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Tue, 09 Feb 2016
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America's deadly epidemic of loneliness

© coloringinthedark.wordpress.com
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


Phoenix

The three births of the human spirit - Carl Gustav Jung

C. G. Jung believes that we need to go through three births in our lifetime. The first is our physical birth, then the birth of our Ego, and spiritual birth of Consciousness. In accordance with that fact, we also undergo three phases of development in our life. In the first third of our lives, emphasis is on our bodily growth, in the middle phase of our lives our Ego grows, and the last third of our lives is the period of our internal development. While at the first two births the most important thing is the maximum exploitation of the opportunities offered by the external world. In the third phase, however, the emphasis shifts on our internal development potentials. Unfortunately, the majority of people will never experience the spiritual birth for various reasons. Let us examine the possible reasons for that, to find out what factors prevents spiritual birth in us.

Butterfly

Cultivating compassion increases altruism and may lessen the need to punish

Seeing a child steal a toy from a fellow playmate. Watching a stranger cut in line at the grocery store. When we witness something unjust, our emotions often shape our behavior both toward the person wronged and the wrongdoer.

But why we help the victim in some cases or punish the transgressor in others isn't that simple, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Published in the journal PLoS ONE, a new set of studies suggests that compassion -- and intentionally cultivating it through training -- may lead us to do more to help the wronged than to punish the wrongdoer. Researchers found compassion may also impact the extent to which people punish the transgressor.

Understanding what motivates people to be altruistic can not only inform our own behaviors, it may also play a role in creating more just societal institutions, including the legal and penal systems. It can also help researchers develop better interventions to cultivate compassion.

Comment:


Headphones

Technology: Building bridges or walls?

© Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley/shutterstock.com
A prisoner was in the US was recently released after 44 years of incarceration for the attempted murder of a police officer. Emerging onto the streets of New York City, Otis Johnson, now 69, found himself bewildered by the world before him. Seeing people apparently talking to themselves on the street, futuristic headphones dangling from their ears, reminded him of CIA agents. People barely paid attention to their surroundings, and instead studied their smartphones while crossing the street, engrossed in their own personal bubbles.

Technology had delivered Johnson a massive culture shock, the shock of a world where technology has quickly changed the way we live and the way we relate to one another.

In 2013 Sherry Turkle, a clinical psychologist and esteemed professor at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote Alone Together, in which she questioned the extent to which social media is bringing people together. Following decades of research on the profound impact of modern technology on human relationships, Turkle concluded that with the omnipresence of technology "we're moving from conversation to connection".

Connection, it seems, denotes a very different quality of social interaction in comparison to conversation, as it refers to continuous streams of little titbits of information, such as those neatly packaged into 140 characters on Twitter.

Comment: Technology and social media have been instrumental in helping people to build networks and enhance communication. But, as with many things that have positive attributes, when used in ways that cut us off from interacting with the world around us, it can actually increase loneliness and isolation.


Heart

Empathy with strangers can be learned

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Surprisingly positive experiences with people from another group trigger a learning effect in the brain, which increases empathy.
We can learn to empathize with strangers. Surprisingly positive experiences with people from another group trigger a learning effect in the brain, which increases empathy. As researchers from the University of Zurich reveal, only a handful of positive learning experiences already suffice for a person to be-come more empathic.

Conflicts between people from different nationalities and cultures often stem from a lack of empathy or compassion for 'the stranger'. More empathy for members of other groups could thus encourage peaceful coexistence. A study conducted by the University of Zurich examined whether empathy with strangers can be learned and how positive experiences with others influence empathic brain responses.

Santa Hat

Resisting family triggers during the holidays

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It's a common refrain every year during the holidays: Dealing with your family, particularly parents, can be a real nightmare. There's the usual concerns. Will they talk to you like you're still 12? How long until your weird uncle says something racist? But for anyone from an alcoholic family, the concern gets piled upon: How long til someone triggers one of those character defects from no-longer-useful childhood survival skills? What if one of those parents is still drinking? How long til we're screaming at each other?

I used to live in denial that my father could bring out the worst in me. I'd hear other people get exasperated about visiting their families at holidays and wonder why they found it so difficult. My parents are lovely, I always thought. They're interesting and curious. They have insightful wisdoms! And all this was true, but I conveniently forgot that around the last night of every trip home, my dad and I would land ourselves in a knock-down, drag-out fight. The kind where I don't recognize myself as a person anymore. The kind where I can't totally remember or understand what happened the next day because I'm never fully sure how they started.

People 2

The relationship between words and emotions

Do you feel something less strongly if you don't have a word for it?

There's plenty of disagreement over how to define emotions, but at least one thing is certain: They are intensely personal things. A flood of anger, a flash of annoyance—that feeling is yours, is a result of your own unique set of circumstances, is shaping the way you see the world at a given moment.

At the same time, though, our emotions are also shaped by the world around us, and different cultures collectively experience emotions in different ways. Korea, for example, has han, or the state of feeling sad and hopeful at the same time. Finland, Denmark, and Norway all have their own terms for the specific kind of coziness that comes from being warm on a cold day, surrounded by loved ones.

