They also stop us from seeing the actual person in front of us. As members of society, we necessarily internalize the assumptions and meanings associated with these categories. Whether consciously or unconsciously, this affects our interactions and influences our decisions, such as whom to hire or whom to trust5--and whether our finger is quick on the gun trigger. UNCONSCIOUS BIAS He and I then worked on devising a plan for how to use social media in ways that diffused his triggers. Through lots of trial and error, Leo discovered that he could best maintain a healthy online presence after editing his news feeds by unfriending or unfollowing those who were using alcohol and drugs in unhealthy ways and posting pictures of themselves partying and/or high. Furthermore, Leo built up his mental muscles by holding himself back from logging on to social media when feeling low or sad. He did this by building up an arsenal of positive ways to combat depression, boredom, and feelings of FOMO and by learning to notice his most dangerous trigger, slides into upward social-comparison thinking, so he could stop the slide. For example, he upped his in-person communications by making a point to actually call his sponsor a minimum of five times per week, he made a weekly plan to have an in-person encounter with a friend, and he could usually count on writing in his journal to lift his mood too. By engaging in these activities Leo was developing both emotionally and intellectually! Another way Leo minimized social media's negative effects on his recovery was by taking a well-planned break from social media altogether. He did this by setting a date for his break, deciding how long his break would last, and making sure to let his family and friends know about it in advance. Throughout his time off from social media, Leo made sure to keep in contact with friends and family via texting, FaceTime, and with old-fashioned phone calls. But, as we know, nothing is either black or white, all good or all bad. This means that the greater the area of experience not in consciousness, the more incomplete will be the picture. The more we try to infer what is present in the phenomenal field but not conscious (as in interpreting projective techniques), the more complex grow the inferences until the interpretation of the client's projections may become merely an illustration of the clinician's projections. Furthermore our knowledge of the person's frame of reference depends primarily upon communication of one sort or another from the individual. Communication is at all times faulty and imperfect. Hence only in clouded fashion can we see the world of experience as it appears to this individual. We may state the whole situation logically thus:

It is possible to achieve, to some extent, the other person's frame of reference, because many of the perceptual objects -- self, parents, teachers, employers, and so on -- have counterparts in our own perceptual field, and practically all the attitudes toward these perceptual objects -- such as fear, anger, annoyance, love, jealousy, satisfaction -- have been present in our own world of experience. Hence we can infer, quite directly, from the communication of the individual, or less accurately from observation of his behavior, a portion of his perceptual and experiential field. The more all his experiences are available to his consciousness, the more is it possible for him to convey a total picture of his phenomenal field. The more his communication is a free expression, unmodified by a need or desire to be defensive, the more adequate will be the communication of the field. Countless studies have confirmed the power of unconscious biases to shape everyday actions. Slap a white-sounding name on a resume and you're much more likely to get a callback than if you supply an identical resume with an African American-sounding name. I didn't think I held negative beliefs about People of Color, trans people, people with disabilities, fat people, or others in stigmatized groups. Taking the implicit association test (IAT)10 was a mind-opener. The IAT is a measure of associative knowledge. It examines, for example, our reflexive response to seeing a Black face vs. Test takers are instructed to strike a certain computer key if a positive word like wonderful pops up on the screen, and are then told to hit the same key if a white face is shown. Next, the program asks them to press another key for positive words and Black faces. The test tracks how many errors occur and how quickly responses are made. In every measure of bias that I examined--tests are available for age, weight, gender, religion, skin tone, race, disability, and more--I found that, like most test takers, I am biased toward people who resemble the mythic norm. This applies to social media. Over time, as Leo became more comfortable and secure in his recovery, he discovered the ways in which he could use social media to support his recovery, keep him connected socially, and even expand his social network. He did this by discovering accounts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facearticle that were inspirational and motivated him to keep on track. Mental Workouts for Changing Habits Even though it's so difficult to change old habits and attitudes--like learning how to stop drinking alcohol, successfully cutting down on time spent on social media, or breaking unhealthy eating habits--it is not an impossible challenge. Our brain has the ability to change throughout our lifespan because of a process called neuroplasticity--or brain plasticity.

This does not literally mean that our brains are made up of plastic but, rather, that just like plastic materials can bend and be reshaped, we can shape and remodel our brain's pathways with practice, time, and consistency. All it takes is commitment, time, practice, and consistency. Just like our muscles develop and strengthen when we consistently train them, our brains do too. Skill-Building Strategies It is probably for the reasons just stated that client-centered counseling has proved to be such a valuable method for viewing behavior from the person's frame of reference. The situation minimizes any need of defensiveness. The counselor's behavior minimizes any prejudicial influence on the attitudes expressed. The person is usually motivated to some degree to communicate his own special world, and the procedures used encourage him to do so. The increasing communication gradually brings more of experience into the realm of awareness, and thus a more accurate and total picture of this individual's world of experience is conveyed. On this basis a much more understandable picture of behavior emerges. It should also be added that the dynamic results -- for the client and for the learning of the therapist -- which are achieved in client-centered therapy when even a portion of the perceptual field is communicated, have led us to feel that here is a way of viewing experience which is much closer to the basic laws of personality process and behavior. Not only does there result a more vivid understanding of the meaning of behavior, but the opportunities for new learning are maximized when we approach the individual without a preconceived set of categories which we expect him to fit. VIII) A portion of the total perceptual field gradually becomes differentiated as the self. Mead, Cooley, Angyal, Lecky, and others have helped to advance our knowledge of the development and functioning of the self. I've also guided many audiences through taking the IAT and have found that most people, like me, can feel their unconscious biases as they take this test. I noticed, for example, that I struggled to connect positive words with images of old people compared to my relative ease at doing so with images of young people. Check it out for yourself. Many of the one-hundred-plus publications that have examined the IAT have found it to be a remarkably good predictor of behavior. I understand the desire to say not me if someone suggests you are prejudiced. Yet, bias resides inside all of us, whether we like it or not.

Accepting the inevitability that you've absorbed some aspects of our toxic culture allows you to sit with your imperfection and sets the stage for cultural humility, curiosity, and openness. It's critical in this process not to blame oneself, but instead to extend acceptance and understanding toward our very human flaws and shortcomings. Accepting that you are not always who you want to be supports you in taking action and doing something about it. We may never be able to entirely avoid internalized prejudices, but we can certainly compensate for their effects. Below are six mental workouts you can do every day to improve your emotional health. Exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and get enough rest. Physical health is closely connected to mental and emotional health. Regularly taking care of our bodies is a big step in achieving good mental and emotional health. Build positive experiences. It is important to become aware of the times you feel happy, satisfied, and accomplished and the situations in which good emotions are felt. Positive emotions come from positive experiences. Pursuing things we enjoy and being around people we like (virtually and in real life) releases endorphins, a chemical that makes us feel happy and good and rewires our brain to more easily and naturally do the things we enjoy rather than the things we don't derive pleasure from. Make your important relationships a daily priority. Humans are social creatures who crave the company of others. We shall have much to say about various aspects of the operation of the self. For the present the point is made that gradually, as the infant develops, a portion of the total private world becomes recognized as me, I, myself. There are many puzzling and unanswered questions in regard to the dawning concept of the self. We shall try to point out some of these. Is social interaction necessary in order for a self to develop? Would the hypothetical person reared alone upon a desert island have a self?

Is the self primarily a product of the process of symbolization? Is it the fact that experiences may be not only directly experienced, but symbolized and manipulated in thought, that makes the self possible? Is the self simply the symbolized portion of experience? These are some of the questions which shrewd research may be able to answer. STEREOTYPE THREAT Stereotypes don't just influence how we perceive and interact with others; A powerful example of this is a concept known as stereotype threat, which describes a person's preoccupation about fulfilling a stereotype assigned to their social group. Three psychologists, Claude Steele, Joshua Aronson, and Steven Spencer, examined the effect of stereotype threat on different groups of students. Their studies in the 1990s, as well as numerous subsequent studies, demonstrated that even casual reminders that one belongs to a certain group significantly alters one's performance. For example, students who were subtly reminded that they belonged to a group that is stereotyped as academically inferior performed much worse on testing as a consequence of these reminders. Interestingly, even members of groups that are cast in positive ways suffered from similar referencing to their group's stereotype: Asian students, who were reminded of stereotypes about their excellent math skills, caved under this pressure and did poorly on testing. People in stigmatized groups aren't the only ones vulnerable to stereotype threat. White male math and engineering majors who scored high on the math portion of a standardized test, for example, did worse on a math test when told that the experiment was intended to investigate why Asians appear to outperform other students on tests of math ability. The mere threat of social exclusion gets in the way of thinking smart, as demonstrated in this interesting study: Participants were given an IQ test and then a personality inventory. Having a strong social network significantly improves our emotional health and reduces our risk for depression and anxiety. Work on developing supportive and reciprocal relationships, both online and offline, with someone you can talk to regularly, who listens to you and supports you. Make time for contemplation and appreciation. On a daily basis, set aside a few minutes to think about the things you are grateful for in your life, such as friends, family, and good health. Build resilience and grit. Resilience and grit are intricately related to good emotional health.