I try not to obsess about my appearance too much, and I know that being on social media can make my obsessions worse. When I'm on social media, I'm just constantly comparing myself to my friends and the social influencers I follow on Instagram or watch on YouTube. I end up saying things like, I should exercise more, I should do the exercises she's doing, or I must only eat raw foods. And then I'll look more like the girls I compare myself to. In some instances the denial of the perception is something rather conscious. The client cited above, whose self-concept was so negative, reports: When people tell me they think I'm intelligent, I just don't believe it. I just -- I guess I don't want to believe it. I don't know why I don't want to believe it -- I just don't want to. It should give me confidence, but it doesn't. I think they just really don't know. Here she can perceive and accept readily anyone's depreciation of her, because this fits in with her self-concept. Contradictory evaluations however are denied, by selecting and stressing other perceptions, such as that others cannot really know her. This type of more or less conscious denial of perception is certainly a frequent occurrence with everyone. There is, however, an even more significant type of denial which is the phenomenon the Freudians have tried to explain by the concept of repression. CONNECTION IS OUR DEFAULT Of all I've learned about the neuroscience of connection, what stands out most is that the social parts of our brain are most highly activated when other neural networks are dampened. This means that the social brain is the default network--that's actually the official scientific term--acting like a reflex so that we keep coming back to thinking about others' thoughts and feelings. CONNECTION AND SOCIAL CLASS Social class, or socioeconomic status, refers to an individual's position vis-a-vis others in terms of wealth, education, and occupation. Prevailing narratives moralize social class, which fuels tremendous shame and judgment (by self and others) and gets in the way of connection.

Those raised in lower status environments have less agency and fewer opportunities to influence or make choices. They are forced to develop the resilience needed to cope with adversity. In contrast, those raised in more advantaged environments need to worry far less about making ends meet or managing persistent threats. Financial security, in particular, provides a general security that enables people to more confidently show up, expressing their individuality and personal preferences and developing and exploring their own interests. On the other hand, all the positive comments I get from my friends and followers from the pictures I post on my Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter accounts--You look so great or I wish I had your legs and Your abs are sick! And then I become even more determined to be a certain body shape. I definitely do feel pressure from social media to look, act, and dress a certain way. The Dangers of Social-Media Use and Body-Image Disorders Olivia recognized that her obsession with her weight, body shape, and appearance was unhealthy and that her social-media habits were reinforcing her destructive behaviors and beliefs. In fact, research studies are now showing social media's potential influence on the development and maintenance of eating and body-image disorders in the digital age. Think about this: social media's unique combination of factors including peer interactions, popularity of photo sharing, engagement in appearance comparisons with peers, and favorite digital models and the accessibility of mobile technology can dramatically increases the likelihood that young girls and women will internalize the thin ideal, a concept linked to the development of eating and body-image disorders. The thin ideal is a sociocultural belief that an ideal female body should be slender, with a small waist and very little body fat. The act of internalization involves the integration of the thin ideal's attitudes, values, standards, and the opinions of others into one's own identity or sense of self. It's important to note that internalization is also a crucial component to the formation of the superego, the ethical component of the personality, made up of the moral standards by which the ego individual operates. In this instance, it would appear that there is the organic experience, but there is no symbolization of this experience, or only a distorted symbolization, because an adequate conscious representation of it would be entirely inconsistent with the concept of self. Thus, a woman whose concept of self has been deeply influenced by a very strictly moralistic and religious upbringing, experiences strong organic cravings for sexual satisfaction. To symbolize these, to permit them to appear in consciousness, would provide a traumatic contradiction to her concept of self. The organic experience is something which occurs and is an organic fact. But the symbolization of these desires, so that they become part of conscious awareness, is something which the conscious self can and does prevent. The adolescent who has been brought up in an oversolicitous home, and whose concept of self is that of one who is grateful to his parents, may feel intense anger at the subtle control which is being exerted over him.

Organically he experiences the physiological changes which accompany anger, but his conscious self can prevent these experiences from being symbolized and hence consciously perceived. Or he can symbolize them in some distorted fashion which is consistent with his structure of self, such as perceiving these organic sensations as a bad headache. Thus the fluid but consistent organization which is the structure or concept of self, does not permit the intrusion of a perception at variance with it, except under certain conditions which we shall consider later. For the most part, it reacts as does a piece of protoplasm when a foreign body is intruded -- it endeavors to prevent the entrance. Less wealth, on the other hand, is less conducive to developing and asserting one's unique talents. One of the strongest themes emerging from research examining social class and emotion is that lower-class individuals score more highly on measures of empathy. This plays out in how people treat others: In a series of four studies, for example, researchers found that lower-class individuals were more likely to help others than their higher-class counterparts. That lower-class people have been found to be more likely to help others suggests that greater resources may make higher-class people more selfish and therefore less likely to help others. This notion is supported by a series of studies by University of California, Berkeley psychology professor Paul Piff and colleagues,45 who found that compared to lower-class individuals, Higher-class people were more likely to show unethical decision-making tendencies, to take valued goods from others, to lie in a negotiation, to cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize and to endorse unethical behaviour at work. Higher class individuals have also been shown to be less cognizant of others46 and worse at identifying the emotions others feel. Perhaps there is some acute advantage to membership in the lower class? I, for one, highly value the empathy that may be characteristic of the lower class! As a reminder, statistics help us make generalizations about groups, but they don't explain each individual's experience. CONNECTION AND ADDICTION The superego's criticisms, prohibitions, and inhibitions form a person's conscience, and its positive aspirations and ideals represent one's idealized self-image, or ego ideal. We can all observe the influence our superegos have on our behavior, emotions, and self-esteem through our inner voice, inner judge, or inner authority--and where many of our distorted should, ought, and must commands reside within our personalities. Millions of women and girls across the globe have incorporated the thin ideal into their superego and link it with positive life outcomes such as happiness, confidence, and sexual success. Olivia also revealed that social media provided her with an endless supply of peers and models to whom she could spend hours upon hours comparing herself. In article 3 I discussed Festinger's social-comparison theory, which purports that people naturally engage in social comparison with others in order to understand how and where they fit into the world when objective standards are not available. Think about this: When we open any number of social-media platforms and scroll through photos of vacations, celebrations with family and friends, and adorable pets, it's hard to not start thinking, I'm not successful enough and I'm not good enough.

