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Thu, 23 May 2019
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Science of the Spirit

Pocket Knife

Common defense mechanisms and what their use says about our personal development

common defense mechanisms
In some areas of psychology (especially in psychodynamic theory), psychologists talk about "defense mechanisms," or manners in which we behave or think in certain ways to better protect or "defend" ourselves. Defense mechanisms are one way of looking at how people distance themselves from a full awareness of unpleasant thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

Psychologists have categorized defense mechanisms based upon how primitive they are. The more primitive a defense mechanism, the less effective it works for a person over the long-term. However, more primitive defense mechanisms are usually very effective short-term, and hence are favored by many people and children especially (when such primitive defense mechanisms are first learned). Adults who don't learn better ways of coping with stress or traumatic events in their lives will often resort to such primitive defense mechanisms as well.

Most defense mechanisms are fairly unconscious - that means most of us don't realize we're using them in the moment. Some types of psychotherapy can help a person become aware of what defense mechanisms they are using, how effective they are, and how to use less primitive and more effective mechanisms in the future.

Wedding Rings

Religious couples tend to have happier marriages

Wedding rings
New study examines egalitarianism, religion in 21st-century relationships

Both religion and egalitarianism have something to offer those seeking a happy marriage in a world of shifting mores-though religion leads to more children-a new report on international perspectives on marital happiness shows.

The report, a joint project of the Institute for Family Studies and the Wheatley Institution, uses data from two surveys of respondents in eleven countries: Argentina, Australia, Chile, Canada, Colombia, France, Ireland, Mexico, Peru, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The authors set out to examine the now standard bromide that progressive, secular social values lead to happier marriages.

As study authors W. Bradford Wilcox, Jason S. Carroll, and Laurie DeRose wrote in the New York Times, the recipe for a happy marriage is either being religious or being egalitarian - those stuck in the middle are consistently the worst off.

To reach this result, the study's authors looked at roughly 5,000 couples surveyed in the Global Family and Gender Survey (GFGS). Based on frequency of religious attendance, these couples were classified as either secular, religious, or mixed. What the survey data show is that high religious couples report higher rates of marital and sexual satisfaction than their mixed or secular peers.


Study shows students learn better when they take handwritten notes

The educational system is being swept along in the race for technological advancement and supremacy in nearly every country. I'm not anti-technology, but I'm aware of the disadvantages of the Computer Age.

Students don't engage in interesting practical work in some schools around the world anymore. Some instructors will merely project a virtual lab or a live video on a big screen. Some don't even have to dissect animals anymore. What happened to the hands-on work? The "big screen" teaches them exactly how to do that.

I'm glad some schools are still holding on to the frog-dissection culture.

Laptops and tablets are increasingly replacing exercise books, pens, and paper. In some ways, it has become a standard to measure the modernity of a school. Laptops are becoming smaller, flatter, faster, and hence, more ubiquitous than ever. Tablets aren't backing down in the race either. Colleges where students still take hand-written notes and use paper textbooks are thought of as archaic and non-progressive; however, this would not be entirely accurate to say. At many schools, it's a requirement for students to show up with a reliable laptop for their coursework. Some colleges provide these for all their students.

Comment: See also: Writing helps develop fine motor skills: Ohio lawmakers approve new lessons to encourage penmanship


Are people using YouTubers in place of having real relationships?

you tube addiction
New research clarifies drivers of YouTube overuse.
Look in my eyes, what do you see?
The cult of personality
I know your anger, I know your dreams
I've been everything you want to be
I'm the cult of personality
Like Mussolini and Kennedy
I'm the cult of personality

-In Living Color, The Cult of Personality
Addiction to personality porn?

Are one-sided, simulated relationships replacing real relationships, a compensation for something not fully realized? More and more people seem to be replacing relationships with real intimate others with interactions on social media. Is this necessarily a bad trend, or is it perhaps superior to dealing with messy, potentially risky traditional human relations?

Video-intensive platforms present us with a massively diverse array of YouTubers, officially called "Creators" (religious overtones, anyone?). It's hard to tell fact from fiction, so real and engaging are these simulators of human experience for one able to become immersed in the fantasies they conjure up.

