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It Has Nothing To Do With Age provides self-help principles. The inspirational stories give concrete illustrations of overcoming many of life's challenges. Difficulties pertaining to depression, grief, divorce, and death are presented and worked through by the participants. Physical impairments, injuries, overcoming issues with weight, alcohol, and nicotine are also dealt with and resolved by the athletes.

This book provides a model on how to overcome some of the difficulties that confront all of us . Further, this read sheds a beacon of light on preventive measures for good physical and mental health. Research demonstrates that exercise is an important component in treating such ailments and debilitating illness such as depression, stroke, heart disease, brain or cognitive malfunction,and Alzheimer's disease.

I suggest that proper exercise can be used as a preventive measure for psychological, cognitive, and physical health as well. Follow my prescription and lead a better, more fulfilling, and healthier life.

Monday, June 20, 2011

KFOK,Optimism,Neuroscience, and Defense Mechanisms

Today, I was interviewed by Marian Smith of KFOK , a community radio station, in Georgetown. I spent a delightful hour with her. One of the questions she asked me “explain how we are hardwired to be more optimistic than realistic”? I wanted to say more about that subject on the air. She read one of my blogs and was interested in the subject matter. The basis for the blog came from an article I read in Time magazine dated June 6, 2011. In that article, Tali Sharot reported  on a couple studies conducted by Sara Bengtsson and him. Different areas of the brain were studied that included the prefrontal cortex, hippo campus, the amygdala, the caudate, and the RACC. Their research supported the idea that individuals are more optimistic than realistic. So ,neuroscience is supporting a psychological theory illuminated brilliantly by Anna Freud, Sigmund Freud’s daughter in her book” The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defense “originally published in German in 1936.
Simply put, a defense mechanism” is an unconscious adaptive measure that protects the individual against a painful affect i.e. anxiety that is associated with some highly disagreeable situation” .A few of the defense mechanisms include: compensation, denial, idealization, identification, and rationalization. In other words, a defense mechanism distorts reality and can explain why our thoughts and/or behavior gets us into trouble. We might say we are optimistic when optimism may just be simply a rationalization.
A recent example of defense mechanisms at work occurred a few weeks ago on a Memorial Day Western states training run. This particular run went from Forest Hill to White Oak Flat a distance of about 19 miles. On this training day, I was not able to run effectively. I was slow; I was tired, and disliked the experience. I had no energy. During the run, I was searching for the reason and came up with the number of “rationalizations” for my poor performance. Even though this was a training run, I was not happy about my inability to run well. The reality was “this was not my day”. If I was smart, I would have stopped immediately and discontinued running. I would have been better off walking. However, because of the remoteness of the trail and time constraints, I didn’t. I continued to plow ahead and struggle. I even thought ,at one point ,that I might begin to feel better later and everything would be okay. That was called denial.
I did finish the run. I did not listen to my body and my mind or I should say my ego or prefrontal cortex allowed me to continue which was not in my best interests. Fortunately, I didn’t injure myself physically and only my pride was damaged. The moral of the story is to listen to your body and to deal with your defense mechanisms. Do as I say, not what I did that day.


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