The End of Trauma

28th September 2021

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Greetings from beautiful Dresden, Germany! Next, Barb heads to Poland to speak for the University of Zielona Góra on October 4th, and to the Bauhaus University Weimar to keynote for the Annual Meeting of the eTeach Network 2021 on October 8th. It’s exciting to see the latest trends in learning in Europe!

Book of the Week

The End of Trauma: How the New Science of Resilience Is Changing How We Think About PTSD, by George A. Bonanno. Bonanno argues that we vastly overestimate how common PTSD is, and we often fail to recognize how resilient people really are. In fact, many relatively new ideas about stress and how to handle it can actually exacerbate stressful feelings.  Take mindfulness, for example—as Bonanno points out, not only is there not good evidence for mindfulness’s efficacy in helping with recovery from trauma, there is actually some evidence that it could be detrimental.  As Bonanno notes: “A group of mindfulness experts recently cautioned, in a paper published in a leading psychology journal, that misinformation about the effectiveness of mindfulness can mislead people, and can even lead to harm. An alarming number of published studies and case reports have linked meditation to serious side effects, including increased anxiety, panic, disorientation, hallucinations, and depersonalization—the feeling of being disconnected from oneself. It can also cause people who have gone through potentially traumatic events to reexperience memories of these events.” 

So what does Bonanno recommend to end trauma?  Flexibility—realizing that there is no “one-size-fits-all” ways to handle trauma. For example, letting emotions out in relation to a stressful situation may sometimes be warranted, but many times, suppressing emotions is the better approach. 

As Bonanno concludes: “All of this research points to the same basic conclusion: coping and emotion regulation strategies are inherently neither good nor bad. Every strategy has costs and benefits, and a given strategy is effective only insofar as it helps us meet the demands of a specific situation. Ironically, this is not a new story. The leading theorists on coping and emotion regulation have always emphasized this kind of dynamic interaction with changing situational demands. The core theorists have also emphasized the importance of timing. What may be effective at the onset of a stressor event, they pointed out, may be less effective or less useful later as the stressor runs its course.”

American History Business Center

We’ve just come across a fascinating website: The American Business History Center. As the Center notes: “Lawyers study precedents.  Doctors study the Hippocratic oath.  Political strategists study past election results.  But the far larger world of business often has little sense of history.  People involved in business often don’t know how businesses get created, grow, or get destroyed.  This is costly to our society.  If more managers and leaders studied the lessons of history, both the successes and failures, they might succeed more often.

“Students at all levels study the history of politics and war. But that’s not what history really is – it’s the story of everyday life and how it changes over time. Much of that change is due to business.  However, public awareness of where our great regional, national, and global enterprises, the products they make, and the entrepreneurs who built them is limited at best.  Most of the greatest business leaders in American history are unknown and unsung.  We aim to change that.” 

Here is a video of American Business History Center founder Gary Hoover himself, explaining the history of retailing.

Motivation depends on how the brain processes fatigue

This article in Medical Press describes how a “research team conducted a study to investigate the impact of fatigue on a person’s decision to exert effort. They found that people were less likely to work and exert effort—even for a reward—if they were fatigued….Intriguingly, the researchers found that there were two different types of fatigue that were detected in distinct parts of the brain. In the first, fatigue is experienced as a short-term feeling, which can be overcome after a short rest. Over time, however, a second, longer term feeling builds up, stops people from wanting to work, and doesn’t go away with short rests.”

Certainly Barb experiences this in her work. She can be tired, but reframe her thoughts and still forge ahead on what she’s working on.  But come evening, there comes a moment almost like a mental buzzer going off—Barb knows better than to work beyond that point.

A memory researcher to watch: Psychology professor Keisuke Fukuda

This excellent article by Megan Easton in the University of Toronto Magazine [Hat tip: Dennis Wilson] gives an overview of memory researcher Keisuke Fukuda’s work.  Key graf: 

“In one study, partly inspired by his experience learning English, [Fukuda] demonstrated that focusing on large amounts of information for a short time is more effective than dwelling on smaller amounts of information for a long time. ‘Instead of studying 10 new English words each day in the hopes of learning 70 words per week, I looked at all 70 words seven days in a row,” he says. “When you see something over and over and start recognizing it, you’re practising retrieving that information. Repeated retrieval makes it more accessible later.’”

As the article also notes, Keisuke Fukuda’s top 5 memory tips are:

  • Test your memory often on the material you want to remember
  • Don’t cram. Space out your memorization over time
  • Focus on repeated, if brief, exposure to info you want to remember
  • Take breaks! Let your mind rest for at least 15 minutes a few times a day
  • Use digital reminders, alarms, voice assistants and photo aids

MOOC of the Month

Our apologies—last week’s link was broken for Professor George Seidel’s masterful MOOC Successful Negotiation.  Here’s the correct link. [Hat tip Sunny Brock, first in with the correction.]

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

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