Research Reveals The Purpose Of Your Emotions

research reveals purpose of emotions

Most of us perceive the brain as being for thinking, or intellectual functions. We often think of ourselves, our personality, as what is going on in those intellectual functions from the neck up. In fact, there are several parts to our brain that contribute to who we are and how we form our personality, not just our intellectual cortex. In this way, the purpose/role of emotions is far more complex than meets the eye.

The cortex is what we refer to as our smart brain. Most of us know individuals who are brilliant academically or intellectually, yet they can be emotionally dysfunctional almost in the extreme. We often presume erroneously that our thinking brain should be “smart” enough to exercise dominion over our emotions.

However, the missing piece of information here is that our emotions actually are a survival adaptation mechanism that each of us develops as we process our early environment and social conditioning.

Aggressive Or Passive?
Some of us learn to be assertive or aggressive in our environments to adapt, and some of us learn to become passive or try to become invisible to stay safe and secure. Nothing is more powerful in the human being than the drive to survive. Hence, our emotions win in the battle between thinking and feeling.

It is helpful to understand that our emotions represent how we learned to adapt in our surroundings and environment, especially during the first five years of our development. Our familial input taught us, as it did Ivan Pavlov’s dogs, how to respond to the stimuli we received as infants and toddlers.

Embedded Conditioning
This embedded neurological conditioning is not overcome by thought processes; the thought process for humans is the newest component to our primitive, or primordial, brain. But it is in the survival adaptive portion of our brain that we form our personality and that we become conditioned to create and interact within relationships.

You have to understand that the interpersonal issues that can frustrate you may come from your drive to survive and the conditioned responses to the stimulation and environment you have experienced. They do not stem from a desire to be difficult or bad intent. Realize this and you can begin to be kinder and gentler toward yourself and others.

Our emotions are the way we learn to live and survive in our world. We cannot think them into changing, but we can step back and appreciate the service and challenge they offer us in our daily lives. We can also explore techniques that allow us to have greater control over our emotions. For a free chapter download on brain function and behavior, visit changingbehavior.org.

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What Nonverbal Communication Are You Sending?

What Nonverbal Communication Are You sending?

Albert Merhabien, the famed communication researcher, stated that nonverbal communication makes up almost 93 percent of all the “messages” we receive from other individuals. Others suggest that it is actually more like 60 percent to 70 percent of nonverbal communication that lets us know what others are really feeling.

What we know about how the brain and body work is that all thoughts and feelings are ways that we cope with surviving in our world and that, for many of us, not revealing our feelings and instead holding them back may be the “safe” way to cope with others at work, at home and in general.

Inside The Brain

What is also well understood is that there are “tells,” or neurological expressions of these withheld, nonverbal communications, that are going on inside of our brains. Even though we may not consciously or intentionally express verbally or physically how we feel, our brain/body connection does express these thoughts and feelings in nonverbal ways. These nonverbal ways are the “tells” that police and other professionals use to decide if someone is withholding information.

Many studies have been done on the subject of body language and nonverbal communication. It is important for all of us to become aware of how our physical and verbal or nonverbal behavior impacts others, especially those who spend the most time in our environment.

Nonverbal communication can often cause one individual in a relationship to become upset if he feels he is seeing or interpreting nonverbal actions by his partner as being rejecting or disinterested. Often, before a relationship breaks up, one partner suspects the relationship is in trouble because of a lack of eye contact or verbal communication or because of hostile body language, such as the crossing of arms or legs, in response to communication attempts.

Scientific Insights

There is a science to nonverbal communication interpretation, as well as a science to understanding the best way to express our feelings and how the way we do that can result in a positive or negative outcome. The science is directly related to neurological and neurotransmitter connections between thoughts and feelings in the brain and their communication to the muscles and nerves in the rest of our body.

If you would like more information on this subject, you can download a free chapter from Changing Behavior: Immediately Transform Your Relationships with Easy to Learn Proven Communication Skills by going to www.changingbehavior.org.

