Monthly Archives: November 2011

Building a Better Social Life

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Good read & Quite true.

Best Selling author and motivational speak, Dr. Wayne Dyer, reveals his “Eight Tips To Build A Better Social Life”. There’s some good and practical advice in here that we feel is worth taking a look at.

by Henrik Edberg


“Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.”

“Love is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any insistence that they satisfy you.”

One of my favorite personal development people is the psychologist Wayne Dyer.

He seems to be a very warm person but he also someone who takes a lot personal responsibility and is assertive.

This is reflected in his work. He’s kind but he’s not here just to make you feel good. Through a no-nonsense approach he makes you realize obvious – but sometimes uncomfortable – things about how pretty much all of this is up to you. And how many things are quite simple but you are standing in your own way and over complicating it all.

Dr. Dyer’s advice can be applied to just about any part of life. Today I’d like to take a few of his thoughts and see how they can help you improve your social life. If you would like to read more from Wayne Dyer then two really solid books to start with are Pulling Your Own Strings and Your Erroneous Zones.

1. Your relationships are in your mind.

“As you think so shall you be! Since you cannot physically experience another person, you can only experience them in your mind. Conclusion: All of the other people in your life are simply thoughts in your mind. Not physical beings to you, but thoughts. Your relationships are all in how you think about the other people of your life. Your experience of all those people is only in your mind. Your feelings about your lovers come from your thoughts. For example, they may in fact behave in ways that you find offensive. However, your relationship to them when they behave offensively is not determined by their behavior, it is determined only by how you choose to relate to that behavior. Their actions are theirs, you cannot own them, you cannot be them, you can only process them in your mind.”

“Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world.”

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

How you choose to interpret people and your relationships makes a huge difference. So much of our relationships may be perceived to happen out there somewhere.

But your underlying frame of mind – for instance an open one or a protective and closed up one – will determine much about your interactions with new people and people you know.

So you really have to go inside. You have to realize that your interpretations from the past are interpretations. Not reality. You have to take a look at your assumptions and expectations and thought habits. Find patterns that may be hurting you (and others). This isn’t easy. Or always pleasant. You may discover that you have had some negative underlying habits of thought for many years.

But to change you have to do it. Instead of just keep looking at yourself as some sort of unmoving and objective observer of the world and reality. A change in you could – over time – change your whole world.

2. Let go of the need for approval.

“People who want the most approval get the least and the people who need approval the least get the most.”

A lot of the actions you take – or do not take – may be because you need approval from other people. When we are young we get grades in school that tells us that we are “good”. This makes it very easy to create a life where you always go looking for the world to give you the next hit of approval. It may be from your family, boss, friends, co-workers and so on.

But this need creates neediness. And the stronger the need the stronger the neediness. And so other people will sense this. And approval may be withheld or used to manipulate you. Or they may just not like your neediness.

The people on the other hand that does not care that much about getting approval often do more of what they want deep inside. They may be considered courageous for instance. So the way they live their lives will gain appreciation and approval from the people around them. It’s a bit counterintuitive.

But it seems to me like this is how things work. If you really want approval in your life try letting go of that need – as best as you can of course, this is not easy – for a while. See what happens. You’ll probably be surprised by how much better you feel inside and the reactions you may get from the outside world.

3. Let go of judgement.

“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.”

“Real magic in relationships means an absence of judgment of others.”

“Judgement prevents us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances.”

Judging can have a sense of fun to it and make you feel better about yourself as you put someone else down. So why give it up? Here are three reasons:

* People don’t like judgemental people. People don’t like to be judged. So there will be a resistance towards someone who is judgemental.
* Waste of time. You can spend your time doing more fun, constructive and positive things.
* The more you judge people, the more judge yourself. What you see in other people is often what you see in yourself. So if you judge them all the time for their looks or intelligence then you probably judge yourself often about these things too. To let go of judging others can lead you to letting go of judging yourself too. As you lift the limitations you put on others, you lift the limitations you put on yourself.

4. Enjoy the moment.

“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.”

One technique that can help you improve your social skills is assuming rapport.

Basically, instead of going into a conversation or meeting nervously and thinking “how will this go?” you take different approach. You assume that you and the person(s) will establish a good connection (rapport).

