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What makes people happy?

Recent research has focused on how a person can work toward a happier life.

Happy family playing at sunsetMartin Seligman and his associates at the University of Pennsylvania base Positive Psychology on years of research into what makes people happy. They have concluded that happiness is an internal experience based on staying true to one’s genuine or authentic self. When people are able to function well in the world using their strongest abilities (they call these abilities our “signature strengths”), they have a chance to achieve authentic happiness. They have identified twenty-four signature strengths found in cultures across the world. The first step is to identify your own personal strengths. From there, you can explore ways to incorporate these strengths into your life so that your best abilities can be expressed in whatever you do in your daily life. When you can stay true to the best in yourself, you can achieve an authentically happy life.

The following are the twenty-four signature strengths identified in the Positive Psychology approach. Identify the two or three that fit you best. To work toward authentic happiness, try to see how you can incorporate these strengths into your daily life experiences.

1. Curiosity / Interest in the World. Curiosity suggests being open to experience and flexibility in dealing with ideas that do not fit your preconceived notions about the world. Curious people not only tolerate ambiguity well, but they seek it out and are attracted by it. Curiosity implies an active involvement in learning about new information, not just a passive interest in new things, and it is the opposite of being bored.

2. Love of Learning. This strength refers to the strong enjoyment of learning new things, and it implies that you seek out learning wherever you can find it – through reading, taking classes, going to museums. You love learning even when there are no external incentives for you to do so.

3. Judgment / Critical Thinking / Open-Mindedness. This trait refers to thinking things through based on solid evidence. You examine all sides of an issue before coming to a conclusion, and you are able to change your mind in the face of new information. The opposite of this strength is seeking out information only if it conforms to what you already believe.

4. Ingenuity / Originality / Practical Intelligence / Street Smarts. This attribute refers to an ability to find novel ways of achieving your goals, as long as they are appropriate. It means finding new and creative ways to get what you want, and not going through conventional routes to get there.

5. Social, Personal and Emotional Intelligence. People with social intelligence are those who are able to read the moods, needs and motives of other people and can respond appropriately to others. It does not refer just to being introspective – it also implies being able to engage in socially skilled behavior. Personal intelligence means being tuned into your own feelings. You are able to put yourself into situations that bring out your best abilities, such as a job where you do what you do best.

6. Perspective. This strength is similar to wisdom. It implies that others draw on your experience to help them solve problems and gain perspective for themselves. It means having a way of defining the world that makes sense to you and other people.

7. Valor and Bravery. This trait pertains to having the courage to face difficult situations or stand for your beliefs in the face of opposition or challenge. This is not mere boldness or rashness. It refers to the ability to face danger, despite fear, without the loss of dignity.

8. Perseverance / Industry / Diligence. Perseverance means being able to finish what you start with a positive attitude. You do what you say you’ll do. It does not refer to obsessively pursuing unattainable goals or perfectionism. Rather, it implies flexibility and a realistic approach to finishing projects.

9. Integrity / Genuineness / Honesty. You live your life with genuineness and authenticity. You are down to earth and let others see your true self. This is more than just telling the truth. It means showing the world who you really are without pretense.

10. Kindness and Generosity. This strength involves doing good deeds for others, taking their interests as seriously as your own and acknowledging the worth of other people. Empathy and sympathy are related to this trait.

11. Loving and Allowing Yourself to Be Loved. This trait implies an ability to form close and intimate relations with other people, and to choose people who feel the same way toward you. While some people can show love to others, this trait also implies the ability to let others love you in return.

12. Citizenship / Duty / Teamwork / Loyalty. You are a loyal, dedicated member of groups and can always be counted on to do your share. You are able to put the interests of the group above your own, respecting the authority of the group.

13. Fairness and Equity. This trait involves an ability to treat people equally and fairly regardless of your own personal biases. It implies that you are able to give everyone a fair chance and that you are guided by principles of morality.

14. Leadership. A good leader is effective at organizing the activities of people, getting the group’s work done while maintaining good relations between group members. This person maintains a humane approach when dealing with group members, as well as in coordinating activities between groups.

