March 23, 2020

Many of us believe perfectionism is a positive. You may count me in. More often than I’d like to admit, something seemingly inconsequential will cause the same feeling to rear its head again. Something as small as accidentally squashing the makeup, I was bringing my first girlfriend’s family for Christmas can tumble around in my mind for several days, accompanied by occasional voices like “How stupid!” and “You should have known better”.  Falling short of a bigger goal, even when I know achieving it would be near-impossible, can temporarily flatten me. When a former agent told me that she knew I was going to write a book someday but that the particular idea I’d pitched her didn’t suit the market, I felt deflated in a gut-punching way that went beyond disappointment. The negative drowned out the positive. “You’re never going to write a book,” my internal voice said. “You’re not good enough.” That voice didn’t care that this directly contradicted what the agent actually said. And, up to now, I didn't finish my first book, yet... It's already 2020... . That’s the thing about perfectionism. It takes no prisoners. If I’ve struggled with perfectionism, I’m far from alone. The tendency starts young – and it’s becoming more common. Thomas Curran and Andrew Hill’s recent meta-analysis of rates of perfectionism from 1989 to 2016, the first study to compare perfectionism across generations, found significant increases among more recent undergraduates in the US, UK and Canada. In other words, the average college student last year was much more likely to have perfectionistic tendencies than a student in the 1990's or early 2000's. “As many as two in five kids and adolescents are perfectionists,” says Katie, who researches child development and perfectionism at West Virginia University. “We’re starting to talk about how it’s heading toward an epidemic and public health issue.” The rise in perfectionism doesn’t mean each generation is becoming more accomplished. It means we’re getting sicker, sadder and even undermining our own potential. Here is another great example: a perfectionist, French Claude Monet often destroyed his paintings in a temper while saying, ‘My life has been nothing but a failure'. Perfectionism, after all, is an ultimately self-defeating way to move through the world. It is built on an excruciating irony: making, and admitting, mistakes is a necessary part of growing and learning and being human. It also makes you better at your career and relationships and life in general. By avoiding mistakes at any cost, a perfectionist can make it harder to reach their own lofty goals. But the drawback of perfectionism isn’t just that it holds you back from being your most successful, productive self. Perfectionistic tendencies have been linked to a laundry list of clinical issues: depression and anxiety (even in children), self-harm, social anxiety disorder and agoraphobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, binge eating, anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia, hoarding, dyspepsia, chronic headaches, and, most damning of all, even early mortality and suicide. “It’s something that cuts across everything, in terms of psychological problems,” says Sarah Egan, a senior research fellow at the Curtin University in Perth who specializes in perfectionism, eating disorders and anxiety. Culturally, I learned, we often see perfectionism as a positive. Even saying you have perfectionistically tendencies can come off as a coy compliment to yourself; it’s practically a stock answer to the “What’s your worst trait?” question in job interviews. (Past employers, now you know! I wasn’t just being cute). It is difficult to tell who is motivated and conscientious and who is a perfectionist. In my daily teaching in Davao , I met the student who works hard and gets a poor mark. If she/her tells herself: “I’m disappointed, but it’s okay; I’m still a good person overall,” that’s healthy. If the message is: “I’m a failure. I’m not good enough,” that’s perfectionism. That inner voice criticizes different things for different people – work, relationships, tidiness, fitness. My own tendencies may differ greatly from somebody else’s. It can take someone who knows me well to pick up on them. (When I messaged one of my friends I was writing this story, he immediately sent back a long line of laughing emojis). Perfectionists can make smooth sailing into a storm, a brief ill wind into a category-five hurricane. At the very least, they perceive it that way. And, because the ironies never end, the behaviors perfectionists adapt ultimately, actually, do make them more likely to fail. Thinking of perfectionism, makes me think of my own childhood peppered with avoiding (or starting and quitting) almost every sport there was. If I wasn’t adept at something almost from the get-go, I didn’t want to continue – especially if there was an audience watching. In fact, multiple studies have found a correlation between perfectionism and performance anxiety even in children as young as 10.   Mental health problems aren’t just caused by perfectionism; some of these problems can lead to perfectionism, too. One recent study, for example, found that over a one-year period, college students who had social anxiety were more likely to become perfectionists – but not vice versa.   In many ways, poorer health outcomes for perfectionists aren’t that surprising. “Perfectionists are pretty much awash with stress. Even when it’s not stressful, they’ll typically find a way to make it stressful,” says Gordon Flett, who has studied perfectionism for more than 30 years and whose assessment scale developed with Paul Hewitt is considered a gold standard. Plus, he says, if your perfectionism finds an outlet in, say, workaholism, it’s unlikely you’ll take many breaks to relax – which we now know both our bodies and brains require for healthy functioning.   After all, many of us live in societies where the first question when you meet someone is what you do for a living. Where we are so literally valued for the quality and extent of our accomplishments that those achievements often correlate, directly, to our ability to pay rent or put food on the table. Where complete strangers weigh these on-paper values to determine everything from whether we can rent that flat or buy that car or receive that loan. Where we then signal our access to those resources with our appearance – these shoes, that physique – and other people weigh that, in turn, to see if we’re the right person for a job interview or dinner invitation.   Fear of failure is getting magnified in other ways, too. Take social media: make a mistake today and your fear that it might be broadcast, even globally, is hardly irrational. At the same time, all of those glossy feeds reinforce unrealistic standards.   In my opinion, and I am not alone with it, it’s the idea that you don’t have to be perfect to be lovable or to be loved. It’s a work in progress. And,  what I’ve noticed too, is that, each time I’m able to replace criticizing and perfecting with compassion, I feel not only less stressed, but freer. Apparently, that’s not unusual.   +++   Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .


February 17, 2020

Most of us tend to think of time as linear, absolute and constantly “running out” – but is that really true? And how can we change our perceptions to feel better about its passing? While becoming 66 already, I use think about my age. Yes, it's only a number. I know.  “Time” is the most frequently used noun in the English language. We all know what it feels like as time passes. Our present becomes the past as soon as it’s happened; today soon turns into yesterday. If you live in a temperate climate, each year you see the seasons come and go. And as we reach adulthood and beyond, we become increasingly aware of the years flashing by.   While keep on thinking about age and its consequences, I came along with Claudia Hammond, author of Time Warped: Unlocking The Secrets Of Time Perception. She wrote that although neuro-scientists have been unable to locate a single clock in brain that is responsible for detecting time passing, humans are surprisingly good at it. If someone tells us they’re arriving in five minutes, we have a rough idea of when to start to look out for them. We have a sense of the weeks and months passing by. As a result, most of us would say that how time functions is fairly obvious: it passes, at a consistent and measurable rate, in a specific direction – from past to future. Of course, the human perspective of time may not be exclusively biological, but rather shaped by our culture and era. The Amondawa tribe in the Amazon, for example, has no word for “time” – which some say means they don’t have a notion of time as a framework in which events occur. (There are debates over whether this is purely a linguistic argument, or whether they really do perceive time differently.) Meanwhile, it’s hard to know with scientific precision how people conceived of time in the past, as experiments in time perception have only been conducted for the last 150 years. Physics tells a different story. However much time feels like something that flows in one direction, some scientists beg to differ. In the last century, my very favored Albert Einstein’s discoveries exploded our concepts of time. He showed us that time is created by things; it wasn’t there waiting for those things to act within it. He demonstrated that time is relative, moving more slowly if an object is moving fast. Events don’t happen in a set order. There isn’t a single universal “now”, in the sense that Newtonian physics would have it. It is true that many events in the Universe can be put into sequential order – but time is not always segmented neatly into the past, the present and the future. Some physical equations work in either direction. Here, I strongly agree with Claudia Hammond. One aspect of time perception many of us share is how we think of our own past: as a kind of giant video library, an archive we can dip into to retrieve records of events in our lives. But psychologists have demonstrated that autobiographical memory is not like that at all. Most of us forget far more than we remember, sometimes forgetting events happened at all, despite others’ insistence that we were there. On occasion even the reminder does nothing to jog our memories. Several years ago, I started writing my biography. With Beethoven under palms. The great German composer and me under palms. Wow.  Meanwhile, I found out: as we lay down memories, we alter them to make sense of what’s happened. Every time we recall a memory, we reconstruct the events in our mind and even change them to fit in with any new information that might have come to light. And it’s much easier than you might think to convince people that they have had experiences which never happened. The psychologist Elisabeth Loftus has done decades of research on this, persuading people they remember kissing a giant green frog or that they once met Bugs Bunny in Disneyland (as he’s a Warner Bros character, so this can’t have happened). Even recounting an anecdote to our friends can mean our memory of that story goes back into the library slightly altered. So we shouldn’t curse our memories when they let us down. They’re made to be changeable, in order that we can take millions of fragments of memories from different times of our lives and recombine them to give us endless imaginative possibilities for the future. Thank you very much Claudia Hammond. I changed my opinion when it comes to time. My limited time on earth. +++ Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .


February 17, 2020

... ROAR WITH LAUGHTER? "If I only knew how!" A friend of mine contacted me yesterday after watching the news and read his daily paper. Another said, "This is hardly the time to do so." Understandable, if I consider his very personal situation. Anyway, it seems we have no more time and no reason for laughter. That can wait until tomorrow, or better until the day after tomorrow. Anticipation is better... . Sure, the today's new really don't allow us even to smile... . But keep in mind: our enemies laugh up their sleeves, and most of the time we miss to recognize the fortune still smiling at us. But hold on: he who laughs last laughs longest. Remember? American neurologist Henri Rubenstein says, laughter lowers high blood pressure while aiding digestion and fostering sleep. Well, give me even a simple smile and believe in what  experts say: "Good humor can help the gravely or terminally ill to hear their ordeal". Of course, if we look around us these days, we might really don't roar with laughter or split our sides laughing. Or even more then this! Have you heard about the incident at the Danish Imperial Theater in Copenhagen/Denmark sometime during the 1980's, when a spectator dropped dead of heart attack while watching the movie "A Fish Called Wanda" starring John Cheese of my favorite Great Britain's Monty Python Comedy Team? Sure, a heart attack is indeed not funny, and honestly, I still love to watch this movie on VHS. Well, even if we think we don't have reasons to laugh,we should try to express mirth spontaneously, and we should try to be merry or gay. We still have reasons to start with the softest form of audible laughter - the vocalized smile. This is what I learned and experienced from the first moment on while travelling in Asia since 1978, and being an expat living in the Philippines since 1999 for good. Keep smiling - even you are overloaded with huge problems. Experts also say,  good humor works because it helps people feel easier in mind. The French psychotherapist Sylvie Tenenbaum stressed, that, in her patients, laughter often signals the dawning of a wholesome awakening to reality. Gallow humor might be dubious in the eyes of others. But try to sing out loud, try to cry, but try to laugh! As a devote Christian,  I do love reading the bible. Ecclessiastes 3:1-4 say: "There is a time for everything ... a time to be born and a time to die ,,, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh!" Worth to think about it - even in times like now! +++ Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .


February 15, 2020

The present Virus illness keeps each one of us in a  panic mood. Very understandable while following innumerable news at the moment 24/7. But nowadays, wearing masks has another reason ... .  Before Ash Wednesday, one can experience in my home country Germany people wearing masks of faces like animals, horrible human faces or the devil. Why all these masquerades? Actors and actresses on stage or in movies wear also masks. They pretend to be what they are not. They play a role. Hence, in Greek they are called "hypocrites". In our life, we always wear masks. Please think about.  You  and me will understand, that we do not want to show to people our real  selves because of the fear of rejection or displeasure of other people. In society, they call it public relation. Men and women would go out smiling and greeting politely other people with a set of purpose: to win them to their business or organization. But the more important point is: should we always wear masks in our daily life? Can we not put these masks aside and be our true selves? Should we be always afraid to show to people in our surroundings what we are before God, who sees everything? Maybe we could look back on what William Congreve (1670-1729) wrote in his "Preface to Dryden": 'No mask like open truth to cover lies as to go naked is the best disguise'. But let's remember, even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, wore the mask of being human. "And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us!" Later, people thought he was a lawbreaker, an impostor, claiming to be God, a seducer of the people. "I have hidden my face from them and they did not recognize me!" Let's try to put our masks aside from time to time, especially, if we are together people we can trust. On the other side, today's global illnesses shows us different ways of how to move on. +++ Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .


February 1, 2020

Life is better than ever, so, why so many people seem to be unhappy? Whenever I hear people saying that everything is bad, I think of my late grandmother, born in 1899 (!) into a really awful world in Germany and its surroundings. Yes, I wrote about it already several years ago.  The so-called "Golden Twenties" between the two World Wars (now 100 years ago!) have been everything but golden for her, my relatives and millions of people. "Lola" never complained, even during the sorrowful time in the former East Germany, the "German Democratic Republic". Lola reached the ripe old age of almost 86. We hardly count our blessings. I really count them daily. And praise the Lord for everything! Most people enjoy counting their crosses. Instead of gains, they count our losses. Actually, they don't have to do all that counting - computers do it for us. Information is easily had. Just remember this: Opportunity doesn't just knock - it jiggles the doorknob, and "your friend" - the worrier, is with you day and night, at every corner, following your every step. Complaining and grumbling are good excuses, aren't they? We have time and opportunities to do almost anything. So why haven't we done it? We have the freedom of bondage or restraint, every one of us in his or her very special way - but, we're still our old inferior selves. The job is boring! I don't find a good job! The house is an unpleasing mixture of tidy and dirty things. It's a mess! I am not in the mood to arrange my garden. I can't afford a gardener. That's life. How sad! No, it's not MY fault. Of course not! The whole world is an awful place filled with dreadful and horrible negativism. No wonder, if you look around right now. Yes, I confess, I am also surrounded by many worriers who put their fears into me! Politicians, i.e., many times love to search for some grave alarm that will cause individuals to abandon their separate concerns and act in concert, so that politicians can wield the baton. Calls to fatal struggles and fights are forever being surrounded. The over-bearing person, who tyrannizes the weak, the person, who wants to domineer and to bluster, is simply nothing else than a worrier, who might claim to be a friend. But he isn't! Really not! The bullying of fellow citizens by means of dread and fright has been going on since Paleolithic times. The night wolf is eating the moon. Give me silver, and I'll make him spit out. Well, when will we start counting our courage and not our fears, or enjoy instead our woes? Worrying itself is pointless. Of course,  no society has achieved perfectly rules of law, never-ending education or unique responsible governments. Let's seek out the worries but avoid the worriers, because they try to avoid liberty. +++ Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .


January 20, 2020

Critics say giving workers unlimited time off can actually deter them from taking holidays - so are minimum leave policies the answer? An interesting question by BBC-author Maya Yang... . It reminds me on my own. For example, I decided to stop teaching. I found out, that from month to month, I really got only very limited time for myself and my family. In 2014, the leadership at social media management company Buffer noticed something odd. Despite an unlimited leave policy implemented in 2012, employees were barely taking any holidays. To encourage people to take more time off, Buffer – which employs remote workers globally, primarily in the US and Europe – introduced an incentive: a $1,000 annual holiday bonus to each employee (and an additional $500 per partner or family member). It was a roaring success. In fact, it was too successful, costing the company too much money. Buffer pulled the plug on the policy in June 2016. Later that year, Buffer changed tack: instead of offering unlimited leave, it decided to strongly encourage employees to take a minimum of 15 work days off per year. Using an online planner, employees input leave requests and HR personnel track the number of days people take off via a collective calendar. Buffer’s minimum leave policy is unusual, even for a tech company. Unlimited time off is a much more common perk among start-ups and other tech firms – but despite the name, unlimited leave can feel like anything but. Often, workers are at the mercy of their workloads, managers and company culture, a situation which can discourage people to take a fair amount of leave. Could insisting that people take a minimum number of days off be a better way to ward off burnout? Well, maybe. Talking again myself: I am in the great situation deciding about my days off and and a maybe unlimited time off. Just to avoid a burnout... . How about millions of Filipino workers? It's interesting to know, that  every country in the European Union is required by law to offer at least four weeks of paid holiday, with varying accrual policies per country (Austria takes the lead with 35 days of annual paid holiday). Similarly, in New Zealand, employers must provide employees with at least four weeks of paid holiday, not including public holidays or sick leave. Philippines is much more different. Yes, I know... . While still staying in Germany, I had the pressure of needing to prove myself and the mentality that I shouldn’t take many days off. Most often, it’s up to management to create a culture where workers feel comfortable taking leave, says Sir Cary Cooper, an organisational psychology professor at the University of Manchester. Many bosses lack the social and perceptive skills to detect employee burnout and remind ambitious employees of the importance of taking breaks. Creating choices? Why not. While minimum leave policies don’t operate solely on ‘trust’ placed in employees, it’s not a model that is feasible for all companies – for those with tens of thousands of employees, tracking individual and collective leave, let alone scheduling individual holiday check-ins and reminders, would be very difficult to scale. +++ Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.koausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com. 


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