How do you do that? You simply pretend that you are meeting one of your best friends. Then you start the interaction in that frame of mind instead of the nervous one.

But why does it work? Well, I’d say it works because it puts you in the same mental state as when you are with your friends. When you’re with your friends you are relaxed, positive, in the present moment and without many cares in the world. This is a great place to be socially. You are just enjoying yourself and your moments with your friends without much thought of the past or future. You are just there. The more you can bring yourself into this mental headspace the more fun you will have with people. And the more fun they will have with you.

So try out assuming rapport. And explore other ways to bring yourself back into the present moment through articles like this one or by checking out Eckhart Tolle’s books (two good are A New Earth and Stillness Speaks).

5. People like positive people.

“Unhappiness is within.”

“Simply put, you believe that things or people make you unhappy, but this is not accurate. You make yourself unhappy.”

Now we are back in the same territory as in the first tip in this article. How you feel is up to you. You control you.

This is important to understand to be able to create and keep a more stable positive attitude. If you let what other people do control – or at least control you too much – then you are on a mental rollercoaster where your thoughts and feelings go up and down all the time. You have to look within to find a great stability to how you think and feel.

I’d say that one of the most attractive qualities a person can have is a positive attitude and energy. It is attractive to people at your job/school, family, friends or just that cute girl/guy in the bar. I think that one of the big things people want in any relationships is positive emotions. People simply want to create a flow back and forth with people where all of you exchange positive emotions and feel good.

Building yourself a more positive attitude will of course not only make you more likeable. It can also improve every other part of your life. Check out Take The Positivity Challenge! for more tips on how to create a positive attitude.

6. You teach them.

“Maxim for life: You get treated in life the way you teach people to treat you.”

This is a very important point and something I think is perhaps often missed by people who want to improve their social lives and make it more positive. They may think “well, I have been so nice towards everyone for the last few months but it doesn’t seem to have changed their behaviour towards me much”.

This is the “nice guy/girl” problem. S/he is very nice but there is no assertiveness. There is no changed feeling within about how you feel you deserve to be treated. You may still be nice just to get approval from other people. You feel the craving need. And as point # 2 explains, you won’t get the approval.

We do to a large extent choose how we want to be treated. How you expect people to treat you can have a big effect on how you allow yourself to act and how people around you view and treat you. If you start creating a role for yourself where you always let people do what they want to you then you may create some pretty destructive and negative things.

* You may create an identity for yourself where you get used to always taking whatever anyone doles out. You create a kind of victim identity where you may look happy on the outside but don’t feel so good on the inside. But since you have gotten used to it after a while you may accept it and think that: this is just who I am.

* You may create a concept in the minds of the people around you that it’s OK to treat you this way. Either because you seem so positive despite what they are doing so they think it’s OK. Or just because you aren’t saying no and some people may take advantage of that.

Look, you can’t please everyone. I think both Eleanor Roosevelt and Buddha have mentioned something along the lines that whatever you do there will always be people who don’t like what you are doing. And that’s OK. That’s normal.

Going around trying to please everyone at your own expense isn’t healthy though. Or even a realistic thing to attempt. It eats away at you both mentally and physically.

So be nice. Be positive. But make sure you set your own standards, rules and limits too. And remember that you might as well do what you want because there will always be critics.

7. Take responsibility for your social life.

“Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.”

I really like this quote from Nathaniel Branden’s excellent The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem: “No one is coming”.

You can look for the next big thing that will fix you. Read more blog articles. Read more personal development books. Look for people to help. And yes, some articles or books or people will give you insights that resonate deeply with you. But in the end, if you are an adult then no one is coming. No one is coming to save you. You have to take responsibility for your own life and what happens in it. Other things and people can certainly aid you quite a bit. But you are responsible.

You can go around blaming society or some people for your problems in your social life (or finances or health). You can always find scapegoats to judge and thought that feel better about yourself. For a while. You can look for people that will “fix you”. You can do this for the rest of your life if you like. It won’t change much. Whatever has to be done, it’s you who have to take responsibility and do it.

Yeah, things might always not go your way and you will probably have bad luck from time to time. But you still have to focus on yourself and doing what you can do in whatever situation may arise in the outside world.