15. Self-Control. This characteristic involves the ability to hold your impulses and needs in check when appropriate. It implies expertise in regulating your
emotions when things go bad, as well as maintaining a positive attitude when faced with difficult situations.

16. Prudence / Discretion / Caution. This strength implies an ability to be careful. You avoid saying things you might later regret. You are more aware of long-term goals and their consequences rather than going for short-term gain.

17. Humility and Modesty. Humble people do not seek the spotlight, and they let their accomplishments speak for themselves. You do not define yourself as special, realizing that your life victories and defeats are unimportant in the grand scheme of things. You are unpretentious and others recognize, and admire, you for this quality.

18. Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence. You are elevated by beauty, excellence, and skill in all domains. You are able to appreciate the awe and wonder of life all around you – in nature, art, science, and little, everyday things.

19. Gratitude. You are aware of what is good in the world and you don’t take these things for granted. You appreciate the good in people and their accomplishments, as well as in nature. You take the time to count your blessings, and you show this in your actions.

20. Hope / Optimism / Future-Mindedness. You have a goal-directed life based on your expectation that you will achieve the best for yourself in the future. Your optimism helps guide you in planning and working hard to achieve your goals.

21. Spirituality / Sense of Purpose / Faith / Religiosity. You have strong beliefs in your attachment to something larger than you are. You search for your place in the universe, and these beliefs both mold your actions and serve as a source of comfort for you. You feel that your life has purpose and meaning.

22. Forgiveness and Mercy. This strength refers to your ability to forgive those who have done you wrong. You are guided by mercy rather than revenge, and you always give people a second chance. Your way of dealing with others is to be kind and generous rather than avoidant or retaliatory.

23. Playfulness and Humor. You enjoy laughing and bringing lightness and fun to other people. You are able to mix work and play, and you, and others, appreciate your ability to lift others out of seriousness and into humor.

24. Zest / Passion / Enthusiasm. You are true to your spirit. You approach life with passion and energy and you can enthusiastically throw yourself into activities. You feel inspired by the mere act of living life to the fullest.

Are you the happiest version of yourself?

If not, we can help.  Schedule a free consultation to discuss how our team of experienced therapists can make a difference for you.

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Can Money Buy Happiness?

The simple answer to this question is that no, money can’t buy happiness – in most cases.

Money falling from the skyResearchers have compared people in countries throughout the world. In the poorest nations, people with more money do report greater happiness in their lives, an easily understood concept.

That is, those who live in severe poverty are not as happy as those who have enough money to meet their basic needs.

However, once the average income exceeds $8,000 per person in a country (and industrial countries in the western hemisphere all exceed this figure), it was found that more money does not lead to greater life satisfaction. Even those who are fabulously rich in the United States were found to be only slightly happier than the average citizen.

People with the highest incomes often have to work long hours, and many of them quit these jobs in order to find work that brings them greater life satisfaction.

We adapt to higher incomes, and then they lose their allure. Just after a promotion and higher salary, a person does report greater life satisfaction and happiness. However, in less than three months the higher level of income loses its impact on happiness levels. We learn to take the higher income for granted. As we accumulate more material possessions, our expectations rise. The things we worked so hard for no longer make us happy. We then work even harder to get to the next level. And then the same thing happens – we adapt to the higher level, and then within three months our happiness levels drop again. We end up on a treadmill, working harder and searching for more, then adapting to the higher levels. Happiness is elusive if we look for it through monetary gain and material possessions. We are no happier driving the luxury car, after the first few months, than we were when we drove our old workhorse. Money is like a drug addiction. We need more and more – and then we adapt to the higher levels. It becomes a never-ending cycle.

Finding happiness does not lie in making more money. It is found within.

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What are the treatment options for ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Most people with an attention deficit don’t suspect that this is their problem, or that it even has a name.

