Health and Marriage: The Cortisol Connection
Bad marriages can be sickening. Most people don’t have to be convinced of this, but for those who do, several decades of studies offer plenty of proof. Even so, very little is known about exactly how marriage quality affects health. Do strife and rudeness and neglect—and all the other signs of marital unhappiness—somehow get under the skin and trigger physical ailments? Or do warmth and trust and understanding and appreciation follow some biological pathway to wellness? Or both? Relationship experts have been focusing recently on marital partners’ beliefs about their marriage—specifically a partner’s belief that the other partner understands and cares for him or her.
Itchy Trigger Finger? How About Itchy Brain?
Police work is very dangerous, often involving bad people with guns, and one of the most dangerous policing tasks is searching and clearing a house. This is where the police go room to room through a building, in pursuit of a suspect, who may be armed and dangerous. The police officer must be fully prepared to shoot—finger on the trigger, mind alert—in case he or she does confront a suspect who is armed and ready to shoot. But the officer must also have the self-restraint not to pull the trigger if he or she bursts into a room and confronts an innocent bystander.
The Sound of Intellect
Richard Nelson Bolles, a former Episcopal pastor, decided to self-publish his advice for job hunters in 1970, in the midst of a tough job market for newly-minted college graduates. The handbook—What Color is Your Parachute?—immediately gained popularity by word-of-mouth, and was soon on its way to the best-seller list. In the decades since, it has become the bible for young professionals entering the world of work. It has been revised almost every year, and has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.
Why Are People So Annoying?
It’s human nature to want other people to think well of us. And indeed we are often called upon to put our best foot forward—highlighting our accomplishments and character traits in job interviews and on first dates. So we get a lot of practice in effective self-presentation. Then why are so many people annoying? The simple answer is that, despite all our natural inclination and practice, much of our self-presentation backfires. And it backfires because we too often misunderstand the tradeoff between self-promotion—blowing our own horn—and humility. The fact is that modesty, or even self-effacement, can be more effective than bragging in creating a good first impression.
“It’s the right thing to do.”
In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama urged the Congress to take action on paid sick leave for American workers. Forty-three million workers currently have no paid sick leave, the President noted, forcing many to make “the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home.” Rectify this situation, he told the lawmakers: “It’s the right thing to do.” “It’s the right thing to do.” This is a familiar refrain by now, six years into Obama’s presidency. If not paid sick leave, it’s health care reform, or the Dream Act, or tax credits for clean energy, or tuition assistance or gay rights.
To Thine Own Self: The Psychology of Authenticity
One of the core principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, the 12-Step addiction recovery program, is authenticity. At least two of the steps emphasize the importance of honest moral inventory, and the AA “chip”—the medallion handed out to commemorate periods of continued sobriety—reads: “To thine own self be true.” The people who created AA back in the 1930s were not scientists or philosophers, but the early literature contains many insights that scientists have verified in intervening years. The link between authenticity and morality and psychological health is not intuitively obvious.