Science of the Spirit


Let sympathy lead to action

Whenever there is a tragedy somewhere in the world, people tend to react with an outpouring of emotion and sympathy. This a healthy and excellent thing, but oftentimes the sympathetic impulse rises and extinguishes all within the confines of a person's chest and without producing any external effect. Too often we compulsively consume the news the way we consume a book or a movie: as removed spectators who enjoy the drama — the emotions it elicits — for its own sake. (Most people do not think of horror and sympathy as pleasurable, but all intense emotions, when experienced in a situation of safety, offer a certain gratification.) This passivity is understandable — we feel powerless to do anything beyond broadcasting support on social media. But in this we think too narrowly. While it may not be possible to turn our sympathetic feelings into actions that will directly help the victims of tragedies, we should not let this noble impulse — an affirmation of our best humanity — pass by unutilized either.

People 2

Tell-tale signs that you are in a relationship with a narcissist

A Narcissist is someone who after taking the trash out gives the impression he just cleaned the whole house"

Have you ever got the sense that your partner thinks he/she is generally superior to you, or more entitled to things than you are? Does he/she find a host of ways to devalue you or ignore you? Does he/she try to control you? If so, you may be living with a Narcissist.

If you are in a relationship with a Narcissist, it will be a one-way relationship, as he/she is particularly self- absorbed.

Narcissism is considered a spectrum Disorder, which means that there are degrees of manifestation of the characteristics, so a person could have a couple of Narcissistic traits, or have many and be considered to have a full blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as defined in the DSMIV, or sit anywhere in between.

Comment: Trying to maintain a relationship with a narcissist is exhausting and futile. The best way to protect yourself from the depredations of narcissists is to learn how to spot them before you become entangled. Learning how to set healthy boundaries by being able to say No to their outrageous demands will make you unpopular with these types of people and could help you escape from a toxic relationship.


The psychology of death

We all have to face it at some point; an event of such enormity that it can make everything else in our lives seem insignificant: death, the end of our existence; our departure from this world. We live in a culture that denies death. We're taught that death is something we should shy away from, and try to forget about. If we start contemplating our own mortality - so this traditional wisdom goes - we'll become anxious and depressed. And there's no doubt that this is often the case. In psychology, Terror Management Theory suggests that a large part of all human behaviour is generated by unconscious fear of death. This fear generates a fundamental anxiety and unease, which we try to offset with behaviour such as status-seeking or strongly defending the values of our culture. We feel threatened by death and so seek security and significance to defend ourselves against it. Studies have shown, for example, that when people are made more aware of their own mortality, they tend to become more nationalistic and tribal and more materialistic.



The stark lack of wisdom in the age of information


The US National Geographic Society published a survey of geographic literacy. This international survey of young people in the US and either other countries—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Sweden, and Britain—asked 56 questions about geography and current events. The organization's survey discovered that about 87% of Americans, aged 18 to 24, the prime age for military service, could not place Iraq on the map. Americans could find on average only seven of the 16 countries in the quiz. Only 71% of the surveyed Americans could locate the Pacific Ocean, the world's largest body of water.

John Farley, president of the National Geographic Society, thought that these results reflect something deeper than lack of geographic knowledge. He referred to the "apparent retreat of young people from a global society in an era that does not allow such luxury." This survey occurred over 10 years ago.

Fahey said that this "generation is highly skilled in what they want to block out and what they want to know." "Unfortunately, the things they block out seems to include knowledge of the world we all live in." One can also assume that the inability to locate Iraq on a world map means that these students know next to nothing about Middle Eastern culture and politics or anything much about Islam.

  1. the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise. synonyms: sagacity, intelligence, sense, common sense, shrewdness, astuteness,smartness, judiciousness, judgment, prudence, circumspection; More

2 + 2 = 4

Let the child cry: How tears support social and emotional development

The classroom is one of only a few primary places in which children can develop sense of self, communicate, and grow in relation to others. Any educator will attest to the fact that it is not a simple ride. Children experience conflicts and growing pains that can be challenging for a teacher who is balancing instruction with individual learning and group dynamics. In my work in education, I am fortunate to interact with a diversity of children and teachers in any given week, enhancing learning through the arts. This affords me the opportunity to observe a variety of class dynamics between teachers and students.



It's not really love: Western culture's misunderstanding of romantic attachment

The modern creators of cultural idols and ideals--especially Hollywood and television--have hoodwinked us into believing certain things about love. If we believe the message, then it is attraction, focus, and an intensity of feeling that define romantic love. Here is a common example of our deception: "falling in love" is a phrase that indicates we cannot help ourselves, that we have little control over the process and little choice about who we love. This is completely untrue. We may have little control over attraction but this does not equal love.