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Establish These Three Behaviors To Improve Your Life

The most important relationship we have is with ourselves. The way we think, eat, behave and use our resources define the quality of life we live. We all want to thrive and enjoy a healthy fulfilling life. Yet, in our over scheduled, frenzied personal environments and ever encroaching culture, the simple, basic, no-cost behaviors that will better our lives and foster an excellent relationship with ourselves are often overlooked.

Here is a list of 3 simple behaviors any of us can do immediately to improve and restore our well-being and enhance our health.

1. Buy with Cash

Over the last 5 years, most of us have had a reality check regarding the corrosive nature of debt. It can cause stress, anxiety and sleepless nights, robbing us of our well-being and causing us to lose control over our relationship with money. One of the fastest and easiest ways of “turning the ship around” when it comes to debt is to commit to using only cash for purchases and cutting up the credit cards.

While we can have an emergency card or line of credit squirreled away for a real emergency, by reining in our spending habits and eliminating debt, we can do more for our sense of well-being and health than following the latest health trends and starting an exercise program. Yes, it’s true – reducing and eliminating the crushing stress of debt accumulation is the number one act of self-care we all need to commit to. Studies show that chronic stress and worry will make us sicker and even cause life threatening events such as stroke and heart attack more so than any other lifestyle behavior.

Also, by paying in cash you are more aware of what you are actually spending and have the opportunity to ask yourself: “Do I really need to make this purchase?”

2. Clean out Your Closets

In our consumer-driven environment, we are invited daily to buy, buy, buy and can find ourselves living with closets, attics and basements overflowing with “stuff.” Much of this stuff we do not even use and may not even remember we have.

One of the most satisfying experiences is to clean out closets, drawers, basements, attics, garages, storage areas, and so forth. Thin out all the excess material possessions we have and do not need or use. Giving things away to the local “swap shop” or donating these unnecessary belongings to Goodwill or the Salvation Army will not only free up room and space in our homes, but will also provide a greater sense of control over your living space as well as provide a sense of orderliness and cleanliness – all good things for our health and happiness.

3. Post Your Life Goals and Affirmations

We all have goals and dreams we want to realize. One of the fastest, proven ways to achieve those goals and manifest our dreams is to write them down and post them throughout our whole working and living environments. Take the most urgent and important goal you have at this time and focus on it daily, using post-its or other reminders of what you want to manifest.

This no cost, proven method for creating the things we want in our lives can become an excellent life-long behavior. When one goal is realized or achieved, we can identify the next important goal and work on that specifically, using our desire and unconscious mind to manifest our dreams. After all, thoughts really are “things.” By repeatedly thinking on something, we can create it into reality.

Everything was a thought before it became a reality – the chair you are sitting on was a thought in someone’s mind before it was created. We can and do create our lives with our thoughts – so post away and realize your goals.

For more information about this topic, you can access a free excerpt from the bestselling book Changing Behavior: Immediately Transform Your Relationships with Easy to Learn Proven Communication Skills by visiting www.ChangingBehavior.org

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Take The First Step Towards Happiness

Take The First Step Towards Happiness

With such a strong emphasis on achievement, accumulation and recognition in our society, it is easy to become discouraged or disappointed with who or what we perceive ourselves to be, especially in how we stack up in the “pecking order” with those around us. Being happy with yourself is a choice that each of us can make every day by taking simple, practical steps to develop habits of happiness.

Take the first step towards happiness right now. It starts with creating an environment to work and live in that reduces stress and workload and brings order and ease, making your work and living easier. This uplifting environment can also provide the experience of soothing tranquility rather than focusing on the disorder and chaos that often become the working and living environments we find ourselves in.

Start With A Clean Slate

Clean out your desk drawers and closets, discarding excess. Redefining what is important to keep and what feels good to get rid of is a first step to creating a peaceful and happy living or working space. Creating an environment that truly resonates with your values is like building an oasis in the desert. By eliminating the need to accumulate more and more “things” around us, we can unburden ourselves and have a more orderly, relaxing and peaceful space to live and work in.