8. Like yourself.

“You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.”

Liking yourself is vital to live a happy life. If you like yourself people will of course like hanging out with your more too. A person who likes him/herself, who is positive but also assertive is a lot better than the opposite.

Obvious, yes but the hard thing is how to go about liking yourself more. This is a topic that has filled many books but here are few tips that have helped me.

* Follow the rest of tips above. For example, taking more personal responsibility, working on your attitude and being more assertive consistently will make you feel better about yourself. Â
* Do the right thing as much as you can. When you do the right thing you lift your own self-esteem. When you don’t do the right thing you tend to stay at the same self-esteem level that you are at the moment (or perhaps even lower it).
* Be appreciative of yourself, don’t just look at your flaws. By appreciating the positive and good things that you think and do you can replace the need for approval from outside sources. You are giving yourself approval instead. This is a lot better than the alternative, because this is an unlimited source that you are in control of.

Courtesy of
Positivity Blog

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What The Peace Corps Taught Me About Failure

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I could write my own long, version of this but I think it’s something that all PCVs experience while they’re in-country. It’s been a year since I returned but I will think about it for the rest of my life…

 

What The Peace Corps Taught Me About Failure

Posted: 11/17/11 09:10 AM ET
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 Volunteer life bursts with cultural faux pas, fruitless projects and second guesses. For two years, I felt like the joke was on me. Even on my best days in Senegal, the sudden scream of “toubab,” a taunting word for foreigners, reminded me that my cheerfulness was jinxed, my presence perhaps unwelcome.

In West Africa, I confronted the toubab version of myself, a self previously foreign to me that was lethargic, cynical and at home with failure.

For a long time I hesitated to admit that I felt incompetent as a Peace Corps volunteer. I felt that if I expressed my suspicion that I was inept, it would confirm criticisms that the program itself is irresponsible and presumptuous. I signed up largely because I saw myself as a go-getter and I wanted a challenge. I have a childlike loyalty to getting things right; I lack a cleverness for bullshitting. Yet these traits, from which I had previously derived strength, became the source of my immense heartbreak.

I did extra work in my demonstration garden only to find out later that agriculture agents resented me for it. I had lengthy, optimistic conversations with a village chief about starting a community garden only to discover that I misread his reaction and that he was, in fact, against the whole endeavor.

costa ricaWhen a project faltered, I wondered if I should blame the cultural difference or my language skills, my lack of expertise or my accidental impropriety. I never knew for sure.

And yet, seeing my confidence unravel was helpful. Maybe everyone needs a period in their lives when they barely recognize themselves.

The story that Peace Corps volunteers like to tell — and Americans like to hear — is one of urgent and awe-inspiring work. Americans like to feel that at least someone is out there fighting all those incomprehensible African problems.

This narrative is too simplistic.

As the Peace Corps celebrates its 50th anniversary, some still find it hard to put a finger on what exactly the program achieves. There are both quantifiable yields, like number of wells dug and trees planted, and unquantifiable gains, like the intimate bonds volunteers make with people all over the world.

One benefit of the program that is never trumpeted (and likely never will be) is that it produces a group of young Americans who understand failure.

Americans, especially the variety who join the Peace Corps, are raised to believe that hard work pays off. We come from a place where the phrase, “We’ll meet tomorrow at 5,” means, “We’ll meet tomorrow at 5” — where you put a stamp on an envelope and it gets delivered.


“Failure is not an option,” according to the locker room poster likely brought to us by the same people who birthed “Impossible is Nothing.” Americans are immature when it comes to honestly accepting failure and maybe that’s why so many of us lack the emotional depth to make sense of it.

We all have failures, yet we bury them in the folds of our pasts as curious gaps in our résumés and cryptic replies to direct questions. If we are unable to emerge triumphant, our failures eat away at us.

My Senegalese comrades are less brittle. They admit freely that their lives are full of fiascoes, delays and disappointments.