The trend is toward greater self-disclosure, and highly personal revelations are powerful in creating a sense of real connection with virtual partners. Similar to robotic partners, substitutive relationships with pseudo-personalities meet attachment needs while potentially rewarding insecure attachments. For dismissive attachment style, not needing actual people works great, and for anxious attachment, know that what you want is going to be there 24/7 is a huge relief.

Comment: "...healthy cyborgs, symbiotic with AI and biotechnological augments"?? -- Too bad the author resorts this type of transhumanist conception at the very close of his article. Who wants to be a "healthy cyborg" or "symbiotic with AI"? Technology is a tool, and as such, should be approached as conservatively as possible. Period. The threat of becoming "unresisting hosts to pernicious parasites" being a good warning to us all.


Scientists learn that six in ten grieving people 'see or hear dead loved ones'

What happens when we 'die?' We can't quite answer that question, but we can perhaps say that something indeed does happen. The evidence for reincarnation, for example, is quite unbelievable. There have been a number of cases of children who clearly remember their past lives, describing in detail their previous family members as well as how they died and other factors that have been confirmed by their supposed past families. This is precisely why Carl Sagan said that reincarnation is worthy of "serious scientific study." Other near death studies have suggested that consciousness does not depend on our biology, as those who are close to death or pronounced dead and then come back to life have told tales and described details about their surroundings at the time that would have been impossible had they not been 'outside' of their bodies. This information was presented to the United Nations, and you can read more about that here and watch the full video presentation.

There could be multiple things that happen when one passes away. Perhaps their soul can go multiple routes, as if it has a choice? Perhaps consciousness is something separate from the soul? Perhaps bits and pieces of our consciousness stick around while our soul goes off to a new experience? Who knows, but again, the evidence suggesting something does indeed happen is pretty interesting to say the least.

A study conducted a couple of years ago added to the mystery, as researchers from the University of Milan found that there is a "very high prevalence" of people who have experience with receiving messages from their deceased loves one, like seeing or hearing them. The study, however, labels these as "post-bereavement hallucinatory experiences," and the researchers don't seem to be open to the idea that these experiences could actually be real.


As Above, So Below?

comet mcnaught
© Stéphane Guisard
Comet McNaught over Chile, January 2007
Here is an old idea: our world is part of a living universe, with a mind of its own, a place that is not only a playground for indulging desires, but also a school for learning from the suffering generated by the struggle of existence. This idea lay at the heart of the ancient philosophy of Stoicism, established in Athens in the early 3rd century BC. In Comets And The Horns Of Moses, Laura Knight-Jadczyk summarized the Stoics' basic philosophy thus:
"The world is rationally organised, and so explicable and understandable. The pattern is complete throughout. Within the organisation, different elements and parts are dynamic and governing, others are passive in function. The world is purposefully providential; so there is also a design as well as a pattern, and the good end is discoverable by the rational understanding of this. The divine element is completely and only immanent. As the system is an organic whole, the understanding of any part contributes to the understanding of the whole, and vice versa. Even the operation of any part is relevant to the operation of the whole. The operational law of cause and effect runs right through the behavior of phenomena and of living creatures. The understanding and explanation of its operation lies within, and only within, itself."
When I read this, I was reminded of fractal patterns, a very common mathematical structure. Here is a selection of those patterns as they occur in nature:

"Fractals" in Nature
The Search For Intelligent Life

Modern science's sober view of the universe pooh-poohs the notion of a 'divine element'. It's just an object of study - vast and mysterious, certainly, but ultimately just like any other object. If you expect to be taken seriously in 'the scientific community', you keep your amazement low key when you discover how brilliantly the Universe's machinery is engineered. We are expected to believe that the highest forms of order - of which our civilization with all its technological marvels is just one small part - simply originate out of nothing: there is neither a plan involved, nor purpose, nor intelligence, they say. Just... BOOM!

How can that be?