We now know that romantic feelings have little to do with loving the "real" other person. "Love at first sight" is a misnomer-- frankly impossible. It is often some combination of lust and idealizing the person (fooling oneself into thinking the person is 'the one'); but of course, these things are not really love. The main reason for understanding these realities is so that we will not let passion over-rule our higher mind and best judgment.

Comment: Romantic love can lead to growth or stagnation
Your Brain In Love
The science of romance: Brains have a love circuit


'Sorry' doesn't heal children's hurt, but it mends relations

© Tjook
Most adults know that a quick apology for a minor transgression, such as bumping into someone, helps maintain social harmony. The bumped-into person feels better, and so does the person who did the bumping. It's all part of the social norm.

But do apologies have this effect on children?


Study finds quitting Facebook can make you happier

© Dado Ruvic / Reuters
While the temptation to always be connected via social media outlets is a legitimate one, a little bit of will power could work wonders for your personal life. A new study found that quitting Facebook actually makes people happier.

The research, conducted by the Denmark-based think-tank Happiness Research Institute, enrolled 1,095 volunteers between the ages of 16 and 76. Ninety-four percent of the participants said they visited Facebook as part of their daily routine.

Before the study began, the volunteers were surveyed on how satisfied they felt, how active their social life was, how much they compared themselves to others, and how easy they found it to concentrate.

The participants were then divided into two groups. Half of them carried on using Facebook as usual, while the other half spent their time away from the social network.


The attitudes and qualities of a true personality: Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration

© Simon Powell
This is the second in a series of Sunday posts about Kazimierz Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration, using as a starting point the recently released edition of his 1967 book, Personality-Shaping through Positive Disintegration, available in paperback and ebook. All quotations from Dabrowski in this post are from this 2015 paperback edition.

Dabrowski's work may have greater significance now than ever. This past week, two Princeton economists, Anne Case and Angus Deaton, published the results of their analysis of data from the CDC and national surveys showing a trend of both increasing mortality and increasing morbidity (disease, disability, poor health) in US whites ages 45 - 54. These are just a few of their findings and discussions (read the full report):
  • "After 1998, other rich countries' mortality rates continued to decline by 2% a year. In contrast, US white non-Hispanic mortality rose by half a percent a year. No other rich country saw a similar turnaround."
  • "This turnaround, as of 2014, is specific to midlife."
  • "Although all three educational groups saw increases in mortality from suicide and poisonings, and an overall increase in external cause mortality, increases were largest for those with the least education."
  • "[A]ll 5-y age groups between 30 - 34 and 60 - 64 have witnessed marked and similar increases in mortality from the sum of drug and alcohol poisoning, suicide, and chronic liver disease and cirrhosis over the period 1999 - 2013; the midlife group is different only in that the sum of these deaths is large enough that the common growth rate changes the direction of all-cause mortality."
  • "The mortality reversal observed in this period bears a resemblance to the mortality decline slowdown in the United States during the height of the AIDS epidemic, which took the lives of 650,000 Americans (1981 to mid-2015)."
  • "A serious concern is that those currently in midlife will age into Medicare in worse health than the currently elderly. This is not automatic; if the epidemic is brought under control, its survivors may have a healthy old age. However, addictions are hard to treat and pain is hard to control, so those currently in midlife may be a 'lost generation' whose future is less bright than those who preceded them."

Comment: Part 1 of this series is available here: Sidetracked by Dabrowski: An introduction to the Theory of Positive Disintegration


Sound therapy for the treatment of pain, Parkinson's and ADD

Just minutes after I remove my boots inside the entrance of the Globe Institute of Sound and Consciousness in San Francisco, founder David Gibson asks whether I'd like to experience the sound table.

"Absolutely," I say. Gibson, a sound engineer and musician, leads me past knee-high crystal bowls and U-shaped tuning forks into a warm, candlelit back room. The table looks like a massage table, except the mattress is made of amethyst crystals, which, Gibson told me, reverberate at the "right" frequency. I lie down and gaze at mandala designs on the ceiling fabric. Ambient music fills the space: wind chimes, waves, a string quartet. Then, subwoofers start vibrating bass rhythms into my toes, thighs, back, shoulders and head. As the music builds, the pulses intensify—and I begin to relax.

Comment: South Floridians Turn To Sound Therapy For Healing