles, lobs and dunks–but like great jazz, this exciting basketball will be grounded in strict adherence to the fundamentals.

Individual Accountability and Growth: There are few endeavors where participants are so quick to admit mistakes.  This accountability cuts to the chase, establishes responsibility for errors and allows the team to move on.

A Culture of Leadership:  Those that win, create a culture of leadership where they perform better than their opponents at the point of decision and in the heat of the moment. Basketball is a sport where the most talented teams don’t always win but those that create a culture of leadership almost always do.

So when it comes time to make predictions, pay attention to their obsessions and you might just pick the winners.



Nymphomaniac – A Realistic Look at Female Hypersexuality?

Nymphomaniac poster compositeThe new Lars von Trier film Nymphomaniac: Volume I is the confessional tale of Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a traumatized, shame-filled, hypersexual woman. In short, Nymphomaniac: Volume I provides a spot-on depiction of the types of adult female sexual behaviors that can manifest as a delayed response to the neglect, emotional abuse, and other forms of trauma that sometimes occur during childhood. (…) Sadly, the story that Joe tells is one I could have written myself as an amalgam of my female clients. Her sexual behaviors started very early in life. Though it does not appear that she was sexually abused by either of her parents, she was definitely neglected and perhaps abused emotionally by her mother, causing her to bond with her father in dysfunctional ways. Over time, her sexual behavior has escalated – more partners (as many as ten per day), and more intense sexual activities. She spends nearly all of her free time pursuing sexual encounters, to the point where she has no other interests. Her response to any sort of emotional discomfort is sex. (…) Unsurprisingly to me, by the end of the film Joe describes her entire life (not just her sex life) as “monotonous and pointless.”

In fact, she compares her daily activities to the movements of a caged animal. Simply put, everything she does feels rote, repetitious, and meaningless. At one point she says to a sex partner, during coitus, “I can’t feel anything,” and it is clear that she is talking not just about physical numbness, but emotional numbness. I cannot even begin to tell you how many clients have related similar experiences to me in therapy sessions. (…) There is no “cure” for a traumatic life history. That said, individuals can learn, by sharing their traumatic histories with supportive and empathetic others (such as a therapist and/or other trauma survivors in recovery) to bond in healthier, more life-affirming ways. In short, with effort and proper guidance trauma survivors like Joe can develop what is known as “earned security” of attachment.

Usually, however, before this psychodynamic work (looking at how the past affects the present) takes place, these individuals must stop the escapist behaviors they’ve been using to avoid emotional discomfort. After all, the basis of recovering from trauma involves sharing about, feeling, and processing past traumas, and while an individual is actively numbing out via compulsive sexuality (or any other escapist activity, such as drug use) this work cannot be effectively done. As such, behavioral contracting coupled with cognitive behavioral therapy – teaching Joe to utilize healthier coping mechanisms when triggered to act out sexually – may be in order. Then, when her sexual behaviors are no longer controlling her life, the deeper therapeutic work of healing from past traumas can begin in earnest.



TED’s Best Of The Week! An animated tour of the invisible!

Gravity. The stars in day. Thoughts. The human genome. Time. Atoms. So much of what really matters in the world is impossible to see. A stunning animation of John Lloyd’s classic TEDTalk from 2009, which will make you question what you actually know.


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