When I asked locals in Pulaar how work was going, I didn’t often hear: “Oh, just fine!” Instead, the response was a more honest, “I’m trying, little by little.” It seems to me that growing up with unpredictability has better equipped the Senegalese people to persevere in the face of real obstacles.

costa ricaThe same barriers Senegalese people manage to climb over regularly ended some of my projects. When I tried obtaining a grant for a women’s farm, the land rights had to first be legally transferred to the women themselves. While the paperwork lingered in a government office, I foolishly kept preparing for the project that would never be, blocking off months in my calendar that I would devote to it. Meanwhile, the women moved on, continuing their own, smaller version of the farm they wanted. They knew not to rest their hopes in government offices and the men who shuffle within them.

I don’t mean to give the impression that Peace Corps volunteers don’t accomplish anything. We do a lot of the things other aid organizations do, but our version is less grandiose: We hold small-group trainings on childhood nutrition and organic pest control. We help small businesses grow, often through a series of one-on-one interactions. Our hyped-up expectations of success are often quashed–we learn quickly that smaller is better.

I survived two years in the Peace Corps. My proudest accomplishment during my time in Senegal, one that can’t be expressed on a résumé, is how much I grew up.

I now know that no occupation, despite my generation’s obsession with passion-following, is without compromise or disappointment. And I know that failure, despite its negative connotations, takes practice.

Follow Maya Lau on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mayalau

Why Women Aren’t Crazy

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Why Women Aren’t Crazy

September 18, 2011 By 357 Comments

Has gaslighting conditioned women into thinking they’re emotionally unstable? Yashar Ali thinks so.

You’re so sensitive. You’re so emotional. You’re defensive. You’re overreacting. Calm down. Relax. Stop freaking out! You’re crazy! I was just joking, don’t you have a sense of humor? You’re so dramatic. Just get over it already!

Sound familiar?

If you’re a woman, it probably does.

Do you ever hear any of these comments from your spouse, partner, boss, friends, colleagues, or relatives after you have expressed frustration, sadness, or anger about something they have done or said?

When someone says these things to you, it’s not an example of inconsiderate behavior. When your spouse shows up half an hour late to dinner without calling—that’s inconsiderate behavior. A remark intended to shut you down like, “Calm down, you’re overreacting,” after you just addressed someone else’s bad behavior, is emotional manipulation—pure and simple.

And this is the sort of emotional manipulation that feeds an epidemic in our country, an epidemic that defines women as crazy, irrational, overly sensitive, unhinged. This epidemic helps fuel the idea that women need only the slightest provocation to unleash their (crazy) emotions. It’s patently false and unfair.

I think it’s time to separate inconsiderate behavior from emotional manipulation and we need to use a word not in our normal vocabulary.

I want to introduce a helpful term to identify these reactions: gaslighting.

Gaslighting is a term, often used by mental health professionals (I am not one), to describe manipulative behavior used to confuse people into thinking their reactions are so far off base that they’re crazy.

The term comes from the 1944 MGM film, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman. Bergman’s husband in the film, played by Charles Boyer, wants to get his hands on her jewelry. He realizes he can accomplish this by having her certified as insane and hauled off to a mental institution. To pull of this task, he intentionally sets the gaslights in their home to flicker off and on, and every time Bergman’s character reacts to it, he tells her she’s just seeing things. In this setting, a gaslighter is someone who presents false information to alter the victim’s perception of him or herself.

Today, when the term is referenced, it’s usually because the perpetrator says things like, “You’re so stupid” or “No one will ever want you” to the victim. This is an intentional, pre-meditated form of gaslighting, much like the actions of Charles Boyer’s character in Gaslight, where he strategically plots to confuse Ingrid Bergman’s character into believing herself unhinged.

The form of gaslighting I’m addressing is not always pre-mediated or intentional, which makes it worse, because it means all of us, especially women, have dealt with it at one time or another.

Those who engage in gaslighting create a reaction—whether it’s anger, frustration, sadness—in the person they are dealing with. Then, when that person reacts, the gaslighter makes them feel uncomfortable and insecure by behaving as if their feelings aren’t rational or normal.

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My friend Anna (all names changed to protect privacy) is married to a man who feels it necessary to make random and unprompted comments about her weight. Whenever she gets upset or frustrated with his insensitive comments, he responds in the same, defeating way, “You’re so sensitive. I’m just joking.”

