Science of the Spirit
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Hearts

How the touch of others makes us who we are

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Not only does touch seem to signal trust and cooperation, it creates them. Our sense of touch does much more than help us navigate the world at our fingertips. It is becoming clear that touching each other plays a fundamental role in our lives. It isn't just a sentimental human indulgence, says Francis McGlone at Liverpool John Moores University, UK. "It is a biological necessity."

Touching gives the world an emotional context. It builds trust and promotes teamwork, wins friends and influences people. But that's not all. Beginning in the womb, it may guide the development of regions in our brain that govern social behaviour. It could even give us our sense of self. The touch of others makes us who we are.

Compared to the other senses, however, touch often gets a raw deal. It receives less attention than sight or hearing, say. And yet the skin -- our touch detector -- is our biggest organ. An average-sized man has some 5 or 6 kilograms of it -- roughly the weight of a bowling ball. As well as regulating our temperature and shielding us from infection and injury, our skin is a communication interface with the outside world. And just as we can lose our sight or hearing, we can go touch-blind.

Butterfly

Those who achieve goals do so despite their self-doubt

We often assume that in order to achieve our goals, we need to become more confident. We need to work through our deep-seated self-doubts and then take action. Because then we'll be ready. Then we'll be able to achieve what we want to achieve. We'll feel more secure with ourselves. We'll actually believe in ourselves.

While learning ways to be more confident can be valuable, you don't need to put your goals on hold until you do.

In fact, according to Tara Mohr in Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message, "Self-doubt will always be a part of what we each work with as we take steps to play bigger."

Successful people deal with self-doubt all the time. The people who write bestselling books, give brilliant talks, hold high positions and make breakthroughs in all sorts of ways still feel insecure. They still worry they don't measure up.

Comment: The raging inner critic will undermine us and keep us from achieving the things most important to us, unless we learn to talk back and silence the 'monster'. To learn more about self-critical thinking and perfectionism, listen to the interview with Dr. Aleta Edwards on SOTT Talk Radio. Dr. Edwards is the author of the best-selling e-book Fear of the Abyss: Healing the Wounds of Shame and Perfectionism.


Bulb

It's not always depression

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How can it be that a seemingly depressed person, one who shows clinical symptoms, doesn't respond to antidepressants or psychotherapy? Perhaps because the root of his anguish is something else.

Several years ago a patient named Brian was referred to me. He had suffered for years from an intractable depression for which he had been hospitalized. He had been through cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalytic psychotherapy, supportive therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy. He had tried several medication "cocktails," each with a litany of side effects that made them virtually intolerable. They had been ineffective anyway. The next step was electroshock therapy, which Brian did not want.

Comment: Other possible solutions may be journaling and having a supportive network of people that one can feel safe expressing their emotions with.
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Study: Laughter among friends leads to self-disclosure which helps deepen relationships and create trust


People 2

Study: Laughter among friends leads to self-disclosure which helps deepen relationships and create trust

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When people tell each other something intimate, it deepens the relationship. Laughter encourages people to open up and this is the secret to how to make friends, a new study finds. People in the study were more likely to disclose something personal about themselves after laughing together, although they didn't realise it.

Self-disclosure is usually critical to how to make friends, as the study's authors explain:
"Self-disclosure has long been regarded as critical to relationship development and is typically considered as an exchange, where intimacies are traded as a means of deepening and developing relationships.

Indeed, people tend to like those to whom they disclose as well as those who disclose to them, and disclosure intimacy typically increases as relationships develop."
So the study may explain one way that laughter can help people connect.

Sherlock

Why liberals are happier than conservatives

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While conservative say they are happier, it's liberals who act and look happier, according to a new study.

The research questions the modern myth that conservatives are happier than liberals. The key difference in this study is in how happiness was measured.

Professor Peter Ditto, one of the study's authors, explained:
"If you want to know how happy someone is, one way to do it is to just ask them, and this logic has been relied upon heavily in research on subjective well-being.

But another way to think about it is that happy is as happy does, and looking at happiness-related behavior avoids the issue of someone striving to present him- or herself as a happy person."
Liberals look and sound happier

The researchers analysed huge amounts of data from all sorts of sources. They included millions of words from Congressional records of known conservatives and liberals.

Info

'Return To Life': How some children have memories of reincarnation

© Jake Whitman/TODAY
It's not unusual for little boys to have vivid imaginations, but Ryan's stories were truly legendary.

His mother Cyndi said it all began with horrible nightmares when he was 4 years old. Then when he was 5 years old, he confided in her one evening before bed.

"He said mom, I have something I need to tell you," she told TODAY. "I used to be somebody else."

The preschooler would then talk about "going home" to Hollywood, and would cry for his mother to take him there. His mother said he would tell stories about meeting stars like Rita Hayworth, traveling overseas on lavish vacations, dancing on Broadway, and working for an agency where people would change their names.

She said her son even recalled that the street he lived on had the word "rock" in it.

"His stories were so detailed and they were so extensive, that it just wasn't like a child could have made it up," she said.

Cyndi said she was raised Baptist and had never really thought about reincarnation. So she decided to keep her son's "memories" a secret— even from her own husband.

Privately, she checked out books about Hollywood from the local library, hoping something inside would help her son make sense of his strange memories and help her son cope with his sometimes troubling "memories."

