Science of the Spirit


Good relationships keep you healthier for longer

Arguments with the people we are close to can have a serious impact on our health and mortality rate, a new study has confirmed.

The link between having supportive friends and family and serious health outcomes has long been recognised, but this research, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Public Health, takes our knowledge of the impact of relationships on health one step further by showing how stress can even impact on our life span.

Stressful social relations with partners, children, other family members, friends and neighbours, were examined using questions about everyday life. Questions addressed the degree to which people felt their relationships demanded too much of them, worried them or involved conflict. These questions were scored from always through to seldom, with people reporting frequent stressful social relations being deemed as at high risk.

Wheat vs. rice: How China's culinary divide shapes personality

Villagers transplant rice seedlings in Minhou County, southeast China’s Fujian Province.
In China, as in many countries, the north-south divide runs deep. People from the north are seen as hale and hearty, while southerners are often portrayed as cunning, cultured traders. Northerners are taller than southerners. The north eats noodles, while the south eats rice - and according to new research, when it comes to personality, that difference has meant everything.

A study published Friday by a group of psychologists in the journal Science finds that China's noodle-slurping northerners are more individualistic, show more "analytic thought" and divorce more frequently. By contrast, the authors write, rice-eating southerners show more hallmarks traditionally associated with East Asian culture, including more "holistic thought" and lower divorce rates.

The reason? Cultivating rice, the authors say, is a lot harder. Picture a rice paddy, its delicate seedlings tucked in a bed of water. They require careful tending and many hours of labor - by some estimates, twice as much as wheat - as well as reliance on irrigation systems that require neighborly cooperation. As the authors write, for southerners growing rice, "strict self-reliance might have meant starvation."
Eye 1

Why elites and psychopaths are useless to society

The ultimate and final goal of evil is to obscure and destroy our very conception of evil itself, to change the inherent moral fiber of all humanity until people can no longer recognize what is right and what is wrong. Evil is not a wisp of theological myth or a simplistic explanation for the aberrant behaviors of the criminal underbelly; rather, it is a tangible and ever present force in our world. It exists in each and every one of us. All men do battle with this force for the entirety of our lives in the hope that when we leave this Earth, we will leave it better and not worse.

When evil manifests among organized groups of people in the halls of power, power by itself is not always considered the greatest prize. The true prize is to mold society until it reflects the psychopathy that rots at the core of their being. That is to say, the elites, the oligarchy, the mad philosopher kings want to make us just like they are: proudly soulless. Only then can they rule, because only then will they be totally unopposed.

The problem is humanity is not only hardwired with a dark side; we are also hardwired with a conscience - at least, most of us are.

Comment: The propagation of the psychopathic myths and lies mentioned in this article have intensified in recent years as information about psychopaths has become more prominent. The mask of sanity that psychopaths wear is most effective when people know nothing of it. Now that the cat is out of the bag they're maneuvering every which way to remain unnoticed. But as always, knowledge protects and having an accurate and comprehensive understanding of psychopathy remains an essential building block for discerning truth from lies.

We're faced with a psychological information war from psychopaths that goes further than any government sponsored propaganda. It reaches into our psyches and into the social fabric of the present and past; it corrupts our philosophies, our morality and our family relationships. It's pervasive but it can be countered with human connection and a desire to understand.

In Political Ponerology, Andrew Lobaczewski describes his initiation into recognizing the world of this corrupting influence and describes how he and fellow students learned to counter it's influence from a pathological professor:
"We thus wondered how to protect ourselves from the results of this indoctrination. Teresa D. made the first suggestion: Let's spend a weekend in the mountains. It worked. Pleasant company, a bit of joking, then exhaustion followed by deep sleep in a shelter, and our human personalities returned, albeit with a certain remnant. Time also proved to create a kind of psychological immunity, although not with everyone. Analysing the psychopathic characteristics of the "professor's" personality proved another excellent way of protecting one's own psychological hygiene."
Recreating a more human world is integral to overcoming the effects of the imposing psychopathic reality. Working on stronger bonds with friends and family, disconnecting from the stress induced rat race, and taking the time to talk over our problems with loved ones can provide a protective measure that we all need now and will certainly continue to need in the future. Pathology flourishes in isolation and the more we connect with others who want the same things, the better we can handle and process the hardships we face as individuals and as a larger society. While pathological types may be the origin of many of our world issues, we've only gotten to where we are because of our participation. It's our responsibility to create something else, and we need a clear head to do it. And as Lobaczewski writes, understanding the characteristics of psychopaths provides an additional layer of protection.