Review Your “Friends List” Too

This same philosophy can be applied to your circle of friends and acquaintances. Just like with material things, we can also accumulate unnecessary or unwanted relationships that can make demands on our time and energy and often insert negativity or sap our physical or financial resources. Clearing out the toxic or unhealthy relationships we may have can bring personal renewal and further our sense of happiness and contentment.

Embrace Family

Take the time to appreciate family. For most of us there are few individuals who have done more for us than our family members. This includes the people in our family who support us, are there when we need them and provide a “safe harbor” throughout our lives.

Losing loving family members can be devastating but no more so than when we fail to appreciate them as they are helping us along life’s bumpy road. Take the time to give back and express your gratitude to those who care and nurture. Not only will this bring them pleasure and a sense of being appreciated, but it will become a reminder of how loved and cared for we are. That allows us to feel more content and happy with being who we are.

For more information about this topic, you can access a free excerpt from the bestselling book Changing Behavior: Immediately Transform Your Relationships with Easy to Learn Proven Communication Skills by visiting www.ChangingBehavior.org

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Do Spiritual Communities Foster Improved Wellness For Baby Boomers?

Do Spiritual Communities Foster Improved Wellness For Baby Boomers?

Stuff happens — especially as we age. Our lives and health generally change. The usual causes include children leaving the nest, divorce, the loss of a spouse or partner, changing financial circumstances or any one of a dozen other events. Often the outcome of these changes can lead to sadness, loneliness, depression and decreased immune function, with the resultant lowered health indicators. Our immune system is an essential key to our longevity and as we age it becomes more important to preserve its function and integrity, especially for those of us over 55 years old. One common question I have encountered is whether spiritual communities foster improved wellness for the baby boomer generation.

Exploring The Existing Research

An interesting study at Duke University Medical Center found that older people who attended religious services at least once a week were about half as likely as those who do not attend services weekly to have elevated levels of an immune protein, interleukin-6 (IL-6), which serves as an indicator of how well the immune system is functioning.

IL-6 indicates the presence of inflammation in the body. Inflammation has been implicated in most major chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. This decreased level of IL-6 translates into a healthier immune system enjoyed by those with regular attendance at their religious community.

The Duke researchers, Dr. Harold Koenig and Dr. Harvey Cohen, studied 1,718 older adults in North Carolina, factoring into the outcomes the health conditions experienced by the study subjects. These included depression, chronic illness, and negative life events — all of which the researchers identified as likely to affect immune status. Even with these conditions, the improvement to the immune system in those who attended weekly services was evidenced.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging and first reported in the October 1997 issue of the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, updated in 2004. These findings identified and suggest that religion or participation in a spiritual life community may affect immune function through better coping skills, psychosocial factors and the mechanisms by which organized religion promotes positive thoughts and behaviors.

However, there may be other factors at play as well. Feelings of belonging to a community, shared values, as well as the togetherness of a shared meaningful activity, such as worshiping with others, may be at the cause and effect of these findings.

Dr. Koenig, the lead author of the study, states:

 “Perhaps religious participation enhances immune functioning by yet unknown mechanisms, such as through feelings of belonging, togetherness, even perhaps the experience of worship and adoration… Such positive feelings may counteract stress and convey health effects that go far beyond simply the prevention of depression or other negative emotions.”

This study also raises the theory that there may be a factor in participating in such a weekly ritual that derails the experience of loneliness, experienced by older Americans to a larger extend than younger populations, and that this factor may be part of the healing effect of the weekly spiritual community attendance.

Establishing Validity In Subjective Study

While Koenig had found similar outcomes in a different study a year before this study, those outcomes were based on personal interviews as markers for wellbeing and health status. In the latest study, blood samples were measured for the body’s chemicals such as alpha, beta and gamma globulins, fibrin d-dimers, lymphocytes, and neutrophils, which regulate immune and inflammatory responses, providing a more accurate and scientific measurement to the findings and in calculating how healthy a person actually is.

“There is so much subjectivity when people say they feel better that you can’t rely on self reports alone to truly reflect health status,” said Dr. Harvey Cohen, professor of medicine and director of the Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development at Duke. “By measuring blood levels of IL- 6, we were trying to put rigorous scientific parameters on the positive health effects of religion,” he said.

