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Thu, 25 Apr 2019
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Science of the Spirit


Self-care is not an indulgence. It's a discipline.

steps stairs exercise
© Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash
Self-care requires the discipline to do the hard and boring things that are good for us.
The way self-care is portrayed today is completely and utterly backward. First, self-care as a concept is almost exclusively aimed at women (generally wealthy white women who can afford the goods and services that get marketed to them as self-care). The not-so-subtle suggestion is that women need to be reminded to care for themselves because, after all, they are so busy taking care of everyone else. And the even less-subtle suggestion is that while we should be taking care of ourselves, that doesn't absolve us from taking care of everyone else.

Which brings me to the second way that the current portrayal of self-care is backward -- it's characterized as an indulgence. This means both that the practice of self-care is something we are occasionally allowed to indulge in and that self-care should feel like an indulgence. Think expensive bath products, luxurious chocolates, spa appointments. When we spend more time talking about the self-care power of high thread count sheets than we do about getting enough sleep we've wandered pretty far from anything that can be remotely considered healthy for either mind or body.

Comment: Although this article is aimed at women, it could just as easily apply to men. Self-care is treated as an indulgence for both sexes, and people rarely if ever take the time needed to take care of themselves before engaging in tasks and duties. If self-care isn't prioritized, the body may take steps to force downtime through illness. Don't wait for the billboard to fall on your head! Take care of yourself!

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Connection is a core human need, but we are terrible at it

© Illustration: Hélène Desplechin/Getty Images
In his book Lost Connections, Johann Hari talks about his decades of work in the fields of trauma and mental health and why he believes that the root of almost everything we suffer through is a severed connection we never figured out how to repair.

At one point, Hari talks about an obesity clinic where patients who were overweight to the point of medical crisis were put on a supervised liquid diet in an effort to try to save their lives. The treatment worked, and many of the patients walked out of the clinic hundreds of pounds lighter and with a new lease on life - at first. What happened later was a side effect no doctor predicted. Some of the patients gained back all the weight and then some. Others endured psychotic breaks and one died by suicide.

After looking into why many of these patients had such adverse emotional reactions, the doctors discovered something important: The time when each patient began overeating usually correlated with a traumatic event they had no other coping mechanism for. Hari summed up the findings like this: "What we thought was the problem was very often a symptom of a problem that nobody knew anything about."

Comment: See also:

People 2

Your romantic partner is probably not as smart as you think they are, suggests new study

Couple surprised
It's now well known that many of us over-estimate our own brainpower. In one study, more than 90 per cent of US college professors famously claimed to be better than average at teaching, for instance - which would be highly unlikely. Our egos blind us to our own flaws.

But do we have an even more inflated view of our nearest and dearest? It seems we do - that's the conclusion of a new paper published in Intelligence journal, which has shown that we consistently view our romantic partners as being much smarter than they really are.

The researchers, Gilles Gignac at the University of Western Australia and Marcin Zajenkowski at the University of Warsaw, also tested whether the couples' actual IQs influenced their relationship satisfaction - with surprising results.

There had been some previous signs that we are especially optimistic about our loved ones' attributes. When it comes to physical attractiveness, for instance, we tend to think that we have managed to attract someone who is even hotter than us - an effect sometimes called the "love is blind bias". But past studies had failed to find a similar optimism for estimates of partners' intelligence. Overall, people seemed to judge their partners' intelligence as equal to their own - rather than thinking that they were especially clever.

Comment: Interesting but as the researchers said, they had only used one marker of intelligence when there are many. In addition to language there is also emotional and spiritual intelligence, which we can use to make more accurate evaluations of others. However, it stands to reason that the 'love is blind bias' would extend to favourably judging another's intelligence in addition to their physical attributes. See also:


The age of anxiety: Fake news plays its part

Authors have many images to describe distorted mental states, but that of a glass enclosure, which warps vision and sound, is among the most common. In his searing essay on the loss of his daughter, Aleksandar Hemon uses the metaphor of an aquarium to describe the detached sensations caused by profound grief. Sylvia Plath's titular bell jar is her symbol for the airless perceptions of suicidal depression. The intercession of glass between human sight and the world is present even in the New Testament, when, in 1 Corinthians, we are told that earthly life is seen "through a glass, darkly." In a heavenly future, no glazier's hand will intercede before the face of God.

