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Mon, 08 Feb 2016
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


The benefits of going through hard times

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Psychologists studying post-traumatic growth find that many people come to thrive in the aftermath of adversity.

This excerpt is from the new book Wired to Create: Unravelling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, by psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman and HuffPost Senior Writer Carolyn Gregoire.

One of Frida Kahlo's most famous self-portraits depicts her in a hospital bed naked and bleeding, connected by a web of red veins to floating objects that include a snail, a flower, bones, and a fetus. Henry Ford Hospital, the 1932 surrealist painting, is a powerful artistic rendering of Kahlo's second miscarriage.

Kahlo wrote in her diaries that the painting "carries with it the message of pain." The painter was known for channeling the experience of multiple miscarriages, childhood polio, and a number of other misfortunes into her iconic self-portraits, and a real understanding of her work requires some knowledge of the suffering that motivated it.

People 2

Empathic people are natural targets for sociopaths - protect yourself

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The empathy trap: therapists and counselors almost by definition are empathic, to facilitate clients' recovery - but this quality can mean those carers are targets for sociopaths, aided by what Dr Jane & Tim McGregor call "apaths". The first UK article on this cruel sport shows how to identify and thus avoid it.

People targeted by a sociopath often respond with self-deprecating comments like "I was stupid", "what was I thinking" of "I should've listened to my gut instinct". But being involved with a sociopath is like being brainwashed. The sociopath's superficial charm is usually the means by which s/he conditions people.

Comment: Tragically, the shame and embarrassment of having been conned and duped often keeps people quiet about what happened to them, which then further obscures the machinations of the sociopaths and results in other people getting duped by them as well. If people got over this shame and embarrassment, they could network with others about these predators and then they would be exposed for what they are and less able to destroy the lives of others.

On initial contact, a sociopath will often test other people's empathy, so questions geared towards discovering if you are highly empathic or not should ring alarm bells. People with a highly empathic disposition are often targeted. Those with lower levels of empathy are often passed over, though they can be drawn in and used by sociopaths as part of their cruel entertainment.

Sociopaths make up 25% of the prison population, committing over twice as many aggressive acts as other criminals. The reoffending rate of sociopaths is about double that of other offenders, and for violent crimes it is triple.

But not all sociopaths are found in prison. There is the less-visible burden of sociopath-induced emotional trauma which, if left unchecked, can lead to anxiety disorders, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Comment: In fact, one could argue that only the sociopath/psychopath "failures" are in prison, while the successful ones, through their chronic lies, deception, and manipulation, remain free to torment others and destroy lives. As renowned psychopathy expert Robert Hare, author of Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us and Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work, has said:
"If I wasn't studying psychopaths in prison, I'd do it at the stock exchange"

Chronically traumatized people often exhibit hyper-vigilant, anxious and agitated behavior, symptoms such as tension headaches, gastrointestinal disturbances, abdominal pain, back pain, tremors and nausea.

Exposure to and interaction with a sociopath in childhood can leave lifelong scars. This can apply to people in therapy - and for those who in recovery trained as therapists, re-exposure as an adult can trigger old emotions and PTSD.

This article is not about sociopaths per se but about surviving the harm they cause.

Comment: Listen to an interview with the authors on the Sott Radio Network:

The Empathy Trap - Understanding how predators manipulate people's strengths and weaknesses

If you're interested in learning more about the damage wrought by psychopaths/sociopaths on empathic people, you might be interested in the following:


Embracing discomfort as a path to freedom and integrity

In preparation for writing this piece, I read one that I wrote five years ago called "Why I Don't Make New Year's Resolutions." I wanted to remember what I wrote to see what I might want to add. I discovered that it was all there... I still don't make resolutions, for the same reasons. First, because I still cannot and don't want to make predictions about the future, as I see the very attempt to control the future as one of the core failures of western civilization. Also, because I still worry about resolutions turning into weapons of self-destruction.

What do I do instead? For me, it's about coming back, again and more deeply, to my choice to embrace discomfort as a path to freedom and integrity. That is what I write about below in greater detail.

Reflecting about myself, I am still the person who knows that my freedom depends on my willingness to step outside my comfort zone - the habits and beliefs that have been ingrained in me through socialization and trauma. Any time I can do that, I have more trust that I am actually choosing rather than being run by my past and my fears. Put differently, I would say that the most reliable forms of freedom are internal: It is my choices in how I respond to life, much more than what life brings to me, that I experience as freedom.


The effects of architecture on mind, body and spirit

We spend an overwhelming amount of time in and around buildings; most Americans never leave the comfort of cities, where sizeable structures abound. Yet, rarely do we consider the profound effects architecture has on our everyday experiences. Only standing at the feet of major architectural monuments — like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the Great Pyramids outside Cairo — do we stop and consider how magnificent mankind's ability to build is.