Dr. Cohen explains that the team selected IL-6 as it has been identified as contributing to a wide spectrum of various age-related diseases. Cohen’s own research identified a relationship between high levels of IL-6 and a “poor functioning ability, which is a term that is used for tasks of daily living such as dressing, cooking, bathing and so forth.

Physical And Physchological Benefits

Other studies have also shown IL-6 levels are elevated with diseases such as cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure in older adults. It seems that as we age our bodies decrease the ability to overcome the many challenges to our immune system and this leads to a decrease in its function and a greater vulnerability to all forms of illness.

The Women’s Health Initiative follow-up survey based on 92,529 post-menopausal women, at 50 years or older, identified that attending religious services increased life expectancy. This survey was taken with a diverse group of women who varied ethnically, religiously and socioeconomically. The study was funded by the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute; National Institutes of Health; and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The report was published in the Journal of Religion and Health in November 2011. The report states that “those who attend services frequently were 56 percent more likely to have an optimistic life outlook than those who don’t — and were 27 percent less likely to be depressed. Those who attended weekly were less likely to be characterized by cynical hostility, compared with those who did not report any religious service attendance.”

Another study, published in the Winter 2001 Annals of Behavioral Medicine reported that “weekly religious attendants in 1965 were more likely to both improve poor health behaviors and maintain good ones by 1994 than were those whose attendance was less or none. Weekly attendance was also associated with improving and maintaining good mental health, increased social relationships, and marital stability.” So in that sense, yes, baby boomers who belong to a spiritual community may foster improved wellness.

While further studies to explore and more fully understand this data is warranted, for us longevity-focused boomers, a return to a spiritual or worship community could represent an opportunity for renewed connection with others in a shared environment, as well as potential discernment and insight into the importance of belonging.

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For a free chapter download on how to immediately improve your relationship communication skills, visit www.changingbehavior.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Relationship With Yourself Is The Foundation Of Everything

Your Relationship With Yourself Is The Foundation Of Everything

Susannah Conway, author of This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart, said it best when she wrote, “Your relationship with yourself is the foundation of everything.” But what does a healthy relationship with ourselves look like? And how can we develop a good relationship with ourselves if we are unsure of what that is or what that looks like?

A good relationship with ourselves would look the same way a good relationship with anyone looks. It entails respect, kindness, awareness, fulfillment, having needs met, friendship and creating stress-free memories.Here are some ways that we can cultivate a good relationship with ourselves that will influence the relationships we have with others.

Start With Self-Care
We need to look after our physical, emotional, nutritional, environmental and spiritual needs to nourish ourselves on many level. Focusing on caring for ourselves in this most basic way establishes self-respect and healthy habits. It also sends a message of self-love to ourselves, which is the most important component of caring for oneself.

Make Time For What Is Important To You
If you feel good taking time for your first cup of coffee or browsing the bookstore to find a perfect book that uplifts or entertains you, be sure to take the time on a regular basis to give this gift to yourself and brighten your day. Whatever your favorite soothing activity is, be sure to carve out space in your schedule to allow such experiences.

Identify And Set Boundaries
The boundaries we establish for ourselves will have a great impact on the boundaries we set in our relationships. By not allowing ourselves to work too hard, play too little and spend too much, we will be looking out for ourselves as well as identifying appropriate ways to interact with others. Moderation in how we live and avoiding extremes is an ideal way to be centered and stay in that healthy zone.

Be Your Best Friend
Because a relationship with ourselves is the only relationship we can depend on having every single day of our lives, it is most important that we are our own best friends. By developing a positive, nurturing and loving relationship with the most important aspect of our lives (that is, ourselves), we build a strong foundation for all other relationships that follow.

It is often said that we continually repeat the relationship we develop with ourselves with all the other relationships we have in our lives, so it is essential that it is a caring, respectful and nourishing one.

For more information about this topic, you can access a free excerpt from the bestselling book Changing Behavior: Immediately Transform Your Relationships with Easy to Learn Proven Communication Skills by visiting www.changingbehavior.org.