My friend Abbie works for a man who finds a way, almost daily, to unnecessarily shoot her down and her work product. Comments like, “Can’t you do something right?” or “Why did I hire you?” are regular occurrences for her. Her boss has no problem firing people (he does it regularly), so you wouldn’t know that based on these comments, Abbie has worked for him for six years. But every time she stands up for herself and says “It doesn’t help me when you say these things,” she gets the same reaction: “Relax; you’re overreacting.”

It’s a whole lot easier to emotionally manipulate someone who has been conditioned by our society to accept it. We continue to burden women because they don’t refuse our burdens as easily. It’s the ultimate cowardice.

Abbie thinks her boss is just being a jerk in these moments, but the truth is, he is making those comments to manipulate her into thinking her reactions are out of whack. And it’s exactly that kind manipulation that has left her feeling guilty about being sensitive, and as a result, she has not left her job.

But gaslighting can be as simple as someone smiling and saying something like, “You’re so sensitive,” to somebody else. Such a comment may seem innocuous enough, but in that moment, that person is making a judgment about how someone else should feel.

While dealing with gaslighting isn’t a universal truth for women, we all certainly know plenty of women who encounter it at work, home, or in personal relationships.

And the act of gaslighting does not simply affect women who are not quite sure of themselves. Even vocal, confident, assertive women are vulnerable to gaslighting.

Why?

Because women bare the brunt of our neurosis. It is much easier for us to place our emotional burdens on the shoulders of our wives, our female friends, our girlfriends, our female employees, our female colleagues, than for us to impose them on the shoulders of men.

It’s a whole lot easier to emotionally manipulate someone who has been conditioned by our society to accept it. We continue to burden women because they don’t refuse our burdens as easily. It’s the ultimate cowardice.

Whether gaslighting is conscious or not, it produces the same result: it renders some women emotionally mute.

These women aren’t able to clearly express to their spouses that what is said or done to them is hurtful. They can’t tell their boss that his behavior is disrespectful and prevents them from doing their best work. They can’t tell their parents that, when they are being critical, they are doing more harm than good.

When these women receive any sort of push back to their reactions, they often brush it off by saying, “Forget it, it’s okay.”

That “forget it” isn’t just about dismissing a thought, it is about self-dismissal. It’s heartbreaking.

No wonder some women are unconsciously passive aggressive when expressing anger, sadness, or frustration. For years, they have been subjected to so much gaslighting that they can no longer express themselves in a way that feels authentic to them.

They say, “I’m sorry” before giving their opinion. In an email or text message, they place a smiley face next to a serious question or concern, thereby reducing the impact of having to express their true feelings.

You know how it looks: “You’re late :)

These are the same women who stay in relationships they don’t belong in, who don’t follow their dreams, who withdraw from the kind of life they want to live.

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Since I have embarked on this feminist self-exploration in my life and in the lives of the women I know, this concept of women as “crazy” has really emerged as a major issue in society at large and an equally major frustration for the women in my life, in general.

From the way women are portrayed on reality shows, to how we condition boys and girls to see women, we have come to accept the idea that women are unbalanced, irrational individuals, especially in times of anger and frustration.

Just the other day, on a flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles, a flight attendant who had come to recognize me from my many trips asked me what I did for a living. When I told her that I write mainly about women, she immediately laughed and asked, “Oh, about how crazy we are?”

Her gut reaction to my work made me really depressed. While she made her response in jest, her question nonetheless makes visible a pattern of sexist commentary that travels through all facets of society on how men view women, which also greatly impacts how women may view themselves.

As far as I am concerned, the epidemic of gaslighting is part of the struggle against the obstacles of inequality that women constantly face. Acts of gaslighting steal their most powerful tool: their voice. This is something we do to women every day, in many different ways.

I don’t think this idea that women are “crazy,” is based in some sort of massive conspiracy. Rather, I believe it’s connected to the slow and steady drumbeat of women being undermined and dismissed, on a daily basis. And gaslighting is one of many reasons why we are dealing with this public construction of women as “crazy”

I recognize that I’ve been guilty of gaslighting my women friends in the past (but never my male friends—surprise, surprise). It’s shameful, but I’m glad I realized that I did it on occasion and put a stop to it.