Anxiety, too, can have this distorting, glassy quality. When I had my first panic attack, in Russia in the summer of 2010, the entire world shrank to the size of my frantically pulsing aorta. I could feel nothing beyond the hammering in my wrists and neck, the freezing sweat that burst out on my forehead, the swishing thrum in my ears. I called emergency services from my host family's couch in Kazan. Russian EMTs pronounced that an impromptu EKG had shown me to be in perfect condition, and gave me a decoction of "herbs" to drink. At dawn I nodded into uneasy sleep. For the next week, smoke from forest fires igniting all around Russia descended on the city, and my heart intermittently skittered in my chest like a rat. Each time it did I thought I was going to die, although death, unaccountably, never came.

When I came back from Russia to my family's home in New Jersey, I was a small being hobbled by fear. In the ensuing years I have experienced these moments of pure compression-the universe eaten alive by dread, consisting only of me and my own death-with some frequency. Other passengers on the subway are reduced to shadows, the rattle of the train a faint echo of my own deafening heartbeat, and the glass-haze of terror blots out light.

Explaining a panic attack is a little like explaining an explosion: You can talk about adrenaline, as you can talk about a flurry of reactive particles clashing until they burn. You can talk about the fight-or-flight reaction and the symptoms-sweating, rapid heartbeat, trembling, the overwhelming urge to escape. But you cannot truly convey a swelling balloon of heat, a concussion in the air, the lancing pain of shrapnel, in words. You cannot convey the pure concussive terror of a panic attack in words either, the sense that all your bones are thrumming a bad, insistent chord. I have tried to explain why I must leave the restaurant, why I must have an aisle seat at the show, why sometimes my throat seizes so powerfully I can't even drink water. Some friends and family members understand; others don't; and I hide my phobias when I can. The rest of the time, I live within the ringing glass walls of my own panic.


The power of neuroplasticity: Boy's brain rewires itself even with 1/6th of its contents missing

Tanner Collins

Tanner Collins
I put my hand on a bishop and slide it several squares before moving it back. "Should I move a different piece instead?" I wonder to myself.

"You have to move that piece if you've touched it," my opponent says, flashing a wry grin.

Fine. I move the bishop. It's becoming increasingly obvious to me now - I'm going to lose a game of chess to a 12-year-old.

My opponent is Tanner Collins, a seventh-grade student growing up in a Pittsburgh suburb. Besides playing chess, Collins likes building with Legos. One such set, a replica of Hogwarts Castle from the Harry Potter books, is displayed on a hutch in the dining room of his parents' house. He points out to me a critical flaw in the design: The back of the castle isn't closed off. "If you turn it around," he says, "the whole side is open. That's dumb."

Though Collins is not dissimilar from many kids his age, there is something that makes him unlike most 12-year-olds in the United States, if not the world: He's missing one-sixth of his brain.

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The Truth Perspective: How to Numb Your Conscience with Totalitarian Religion

Chief Rabbis Israel, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef (L), Rabbi David Lau (R)
© Yaakov Coehn/Flash90
These men have a lot of power over happiness for Jews in Israel. The Chief Rabbis of Israel, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef (L) and Rabbi David Lau (R)
Religions provide a collection of values by which their adherents strive to live, a story in which they play an important role. These timeless values and stories are some of humanity's greatest achievements. But they can also go wrong - very wrong. Just as religions can offer the impetus towards the development of conscience, they can also be distorted to such a degree that they actively stifle conscience, elevating a group of believers to a chosen status denied to all others, and thus justifying the worst of attitudes and behaviors towards such outsiders, regardless of such individuals' individual character.