They have been exposed to a great deal of pain in their lives, and they finally see a professional therapist for a number of related problems, such as work difficulties, relationship difficulties, depression, or substance abuse. Treatment for ADHD usually consists of the following:

  • First, find a trained professional who seems knowledgeable; you should feel comfortable with this person.
  • You will first review your history with your therapist. This includes your family history, your physical (medical) history, your development, your history in school, at home and in jobs, and your history in relationships.
  • Your therapist will rule out other possible causes for your difficulties (such as anxiety, depression or substance abuse).
  • You will likely be given a psychological assessment, although not necessarily in all cases. Sometimes a lengthy interview will suffice.
  • Once the diagnosis is made, your first goal will be to educate yourself about ADHD. You will read books, articles or resources you find on the Internet.
  • With the help of your therapist, you will work on restructuring your life, both internally and externally. Internally, you start to think about yourself differently and you examine your self-image issues. Externally, you work on ways to improve how you organize and insert control into your life.
  • You will start a course of psychotherapy in order to gain an understanding of what made you who you are today and what you can do to take a different orientation toward your life. This may also involve joining a therapy or support group with other people who share similar problems.
  • You may or may not be referred to a physician regarding using medication. Many people with attention deficits benefit from safe doses of stimulant medication, while others benefit from anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication.

Do you think you have ADHD? Please contact our office for a free consultation.

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Tips for Healthy Sleeping

Tips for Healthy Sleeping

The National Sleep Foundation tells us that nearly half of us don’t get enough sleep.

In modern-day society, because of night work, television, computers, and the profound stress we experience in everyday life, our sleep is often disrupted. Sleep is a basic biological need, like hunger and thirst. When we don’t get enough of it, our bodies let us know that there are consequences.

Maintain regular times for getting to sleep and waking up, including on the weekends. Our sleep-wake cycle is regulated by an internal clock that balances both sleep time and wake time. Getting up at the same time every morning helps with getting to sleep the next night. If you have difficulty sleeping at night, try to avoid daytime naps.

Create a sleep environment that is dark, cool, quiet, comfortable, and free of interruptions. It may help to use eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, humidifiers, or fans. The brain responds to light to detect whether it’s night or day, so use curtains or shading to keep light at minimal levels. Studies have shown that sleep inducement is increased when body temperatures are lower (and this means a fan or air conditioner and light covers, not heavy blankets – depending on the season, of course).

Slow down the metabolic rate about half an hour before getting to sleep. Establish a regular, relaxing routine before going to bed. This might involve soaking in a hot bath, then reading or listening to soothing music before trying to sleep. Avoid stimulating activities before bedtime, like computers, video games, office work, housework, or family problem-solving.

Avoid using the bed for activities other than sleep. The bed is not the place to read, watch TV, work on a laptop, or do office work. We need to make an association in our brain between bed and sleep. Sexual activity is an exception, which is believed to make it easier to fall asleep and improve the quality of sleep.

Exercise regularly. Finish your exercise at least three hours before bedtime. Higher body temperatures accompany exercise and we sleep best when our body temperature is lower.

Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol close to bedtime. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that can interfere with the process of falling asleep. Although many people think of alcohol as a sedative, it actually disrupts sleep and causes nighttime awakening. Consuming alcohol causes a night of restless sleep.

Finish eating at least two to three hours before your regular bedtime. Also, try to restrict fluid intake close to bedtime to prevent waking up during the night to go to the bathroom. (Some people, on the other hand, find that warm milk or herbal teas are soothing and a helpful part of the nighttime routine.)

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When You Undergo a Life Transition

When You Undergo a Life Transition

Life transitions, difficult as they can be, afford us the opportunity to find our true inner direction and engage in the process of self-renewal.

Here are some guidelines to make the journey rewarding:

