Wednesday, May 24, 2006

There are four types of affect, or emotional phenomena. You may know of a few. Yet, you need to be intimately familiar with all of them if you want to learn to be an emotional genius. Research is showing over and over just how important emotional management is for success and happiness - at work, at home, and in your relationships.

Find out if you're familiar with all four types of affect. There is emotion which is the zing of feeling you get in the moment. Emotions last from a split second to a few minutes.

There are moods which last from days to weeks and are more diffuse than emotions.

There is your temperament which you are born with but can influence to be more realistically optimistic.

And then there are the emotional masks you wear.

Check them all out on this amazing edition of Guide To Self radio with your host, Dr. John Schinnerer.

Dr. John provides coaching for executives, couples, individuals, and those looking for more happiness and purpose in life. Dr. John is finishing up his first book which should be ready by Summer 2006. You can find out the latest information by visiting or calling 925-944-3440.

Thank you for listening! You're making the world a better place!
Duration:29 minutes, 56 seconds

MP3 File

Dr. John Schinnerer speaks with Dan Millman, former world champion gymnast, martial arts expert, coach of the U.C. Berkeley gymnastics team and author of 12 books.

Dan began by writing Way of the Peaceful Warrior back in 1980. The Peaceful Warrior is just now being released as a movie starring Nick Nolte.

Dan just finished the long-awaited prequel, 'Journeys of Socrates.' Dan also wrote a tremendous book called 'Body, Mind Mastery' which Phil Jackson called a 'must-read' for his Chicago Bulls players back in the day.

Guide To Self radio airs on KDIA, 1640 AM in the San Francisco Bay Area. More info on Guide to Self and Dr. John Schinnerer is available at (925) 944-3440.

MP3 File

Monday, May 22, 2006

How to Deal with Difficult Times

Dealing with Tragedy
Dr. John Schinnerer
Guide To Self, Inc.
(925) 944-3440

Mary Tyler Moore said, "Pain nourishes courage. You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you."

As one of my professors at Cal, Dr. Nadine Lambert, died unexpectedly recently, I've been dealing with my own grief.

These are some notes I made to myself when thinking about how best to deal with sudden or unexpected tragedy or trauma.

How do you get through the painful emotions? How do you deal with the negative thoughts? How do you go forward? Here’s some thoughts…

Sense of Control

It comes down to controlling what you can. You will feel better to the extent that you can control the environment around you. To help alleviate feelings of helplessness, create an emergency plan for your family. If you already have one, revisit it. Be sure to include your children in on this as it gives them a greater sense of control. Gather supplies such as bottled water, flashlight, radio and so on and store them in an air tight garbage can. Gathering supplies and focusing on an emergency plan does two things – it helps restore your feeling of control and it distracts you from dwelling on negative and depressing thoughts.

One of the keys to managing your emotions is to distract yourself. Do things that are fun for you – exercising, reading, watch a comedy, go for a walk, enjoy nature, play with your kids.

When you notice your thoughts returning to the tragedy, gently redirect them to a memory of when you were happy and felt safe. I recommend to my clients to take mental snapshots of times when they are happy such as when they are playing in the back yard running through the sprinkler with their children. Then you can return to these mental pictures during stressful times.


Another key is to breathe deeply. Breathe into your abdomen or stomach area, not your chest. Focus on exhaling out ALL of the air in your lungs with each breath and filling your lungs completely with each inhale.


And still another key is to journal. Studies have shown that journaling helps reduce intrusive thoughts, which are negative thoughts that come into your head unwanted. Journaling helps to get rid of these which will improve your mood.


Keep your physical body in good shape in general to provide you with maximum energy. Staying in good physical shape gives you a greater sense of control of the environment around you. As we discussed earlier, a lot of the emotions that come up, arise due to a feeling of things being out of control. Having greater physical strength, greater flexibility, and more stamina all contribute to you having an increased sense of control over external events.

Also, for tragic events, when and if you get anxious, you may want to do activities that are relaxing such as yoga, meditation, walking, or stretching.

If you are angry or furious, any hearty physical activity such as jogging or swimming is a great way to work off strong negative emotions.

Soothing activities are helpful as well such as a shower or a warm bath.

You’ll want to avoid stimulants if you are anxious. Caffeine and sugar will increase your anxiety.

Other brief ideas:

Get back to your routine ASAP.

Help other people out. Best thing to do when you are down is focus your attention on helping others.

Symptoms of depression to watch out for:

In general, indicators of depression include changes in sleep habits – either too much or not enough, change in eating habits, significant weight gain or loss – more than approximately 5% body weight in a month, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, withdrawal from family and friends, family history of depression and/or anxiety, giving away valued items, complete lack of emotion, irritability, sadness, apathy (i.e., “I don’t care.”) fatigue, diminished ability to think or concentrate, and/or recurring thoughts of death and dying.

In younger children, depression appears as sadness, frustration, tiredness and anger. Younger children may appear more visibly depressed than adolescents (teenagers) and experience more physical complaints (e.g., headaches, stomachaches, etc.), fears, anxiety and nervousness. Teenagers tend to express more hopelessness, lack of any emotion at all, excessive sleeping, weight changes, and increased alcohol and/or drug use.

Find the positive in the pain

I challenge you to find your own personal positive meaning in this tragedy.

What does it represent to you? A call to action? A reminder to get in better shape? A motivation to learn to manage your thoughts and feelings? A second chance? An opportunity to do things right this time?

What are you going to LEARN from this?

Don’t sit by and passively watch another senseless tragedy go by. Use this to improve yourself and the world around you.