 

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Social Behavior And An Unhealthy Work Environment

social media at work

When most of us think of an unhealthy work environment we think "sick building syndrome," difficult co-workers or the classic "boss from hell."

After attending a conference that was populated by a number of staffing agency directors, I received insight into the latest unhealthy work issue that is gaining the attention of a lot of organizations. OFBTM – Obsessive Facebook and Text Messaging while on the clock. It is becoming such a concern to some employees that more and more companies are having their computer networks re-tooled to block Facebook from being accessible from the office computers.

Unbecoming Habits

How much of a problem is it that a significant number of those raised on electronic communication and networking cannot stop checking their Facebook and Text Messaging while they are being paid to do the job tasks required of them? That employers are noticing and concerned about this trend affecting their productivity and even their bottom line, says something important about immediate communication impulse and what is being called "the narcissistic tendency" we are developing as a culture.

The focus and integrity to attend to the job we are expected to perform as well as the ability or willingness not to pay attention to ourselves when we are getting paid to be working, seems to be lacking today more than ever before. Cell phones, e-mails, text messages, social networking, Facebook and other electronic forms of communication have begun to hold our attention prisoner, even when we are on the job. Not only is this unfair to the individual or organization paying our salary, but it also sends up a red flag about how we are growing more and more self-absorbed as a culture.

Social Media And Health 

Can someone be healthy when they are overly concerned about the moment to moment activities of their lives? There are (most commonly in humor columns) reported Facebook posts by individuals who literally record every minor thought and event of their day, posting them publically for all their friends and fans to read. Is it true that we are becoming a narcissistic society unable to pull ourselves away from the details of our lives? Is the problem so invasive that we no longer put in "an honest day's work"?

Health is made up of many things. Being productive, making a contribution, working hard and enjoying what you do are all pieces of a healthy lifestyle. If social networking and electronic communication is pulling you further away from a balanced and healthy work life, it may be time to unplug and unlink.

Present, Productive, and Fulfilled

Finding fulfillment and feeling commitment about what we do in our work, as well as how we do the work, is an important part of being a productive, contributory, healthy, happy individual. 

Excessive electronic communication can not only be self-centering but can also distract us from other essential aspects that are part of a balances life. It’s something to consider.

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How Love Affects Your Brain

 

HOW LOVE AFFECTS YOUR BRAIN

Love affects us in many ways. Much of this is felt more than it is seen, but did you know that love affects your brain in ways that can be observed? I recently read a fascinating article that discussed a study from Stony Brook University in New York. The study examined whether couples can still be very much in love after spending many married years together and whether they experience the same intense romantic feelings as newly formed couples. Continue reading to find out what research has discovered about how love affects your brain over a long period of time.

MRIs Show Brain Regions Stimulated By Love

The scientists took MRIs of long-term married couples who said they still felt very much in love with their spouses after an average of more than 21 years together. These images were compared to images from couples who had recently fallen in love. In this way, scientists were able to compare specific parts of the brain that function and respond to love.

The images were created while the subjects were shown photos of their beloved as well as photos of close friends and strangers. The brain activity was measured while the subject viewed the images. Then, using the same scanning methodology, the researchers compared the imaging results on men and women who reported falling in love in the past year.

Clear Similarities

The scans showed “many very clear similarities between those who were in love long-term and those who had just fallen madly in love,” says Arthur Aron, Ph.D., of Stony Brook’s department of psychology. The scientists were particularly interested in the dopamine region of the brain—the ventral tegmental area (VTA). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. “The VTA showed greater response to images of a long-term partner when compared with images of a close friend or any of the other facial images,” Aron says.

Applying This Knowledge To Improve Relationships

The researchers are hoping that the study might be able to provide or demonstrate the details of how some couples can stay in love over long periods of time. This study seems to show both groups have brain activity in the regions that are wired for reward, motivation and desire.

To apply this research, Aron is looking into the possibility of using the study outcomes to assist soldiers who have returned from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to save their marriages. There is an unusually high level of divorce among deployed U.S. military. Perhaps this new information can help to improve the strength of their relationships during the stressful time of separation during deployment.

