Science of the Spirit


Learning to set healthy boundaries

What can protect you from toxic people, keep painful memories in their place, keep you safe and strong, and help you manage your feelings?


Truly, boundaries are amazing. And good ones are a cornerstone of mental health.

When you grow up in a household that has healthy boundaries, you naturally have them yourself as an adult. But unfortunately, many of us don't start out with that advantage.

If you grew up in a household with Childhood Emotional Neglect (your feelings and emotional needs weren't met enough), or if you had a parent with a personality disorder, you may be especially challenged in this area.

Without strong but flexible boundaries, you may be overly vulnerable to criticism or insults from others, you may struggle to manage your feelings internally or prone to emotional outbursts, you may find yourself worrying too much, dwelling on the past, or not keeping yourself safe enough.

Comment: 6 subtle signs your boundaries are being broken


Musical preferences linked to cognitive processes

© rubchikova / Fotolia
Do you like your jazz to be Norah Jones or Ornette Coleman, your classical music to be Bach or Stravinsky, or your rock to be Coldplay or Slayer? The answer could give an insight into the way you think, say researchers from the University of Cambridge.

In a study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, a team of psychologists show that your thinking style - whether you are an 'empathizer' who likes to focus on and respond to the emotions of others, or a 'systemizer' who likes to analyse rules and patterns in the world—is a predictor of the type of music you like.

Comment: Reference:
Greenberg, DM, Baron-Cohen, S, Stillwell, DJ, Kosinski, M, & Rentfrow, PJ. Musical preferences are linked to cognitive styles. PLOS ONE; 22 July 2015


The surprising danger of becoming an expert in your field

© Business Insider
Self-proclaimed experts may be more susceptible to the illusion of knowledge.
Here's a trick you can try at the next party you attend: Come up with a completely bogus money term and then ask your financial expert friend to explain it to you.

Chances are he'll make a fool of himself when he assumes it's a real concept and claims to know all about it.

That's according to new research, which suggests that self-proclaimed experts are more susceptible to the "illusion of knowledge." In other words, people who believe they know a lot about a particular topic are more likely to claim they know about fake concepts related to that topic.

This phenomenon, called "overclaiming," could easily undermine you and work, making you look like an arrogant idiot or leading you to offer bad advice to others seeking your expertise.

The study, led by Stav Atir, a graduate student at Cornell University, tested this phenomenon among self-proclaimed experts in fields like personal finance, biology, and literature.

In one experiment, 100 participants were asked to rate their general knowledge of personal finance as well as their knowledge of 15 financial terms. Most of the terms on the list were real (e.g., "Roth IRA" and "inflation"), but participants also saw three made-up terms ("pre-rated stocks," "fixed-rate deduction," and "annualized credit").

As it turns out, those who said they knew a lot about finance were most likely to claim familiarity with the made-up terms.


Psychological well-being and empathy

Do you prioritize other people's feelings over your own? You might be falling into the "empathy trap"
Empathy is having its moment. The ability to feel what another person is feeling, from that person's perspective, generates lots of press as the ultimate positive value and the pathway to a kinder, less violent world. Schools across the country are teaching empathy to children, and myriad books explore it from every possible angle: how to get it, why it makes you a better person, how its absence can breed evil.

Empathy is exalted by thinkers from Zen Buddhist monk Thích Nhâ't Hąnh to British writer Roman Krznaric, who just launched an online Empathy Museum where you can virtually step into someone else's shoes. Established scientists like primatologist Frans de Waal and developmental psychiatrist Daniel Siegel explore the deep roots of empathy in animals and its essential nature in humans. Even the business world exalts empathy as a way to ensure the success of companies and their products, with design firm IDEO leading the charge. We are exhorted to examine our empathic capacity and instructed how to develop it in ourselves and in our children.

It is normal and necessary to be tuned in to someone else's feelings, especially when one is very close to that person. In fact, giving—and getting—empathy is essential in intimate adult relationships. "The empathic understanding of the experience of other human beings is as basic an endowment of man as his vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell," observed noted psychoanalyst Heinz Kohut. The desire to be heard, known, and felt deeply never disappears. But when empathy becomes the default way of relating, psychological well-being is impoverished.

Where sympathy is the act of feeling for someone ("I am so sorry you are hurting"), empathy involves feeling with someone ("I feel your disappointment"). It also differs from compassion, which is a caring concern for another's suffering from a slightly greater distance and often includes a desire to help. Empathy involves not just feelings but thoughts, and it encompasses two people—the person we are feeling for and our own self.

Comment: Watch Daniel Goleman discuss his book, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships, where he incorporates emotional intelligence in the context of interpersonal relations.

See also: When the Body Says No: Caring for ourselves while caring for others - Dr. Gabor Maté

Mr. Potato

Self-perceived experts are more likely to believe made-up information and false facts

"Experts" have a tendency to overclaim false information
New research reveals that the more people think they know about a topic in general, the more likely they are to allege knowledge of completely made-up information and false facts, a phenomenon known as "overclaiming." The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"Our work suggests that the seemingly straightforward task of judging one's knowledge may not be so simple, particularly for individuals who believe they have a relatively high level of knowledge to begin with," says psychological scientist Stav Atir of Cornell University, first author on the study.

To find out why people make these spurious claims, Atir and colleagues David Dunning of Cornell University and Emily Rosenzweig of Tulane University designed a series of experiments testing people's self-perceived knowledge, comparing it to their actual expertise.

In one set of experiments, the researchers tested whether individuals who perceived themselves to be experts in personal finance would be more likely to claim knowledge of fake financial terms.



John Trudell explains how today's customs can turn us into the walking dead

Native American, John Trudell, explains how people today are going along with society, cut off from a spiritual, tribal past in a unified realm of Being.

"Protect your spirit, because you are in the place where spirits get eaten." It's not surprising that zombie movies and thrillers are so popular to the modern human.

The zombie has become an adequate metaphor for the modern man. We live in a time where our most esteemed institutions have no spiritual connection to reality.

One solution for paving the way out of "Zombie Land" is for human beings to re-establish a spiritual connection to the Earth.

Comment: Check out the John Trudell Documentary for some more enlightening and practical wisdom about the importance of protecting your spirit. Also check out this telling video from 2013 'Nazi America', The Spaceman: Chaos featuring John Trudell

People 2

Altruism in children linked with better physiological regulation, less family wealth

© Enoch Lai (Creative Commons)
Children as young as 4 years old may reap better health from altruistic giving, a behavior that tends to be less common among kids from high-income families, according to new research on the nature and nurture of altruism published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"The findings provide us with a new understanding of how children's altruistic behaviors, family wealth, and physiological health are intertwined," says psychological scientist and lead researcher Jonas Miller of the University of California Davis.

Previous research has shown that altruism, or giving that is personally costly, can promote both physical and psychological well-being in adults. This new study extends this research to young children, investigating how their nervous systems respond during altruistic acts and how altruism is related to family wealth.

In the study, the research team recruited 74 pre-schoolers (average age 4 years old) from the local community. In the lab, the researchers played with the children one by one and explained that they would earn tokens that they could trade for prizes at the end of their visit.

As part of the visit, researchers attached (with parental consent) electrodes to each child's torso to collect physiological data, including information about heart rate and vagal tone. Vagal tone indicates the influence of the vagus nerve, which connects the brain with other key organs and provides a useful measure of the body's ability to regulate physiological stress responses. High vagal tone is related to feeling safe and calm, says Miller, and has been associated with better physical health, behavior, and social skills among young children.

Comment: See also: How big-hearted babies become selfish monsters - Our natural instinct for altruism is being destroyed by the demands of modern life


Why some folks will always bow to tyrants

As America continues to descend into a vicious police state, many have wondered how it all came to this. The easiest answer to that question, is that we let it happen. No matter how brutal a regime may be, tyrants never come to power unless they gain the approval, or at least the indifferent consent of their people.

So the real question is, how come so many people seem absolutely complacent in the face of our crumbling cultural values, and the steady march of tyranny? Even worse, how can so many people revel in it? It seems like the number of people who truly value freedom are severely outnumbered by idiots and power tripping busybodies. Granted, the number of people who want to be free has grown in recent years, but they're still few and far between when compared to the glut of grovelling masses that we share the world with.

Here's the awful answer to that question, and the dirty truth that most people can't bring themselves to admit to. Most people love freedom, but only as an idea. They like the idea that they can do whatever they want, they admire the archetype of the rugged individualist, and everyone loves underdogs and rebels. In other words, people love the banners and symbols of freedom, but do they love freedom in practice?

Comment: For an in-depth analysis of the psychological, social and political acquiescence to tyranny see: Global Pathocracy, Authoritarian Followers and the Hope of the World


More psychopathy apologetics: The "myth" of the psychopath

© wikiHow
"Seriously, baby, there's no such thing as psychopaths!"
In 2008, shortly after graduating from college, I was living in western Kenya and working with a man named Gregory. Gregory (I've changed his name) was my fixer, sort of: He helped make introductions, drove me around, and explained Kenya to me while we worked on a series of loosely organized education projects. Gregory was Kenyan, and when I'd first met him, back in the United States, and he had been warm and ingratiating and seemed excited that I'd soon be moving to Kenya.

Not long after I arrived, though, things with Gregory began to go wrong. He was chronically late and always seemed to be lying about it. He had gotten a flat tire, his truck was in the shop, his phone had run out of credit. Once, we made plans to travel to a school together on a Tuesday morning, but Gregory didn't show up or call until Thursday. (No one was ever punctual in Kenya, which suited me just fine, but two days late was unusual.) On another school visit, we were driving along a dirt road in his old red pick-up, weaving through a crowd of pedestrians, when Gregory plowed into a man walking down the middle of the road. He didn't take his foot off the gas or make any effort to swerve. We collected the injured man and drove him to a clinic a mile away, and I think he ended up OK, but the incident was horrifying—it seemed as if Gregory barely registered what had happened.

Comment: Much evil is committed by monsters. Ironically, it is people like Jalava, Griffiths, Maraun, and Vigneron who deny humanity a complete and complex description, painting people with the same 'one-size-fits-all' brush. Some evil may be committed by 'ordinary' people. But there are others who can rape, torture, mutilate, and murder infants with the same emotional feeling inspired by chopping a piece of wood. Might not these researchers and others of like mind simply be afraid of accepting such a reality?


Courage to quit: Outgrowing pornography and waking up to your true self

If you are a human being alive in the 21st century, chances are you have an opinion about porn.

Maybe you use it; maybe you don't. Maybe you think it's good; maybe you think it's bad; maybe you think it's none of my business. Fine. The bottom line is this:
"Four billion dollars a year is spent on video pornography in the United States, more than on football, baseball, and basketball. One in four internet users look at a pornography website in any given month. Men look at pornography online more than they look at any other subject. And 66% of 18 - 34-year-old men visit a pornographic site every month." (Pamela Paul, Pornified, Times Books, 2005)
Now, let's be clear: Porn is not a monolithic phenomenon, and not all porn is created equal. There are porn videos that depict violent, non-consensual and abusive sexual acts... and there are videos that showcase loving, consensual sexual encounters. (And everything in-between).