Daffodils and psychological wellbeing


two daffodils

Sunny weather this weekend gives a sense winter will come to an end. In the garden daffodils are starting to open.

Daffodils belong to the plant genus Narcissus, with about fifty different species.

The Roman, Pliny the Elder, claimed the Greeks named Narcissus for the effect of the plants’ fragrance on anyone smelling them, narkao is Greek for ‘I grow numb’; from which we also get the word narcotics.

In Greek mythology Narcissus is a young male hunter who seeing his own reflection in a pool of water falls in love with his own good looks, passes out and ultimately dies. According to myth Narcissus grows into the plant of that name next to the pool.

At the start of the 1900s, around the time of Freud, psychoanalysts began using the term ‘narcissism’, derived from the myth of Narcissus, to describe someone filled with self-admiration. This term continues to be used to describe someone who has a need to be admired by others.

There can be down-sides to having too much ego (ego is Latin for ‘I’). The idea of a ‘shrink’ is someone who helps us ‘shrink our ego back down to size’.

Yet there is also a need for sufficient ego (sense of self) to be able to take care of oneself, to tolerate difficult feelings such as hurt, sadness and disappointment. And to work towards important goals over a period of time, to take care of loved ones and to have a sense of meaning in one’s life.

Around the start of the 2000s psychologists began to consider what they called ‘the psychological immune system’. The physical immune system is what helps our body fight off infection. Similarly, the idea of a psychological immune system is a sufficiently strong ego or sense of self, helps us overcome adversity and keep on going in pursuit of what is important to us.

In addition to the idea a ‘shrink’ helps us get our ego back down to size, a therapist can also help us develop a robust and realistic ego that helps us get things done.

Somewhat like Goldilocks, of Three Bears fame, when it comes to ego, too much ego is problematic and too little ego is also problematic. Ideally, we could do with just the right amount of ego to help us stay in touch with reality and get important things done.

My Inner Scorecard

lyndale snow

Born in 1930, Warren Buffett made himself one of the world’s richest people. At the time of writing his net worth is estimated at $91.6bn en.wikipedia.org .

In later life Buffett focused on philanthropy. Much of his wealth will pass to the foundation of his friends, Bill and Melinda Gates.

He devotes time to supporting young people achieve success, including passing on something he observed in his father, Howard, the idea of ‘an inner scorecard’ www.cnbc.com

Many people have ‘an outer scorecard’, they measure success in how others view them. Do others approve of me? Are they impressed by my car? My house? My partner? My money?

In contrast ‘an inner scorecard’ accords with one’s own values: Am I being honest? Am I happy with how I treat people? Am I living in line with my own values?

The idea of the inner scorecard has a basis in academic and clinical psychotherapy.

Also born in the US, Carl Rogers (b1902) was President of the American Psychological Association 1946-7 and one of the first to use the scientific method to study the processes of therapy http://psychclassics Rogers was the one of the first to use voice recording of client sessions to analyse therapy sessions in detail (Freud used subsequent handwritten notes of his recollections). From his research, Rogers created theory and practically tested his theories, applying the scientific method.

Rogers’ detailed statement of his theory was published in 1959, although written much earlier in the 1950s. Rogers described what he called ‘an external locus of evaluation’. He meant, the place a person stands to evaluate themselves was outside of themselves, or to use Buffett’s term ‘an outer scorecard’.

Rogers’ idea was developing babies, children, teens, adults, were subject to pressure to conform to the ideas and expectations of others. Conforming to the wishes of parents, the developing child won and retained parental love, was taken care of and felt safe in the world. Rogers called these parental wishes ‘conditions of worth’, for example ‘I’ll love and care for you provided you do well at school, provided you don’t fight with your sister’ and so on en.wikipedia.org . The antonym of this would be so-called ‘unconditional love’.

There are many different ways in which therapy works. In this context, some of the ways in which therapy works include: 1. Increasing awareness of some of our conditions of worth, previously held below conscious awareness, and 2. Becoming aware of our tendency to view ourselves through the evaluations of others and instead of this 3. To relocate the position of evaluation within ourselves, rather than in others, so that 4. We live according to our own interests and values; living outwardly in-line with who we are on the inside.

Instead of an ‘external locus of evaluation’ (Rogers) or an ‘outer scorecard’ (Buffett) this becomes an ‘internal locus of evaluation’ or an ‘inner scorecard’.

Rogers (1978) later wrote the book ‘personal power: inner strength and its revolutionary impact’. The notion of an ‘inner scorecard’ and specifying what goes on the scorecard gives a person a sense of inner strength. It is this kind of inner strength that Buffett has so effectively use in his investment approach, often going against the crowd, and enabling him to succeed, as he would define success. Being honest, decent, patient and hard-working are values Buffett has sought to live by

Many people, on hearing about Buffett’s wealth say ‘sure, I could succeed if I had all his millions’. Whilst Buffett did have some advantages in life, his father served four terms in the House of Representatives, his mother Leila was described as harshly critical, seemingly evoking feelings of fear and shame in Warren.

Growing up with a harsh and critical mother there are many paths a person could follow. Some people might get angry, project their anger outwards onto others, turn to drink, live a life of shame and so on. Using the analogy of a snowball, Buffett’s biographer, Alice Schroeder describes how young Warren channelled his energies into money-making, from an early age, and created an ever-growing snowball of money en.wikipedia.org

In some ways it is simply the size of the snowball he created that has brought Buffett to public attention. Perhaps the real triumph in the life of Warren Buffett is of a man who, despite a harsh interpersonal beginning, followed his interests and enthusiasms and created the life he wanted for himself. Buffett is reported as saying ‘I’m so happy I tap dance to work’.

Life challenges us to follow our inner interests, enthusiasms and values, to be who we are, and create the life we want for ourselves, that is congruent with who we are.