Today on the Truth Perspective we continue our discussion of Israel Shahak's Jewish History, Jewish Religion and Shiraz Maher's Salafi-Jihadism, and the two religious ideologies they criticize. Both are founded on a distorted view of human nature, a demonization of outsiders, and rigid doctrines of political and social absolutism: religious pathocracy. Tune in to see how the operate, and how they justify the unjustifiable.

Running Time: 01:32:03

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How to de-clutter your thoughts and emotions

Everything starts with a thought, so let's start by making space for some new ones. The mind is the root of all clutter. It has helped you create everything you see and live, the good the bad and the ugly. Now let's put it to work, to de-clutter your whole life, step-by-step, freeing you from unwanted and unneeded life-sucking energy and burdens.

First and foremost, you need to monitor your thoughts. What are you thinking? Look around. Your reality is a reflection of your inner terrain, both mentally and emotionally. Be mindful of your thoughts. Be observant of how you respond to situations and your own beliefs. You can only hold one thought at the time, so remember that a negative, or un-serving thought is occupying the space of a serving one.

Comment: Read more about Picking up your mental garbage


Too much 'idiot box' leaves older folk lost for words

Too much Television
© track5/Getty Image
Say what? Too much television for the over-50s is linked to loss of verbal memory.
Readers above a certain age may well recall, several decades ago, regularly being told by parents and teachers that watching too much television rots the brain.

Now, research by two scientists at University College London in the UK suggests that, at least metaphorically, the oldies were right.

In a study covering a seven-year period, Daisy Fancourt and Andrew Steptoe tested the effect of television watching among people over 50 years old. Most research into the relationship between television and cognition, they point out, has focussed on children and adolescents - older people have been largely overlooked.

The researchers used data from a long-term project called the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), an ongoing population-based mission to collect information regarding health, wellbeing and economic outcomes for over-50s

To establish a baseline, they looked at television-watching data for 3662 adults recorded in 2008 and 2009. They then flipped forward six years and looked at levels of cognitive decline in the same cohort during the period 2014 and 2015.

Cell Phone

Stop iPhone parenting and give your children the attention they need

family on cellphones
As a trauma therapist I am always interested in learning about my clients' childhood attachment patterns. Growing up with parents who were either emotionally unavailable, inconsistently responsive, frightened by or frightening to their child has a profoundly negative impact on social, behavioral, emotional, and neurological development. "Trauma-informed care" includes assessing for adverse childhood experiences and reframing clients' subsequent "symptoms" and struggles as the inevitable by-products and coping strategies of attachment trauma. However, I am concerned that a newer version of attachment trauma has invaded even the most "loving" families. Our reliance on, and, in some cases addiction to, digital gadgets and technology has hijacked the face-to-face parent-child interactions that are necessary for consistent, sustained and secure attachment.

Is this scenario familiar? After standing in line at the post office for fifteen minutes - a somewhat inherently traumatic experience in and of itself - I witnessed a two-year-old having a complete meltdown. Her mother's immediate response was to hand her an iPad. In her wisdom, the child initially rejected it. In a soothing yet frustrated tone, the mother said "Use your iPad! Do you want to look at pictures? Play a game?" The child was not appeased and continued to wail. As the woman bent towards the stroller, I felt a sense of relief, assuming she was about to pick up her dysregulated child. Instead, she turned on the tablet and said with greater agitation, "look at the pictures on your screen!" After several more minutes of crying, the child realized that what she wanted and needed-to be comforted by her mother, not an inanimate object-was not going to happen. I watched as she went into collapse, emotionally shutting down and compliantly staring at the screen.

Comment: That may already be too late. Although we are more 'connected' than ever digitally - it is no substitute for real live human contact. See also:


Jordan Peterson on Art, Mythology, Fame and Education

jordan peterson
Jordan Peterson joins Tyler to discuss collecting Soviet propaganda, why he's so drawn to Jung, what the Exodus story can teach us about current events, his marriage and fame, what the Intellectual Dark Web gets wrong, immigration in America and Canada, his tendency towards depression, Tinder's revolutionary nature, the lessons from The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, fixing universities, the skills needed to become a good educator, and much more.

Listen to the full conversation