Science of the Spirit


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.

Cloud Grey

Loneliness: The deadly truth

© David Hodgson/Flickr
A lonely old man
Almost all of us have experienced loneliness at some point. It is the pain we have felt following a breakup, perhaps the loss of a loved one, or a move away from home. We are vulnerable to feeling lonely at any point in our lives.

Loneliness is commonly used to describe a negative emotional state experienced when there is a difference between the relationships one wishes to have and those one perceives one has.

The unpleasant feelings of loneliness are subjective; researchers have found loneliness is not about the amount of time one spends with other people or alone. It is related more to quality of relationships, rather than quantity. A lonely person feels that he or she is not understood by others, and may not think they hold meaningful relationships.

Comment: The pain of modern life: Loneliness and isolation
Indeed can the emptiness of loneliness be satiated by anything external to oneself? "If we have experienced and found one escape to be of no value, are not all other escapes therefore of no value?" Krishnamurti logically argued.

Silence and the space to look within are rare jewels in our World, particularly in western societies. The current socio-economic model is a noisy, poisonous system based on negative values. It has polluted the planet and is making us unhappy and ill in a variety of ways.

It is a system that ardently promotes material success and the indulgence of personal desires, all of which encourages dependence on methods of 'escape' of one kind or another - drugs prescribed, (legal and illegal), alcohol, sex, entertainments in all shapes and sizes - including organized religion, to fill the chasm of loneliness, and keep the mind in a constant state of agitation and discontent.

But as Krishnamurti rightly states, such transient distractions will never sufficiently drown out our innate need for union with oneself, with the Self; a realization brought about by self-awareness; by negation - ceasing to identify with the fancies of the mind, and as the 19th century Indian sage Sri Ramana Maharshi taught, by constantly challenging one's thoughts and feelings with the deconstructive enquiry 'who am I'. These Men of Wisdom assure us that, with sustained commitment and effort, a relationship can be established with the Self, which reveals separation and isolation to be an illusion, and establishes a deep, non-dependent sense of unity - with others and the world in which 'we live and breathe and have our being'. Purpose, contact with others and activity are essential to battle loneliness, but if one becomes dependent on these externals and does not, at the same time, seek to overcome the underlying cause, then it seems clear little will have been achieved and the 'modern giant' will rise up again.


The vicious cycle of addictive buying has consumed the average American's life

© trekandshoot
Slave to our possessions
Our addiction to consuming things is a vicious cycle, and buying a bigger house to store it all isn't the answer. Here's how to get started on downsizing

The personal storage industry rakes in $22bn each year, and it's only getting bigger. Why?

I'll give you a hint: it's not because vast nations of hoarders have finally decided to get their acts together and clean out the hall closet.

It's also not because we're short on space. In 1950 the average size of a home in the US was 983 square feet. Compare that to 2011, when American houses ballooned to an average size of 2,480 square feet - almost triple the size.

And finally, it's not because of our growing families. This will no doubt come as a great relief to our helpful commenters who each week kindly suggest that for maximum environmental impact we simply stop procreating altogether: family sizes in the western world are steadily shrinking, from an average of 3.37 people in 1950 to just 2.6 today.

So, if our houses have tripled in size while the number of people living in them has shrunk, what, exactly, are we doing with all of this extra space? And why the billions of dollars tossed to an industry that was virtually nonexistent a generation or two ago?

Comment: Excessive shopping is like any other addictive activity, an unsuccessful strategy attempting to fill a void in our lives. Education is a vital key to breaking addictions Compulsive behavior is also a way to deal with life's pressures. A more healthy way to de-stress would be to practice the Eiriu Eolas Stress Release program.

People 2

Do we choose to be anxious, stressed and afraid?

© Obak via Shutterstock
Salon speaks to a psychologist about stress, parenting, and ways to deal with both.

As if we weren't already feeling stressed out enough - today is National Stress Awareness Day - a new report by the Pew Research Center just came out, describing the levels of stress that otherwise privileged American families are under. "The data are the latest to show that while family structure seems to have permanently changed," a New York Times story reports, "public policy, workplace structure and mores have not seemed to adjust to a norm in which both parents work."

Comment: More important information about stress: