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Thu, 24 May 2018
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Practicing situational awareness can save your life

airplane cockpit
In December 1972, three days before New Year, Eastern Airlines flight 401 from New York crashed on approach to Miami when the pilot and crew, all focusing on a malfunctioning landing light, failed to register the plane was losing altitude. In 2007 a truck and train collided on a rail crossing in Kerang, Australia, when the truck driver failed to notice the approaching train. In 2010 the crew of BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico seemed unaware of the scale of the problem until the rig exploded.

Although each case is unique, the same phrases appear: "Failed to notice", "unaware of", "lack of awareness". These all point to a lapse in "situation awareness" - an important factor in the run up to each incident. But what exactly is situation awareness, what can lead to a lapse and how can you improve and develop your own sense of it?

Comment: More on the benefits of practicing situational awareness:


Study finds transgender children's brains more similar to those of their preferred gender

mri lab
© Jean-Paul Pelissier / Reuters
A new study using MRI scans of the brains of transgender children reveals similarities between brains of their preferred gender, suggesting trans people are born with their differences.

The study reveals the brains of transgender individuals who identify as women are more similar to the brains of women than men, and the same goes for transgender people who are born in a woman's body but identify as males - their brains are more like males than females.

The study, carried out by the University of Liege in Belgium, examined 160 children with gender dysphoria (when someone feels their emotional and psychological identity is different to their biological sex) and a number without the condition. It used an MRI scan to study the subjects' brains. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a type of scan that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create detailed images of the body.

'Brain structure and function in gender dysphoria' revealed the brains of those with gender dysphoria have both structural and neurological patterns that match the brains of those of their preferred genders.

Comment: In other words: gender is not a social construct - it's biological. And a male with a more female brain feels more like a female. That makes sense, and it's a whole lot different than saying they simply "choose" to be the other gender, or that the traditional gender characteristics they identify with are social constructs.

Now, it would be interesting to have a long-term study following a cohort of transgender children in order to see if their brain structures change over time. The fact that most children with gender dysphoria grow out of it would suggest this might be the case.


Scientists identify physical source of anxiety in the brain and they can control it with light

anxiety illustration
© Illustration Forest/Shutterstock
We're not wired to feel safe all the time, but maybe one day we could be.

A recent study investigating the neurological basis of anxiety in the brain has identified 'anxiety cells' located in the hippocampus - which not only regulate anxious behaviour but can be controlled by a beam of light.

The findings, so far demonstrated in experiments with lab mice, could offer a ray of hope for the millions of people worldwide who experience anxiety disorders (including almost one in five adults in the US), by leading to new drugs that silence these anxiety-controlling neurons.

Comment: While shutting down anxiety completely would not be beneficial (we feel anxiety for a reason, after all) learning more about how anxiety works at the brain level, and how it can begin to work badly in anxiety disorders, is a promising step in the treatment of anxiety conditions. And the fact that the cells are sensitive to light is interesting in relation to circadian rhythms and functioning of the brain.

See also:


Rejection by father can cause long-lasting damage to personality

father son
Both parents affect your personality, but rejection by one parent could be more critical for long-term development.

Being rejected by your father can do greater, long-lasting emotional damage than being rejected by your mother, research finds.

While rejection by either parent is traumatising for children, fathers often have higher prestige and/or power.

Therefore, children can take their father's rejection harder.

Professor Ronald Rohner, co-author of the study, said:
"In our half-century of international research, we've not found any other class of experience that has as strong and consistent effect on personality and personality development as does the experience of rejection, especially by parents in childhood.

Children and adults everywhere - regardless of differences in race, culture, and gender - tend to respond in exactly the same way when they perceived themselves to be rejected by their caregivers and other attachment figures."

Comment: See also:


After my breakdown, wild birds helped me to heal

A silhouetted Fieldfare
© Joe Harkness
A silhouetted Fieldfare
In 2013, I suffered a breakdown, and it nearly broke me. Looking back, I believe there was probably something wrong with my mental health from my mid-teens, but it took until my mid-twenties for it to fully surface. I'd masked it, abusing alcohol and Class A drugs in order to create a full-frontal façade of disgusting arrogance. The reality was that inside, I was screaming out to be able to shrink away and be who I really was - but I had to break in order to rebuild.

I needed more than counselling

After the breakdown, I embarked on a therapeutic journey. The NHS support was less than inspiring. The waiting list for funded counselling was months, and the stress workshops I was offered were flatly delivered. Antidepressant medication was the filler for my cracked mind - lifting my mood and suppressing my negative cyclic thoughts, albeit artificially.

Comment: See also: Mother nature is a valuable resource for human health & wellbeing

Spending time in nature calms and re-grounds us providing a sense of renewal

More than just folk wisdom: Immersing yourself in nature has a healing effect


Do you have charisma?

charisma can
It takes as little as five minutes to feel someone's charisma bursting through.

People who are charismatic have a magic combination of being courteous and approachable as well as being able to influence others.

That is why we associate charisma with leadership and with making people feel comfortable.

New research finds there are six signs of a charismatic person:
  1. Makes people feel comfortable.
  2. Smiles at people often.
  3. Can get along with anyone.
  4. Has a presence in a room.
  5. Has the ability to influence people.
  6. Knows how to lead a group.


Alexander Solzhenitsyn: 'Men Have Forgotten God'

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
As a survivor of the Communist Holocaust I am horrified to witness how my beloved America, my adopted country, is gradually being transformed into a secularist and atheistic utopia, where communist ideals are glorified and promoted, while Judeo-Christian values and morality are ridiculed and increasingly eradicated from the public and social consciousness of our nation. Under the decades-long assault and militant radicalism of many so-called "liberal" and "progressive" elites, God has been progressively erased from our public and educational institutions, to be replaced with all manner of delusion, perversion, corruption, violence, decadence, and insanity.

It is no coincidence that as Marxist ideologies and secularist principles engulf the culture and pervert mainstream thinking, individual freedoms and liberties are rapidly disappearing. As a consequence, Americans feel increasingly more powerless and subjugated by some of the most radical and hypocritical, least democratic, and characterless individuals our society has ever produced.

Comment: It is a testament to Solzhenitsyn's deep insights into humanity that he could see the West - as it is is right at this present time - from as far back as 1983.

People 2

Research finds people with brown eyes are more likely to be depressed in the winter

eye color
Seasonally Affected Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression. People with brown eyes are more likely to get depressed with the seasons, mostly in the winter, new research finds.

Women with brown eyes are particularly at risk as women are 40% more likely to experience the condition than men.

Those with blue eyes, though, seem to be have a level of protection against what is known as Seasonally Affected Disorder (SAD).

People with SAD - a form of depression - generally start to feel down from around fall and the symptoms continue through the winter months.

2 + 2 = 4

Meditation in the classroom - can it increase students' levels of physical, mental and emotional awareness?

© Shutterstock
Meditation doesn’t just help kids feel relaxed; neuroscience suggests that it changes the structure and function of the brain.
The fast pace of the business world - where competition is the rule and return on investment decides everything - can be challenging for business students.

They are expected to know the rules of business inside out but they also need to learn to master their emotions, to enable efficient and ethical decision making.

A traditional business education provides few opportunities for students to cultivate emotional resilience, empathy and ethical decision-making. Incorporating meditation into the curriculum could be a contribution to rectifying this.

Preliminary findings from a study conducted with business students at Simon Fraser University show that even 10 minutes of classroom meditation can gradually increase students' levels of physical, mental and emotional awareness.

Can meditation help all students - from elementary to university - to become more peaceful, calm and better decision makers?

Comment: More research about meditation practices being taught in the classroom:

Heart - Black

Social media, rage and hysteria: Why are we living in an age of anger?

anger cartoon
© Ben Boothman at Agency Rush
‘Unprocessed anger pollutes the social sphere. Every outburst legitimises the next.’
A neighbour objected to a young couple from Newcastle being naked in their own home. "We are sick of seeing big bums, big boobs and little willy," was the core message of the note, crescendoing to: "We will report you both for indecent exposure." It is such a small thing, banal, without consequence. It connects to no wider narrative and conveys nothing but the bubbling discomfort of human beings living near each other. Yet when Karin Stone (one of the nakeds) posted the note on Facebook, 15,000 people pored over it. An Australian radio show interviewed her. I have got to be honest, I am heavily emotionally invested in the story myself and I do not regret a second of the time I have spent reading about it.

There is a through-line to these spurts of emotion we get from spectatorship: the subject matter is not important. It could be human rights abuse or a party-wall dispute; it does not matter, so long as it delivers a shot of righteous anger. Bile connects each issue. I look at that note, the prurience and prissiness, the mashup of capital and lower-case letters, the unlikeliness that its author has a smaller bum or a bigger willy, and I feel sure they voted for Brexit. The neighbours are delighted by their disgust for these vigorous, lusty newlyweds, I am delighted by my disgust for the neighbours, radio listeners in Australia are delighted. We see rage and we meet it with our own, always wanting more.

There was the mean note left on the car of a disabled woman ("I witnessed you and your young able-bodied daughter ... walk towards the precinct with no sign of disability"); the crazed dyspepsia of the woman whose driveway was blocked briefly by paramedics while they tried to save someone's life. Last week, Highways England felt moved to launch a campaign against road rage, spurred by 3,446 recorded instances in a year of motorists driving straight through roadworks. Violent crime has not gone up - well, it has, but this is thought mainly to reflect better reporting practices - but violent fantasies are ablaze. Political discourse is drenched in rage. The things people want to do to Diane Abbott and Luciana Berger make my eyes pop out of my head.

Comment: The question remains: why are people so angry to begin with? Yes, social hysteria and social media amplify it, but what makes people vulnerable now, in this time? What causes the hysteria? Probably the deepest explanation is meaninglessness. On some level, people know that their lives are utterly meaningless, and that makes them angry. It makes them angry because on some deeper level, they know that their lives can and should be meaningful, and they are utter failures at life. Not willing to see themselves objectively, they project their anger out on the world, wishing it would change to accommodate them, rather than change themselves.

But there's more to it than that. See: