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Sun, 24 Jul 2016
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


What is the root cause of addiction, and how do you heal it?

How Emotional Pain causes Addiction

Addiction has become so widespread, it's nearly an epidemic in our modern world. Around 240 million people around the world are dependent on alcohol, more than a billion people smoke, and about 15 million people use injection drugs, such as heroin.

From sex addiction, technology, food, shopping, drugs and alcohol, to work addiction, nearly every person has their personal habit. And for each addiction, there is a human in pain, trying to escape from the torment inside of them.

Dr Gabor Mate says the root cause of addiction is pain, and the attempt to escape pain actually creates more pain. But we can heal addiction. Watch to learn how.

Comment: See also:


Why people use the status quo as a moral compass

© hidesy / Shutterstock.com
People often mistake normality as a criterion for morality, scientists say.
The Binewskis are no ordinary family. Arty has flippers instead of limbs; Iphy and Elly are Siamese twins; Chick has telekinetic powers. These traveling circus performers see their differences as talents, but others consider them freaks with "no values or morals." However, appearances can be misleading: The true villain of the Binewski tale is arguably Miss Lick, a physically "normal" woman with nefarious intentions.

Much like the fictional characters of Katherine Dunn's "Geek Love," everyday people often mistake normality as a criterion for morality. Yet, freaks and norms alike may find themselves anywhere along the good/bad continuum. Still, people use what's typical as a benchmark for what's good, and are often averse to behavior that goes against the norm. Why?

In a series of studies, psychologist Andrei Cimpian and I investigated why people use the status quo as a moral codebook - a way to decipher right from wrong and good from bad. Our inspiration for the project was philosopher David Hume, who pointed out that people tend to allow the status quo ("what is") to guide their moral judgments ("what ought to be"). Just because a behavior or practice exists, that doesn't mean it's good - but that's exactly how people often reason. Slavery and child labor, for example, were and still are popular in some parts of the world, but their existence doesn't make them right or OK. We wanted to understand the psychology behind the reasoning that prevalence is grounds for moral goodness.

Comment: Further reading:

Light Saber

Emotions like fear & anxiety can trap you - clinical psychologist says facing them helps

Fear and anxiety are emotions that can trap you, but facing them can help, explains a clinical psychologist.

Phobias and anxieties, such as social anxiety, are best dealt with by facing them.

It is not easy, but if done step-by-step most people can learn to deal with anxieties and fears — even overcome them.

Comment: Additional helpful information when facing fear and anxiety:


Suck at meditation? You may just be doing it right

© Jim Wileman
To really empty your mind, you’d have to be sedated or dead and neither of those states is particularly conducive to spiritual growth.’
I suck at meditating. I'm one of those perennially distracted people who knows they need to meditate, has meditated in the past with some success and who knows they should meditate more, but who finds it so much easier to do things like dishes, laundry and exercising than to schedule time to do nothing.

When I read this Forbes article touting mindfulness meditation as the "next big business opportunity", my initial impulse is to grind my teeth in frustration. Co-opting a centuries-old spiritual practice as the engine of your hip new startup strikes me as kind of like trying to repurpose an astrolabe as a controller for your Xbox, but whatever, Silicon Valley kids. You do you.

Comment: Is Meditation really worth it? Totally!

Cloud Grey

Why do we feel lonely in an over-connected world?

The world has never been so connected as it is now. Communication and internet technologies have made it possible to stay in touch with anyone no matter where they live. Today, it's probably impossible to find a person who doesn't use social networks and instant messaging apps, which have become an integral part of our life. Many people can't even imagine their daily routine without online communication and feel incomplete if they don't chat with their friends and don't see their updates in the Facebook feed at least once a day. We are basically never alone and yet, we are lonelier than ever.

This is not just a claim - studies show that the number of people who feel lonely is constantly increasing. For example, a survey by the Mental Health Foundation found that one out of ten people in the UK often feels lonely while 48% of the respondents believe that modern people are getting more and more lonely.

Comment: The pain of modern life: Loneliness and isolation
Indeed can the emptiness of loneliness be satiated by anything external to oneself? "If we have experienced and found one escape to be of no value, are not all other escapes therefore of no value?" Krishnamurti logically argued.

Silence and the space to look within are rare jewels in our World, particularly in western societies. The current socio-economic model is a noisy, poisonous system based on negative values. It has polluted the planet and is making us unhappy and ill in a variety of ways.

It is a system that ardently promotes material success and the indulgence of personal desires, all of which encourages dependence on methods of 'escape' of one kind or another - drugs prescribed, (legal and illegal), alcohol, sex, entertainments in all shapes and sizes - including organized religion, to fill the chasm of loneliness, and keep the mind in a constant state of agitation and discontent.

But as Krishnamurti rightly states, such transient distractions will never sufficiently drown out our innate need for union with oneself, with the Self; a realization brought about by self-awareness; by negation - ceasing to identify with the fancies of the mind, and as the 19th century Indian sage Sri Ramana Maharshi taught, by constantly challenging one's thoughts and feelings with the deconstructive enquiry 'who am I'. These Men of Wisdom assure us that, with sustained commitment and effort, a relationship can be established with the Self, which reveals separation and isolation to be an illusion, and establishes a deep, non-dependent sense of unity - with others and the world in which 'we live and breathe and have our being'. Purpose, contact with others and activity are essential to battle loneliness, but if one becomes dependent on these externals and does not, at the same time, seek to overcome the underlying cause, then it seems clear little will have been achieved and the 'modern giant' will rise up again.