For a free chapter download on how to immediately improve your relationship communication skills, visit www.changingbehavior.org.

FREE Whole Health Consultations available.
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Postpartum Adjustments Aren’t Limited To Mom

Postpartum Affects Men too, relationships

As a mother of three children, I remember thinking after the births of my children: “Why doesn’t anyone tell the truth about the stress of having a baby or caring for multiple children?” Fortunately, there were plenty of other new moms I could commiserate with about the reality, opposed to the romanticized version, of childbirth and parenting. Still, it’s worth noting that the postpartum adjustment I was struggling with doesn’t only affect women.

The Science Of The Adjustment

It took time and many personal adjustments to fit myself into the role of mom. Along the way were experiences of anxiety. I also read many parenting books, having a sense that I was “learning on the job” with no prior training or knowledge of how to do this.

The fact that moms can feel that way comes as no surprise to those of us who have children. What does surprise people is that many dads also can experience high anxiety, stress, and postnatal depression after the birth of their children.

A British population study obtained psychological questionnaires from 8,431 fathers and 11,833 mothers. Interesting data emerged, relating to postnatal depression in fathers. The study gathered data at three different intervals after the birth of the child: 8 weeks, 21 months and 3.5 years.

The outcomes demonstrated that children born to fathers who experience postnatal depression are twice as likely at the age of 3 to have behavioral problems as children born to fathers who do not experience postnatal depression. This was found to be consistent even after maternal depression was factored out.

New Relationship Focus

What parents are often not prepared for after the joyful birth of their children is the accompanying loss of their personal identity as both an autonomous individual and a romantic partner. After the birth of a baby, the child rightfully becomes the center of concern and attention. The personal and social time and activities that had been couple-centered now become baby-centered.

Spouses can feel abandoned, lonely, or isolated from their partners after the birth of even the most long-awaited and beloved child. Parenthood brings with it enormous joy and equally enormous stresses.

It is best to discuss such feelings and express the negative as well as the positive emotions of parenthood. This is healthier than feeling guilty and turning frustrations into potential depression. As always, the three important rules to sustaining a happy relationship and family are: communicate, communicate and communicate.

For a free download on relationship communication skills that can keep you well connected with your partner, visit http://www.changingbehavior.org/.

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Want To Make Your Partner Happy?

When couples are asked what it is in their relationship that makes them feel fulfilled, they inevitably answer that they feel “understood and cared about.” In contrast, bad feelings and unhappiness stem from the realization that the person we are most intimate with and care most deeply about doesn’t understand who we are and what we are feeling.

The Great Unknown

In order to feel loved, we must first experience that others understand and regard us as good and valuable human beings. If your significant other doesn’t get who you are and how you feel, you’re left with a sense of being misjudged. It can also lead to loneliness because only someone who truly knows us, rather than just thinks they know us, can love us for who we actually are.

When you are in a relationship, you do not want to continually explain yourself to another person or to justify your values, beliefs, or choices you make in your life. If, after a time, a partner cannot be really present, listening to what you have to share and sharing their own thoughts and feelings, the relationship begins to deteriorate. This is why one of the important focal points in good couples counseling is learning what is called “active listening.”

Active Listening

The main purpose of active listening is to let your partner know that you are truly listening and hearing what they say. It is demonstrating that that you are really “present," meaning your significant other has your full attention.

When you give someone your full attention, you can better understand how they feel, and you can grasp their point of view and opinions involved in the important discussions that make up all relationships.

Time To Reflect

A key component of active listening is reflection. You have to consider what your partner is trying to communicate so that you can be sure that you understand your partner’s message. Then you don’t misinterpret what your partner is saying.

When you do this, you should ask questions to clarify, such as, “Are you saying that you were upset that I did not go to your aunt’s house for dinner on Sunday, even though you said it didn’t matter if I went or not?”

Communication Is Key

Partners must work together to achieve clarification of communication, participation in active communication and active listening to allow a relationship to take on a greater depth, intimacy and fulfillment. Effective communication is always the key to any good relationship. 

For a free chapter download about changing behavior, visit changingbehavior.org.

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