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Tue, 09 Feb 2016
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit

Heart - Black

Heart of darkness: Scientists explain why psychopaths are the 'perfect recruits' for Daesh

© Unknown
The jihadist organisation Islamic State (ISIS) has been making headlines for the deadly terror attacks that its followers have launched in Iraq, Lebanon, France, Mali, Turkey and United States. The sheer brutality and cruelty of these attacks makes people wonder what goes on in the minds of these ISIS militants.

Mind experts say various scientific studies conducted in the fields of psychology and neuroscience could explain why psychopaths have a tendency to be attracted and convinced by ISIS' propaganda and ultimately recruited by the terrorist group.

First, what is a psychopath? This is an individual suffering from a personality disorder that makes them antisocial, unstable and aggressive, causing the person to exhibit violent social behaviour, the experts say.

Comment: Understanding psychopathy is essential for understanding why the world is the way it is. See also: Masters of Manipulation: Psychopaths rule the world:
As anyone can readily see from the preceding prototype description of the psychopath, the high powered arena of politics, the dog-eat-dog corporate world and the strong arm tactics of the military domain are all ideal and ripe fields of endeavor for those imbued with psychopathic traits.

A study out of Great Britain last year using a psychopathic survey to assess the presence of psychopathic traits within the national workforce showed that CEO's, politicians, media honchos, lawyers, surgeons, military generals, police officers and the clergy all scored highest. Generally any line of work characterized by a hierarchical infrastructure that places those in positions of power ruling over others with relative impunity proves to be the most fertile ground attracting those with a psychopathic personality.

Alarm Clock

Who should really take a time out?

This summer, a seven-year-old boy in Timmins, Ontario, became front-page news across the nation because his parents are suing the local board of education. They allege that he has been repeatedly locked in a closet at school to control his behaviour.

Such punishment may seem cruel, but it is not all that unusual. It's an extreme example of the classic "time-out" — one of the more prevalent, and pernicious, notions advocated by parenting experts.

Not long ago, the mother of a young girl with attention-deficit disorder wrote to me saying that, when her daughter was 3, psychologists advised a similar time-out to discourage her temper tantrums. Lock her in a closet, they suggested, "where she couldn't hurt herself."

2 + 2 = 4

The key to a real education: Self discovery

What if kids knew themselves - I mean really knew themselves?

Ask the average school leaver who they are at the core of their being and they'll likely say they haven't the faintest clue. Heck, ask me eight years ago when I was in my final year of high school and I'd have shrugged my shoulders too. I, like many others I've spoken to, didn't find myself until after I'd run the school gauntlet. Why is it that so many kids go through over a decade of 'education', yet come out the other end without a sense of who they truly are? Surely, the education system hasn't done its job. Or, perhaps, the education system was never geared at helping children learn who they are. If that is the case, as I daresay it is, what a tragedy...

But it doesn't have to be this way.

Comment: Education and the death of creativity
In short, we've been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. We teach children to be part of the system governing our society- uniformed, respectful of authority, scared of making mistakes. "If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original," Robinson points out. "Kids aren't afraid to make mistakes. If they don't know, they'll take a chance. But by the time they become adults most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. We run our companies this way. And we're now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make."


The dark side of self-control

Every virtue can come with its own accompanying dark side: honesty with brutality, courage with recklessness, and self-control with rigidity. It is said that people who seek therapy do it either because they need controlling their impulsive behavior or because they need loosening their rigidness.

Both impulsiveness and compulsiveness are often just two sides of the same coin. Compulsivity differs from impulsivity in that a particular action is repeated over and over. Psychologist Ainslie argues that rigid (or compulsive) behaviors arise as side effects of successful attempts to alleviate the weakness of the will.

Compulsive people are apt to get just as little long-range pleasure as impulsive ones. Here is how:

1. A defense mechanism

Rigid behavior is a defense mechanism in the effort to maintain a strong, consistent, positively valued sense of self. People who are strongly preoccupied with being in control may be struggling against more powerful temptations toward self-indulgence than most of us face.


2 + 2 = 4

The very real pain of exclusion

The national debate over the burdens of free speech may be discounting the toll of emotional trauma.

The more Donald Trump and Ted Cruz talk about denying Syrian refugees and undocumented immigrants entry into the United States, the more their poll numbers rise. On Monday, Trump went so far as to call for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." Meanwhile, protests have erupted on college campuses over discrimination as students feel isolated and unwelcome. The politics of exclusion have taken center stage in a national conversation—unfortunately, the pain of rejection may be all too real.

"Emotional pain can be as excruciating as physical pain," wrote University of Toronto psychology professor Geoff MacDonald, in a chapter of the 2009 Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology titled "Social Pain and Hurt Feelings." MacDonald is one of a growing number of researchers who believe the pain of hurt feelings may be as real and as serious as physical injury. That concept isn't conventional wisdom or established scientific fact. Nevertheless, it is striking at a time when debate over free speech, political correctness, and who belongs in American society—and who doesn't—has dominated the campaign trail and college campuses around the country.

Comment: The pain of social exclusion

Cloud Precipitation

An exploration of why we cry

In effort to understand my own tears, I looked to scientific research on crying. Though generally associated with sadness, tears can mean almost anything.

I. "Il pleure dans mon coeur"

"Il pleure dans mon coeur comme il pleut sur la ville." — Paul Verlaine

My mom recited this poem to me in the car on rainy days as we drove to or from school, and it comes to mind when I think of tears. The line means "it cries in my heart as it rains on the town" and plays on the way that 'it's raining' ( il pleut) and 'he/it cries' (il pleure) sound almost alike in French. You wouldn't really say "it cries in my heart," but I translate it that way because in French, the raining and crying are analogous, sound-wise. But the analogy of raindrops to melancholy weather within also works in terms of meaning: rainy days do make us gloomy. It's crying in my heart. "Stormy weather."


Why being near the ocean can make you calmer and more creative

© Hero Images via Getty
Since ancient times, humans have assigned healing and transformational properties to water. In early Rome, baths were an important part of cultural life, a place where citizens went to find relaxation and to connect with others in a calming setting. In ayurveda, the ancient Indian medicinal wisdom, and traditional Chinese medicine, the water element is crucial to balancing the body and creating physical harmony. Rivers have long been seen as sacred places, and in a number of different spiritual contexts, water has symbolized rebirth, spiritual cleansing and salvation.

Today, we still turn to water for a sense of calm and clarity. We spend our vacations on the beach or at the lake; get exercise and enjoyment from water sports like surfing, scuba diving, sailing, and swimming; refresh ourselves with long showers and soothing baths, and often build our lives and homes around being near the water.

Comment: Enjoy the Benefits of Hot and Cold Water Therapy

Mr. Potato

How do we develop our sense of humor?

To break down the science of humor seems, in a sense, almost contradictory to the spontaneous nature of humor. It's hard to explain why some people find Monty Python hilarious, for instance, while others don't quite see the humor in a bunch of British men making wry, off-color comments to each other. A sense of humor is at once highly individualized, yet also what bonds us to others in a way nothing else does. The purpose of it can be very biological—a way of finding a compatible mate—but it can also be an indicator of emotional intelligence, and of the environment and experiences specific to an individual.

Hopes&Fears spoke to humor experts to explore the idea of what factors create and shape our sense of humor, and what the evolutionary purpose of humor might be.


Why manning up is the worst thing to do

Can we cure the toxicity of male trauma and the resulting illnesses it creates?

© YES! illustration by Pablo Iglesias
The traditional rules about how to be a "real man" in America are breaking down. Economic upheaval has shifted wage earning from men to their wives or partners. The rise of men as primary caregivers of their children is challenging our most fundamental assumptions about gender. The gay rights and trans rights movements are creating expansive new definitions of masculinity. Millennials are leading a much broader acceptance of diversity.

This generation is witness to a collision between traditional masculinity and a new wave, one that values intimacy, caregiving, and nurturing. But many of us have spent our lives under immense pressure to stifle emotional expression of any kind. And we're learning there's a cost: Men are suffering higher rates of life-threatening disease, depression, and death. Simply put, the suppression of emotional expression in men is damaging their health and well-being.



Dying can change your life

Okay, I know the title is a little odd but hear me out, because what I have to say about dying only makes living all the more incredible.

We have been conditioned not to think about death and dying. If we do think about it and voice our thoughts then people, our family and close friends especially, might get a little worried, fearing for our mental health.

But what if — and this is where we make the grim reaper look like prince charming — what if by understanding death and how it's connected to life, we learn how to live in peace, joy, wonder and love? Have you ever wondered whether all those things we're seeking might be hiding in the very place we fear the most?

Comment: The Health and Wellness Show - Death: No One Gets Out of Here Alive