In the recently published The Book of Human Emotions, the cultural historian Tiffany Watt Smith collected emotion words like these from around the world. I spoke to her about how vocabulary can affect the experience of feeling. Below is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.

Comment: Mapping the emotions we don't have language for


Snowman

Disengage from the matrix: Changing in the river of change

No man ever steps in the same river twice. For it is not the same river, and it is not the same man. There is nothing permanent except change. - Heraclitus
It seems things change more than we think - way more and in more ways. Even when we're aware of the underlying reality of constant change, we reference new changes by our memory and perception of old changes. And those were based on previous reference points.

We seem to be judging change by points of previous attachment, even though they continually shift. That cannot be very accurate. Nor fully conscious.

While assessing a particular situation, as my mind wandered backward to find context, I was surprised to realize how strongly and easily I was able to reference my previous "points of view". It jolted me knowing I'm not that person any more yet it was so very available in my consciousness. But that's how the mind is wired. A lot of information is stored there awaiting activation depending on our perspective and awareness. Hence we often have to wade through a mire of influences whether we want to or not.

Comment:


Santa Hat

Ancient Tibet, "Star Wars" and Jedi training

© 20th Century Fox
Let's start here: there are pre-conditions for the popularity of the Star Wars films. New previously unseen Space, huge amounts of it. Heroes in that space. The capacity to perform paranormal feats. A Force that feeds into that capacity. A battle between the light and dark aspects of the Force.

Yes, a director could take those pre-conditions and distort and strangle them in the making of a film, but without those elements the Star Wars movies wouldn't exist at all.

Drilling down further—The Jedi, in whom the Force is naturally strong, undergo training. This factor pulses in the audience's subconscious, because it makes a kind of sense. If an individual can perform paranormal feats and control them...he needs to learn how. He needs to go to school. He needs to practice, as an athlete does. Perhaps the paranormal isn't just a child's fantasy. Maybe it's more than that. Suppose it is. Suppose these societies we live in, these civilizations, are built to exclude such possibilities. Suppose, in the glorification of technology, an omission has occurred—an intentional omission. Suppose a deadening "realism" is the arbitrary substitute for paranormal ability. Suppose this is a long con of immense obfuscation.

Read Dean Radin's classic, The Conscious Universe: Radin presents a compelling case via a far-reaching analysis of paranormal laboratory experiments and their results.

When I first read his breakthrough book, I was floored. Far from merely recounting anecdotes of paranormal phenomena, Radin was proving that decades of well-formed and well-conducted published laboratory studies, in the areas of telepathy and psychokinesis, revealed that these human capabilities exist. He had performed a staggering feat. He had shown the science was valid.

It remains for other branches of the scientific community to catch up, to admit their consensus about reality is provincial, distorted, and pathetically behind the times. They are now the Roman Church of old, denying Galileo and Bruno.

Two years ago, Radin spoke at a conference, Electric Universe, in New Mexico. He described his recent pilot study on time and precognition.

A small group of advanced meditators who use the "non-dual" technique, were tested. While meditating, they were subjected to random interruptions: a flash of light and a beeping sound. Measuring their brain activity, Radin found that significant brain changes occurred BEFORE the light flashes or the beeps.

Comment: See also:


People 2

A man's challenge of emotional presence

Awhile back, I was taking a tour of a cave in Missouri. As our trolley rolled through the cavern, I was surprised to see people taking pictures....of the walls of the cave. Not pictures of the cavern or some spectacular formation of stalagmites, just pictures of the wall. Rock. I found this rather bewildering and couldn't imagine these folks looking back in a few years at these dimly lit pictures or sharing them with their unfortunate friends.

This is perhaps an extreme example, but it's also something I see whenever I go on vacation. There are people who seemingly cannot walk a few feet without stopping to take a picture. You're seeing this phenomenon at music concerts, too. Instead of holding up a lighter, people hold up their digital cameras to snap a photo.

I've never been much of a picture person myself. To me the payoff - the documentation of a moment in time - is not worth the interruption of the moment itself. I want to soak the whole experience into my brain as it happens, letting it flow and taking it in through both my eyes instead of through the lens of a camera.

Of course I understand the desire to capture memories and recognize that for a photography buff, taking the picture is the experience. And how many pictures you like to take isn't a big deal or test of your manliness. Rather, I mention my feelings about picture taking simply because it relates to my philosophy toward life itself. My goal is to be as fully present in every moment of my life as possible. And I humbly submit that this goal is one that every man should strive for.

Being fully present in all aspects of our lives - emotional, physical, and mental - is a manful way to live. It involves the self-control necessary to focus and engage body and soul with the world, while avoiding being distracted from what really matters. And it requires the bravery to face the world head on - to open oneself up to both unmitigated pain and undiluted joy. The easier path is to pursue every shiny thing that crosses our way or to numb ourselves and sleepwalk through life. But the easy path is not the path of true manliness. Isn't it about time you started showing up for your life?

Comment: Also see