Or even I'm not thin enough or pretty enough. And when there's a constant stream of this kind of information, which influences how we think we should look, act, and feel, it's increasingly difficult to stave off feelings of inadequacy or inferiority--in order words, compare and despair. The slew of negative emotions driving a compare-and-despair state, like envy, resentment, and low-self-esteem, results in a great deal of emotional distress. Getting stuck in a cycle of compare and despair ultimately prevents us from harnessing the power derived from fully accepting ourselves for who we are. It should be noted that perceptions are excluded because they are contradictory, not because they are derogatory. It seems nearly as difficult to accept a perception which would alter the self-concept in an expanding or socially acceptable direction as to accept an experience which would alter it in a constricting or socially disapproved direction. The self-distrusting client cited above has as much difficulty accepting her intelligence as a person with a self-concept of superiority would have in accepting experiences indicating mediocrity. Many perplexing issues are connected with the question, How is the denial effected? As we studied our clinical material and recorded cases, some of us -- including the writer -- began to develop the theory that in some way an experience could be recognized as threatening, and prevented from entering awareness, without the person ever having been conscious of it, even momentarily. To others of the group this seemed like a most unreasonable explanation because it involved a process of knowing without knowing, of perceiving without perceiving. At this point a number of clarifying studies began to come from the laboratory. Growing out of the work of Bruner and Postman on the personal factors influencing perception came certain findings bearing directly upon the problem we have just defined. It began to appear that even in the tachistoscopic presentation of a word the subject knows or pre-perceives or responds to the positive or negative value of the word before the stimulus is recognized in consciousness. This aspect of these perceptual studies may be reviewed in the references to Postman, Bruner, and McGinnies (151), McGinnies (122), and McCleary and Lazarus (121). As we saw in article 4, we've got it all wrong when we frame addiction as a substance disorder. Instead, it can better be conceptualized as a social disorder, an inability to connect in healthy ways with other human beings. Cravings are a search for replacement sources of dopamine and other good-feeling chemical shots that we could, but for whatever reason aren't, getting from rewarding social ties. Earlier, I noted that substances and behaviors trigger the release of dopamine and several other pleasure-related neurochemicals, making us feel good. Because we like to feel good, we go back for more. Nevertheless, it's not the substances or the behaviors that cause the addiction.

Only a tiny percentage of people who engage in addictive substances or behaviors eventually become addicted. The rest of the people can walk away from those substances or behavior or only use them casually or recreationally. The Rat Park scenario helps us understand what's really going on in addiction. Sure, the dopamine pleasure response plays a role. Simply put, compare and despair robs us of appreciating our uniqueness and specialness. No two people in the whole wide world are exactly alike. Even identical twins! This means we are all unique and special in our own ways. One way to prevent falling into the trap of compare and despair is to practice what's known as radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is a term associated with dialectical behavioral therapy, and it refers to the ability to accept our reality without judgment. It does not mean that we approve of events and situations that have happened or are happening but, rather, that we accept these circumstances, no matter how difficult they feel and are, as realities we might not be able to change at this very moment or ever. But it's not all bad news. The good news is, radical acceptance can lead to proactive behaviors, because acceptance helps us to direct our attention and focus on the steps we can take, in the realm of reality, to alleviate our emotional suffering. For example, by practicing radical acceptance, Olivia was able to let go of her unhealthy pursuit a look she'd never be able to achieve--along with 99 percent of all women and girls. With an increasing weight of evidence, based upon increasingly crucial studies, it seems that the following conclusion is justified. The individual appears to be able to discriminate between threatening and nonthreatening stimuli, and to react accordingly, even though unable consciously to recognize the stimulus to which he is reacting. McCleary and Lazarus, whose study is much the most carefully controlled of those made to date, coin the term subception to describe this process. The individual subceives a word as threatening, as indicated by his galvanic skin response, even when the exposure time is too limited for him to perceive it. Even though he perceives the word wrongly in consciousness, his autonomic reaction tends to be a response to a threatening situation, as revealed by the GSR. The authors conclude that Even when a subject is unable to report a visual discrimination [ie, he reports incorrectly when forced to make a choice] he is still able to make a stimulus discrimination at some level below that required for conscious recognition (121, p.