As Gandhi said, “You must be the change that you wish to see in the world.” That means you start with one individual – you. And you start changing you by changing what is on the inside.

The main reason for sadness is to help you adjust to a significant loss, such as the death of a family member or loss of an old friend. Sadness allows time to grieve, look inward at who you are and what you are doing with your life, and understand the meaning of the loss. One of the most important things is to figure out the meaning of the loss. The particular meaning you assign to the loss matters less than merely coming up with a meaning, any meaning for the loss. You are happier to the extent that you find a positive meaning in past events and relationships.

Just like anger builds upon itself, sadness builds upon sadness. So if your first sad thought is followed by more sad thoughts, you risk a downward spiral.
All emotion is meant to be temporary. Emotions are not permanent. They are merely passing by. You are better off to the extent that you can release them through deep breathing, exercise or journaling.

Snowball analogy for your thoughts

Imagine a snowball rolling down a large snow-covered mountain. At first, the snowball is the size of your fist, something you could easily pick up and control. However, as the snowball rolls down the hill, it picks up speed and grows exponentially. After a few yards, the snowball has increased in size to the point where you can no longer handle it by yourself. Given the right conditions, the snowball can grow to mammoth size and could cause damage to other people.

The snowball is exactly the same as our feelings. Each feeling starts out tiny and manageable. However, if you are not paying attention, the feeling grows and quickly becomes uncontrollable. In fact you only have about ½ a second to interrupt the process of negative emotions. However, it’s doable. You can do it. I’ll tell you how.
The most important thing in controlling negative emotions is nipping them in the bud. You have to tune in to your body’s cues. Your body will tell you when you are beginning to get angry, for instance. Blood rushes to your fists, your face may get red, your muscles tense, breathing becomes shallow, your jaw clenches, your eyebrows furrow and so on. We need to begin to tune in to these cues. You only have a split second in which you can interrupt the cycle of anger. Otherwise the anger builds upon itself and spirals out of control. So the first tip is to become more aware of your bodily cues. Every emotion has cues which reveal how we are feeling. Fear triggers blood flowing to the arms and legs, perspiration, raised eyebrows, and a constriction of the throat. Sadness is marked primarily by a drop in energy, tears welling up, and the longing for that which is gone. The trick is to tune into these cues quickly and interrupt the cycle.

The second tip is to understand that negative emotions are created in large part by your interpretation of the situation around you. So you can learn to change your interpretation of the world around you. Here’s one way to do this.

In stressful situations, ask yourself, “Will this matter ten years from now?” In most cases the answer is no, it won’t. If the answer is Yes, then ask yourself, “What can I do to help find a constructive solution to the problem?”

Some more quick tips to put a smile on your face:

Breathe deeply.

Take a bath or shower.

Get out in nature.

Refocus your mind on positive thoughts.

Force yourself to smile in the shower. Info in the brain travels in both directions.

And remember that this too will pass. While it may seem life-shattering now, life will improve, a smile will eventually return to your face, and you will be free to love again. When you get down, maintain a long-term perspective (e.g, view the event in terms of your entire lifespan). And never, never, never give up.

Goodbye, Nadine. You'll be missed.

All the best,

Dr. John

Guide To Self, Inc. (C) 2005-06

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

“Capitalizing” on Good News to Create Better Relationships

Capitalizing on Good News and Love
Dr. John Schinnerer
Guide To Self, Inc.
(925) 944-3440

One of the foremost researchers in the area of love and marriage is Shelly Gable, an assistant professor of psychology at UCLA. Most researchers looking at marriage work on conflict management, how to create more harmony between partners, and how individuals in a couple cope with traumatic events. Gable is one of a handful of researcher who looks at what makes a thriving marriage. Her work provides some valuable insights if you are interested in transforming your good relationship (e.g., friendship, marriage, parent or child) into a great one.

Gable looks to see how you respond when your spouse tells you that he’s just been promoted, or your child tells you that she won Class President, or when your mother tells you she won a tennis tournament, or when your friend tells you she just won a huge lawsuit. Gable puts your responses into four different categories which break down as follows:

1. An enthusiastic reaction such as “Wow! That’s tremendous. That’s the best thing I’ve heard all week. I’m sure there are more great things to come for you. You’ve definitely earned it. Congratulations!” This reaction is called the active-constructive response by Gable.

2. A more subdued reaction where you share your happiness but say little. For example, “That’s nice dear.” This is the passive-constructive response.

3. Or perhaps you point out some of the potential pitfalls or negatives within the good event. For instance, “Wow, I sure hope you can handle all that extra responsibility. Does this mean you will have to work extra hours?” Gable refers to this as the active-destructive response.

4. Or, you might respond with disinterest and not respond to the good news at all. Most folks do this by merely changing the subject, “Yes, but what do you think about the weather outside?” This is known as the passive-destructive response.
The first type of response, the active-constructive one, is called “capitalizing” by Gable and here’s the fascinating part…capitalizing amplifies the pleasure of the good event and creates an upward spiral of good feelings.

Gable has shown that capitalizing is one of the keys to strong, supportive, thriving relationships. So how do you respond to good news from other people? Are you a “capitalizer” who creates upward spirals of positive emotions? Or do you turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the good news of others?

The consequences of learning how to be more of a “capitalizer” are impressive and robust. Couples who describe themselves as having a spouse who is active and constructive in response to their good news are:

• More committed to the relationship
• More in love
• Happier in their marriage
• Happier in other significant relationships (i.e., friends, parents, children and coworkers).

Think about that the next time your mate comes in the door with exciting news!

Guide To Self(C) 2005-06.