Cell Phone

'I think I can:' How talking to yourself brings self-improvement

© ra2studio/Shutterstock.com
If you want to get better at doing something, simply telling yourself "I can do better next time" may help, according to a new study.

Researchers found that people who practiced such so-called "self-talk" ─ for example, those who told themselves, "I can beat my best score," or "I can react quicker this time" ─ improved their performance in an online game more than those who did not.

The new results show that preparing yourself mentally before a challenging task, such as giving a speech or going to a job interview, by telling yourself "I will do my best" may be an effective way to help improve performance, said study author Andrew Lane, a professor of sport psychology at the University of Wolverhampton in the U.K.

Comment: Further reading:


Living in the now: It's complicated

© Seiya Kawamoto/Thinkstock
We all know living in the moment is a key aspect of happiness. We know we need to learn to pay attention to what's actually happening around us, the people we are with, and all the little things we have to be grateful for. I always get an image from the movie Wayne's World in my head when I think about this: Wayne is pining for a beautiful guitar he could never afford, and Garth admonishes, "LIVE IN THE NOW!"

So why don't we do it? Why do we keep skipping over things that happened in the past and fantasies about the future we could never fulfill? Why is it so hard to live in the now?

It's hard because the present moment is incredibly complicated. The now is a collection of sensations that exist in our bodies, and if we let ourselves feel them, we might find pain, regret, or possibly indigestion. Our bodies are not always easy places to be.

Comment: The importance of 'the moment'

Red Flag

Which one of your friends is a psychopath?

Anthony Hopkins playing the psychopath Hannibal Lecter in the film Silence of the Lambs
One in 100 of your connections on Facebook could match the cold and calculating class of personality, an expert tells Sheena Hastings

It's nearly a quarter of a century since Kerry Daynes began working with psychopaths. Her first job, at the age of 21, was as an assistant psychologist in a maximum security prison with men who had either raped or murdered women. She has worked with some of the country's most notorious psychopathic criminals and treated mentally disordered offenders in medium-secure units as well as high-risk individuals in the community.

Today, she has broadened out her work to a more mainstream caseload, but for many years she focused on the behaviour of some of society's worst, most violent offenders. One thing she learnt is that not all killers are psychopaths and not all psychopaths are killers.

Daynes, who's based in Cheshire and studied at both Leicester and Sheffield universities, says that while around 15-20 per cent of the prison population are psychopaths, it's thought that 2 to 3 per cent of the general population display some psychopathic tendencies. While they may not have the full complement of traits present in a Fred West or Dennis Nilsen-style serial killer as she and co-author Jessica Fellowes say in their book Is There A Psycho In Your Life?, these characters can wreak havoc in the lives of others.


Dead reckoning: Charting a new course by challenging the stories we tell ourselves

When you reckon with emotion, you can change your narrative.
My husband, Steve, and I were having one of those days. That morning, we'd overslept. Charlie couldn't find his backpack, and Ellen had to drag herself out of bed because she'd been up late studying. Then at work I had five back-to-back meetings, and Steve, a pediatrician, was dealing with cold-and-flu season. By dinnertime, we were practically in tears.

Steve opened the refrigerator and sighed. "We have no groceries. Not even lunch meat." I shot back, "I'm doing the best I can. You can shop, too!" "I know," he said in a measured voice. "I do it every week. What's going on?"

I knew exactly what was going on: I had turned his comment into a story about how I'm a disorganized, unreliable partner and mother. I apologized and started my next sentence with the phrase that's become a lifesaver in my marriage, parenting and professional life:"The story I'm making up is that you were blaming me for not having groceries, that I was screwing up."

Steve said, "No, I was going to shop yesterday, but I didn't have time. I'm not blaming you. I'm hungry."

Storytelling helps us all impose order on chaos—including emotional chaos. When we're in pain, we create a narrative to help us make sense of it. This story doesn't have to be based on any real information. One dismissive glance from a coworker can instantly turn into I knew she didn't like me. I responded to Steve so defensively because when I'm in doubt, the "I'm not enough" explanation is often the first thing I grab. It's like my comfy jeans—may not be flattering, but familiar.

Our stories are also about self-protection. I told myself Steve was blaming me so I could be mad instead of admitting that I was vulnerable or afraid of feeling inadequate. I could disengage from the tougher stuff. That's what human beings tend to do: When we're under threat, we run. If we feel exposed or hurt, we find someone to blame, or blame ourselves before anyone else can, or pretend we don't care.

But this unconscious storytelling leaves us stuck. We keep tripping over the same issues, and after we fall, we find it hard to get back up again. But in my research on shame and vulnerability, I've also learned a lot about resilience. For my book Rising Strong, I spent time with many amazing people—from Fortune 500 leaders to long-married couples—who are skilled at recovering from setbacks, and they have one common characteristic: They can recognize their own confabulations and challenge them. The good news is that we can rewrite these stories. We just have to be brave enough to reckon with our deepest emotions.


Deeply intuitive people do things differently

Steve Jobs once said that intuition is more powerful than intellect. As it turns out, Jobs was onto something, and the scientific community backs him up. It seems that we've been giving intuition far too little respect.
"Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next." - Jonas Salk
In a Salk Institute study, participants were asked to play a card game where they pulled cards from two different decks. The decks were rigged so that one would "win" more often than the other, but the participants didn't know that—at least, not overtly. It took about 50 cards for participants to consciously realize that the decks were different and about 80 to figure out what that difference was. However, what was really interesting was that it only took about 10 cards for their palms to start sweating slightly every time they reached for a card from the "losing" deck. It was about that same time that they started subconsciously favoring the "winning" deck.

Comment: The science of intuition: How to measure 'hunches' and 'gut feelings'