While I take total responsibility for my actions, I do believe that I, along with many men, am a byproduct of our conditioning. It’s about the general insight our conditioning gives us into admitting fault and exposing any emotion.

When we are discouraged in our youth and early adulthood from expressing emotion, it causes many of us to remain steadfast in our refusal to express regret when we see someone in pain from our actions.

When I was writing this piece, I was reminded of one of my favorite Gloria Steinem quotes, “The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn.”

So for many of us, it’s first about unlearning how to flicker those gaslights and learning how to acknowledge and understand the feelings, opinions, and positions of the women in our lives.

But isn’t the issue of gaslighting ultimately about whether we are conditioned to believe that women’s opinions don’t hold as much weight as ours? That what women have to say, what they feel, isn’t quite as legitimate?

Yashar will be soon releasing his first short e-book, entitled, A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not Crazy — How We Teach Men That Women Are Crazy and How We Convince Women To Ignore Their Instincts. If you are interested and want to be notified when the book is released, please click here to sign-up.

This post originally appeared on The Current Conscience.

—Photo lempicki.maciek/Flickr

‘Fracking’ chemical found in town’s aquifer

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By Abrahm Lustgarten

updated 11/10/2011 4:34:55 PM ET

As the country awaits results from a nationwide safety study on the natural gas drilling process of fracking, a separate government investigation into contamination in a place where residents have long complained that drilling fouled their water has turned up alarming levels of underground pollution.

A pair of environmental monitoring wells drilled deep into an aquifer in Pavillion, Wyo., contain high levels of cancer-causing compounds and at least one chemical commonly used in hydraulic fracturing, according to new water test results released yesterday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The findings are consistent with water samples the EPA has collected from at least 42 homes in the area since 2008, when ProPublica began reporting on foul water and health concerns in Pavillion and the agency started investigating reports of contamination there.

Last year — after warning residents not to drink or cook with the water and to ventilate their homes when they showered — the EPA drilled the monitoring wells to get a more precise picture of the extent of the contamination.

The Pavillion area has been drilled extensively for natural gas over the last two decades and is home to hundreds of gas wells. Residents have alleged for nearly a decadethat the drilling — and hydraulic fracturing in particular — has caused their water to turn black and smell like gasoline. Some residents say they suffer neurological impairment, loss of smell, and nerve pain they associate with exposure to pollutants.

The gas industry — led by the Canadian company EnCana, which owns the wells in Pavillion — has denied that its activities are responsible for the contamination. EnCana has, however, supplied drinking water to residents.

The information released yesterday by the EPA was limited to raw sampling data: The agency did not interpret the findings or make any attempt to identify the source of the pollution. From the start of its investigation, the EPA has been careful to consider all possible causes of the contamination and to distance its inquiry from the controversy around hydraulic fracturing.

Still, the chemical compounds the EPA detected are consistent with those produced from drilling processes, including one — a solvent called 2-Butoxyethanol (2-BE) — widely used in the process of hydraulic fracturing. The agency said it had not found contaminants such as nitrates and fertilizers that would have signaled that agricultural activities were to blame.

The wells also contained benzene at 50 times the level that is considered safe for people, as well as phenols — another dangerous human carcinogen — acetone, toluene, naphthalene and traces of diesel fuel.

The EPA said the water samples were saturated with methane gas that matched the deep layers of natural gas being drilled for energy. The gas did not match the shallower methane that the gas industry says is naturally occurring in water, a signal that the contamination was related to drilling and was less likely to have come from drilling waste spilled above ground.

EnCana has recently agreed to sell its wells in the Pavillion area to Texas-based oil and gas company Legacy Reserves for a reported $45 million, but has pledged to continue to cooperate with the EPA’s investigation. EnCana bought many of the wells in 2004, after the first problems with groundwater contamination had been reported.

The EPA’s research in Wyoming is separate from the agency’s ongoing national study of hydraulic fracturing’s effect on water supplies, and is being funded through the Superfund cleanup program.

The EPA says it will release a lengthy draft of the Pavillion findings, including a detailed interpretation of them, later this month.

© Copyright 2011 ProPublica Inc. All rights reserved.