However, more and more scientists are beginning to realize that architecture, like any art form, has the power to influence how we perceive the world. As we learn how architecture can impact our experience of life, we can better control our environments for maximum efficiency — and maximum pleasure.


Traits that define ethical leadership

The year just past saw many major business scandals including those at Volkswagen, 7-Eleven and Turing Pharmaceuticals. All pointed to a business culture using the "end justifies the means" argument to justify unethical if not illegal practices.

While hopefully the exception and not the rule, these cases all left the public asking whether getting caught was seen by some leaders as the worst crime of all.

What are the qualities of an ethical leader and how might someone with those qualities think and act?

Comment: Vladimir Putin is undoubtedly the best example of ethical leadership in the world today. If there were more leaders and individuals willing to follow his example, there would be greater hope for the future of the world.


Why people fail to keep their New Year's resolution

Think about the various commitments you and many others have made over the years. We did, and came up with this very brief list of common resolutions we typically hear before the new year:
I'll lose weight.

I'll stop smoking.

I'll spend more time with my partner, or with my children.

I will save money.

I will be less stressed out.
Then, somewhere around the second week of January, those promises go the way of all the other promises. Some of us may not fall off the wagon until a few months later, but by year's end most of us will not have made it through as we had indented. We start snacking, smoking, or spending more time at the office. We swipe the credit card impunitively. And most of us have found out the hard way that we cannot simply wish our stress away...

Comment: 10 step guide for making your New Year's resolutions

Light Saber

Discover the art of living & dying

This is Philosophy's Double-edged Sword...
"When Plato's Socrates states in the Phaedo that philosophy is melete thanatou - that is to say, an intense practice of death - he may mean not just that the object of philosophy should be to help us better cope with our mortality, but also that the one who practices philosophy should understand the risks that come with the job." - Costica Bradatan
Philosophy is a tool. Put more succinctly, philosophy is a razor. It uses questions to cut ideas. Whatever answers should arise from such questioning simply get cut by better questions. The philosopher then, is one who shaves the superfluous from their perception of reality through ever more effective, more reasonable, and more logical questioning, while also not losing their sense of imagination.


Five benefits of stepping outside your comfort zone

© Depositphotos
And why moving beyond the Safe and Familiar is essential for growth...

Each of us has our own "comfort zone" which, more than an actual place, is a psychological/emotional/ behavioral construct that defines the routine of our daily life. Being in one's comfort zone implies familiarity, safety, and security. It describes the patterned world of our existence, keeps us relatively comfortable and calm, and helps us stay emotionally even, free from anxiety and worry to a great degree. Creating a comfort zone is a healthy adaptation for much of our lives. But so is stepping out of our comfort zone when it's time to transition, grow, and transform.

But experiencing a little stress and anxiety now and then is a good thing, too. If all you ever do is strive to stay wrapped up in your little cocoon, keeping warm and cozy, you may be missing out on quite a lot - maybe no new experiences, no challenges, and no risks. And looking at the bigger picture of life, if you can't step out of your comfort zone you may experience difficulty making change or transitioning, growing, and ultimately, transforming; in other words, all those things that define who you are and give your life personal meaning.

Very simply, what we fear most about challenging ourselves is that we may fail and/or get hurt in the process. But truth be known, most of us have the ability to rise to the occasion, overcome hurdles and obstacles, and actually succeed in accomplishing something new and challenging.


Dogs "catch" emotions from humans

© Thinkstock
Dogs often copy the facial expressions of others, according to a new study that suggests dogs, like humans and other primates, show a phenomenon known as "emotional contagion."

Emotional contagion, which is a basic building block of empathy, is when an individual instantaneously shares the same emotional state of another. Its existence was never fully proven in dogs until now.

Dogs and humans that are closely bonded to each other start to mimic each other for a very useful reason.

"If you live in a group and you share with companions many interests and goals, you must understand his or her emotional state, and the only way to do that is to 'read' his or her behavior and facial and body expressions," explained lead author Elisabetta Palagi.

Comment: See more:
  • Dog 'walks 200 miles to find woman who nursed her back to health after hit-and-run accident'

Cloud Grey

America's deadly epidemic of loneliness

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We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness. —Albert Schweitzer

Loneliness is a political issue—at least, it should be. Loneliness and isolation are killing us. Lest you think this is metaphoric, the statistics are chilling. In a study funded by the National Science Foundation and reported in the American Sociological Review, researchers from Duke University and the University of Arizona conducted 1,500 face-to-face interviews with a random sample of American adults and found that one quarter of the respondents admitted that they had no one with whom they could talk about their personal troubles or successes. If you excluded family members, this number increased to a little over 50%.

Comment: Loneliness: The deadly truth