  1. Give Yourself Enough Time. When our lives are disrupted, it takes time to reorient our inner feelings to the new reality. Although we may feel uncomfortable during a transition, especially in giving up our old activities, to create new activities prematurely without giving ourselves the time to reflect and reorient may only serve to perpetuate the old ways – and a wonderful life opportunity may be missed.
  2. Arrange Temporary Ways of Living. Although transitions can be very disruptive, hold on to those parts of your life which provide comfort and security. When we feel safe we are able to accomplish the task of the transition more productively. If your transition involves a job loss, find temporary work until you discover what you want to do over the long run. If you have lost a relationship, there is no need to isolate yourself from all of your friends. Hold on to those who can comfort you.
  3. Tolerate the Discomfort. Transitions can introduce confusion and disorientation into our lives. Expect to experience times of anxiety and insecurity. These are natural feelings and an important part of the process, but they are only temporary. Trust in your own ability to see your way through the transition. Above all, realize that using alcohol and drugs will only serve to subvert the process. Face your challenge with integrity.
  4. Take Care of Yourself During the Transition. A time of transition can introduce stress into your life and you may feel depressed so that you may not want to engage in normal, healthy activities. Do something for yourself everyday which you find comforting and pleasurable. Get a normal amount of sleep and make sure your diet is healthy. If you can, try to get some exercise everyday, even if it is only a twenty-minute walk.
  5. Find the Support You Need. A time of transition is a very good time to seek the support of a trained professional therapist who can guide you through the process in a safe and encouraging setting. Finding the support of friends is also important – but avoid those who are only there to give advice. While advice may be helpful at times, your greater need at this time is to explore your own feelings and to find the truth which emerges from your own inner resources. Therapy provides a safe and productive way to travel this leg of your life journey.

Are you struggling with a life transition? We can help! Click here to schedule a free consultation.

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What Are the Treatment Options for ADHD?

What Are the Treatment Options for ADHD?

Most people with an attention deficit don’t suspect that this is their problem, or that it even has a name.

They have been exposed to a great deal of pain in their lives, and they finally see a professional therapist for a number of related problems, such as work difficulties, relationship difficulties, depression, or substance abuse.

Treatment for ADHD usually consists of the following:

  • First, find a trained professional who seems knowledgeable; you should feel comfortable with this person.
  • You will first review your history with your therapist. This includes your family history, your physical (medical) history, your development, your history in school, at home and in jobs, and your history in relationships.
  • Your therapist will rule out other possible causes for your difficulties (such as anxiety, depression or substance abuse).
  • You will likely be given a psychological assessment, although not necessarily in all cases. Sometimes a lengthy interview will suffice.
  • Once the diagnosis is made, your first goal will be to educate yourself about ADHD.  You will read books, articles or resources you find on the Internet.
  • With the help of your therapist, you will work on restructuring your life, both internally and externally. Internally, you start to think about yourself differently and you examine your self-image issues. Externally, you work on ways to improve how you organize and insert control into your life.
  • You will start a course of psychotherapy in order to gain an understanding of what made you who you are today and what you can do to take a different orientation toward your life. This may also involve joining a therapy or support group with other people who share similar problems.
  • You may or may not be referred to a physician regarding using medication. Many people with attention deficits benefit from safe doses of stimulant medication, while others benefit from anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication.

Are you struggling with ADHD? We can help!  Click here to schedule a free consultation.

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After Divorce: How Long Do I Wait Until I Get Into Another Relationship?

Broken heartAfter Divorce - When Can You DateExpect that it will take at least a year before things begin to feel at all normal again.

For most of us, depending on the length and the nature of our previous relationship, it will take two or three years. This may seem like an eternity, but in reality this is a wonderful opportunity to find out who you are at this stage of your life as an unattached individual.

A word of warning is in order: don’t expect to re-involve yourself with someone else immediately! You are on the rebound. To attach yourself prematurely in a love relationship is unfair to you and to the other person. You are necessarily dealing with tremendously important personal issues when your previous love relationship comes to an end. Living through the transition and exploring these issues can be very painful, and falling in love again may seem like the perfect way to end the pain. But the other person in this case becomes a replacement, an object, and that is not what a healthy relationship is about. You will carry into this replacement relationship the same issues which helped to lead to the demise of your former relationship … and the same things may very well happen again.

Your real goal is to discover who you are and to explore what happened.

When you are at the point of being able to have a happy and fulfilled life as a single person, then you can choose when, or even if, you should re-involve yourself again in another love relationship. When you know that you have that choice, you may be ready.

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Develop Your Conversational Skills

Develop Your Conversational Skills

Anyone can master the art of having good conversations with others.

Those who are shy or socially anxious may see this as an unattainable goal, but with enough practice, and using the right techniques, it can enhance the quality of social life.

The first skill to acquire is making eye contact.

Shy people may avoid eye contact at all costs, but this perpetuates self-focus and anxiety. When you are listening to someone else, maintain steady eye contact with that person. If you are doing the talking, vary your eye contact – that is, have eye contact about half the time, and then look away for a few seconds. (Note, however, that different cultures have different rules for eye contact.) Also understand the value of smiling, which is a non-verbal cue that you are approachable and interested in talking to the other person.

Learn the value of good listening.

The other half of conversation, and it is perhaps as important as talking, is playing the role of listener. Allow other people to complete their thoughts. Encourage the other person to talk by maintaining good eye contact, using gestures such nodding your head in agreement, and making supportive comments or asking brief questions.

People who are shy frequently say that they cannot go up to another person to start a conversation. This represents avoidance. Start out by initiating as many brief interactions throughout the day as possible. Smile and say hello when you pass someone. Tell the postal worker or grocery checkout person to have a good day. Make a comment in the elevator, such as, “Isn’t this perhaps the slowest elevator in the world?” Before long, making the initial contact will seem easy.

Finally, learn the value of small talk.

Many shy people say that they don’t want to waste their time on trivial talk – or they also say they don’t know what to talk to other people about. It is important to understand, however, that people need the small talk before moving onto heavier topics. Small talk can comprise anything from commenting on the weather to griping about the price of milk. In order to avoid conflict, however, it is best to dodge talking about religion or politics – at least initially.

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Do You Listen To Your Children?

Do You Listen To Your Children?

Children need to be heard.

Learn to listen to your children when they speak.

Listening to children gives them the feeling that they count, that they matter. They can draw on the strength and experience of an adult whom they trust – and they trust those who give them stable and consistent attention. It is during childhood that they develop a level of self-esteem that may follow them throughout their lives, and the child who has been listened to is much more likely to develop a positive self-image than one who has not been heard.

One of the best gifts an adult can provide a child is showing the child how to use active listening skills. Adults can model good listening techniques for children and advise them on ways to listen better by picking out the highlights of a conversation and asking relevant questions.

Use the following listening techniques in dealing with the special needs of children:

Pay special attention as they talk. Maintain good eye contact and forget about the telephone and television. Children can tell by the adult’s reply whether or not they have the adult’s attention.

Know when to, and when not to, use active listening. Use active listening when you are free enough of your own problems to show the empathy and acceptance a child needs. Use it when you are in the mood and have the time. Listening should not be a way to change the child’s behavior. Pay attention to the child’s mood too, and make sure the time is right for the child to talk. Sometimes a child just wants to play or to be left alone.

Listen with patience. A child has a more limited vocabulary and often takes longer to express ideas. Listen as if you had plenty of time. We may feel that we know better and cut the child off – but it is far more beneficial to let the child express a thought freely at his or her own pace.

Children sometimes need encouragement to talk. Children haven’t had much experience in the art of conversation, so we sometimes have to ask questions. When a child feels an adult is attentive, the child will be more willing to open up.

Listen to the child’s nonverbal messages. Children communicate not only through words, but also through their body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, energy levels, or changes in behavior. Pay attention to these cues and respond in the way that is best for the child.

Do you need help building a more positive or healthy relationship with your child?

Our team of professional therapists can help!  Family counseling can help you reconnect with your children and learn new ways to communicate and interact.  Contact us today for a free consultation.

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Dealing with Controlling People

Dealing with Controlling People

“If I Win, You Lose,” is Not the Only Option Available to Us

Are you in a controlling relationship?Control, like most facets of human behavior, is probably best experienced in moderation. At one end of the spectrum, control is a positive, adaptive tool. For example, control over prolonged and constant chaos in our lives is usually a good thing. At the other end, control can be seen as negative. People who are over-controlled to the point of being unable to feel or express emotion can find life’s expected turmoils to be difficult or even impossible to handle.

