All About Self-Control

Self-control separates us from our ancient ancestors and the rest of the animal kingdom, thanks to our large prefrontal cortex. It is the ability to subdue our impulses in order to achieve longer-term goals. Rather than responding to immediate impulses, we can plan, evaluate alternative actions, and, often enough, avoid doing things we'll later regret. The ability to exert self-control is typically called willpower. It is what allows us to direct our attention, and it underlies all kinds of achievement. There is significant debate in science as to whether or not willpower is a finite resource. Studies demonstrate that exercising willpower makes heavy demands on mental energy, notably on reserves of glucose, the brain's preferred fuel, creating ego depletion. It's one reason we're more apt to reach for that chocolate chip cookie when we're feeling stressed than when we're feeling on top of the world. Recently, scientists have failed to replicate some of the studies underlying the concept of ego depletion, and more research is underway.

Recent posts on Self-Control

The Secret of Raising a Self-Disciplined Child

Our children learn self-control from the limits we set. But -- and this is critical -- only if we set those limits with empathy.

Gimme Shelter: Soaked by Organizational Change

By James Bailey Ph.D. on July 24, 2017 in At the Helm
Where you stand when times are turbulent determines where you are when times calm.

Feeling Lost? Part 2

In a committed relationship that means a great deal to us, it’s not so easy to walk away when difficulties arise.

Is It Narcissism or Sociopathy?

By Stephen A. Diamond Ph.D. on July 19, 2017 in Evil Deeds
What is the nexus between narcissistic and antisocial personality?

Does a Happy Meal Really Make Us Happy?

We know that what we eat impacts our physical health. But what about our psychological health? How does what we eat impact our happiness?

Fear-Based Anger Is the Primary Motive for Violence

By Scott A. Bonn Ph.D. on July 17, 2017 in Wicked Deeds
Anger is not a primary emotion. It is a secondary emotion or reaction. Fear or terror is the root of all anger.

Six Ways To Approach Childhood Emotional Trauma

Recovery from trauma and growing beyond it can seem challenging and even impossible. Here are some potentially useful tools to begin to take the first steps.

Parenting in the Era of Addictive Electronics

Are your kids obsessed with screen time? Here are steps to curb their addiction.

Seven Factors Comprising Resilience

We often feel like the vase in the kiln that we are being baked alive, angry at our predicament or angry at who we believe is victimizing us.

Coming to Terms with Infidelity: Men Versus Women

Why do some but not all relationships survive infidelity?

Why Kids Should Dress Up as Batman When Doing Homework

By Guy Winch Ph.D. on July 05, 2017 in The Squeaky Wheel
Allowing your child to play dress-up can actually boost their learning and skill acquisition. Here's why.

A Psychological Fourth of July

We can too easily forget that the purpose of self-government is to secure our own safety and happiness.

The Psychology and Brain Biology of “Whatever”

The next time someone tells you to talk to the hand, know why.

Americans Intoxicated

By Kirby Farrell Ph.D. on July 01, 2017 in A Swim in Denial
It’s an angry era in America. Instead of debating who’s right or wrong, let’s ask what kinds of work anger is doing for Americans now? And what's behind it?

Benzodiazepines: The Danger Lurking in the Shadow of Opiates

Fatal overdoses more than quadrupled for benzodiazepines prescriptions

Coloring, Doodling and Drawing: Recent Research

Art therapy's research "romance" with coloring, doodling and drawing as self-regulation continues. Learn more about the latest research.
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Driving Asleep

Sleep is like food. You really need it before you take the wheel.

Can You Have More Willpower?

Do you wish you had more self-control? We all have moments when our willpower seems to fail us and bad choices ensue. But can you really improve your willpower?

Sticking With Your Goals

By Katherine Hawley Ph.D. on June 21, 2017 in Trust
If you're struggling to achieve your goals, try recruiting a little help from your friends.

Hunger

By Emily T. Troscianko on June 15, 2017 in A Hunger Artist
Reliving a small insight.

Pain, Suffering, Basic Humanity

As a life-saving alarm system, pain keeps us focused on distress, for the purpose of relieving it, that is, pain motivates behavior that will help heal, repair, or improve.

Do You Have Toxic Anger Issues and Not Know It?

By Jennice Vilhauer Ph.D. on June 11, 2017 in Living Forward
People with problems managing their anger are often the last to know how damaging their anger can be to those around them. Learn how to increase your awareness and self-control.

Should You Tell Your Partner You Cheated?

Will telling the truth help or hurt your relationship?

How to Start Healing After Personal Trauma

Do you feel too fragmented after a traumatic event? A few lifestyle adjustments can help you feel whole again.

Portion Sizes and Sugary Drinks

By Art Markman Ph.D. on June 02, 2017 in Ulterior Motives
There is a growing consensus that high doses of sugar can cause serious health problems. Can policies aimed to curb consumption of sugary drinks actually work?

Enhance Self-Esteem by Embracing Imperfections

Do you ever wonder why “being bad” almost always feels so good? Can you let go of guilt when you fall back into a less than ideal habit?
The Public Domain Review

Awkward Talk: Why Your Mouth Runs Away with You

A tendency to miss social cues is among the reasons some awkward people start talking and can't seem to stop.

Does Peaceful Parenting Mean Letting Kids Do What They Want?

It's not that peaceful parents aren't "in charge." In fact, they're more in charge than most parents--of their own reactions, and therefore of the mood in their house.

Costly Curves

By Alain Samson Ph.D. on May 25, 2017 in Consumed
The thin ideal turns big people into big spenders.

The Unexpected Gifts of Desire

What can we learn if we don't automatically act to fulfill an urge or longing?