"Then we found the picture, and it changed everything," she said.

Comment:
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A mother believes her 4-year-old son is a reincarnated marine

SOTT Talk Radio #63 - Into the supernatural: Interview with parapsychologist Stephen Braude


Bug

Why does gardening make people feel so good?

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Have you ever noticed how satisfying it feels to get your hands dirty in the backyard? Does working in your garden make you feel like everything is right in the world? Perhaps you've chalked it up to the sunshine and the exercise. After all, everyone knows that a good workout and a job well done is great for your self-esteem. But is there more to it then that?

There just might be if science has anything to say about it. As all experienced gardeners know, soil doesn't just consist of dirt and minerals. It is teeming with so much bacteria that it could be considered an ecosystem all by itself. And apparently, some of that bacteria might have an effect on your sense of well-being.

Did you know that there's a natural antidepressant in soil? It's true. Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance under study and has indeed been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier. Studies were conducted on cancer patients and they reported a better quality of life and less stress.

Comment: Get your hands in the dirt!


Family

How parents turn their kids into narcissists

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Parents turn their children into little narcissists by overvaluing them, a new study finds. It is better to concentrate on being emotionally warm towards children — this leads to higher self-esteem, not narcissism. Professor Brad Bushman, one of the study's authors, said:
"Children believe it when their parents tell them that they are more special than others. That may not be good for them or for society."
The study is the first of its kind to follow children over time to examine how narcissists evolve. The researchers followed 565 children in the Netherlands who were between 7 and 11 when the study started. This is the critical age when narcissists emerge.

The children were tested for typical personality traits of narcissists, like thinking you are better than other people. The children's parents were also asked about their children. Professor Bushman explained that his research had changed his own parenting style:
"When I first started doing this research in the 1990s, I used to think my children should be treated like they were extra-special. I'm careful not to do that now. It is important to express warmth to your children because that may promote self-esteem, but overvaluing them may promote higher narcissism."

Comment: See also: No surprise there: Study reveals men more narcissistic than women

On the one hand, many parents overvalue their kids, potentially turning them into selfish brats as adults. On the other hand, abuse is rampant: Family secrets can make you sick: The link between childhood abuse and health

We just can't seem to make it work as a species, can we?


Bizarro Earth

Taken to the dark side: How we are coerced into accepting torture

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Cleverly at work for the dark side, the corporate media isn't going into great detail about the recent discovery that the Chicago Police Department has for years been operating a secret, off-site, extra-judicial, unconstitutional detention and interrogation center in a nondescript warehouse on the West side of the Windy City. Americans, so the talking heads would have us believe, have more important things to busy ourselves with.

The protest against this outrage is growing, however, because at Homan Square, as it's known, the local police 'disappear' American citizens before charging them with any crime. They hide them there for hours or days without the knowledge of lawyers, family, or friends, interrogating, threatening, abusing and at times coming up with cleverly inhumane ways to torture them.

Think Gitmo, think Abu Ghraib. Think Pol Pot, think Mao. Pardon my French here, but, c'est quoi ce bordel?

This sort of thing has always been in the play books of imperialists and barbarians, but in just over a short decade in the 'land of the free,' torture has clawed its gory soul into mainstream ideology, and it's making the death march to becoming acceptable public policy for your local police goons. Who, by the way, are already up-armed to the teeth and better equipped than most of the world's national armies.

Hearts

Polyvagal theory: The biological fingerprint for compassion and empathy

What happens in Vagus... may make or break compassion.
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© UC Berkeley
Is there a biological fingerprint for compassion?

Two scientific teams, one led by Zoe Taylor at Purdue and the other by Jenny Stellar at UC Berkeley, have found that the answer may lie in the Vagus nerve. That's the cranial nerve in the body with the widest reach, influencing speech, head positioning, digestion, and—importantly for these two studies—the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system's influence on the heart.

Students typically memorize the parasympathetic branch (PNS) as the "rest and digest" branch of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which controls bodily functions that we're not aware of when we're relaxed and feeling content. The PNS is also called the "feed and breed" branch—and recently, social psychologist Barbara Fredrickson added the label "tend and befriend" to the PNS, suggesting that it also supports functions that enable social engagement and nurturing behaviors.

These functionally descriptive labels for the PNS—"rest and digest," "feed and breed," and "tend and befriend"—directly relate to the Vagus nerve, which turns out to be something of an enforcer for the PNS when it comes to the heart and compassion.

Roughly 20 years ago, Steve Porges of the University of Chicago pioneered PolyVagal theory, which suggested that the Vagus nerve fundamentally drives human social affiliation—the motivations and behaviors involved in approaching others in trusting, affectionate, and cooperative ways. Since then, social science researchers have measured Vagal activity to examine how it relates to social affiliation, particularly related states like empathy, sympathy, and compassion.

Comment: The Éiriú Eolas breathing program has had profound healing effects in its practitioners due to the stimulation of the vagus nerve and polyvagal system. It helps to effectively manage the physiological, emotional, and psychological effects of stress, helps to clear blocked emotions, and helps improve thinking ability. The program will unlock your social systems and heal imbalances related with depression, anxiety, trauma, etc. You can try it for free at eiriu-eolas.org

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