For further information check out these shows on SOTT Talk Radio:

The 'Wetiko Virus' and Collective Psychosis: Interview With Paul Levy

Surviving the Psy-pocalypse: Interview with Stefan Verstappen

American Heart of Darkness: Robert Kirkconnell Interview

Predators Among Us: Interview With Dr. Anna Salter

Are Psychopaths Cool? Uncovering the predators among us


Mothers' symptoms of depression predict how they respond to child behavior

Depressive symptoms are common among mothers, and these symptoms are linked with worse developmental outcomes for children.
Depressive symptoms seem to focus mothers' responses on minimizing their own distress, which may come at the expense of focusing on the impact their responses have on their children, according to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Depressive symptoms are common among mothers, and these symptoms are linked with worse developmental outcomes for children. The new study, which followed 319 mothers and their children over a two-year period, helps to explain why parenting competence seems to deteriorate as parents' symptoms of depression increase.

"Children can often be demanding, needy, unpredictable, uncooperative, and highly active," says lead research Theodore Dix of the University of Texas at Austin.

"The task of parenting, particularly with children who are emotionally reactive, is especially difficult for mothers experiencing symptoms of depression because they are continually attempting to regulate their distress and discomfort."

Comment: Something that can help against depression and help one to be more calm and focused is a breathing program called Éiriú Eolas. You can find more information here.

Magic Wand

The power of imagination

John William Waterhouse’s painting “Miranda—The Tempest.”
Those in the premodern world who hoarded possessions and refused to redistribute supplies and food, who turned their backs on the weak and the sick, who lived exclusively for hedonism and their own power, were despised. Those in modern society who are shunned as odd, neurotic or eccentric, who are disconnected from the prosaic world of objective phenomena and fact, would have been valued in premodern cultures for their ability to see what others could not see. Dreams and visions - considered ways to connect with the wisdom of ancestors - were integral to existence in distant times. Property was communal then. Status was conferred by personal heroism and providing for the weak and the indigent. And economic exchanges carried the potential for malice, hatred and evil: When wampum was exchanged by Native Americans the transaction had to include "medicine" that protected each party against "spiritual infection."

Only this premodern ethic can save us as we enter a future of economic uncertainty and endure the catastrophe of climate change. Social and economic life will again have to be communal. The lusts of capitalism will have to be tamed or destroyed. And there will have to be a recovery of reverence for the sacred, the bedrock of premodern society, so we can see each other and the earth not as objects to exploit but as living beings to be revered and protected. This means inculcating a very different vision of human society.
Life Preserver

Crucial decisions often taken with poor guidance for those with limited mental capacity

Professionals often veered between being too empowering or too restrictive when helping with decisions.
People who have limited mental capacity need better help with making decisions according to a clinical psychologist at Lancaster University.

Dr Stephen Weatherhead says the implementation of the Mental Capacity Act by health and social care professionals is often inadequate. Research he supervised, conducted by Irram Waji is published in the journal Social Care and Neurodisability.

The research found gaps in training and misunderstandings in the implementation of the complexities of the Act.

Stephen said: "With an aging population and more people surviving serious injury, this Act will affect nearly everyone at some point.

Whether from Alzheimer's, autism or brain injury, people can lack the mental capacity to decide things like where to live or whether to have hospital treatment."

He said that professionals often veered between being too empowering or too restrictive when helping with decisions.

Want to get smarter? Avoid best-selling books

good reading habits
© Thinkstock
Dig past the bestsellers.
If you read what everyone else reads, soon you'll start thinking like everyone else

We all know we should read more. Few of us do.

Well, last year I made reading a priority and ended up reading 161 books cover-to-cover. I reasoned that if reading was the key to getting smarter, I wouldn't let anything get in my way.

What I learned most from my year of reading surprised me because it wasn't found in any particular bit of knowledge in any of the books I read. The big lesson was a simple heuristic: Avoid most best-selling books. These books are not fertile ground for learning and acquiring knowledge. In fact, most are forgotten within a year or two. Why learn something that expires so quickly?

