Science of the Spirit


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


Creativity: A path towards happiness?

What does being creative mean to you? Is it about finding the time to sit down with a sketchbook and draw your latest imaginings? Are you the kind who plays an instrument in a jam band on weekends? Or do you spend your spare hours immersed in the theater scene? However you define "creativity," there's no denying the fact that being creative adds spice to our lives — plus, if you actively make the time to pursue creative ventures, you may find that your own personal happiness will grow. Fostering your creative side both gives you a cathartic outlet and an escape from the tedium of everyday life, and now science is proving that it can help boost your mood, too.

This isn't saying that you have to be an artist, per se. It doesn't matter if you were born without perfect pitch or unable to draw anything more than stick figures. Instead, being creative is something that comes instinctively to all of us — you just have to determine what your channel is. And as extra good news, you also don't need to be constantly sad or depressed to tap into your creative side — it seems that just as creativity breeds happiness, so do happier people become more creative. It's a self-fulfilling cycle that can go a long way towards helping you find satisfaction in your personal and professional life.

Let's take a look at how creativity at work and play makes you a happier individual, and just what science is saying about it.

Comment: Creativity Explained
But creativity is not magic, and there's no such thing as a creative type. Creativity is not a trait that we inherit in our genes or a blessing bestowed by the angels. It's a skill. Anyone can learn to be creative and to get better at it. New research is shedding light on what allows people to develop world-changing products and to solve the toughest problems. A surprisingly concrete set of lessons has emerged about what creativity is and how to spark it in ourselves and our work.


Instilling caring and fairness in children

The Making Caring Common Project, done at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, came up with some interesting findings that seem even more relevant given that World Random Act of Kindness Day is just around the corner on November 13th. According to the study, a large majority of youth across a wide spectrum of races, cultures, and classes appear to value aspects of personal success—achievement and happiness—over concern for others.

It's interesting because if you ask most parents how important instilling kindness into their kids is, they will rank it pretty high on the list. However, the findings say differently. From 2013-2014, researchers spoke with 10,000 kids in either middle and high school in the United States. Nearly 80% said that their parents taught them that personal happiness and high achievement were more important than caring for other people. Youth were also 3 times more likely to agree than disagree with this statement:
"My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I'm a caring community member in class and school."
Is this really the message we want to send our youth? Parents are usually concerned with their children's moral state, so perhaps a hard look at the messages we send to children and youth on a daily bases would be a good idea. The survey shows that although caring and fairness are subordinated to achievement and happiness, they are still important to youth and their parents. Great!

Comment: Research has also shown that children who make an effort to perform acts of kindness are happier and experience greater acceptance from their peers.