While some control is appropriate, especially when the control is used as a way of adapting to some aspect of our own lives, it can spread out to other people when it’s taken to the extreme … and sometimes we don’t realize that we end up controlling other people. We sometimes walk a thin line in this regard.

Controlling others has the potential to be a highly negative experience, not only for the one controlled, but also for the controller.

On the surface, we might think of a controlling person as one who is strong, independent, and even a natural born leader. But this is seldom the case. Ask yourself, why would a person need to dominate the actions and feelings of another person? It could be because the controlling person may privately experience a great deal of self-doubt, negativity, and lack of fulfillment. Controllers may be people who lack the tools to achieve personal integrity through their own resources … but they get a feeling of fulfillment when they can control the behavior of another person. With this thought in mind, we can see the controlling person as one who may be the weak and dependent party in an interaction. And it may be the one who is controlled who actually has more strength – that is, it takes strength to give in to the needs of another person (the controller).

We can draw on the strength and energy of another person when we may feel unable to provide for our own needs. But while most people can give their energy to another person up to a certain personal limit, there comes a point where they feel drained and can simply give no more. This is the point where the person feels controlled – and it’s there that they balk at giving any more. Then the tug-of-war begins. The one controlled refuses to give any more to the controller, and the controller tries to an equal degree to regain the control that has been taken away.

At some point in the relationship we will see open conflict. There is a struggle for power. This struggle continues until it is difficult to see which party is the controller and which is the controlled. Each can complain, “I’m being dominated,” and they each have a point.

This pattern can be seen in marriages and other close relationships, as well as in some friendships.

It is seen on the job and other organizations, and even between nations. People take the position of “I win and you therefore lose,” (or, conversely, “I’ll let you win and I’ll be the one who loses”), and this sets up a pattern of conflict between people or groups of people.

The conflicts that develop over control issues may suggest the struggles the child experiences as she grows up. Part of our development involves the child striving to gain a sense of independence and integrity while the parent needs to control the behavior of the child. This may not be the ideal description of growing up in a healthy way, but the struggle, if not resolved, is sometimes carried on into adult life. Unresolved control issues may lead the child who grows into adulthood to model him- or herself after the controlling parent, or, conversely, to play out rebellious behaviors (often finding partners who they can rebel against). It is advisable for parents to imbue their children with a sense of love, integrity, and independence (along with structure and containment) as they grow up. Often, however, there is a child-rearing pattern in which the behavior of the child is kept totally under control. A dominated child is one who feels drained of a sense of personal integrity and their adult lives may be characterized by a feeling that life is a struggle either to control or be controlled.

Marriages with control issues are sometimes in conflict.

A viable marriage is usually one in which each partner can enjoy a sense of personal integrity. In the adaptive marriage there are usually some control behaviors between the partners, but clear boundaries have been established and there is a fairly equal balance between the two partners in the amount of controlling each tries to do. There is also usually good communication so that feelings that underlie the control issue can be talked about freely.

In conflicted marriages one or both partners may feel that the only way to achieve fulfillment in life is to get the other partner to provide one’s comfort, and that may mean controlling the other person’s behavior. In this situation there is an attempt to make the other partner completely responsible for one’s own fulfillment, and this is where the control cycle comes into play. People sometimes take the old saying, “Find your one true love and you’ll have happiness ever after,” a bit too seriously. Finding a good partner is part of it, but developing a sense of one’s own personal integrity is most of it.

It takes two to play the control game in a marriage. If one partner, either the controller or the controlled, decides not to play, it is difficult for the other to try to continue the old patterns. Of course, in child-rearing the child often does not have a choice and must continue to play the game, often to the long-term detriment of everyone.

Control is a relative term. The controller seldom defines him- or herself as the one with the control. This person usually has a self-image characterized by such notions as being needy, wanting closeness, and wanting interdependence. Indeed, the controller usually sees the partner as having all the power. The partner in turn feels that the neediness of the other is controlling every aspect of the relationship. So both partners usually end up accusing the other of having all the control.

Are you in a controlling relationship either as the controller of the one being controlled?

At Dr. Quintal and Associates, we work with individuals, couples and families to resolve unhealthy patterns in relationships. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.

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