Perils of grumpiness: Older adults prone to anger more likely to have high levels of inflammation leading to chronic diseases

anger, anger physical health

Researchers say that older adults who regularly show anger are more likely to have higher levels of inflammation, which can lead to numerous chronic illnesses.
Being angry or being sad aren't particularly ideal dispositions for sound mental health, but which is worse when it comes to physical health? A new study finds that anger appears to be much more harmful, with the potential to increase one's risk for ailments like heart disease, arthritis, and even cancer in old age.

Older adults may be more prone to feeling upset as their health worsens and day-to-day tasks grow more challenging. But for those who seem to become angry over the most trivial things, here's more reason to show greater concern rather than shrug them off as simply becoming the grumpy old men or angry old ladies in our lives.

Researchers say that older adults who regularly show anger are more likely to have higher levels of inflammation, which can lead to numerous chronic illnesses. Inflammation occurs when the immune system attempts to protect the body and fight off bacterial infections and viruses after an injury or when battling an illness.

Comment: When managed correctly, anger can be used constructively:


Shooting the messenger: Why we take a dim view of the bearers of bad news

Bad new bearers, shooting the messenger

Bearers of bad news are not well-liked.
We all know the movie scene: a nervous aide has to deliver bad news to his villainous boss, stumbling over his words and incessantly apologising. For a second, it looks like he will be OK - until the boss turns around and summarily executes him.

But it turns out this phenomenon of "shooting the messenger" is not just restricted to fiction. A new paper in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General has demonstrated that we do tend to take a dim view of the bearers of bad news - even when these people are simply innocent messengers.

Previous work had already shown that we often form unfavourable opinions of people who give us negative feedback. But this could be justified: the reviewer could have been unfairly biased against us, for example. Leslie John and colleagues at Harvard University wanted to take things further and find out how we view others who are simply a conduit for bad news, and who clearly have no control over the content of the message they're sharing.

Across a series of 11 experiments, the team looked at how people responded when taking part in, or imagining, a situation where someone delivered them bad or good news.

Gold Seal

Aaron and Gabor Maté on the societal illusions and disillusionment of Trump and Russiagate

Aaron & Gabor Maté
The Grayzone's Aaron Maté has done an interview with his father titled "America in denial: Gabor Maté on the psychology of Russiagate", and it is the single best and most insightful political video I've ever seen. In 27 minutes it essentially describes the fundamental problems of our times, not just with Russiagate but with world politics as a whole, from the overarching behaviors of globe-dominating forces all the way down to the ways our own inner reluctance to face reality objectively helps to prop up those forces. So it deserves its own article.

Back when I learned that Gabor was Aaron's father my first thought was, "That makes so much sense." Aaron had exploded onto the Russiagate debate scene seemingly out of nowhere and quickly became the most thorough and lucid voice on the subject, holding to strict principles of valuing facts and evidence over the aggressive pressure to conform from his media peers and the authoritative assertions of government agencies. Gabor I'd known of for years because of how widely respected he is in other circles I've moved in for his penetrating insights into the human psyche. It makes perfect sense that someone with the moral fortitude to swim against the groupthink current and speak the truth no matter what would have someone like that as part of his personal formation.

I highly recommend watching the full interview, but since I know many of my readers aren't big on watching videos I'll sum up what I consider the highlights here with excerpts from the Grayzone transcript, because I really do think it's that good and that important.


Insights from nature

Insights from nature
© Medium
If we are in rhythm with nature, we are in rhythm with ourselves. - Micah Hobbes Frazier
If we pay close attention, we can experience the wonder that emerges from the beauty, magic, miracles and patterns all around us. Wow! Isn't it amazing? The world is full of emergence-one of the best concepts I have learned for discussing this 'wow,' this wonder. Nick Obolensky, author of Complex Adaptive Leadership: Embracing Paradox and Uncertainty, writes emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. Emergent strategy is a way to build complex patterns and systems of justice and liberation through relatively small interactions. I am often wowed when I imagine the scale of transformation that could come from movements intentionally practicing this way of being, on our own and with others.

I have learned emergent strategy in conversations with, and by listening to, a chorus of people who inspire me when they talk about how they have learned and changed in exposure to nature. Here is a small collection of pieces from organizers, facilitators, and artists at the precipice of wonder and strategy.