Well let's start with this question: Why do we read best-sellers in the first place? You know you want to read. You know you should read. But often, you have no idea what to read. When you don't know what to do in life, you often look to others. This is social proof, and it's a powerful force, especially in situations of uncertainty.

If you read what everyone else is reading, it's going to feel good. You're even going to get some positive reinforcement out of it when you talk to your friends about your latest read. Maybe they've read it, too. Or at least they've heard of it and have the sense that it's a worthwhile endeavor. You'll seem hip and in the know.

But this is a horrible way to build knowledge.

Comment: If you want to build a knowledge base that gives you the tools for navigating this pathological world, you can do no better than this book list.


Preschool teacher depression linked to behavioral problems in children

© Gabe Palmer / Alamy
The study identified one contributing factor to this link: a poor-quality atmosphere in the child care setting that exists as a result of the teacher's depressive symptoms.
Depression in preschool teachers is associated with behavioral problems ranging from aggression to sadness in children under the teachers' care, new research suggests.

The study identified one contributing factor to this link: a poor-quality atmosphere in the child care setting that exists as a result of the teacher's depressive symptoms. In this study, "teacher" refers to both classroom instructors and in-home child care providers.

Researchers conducted the study using data from a large national study that collected family information primarily from low-income, single-mother households.

"We were interested in that sample because we thought that children of low-income single mothers might experience a more emotionally vulnerable home environment, and we wanted to see if the role of teachers affected their psychological health," said Lieny Jeon, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher in human sciences at The Ohio State University.

Behavioral problems in young children -- in this case, 3-year-olds -- can result in later issues that include lower academic achievement and a lack of social skills, according to previous research. The problems rated in this study included externalizing behaviors such as aggression, anger and a lack of control, as well as internalizing behaviors: depression, anxiety, sadness and withdrawal.

Firstborn siblings are more conservative, new study finds

Siblings Playing
© Sokolova Maryna , Shutterstock
Does birth order matter for personality?
Oldest siblings may be the conservatives of the family, according to new research from Italy.

The new study finds that the eldest child of a family is more likely to be conservative than the second-born, which supports a controversial theory that has been kicking around the social science community since at least 1928. The question of whether and how much birth order really shapes a person's personality remains open and contentious, however.

"We suggest that differences in conservatism between firstborns and second-borns stem from different strategies of optimizing the parental resources children can gain in the family system," study researcher Daniela Barni, a psychologist at the Catholic University of Milan in Italy, told Live Science.

Birth order controversy

Barni and her colleagues were investigating a question with a long history in psychology. The idea that a person's birth order can influence his or her entire life came from Alfred Adler, an Austrian psychiatrist who lived at the same time as Sigmund Freud. Adler theorized in 1928 that firstborn children are more conservative - in the sense of being resistant to change and preferring order and conformity - than their younger siblings, because the eldest child has had the experience of being toppled from his or her throne by the sudden arrival of a tiny competitor.

In 1997, psychologist Frank Sulloway expanded on the theory in his book, Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, and Creative Lives (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1997). Sulloway suggested that firstborns are used to being dominant and prefer to uphold the status quo, while second-borns, looking for a unique niche to fill in their families, take a path of rebellion. Firstborns also stick to a conservative path in order to align themselves with their parents, Sulloway argued.
Magic Wand

When feeling anxiety don't try to calm down - get excited!

excited and carry on
Human beings, being human, get anxious. We all do, except psychopaths. An estimated 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety of some form at any given time. Some of us get really, really anxious, like Scott Stossel, a writer and editor at the Atlantic whose memoir of a lifelong and often paralyzing struggle with the condition is about to be published. For those of us to whom anxiety is a more occasional visitor, the condition can be crippling.

There's a reason for performance anxiety, of course; it focuses the mind, and without it some of us would never complete anything. But there are real costs, as well: Anxiety has been shown to sap our working memory and information processing, the very capacities we need to perform well in any task that requires thinking. "Anxious negotiators make low first offers, exit early, and earn less profit than neutral state negotiators," writes Alison Wood Brooks, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School. "Similarly, anxious individuals seek out and rely more heavily on advice, even when the advice is obviously bad, because they do not feel confident in their own ability to make good judgments."