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Wed, 21 Feb 2018
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


When and how to show courage in the face of feeling vulnerable

Being willing to let yourself be vulnerable takes great courage. Here's why.

"Nothing ventured, nothing gained"

The moment a situation makes you feel vulnerable, your knee-jerk reaction is to do everything possible to escape it. After all, the impulse to ward off - sometimes, at all costs - whatever threatens your sense of safety is only natural. It's an inherent aspect of our survival instincts. The question, though, is what might be the ultimate consequences of not confronting what you may only construe as hazardous. For if avoidance is your go-to response whenever anything starts making you feel uncomfortable, it's unlikely you'll ever come close to reaching your potential in life.

So, is your personal evasion of vulnerability so advanced as to "earn" you a Ph.D. in it? And if so, how might you transcend this possibly lifelong habit? What, inside you, would you need to cultivate to successfully overcome your powerful tendency to react to others and the world self-protectively?

Comment: See also:

People 2

What's driving young peoples' obsession with perfection?

applying makeup
© Oleksandr Rupeta / Global Look Press
Perfection has officially become unappealing. Kids these days are more obsessed with perfection than many previous generations were, and this obsession is associated with increased depression and anxiety, according to a new study published in Psychological Bulletin.

The authors of the study reviewed prior research on perfectionism, which they broadly define "as a combination of excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-evaluations." They also conducted their own study among 41,641 American, Canadian, and British college students between 1989 and 2016. They found that perfectionism increased over time. And it's worst in the United States.

There are multiple dimensions to this cultural phenomenon, as the study refers to it, including self-oriented perfectionism, which is the pressure one puts on oneself to be perfect; socially prescribed perfectionism, the pressure one feels from society to be perfect, and other-oriented perfectionism, the pressure one puts on others to be perfect.

The research presents three reasons for this shift: the rise of neoliberalism, increasingly anxious and controlling parents, and the increasing power of meritocracy.

"[N]eoliberalism and its doctrine of meritocracy have combined to shape a culture in which everybody is expected to perfect themselves and their lifestyles, by striving to meet unrealistic achievement standards," the study states. "For parents, this new culture confers an additional burden. On top of their own duty to succeed, they are also responsible for the successes and failures of their children."


Chronic morning headaches linked to depression and anxiety

Most people think this common symptom is unrelated to depression.

Morning headaches are a common sign of depression and anxiety, research finds.

People naturally assume that morning headaches are related to poor sleep.

While they often are, poor sleep is not the only cause.

The survey of 18,980 people found that the most significant factors linked to chronic morning headaches were anxiety and depression problems.

Comment: Nausea is also found to be a symptom of anxiety and depression.


Getting the statistics right: The majority of kids cease to feel transgender as they get older

transgender Ella
Ella, a 17-year-old transgender girl interviewed for the documentary Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?
The National Post recently covered the CBC's cancellation of a BBC documentary about transgender children (Why CBC cancelled a BBC documentary that activists claimed was 'transphobic'). In that coverage, the Post shared claims made by some activists criticizing some scientific studies, but did not apparently fact-check those claims, so I thought I would outline the studies here. For reference, in a previous post, I listed the results of every study that ever followed up transgender kids to see how they felt in adulthood (Do trans-kids stay trans when they grow up?). There are 12 such studies in all, and they all came to the very same conclusion: The majority of kids cease to feel transgender when they get older.

The Post conveyed criticisms alleged about two of those: "One study of Dutch children, in particular, assumed that subjects had 'desisted' purely because they stopped showing up to a gender identity clinic." Although unnamed, the claim appears to be referring to Steensma et al. (2013), which followed up on 127 transgender kids. Of them: 47 said they were still transgender; 56 said they were no longer transgender (46 said so directly, 6 said so via their parents, and 4 more said so despite not participating in other aspects of the study); and 24 did not respond to the invitation to participate in the study or could not be located.

Because all the medical services for transition are free in the Netherlands and because there is only one clinic providing those services, the researchers were able to check that none of the 24 had actually transitioned despite having the opportunity to do so. Steensma therefore reported that (80/127 =) 63% of the cases desisted. The alleged criticism is that one should not assume that the 24 who did not respond or could not be found were desisters. Regardless of whether one agrees with that, the irrelevance of the claim is clearly seen simply by taking it to its own conclusion: When one excludes these 24, one simply finds a desistance rate of (56/103 =) 54% instead of 63%. That is, although numerically lower, it nonetheless supports the very same conclusion as before. The majority of kids cease to feel transgender when they get older.

Comment: Further reading:


12 questions that can change your life forever

Water sprinkler soul fireworks
The instinct is to look for answers, but the truth is that it's questions that teach us most. It can also be that the rhetorical questions - the ones that don't even seem to have answers - that push and push the hardest. Who do you think you are? What does all this mean? Why? Why? Why?

The right question at the right time can change the course of a life, can still a turbulent mind, or heal an angry heart. While every situation can generate its own, there are twelve questions, I think, that deserve to be asked not just once but many times over the course of a lifetime, some even many times over the course of the day.

I have gathered them from some of the wisest philosophers, most incisive thinkers, greatest leaders and most awesome badasses that ever lived. I'm not saying I know the answer to any of them, but I can say there is value in letting them challenge you. If you let them. If you let them do their work on you - and let them change you.


Depression in men: Stigma and the fear of discovery

© closeupimages – Fotolia
People are generally compassionate and understanding about people with depression or those who are suicidal.

But, men who are depressed themselves often view their own problems very negatively, new research finds.

Men who are depressed can see themselves as a disappointment and a burden to others.

The results come from a survey of 901 men and women in Canada.

Professor John Oliffe, an expert on men's health who co-led the study, said:
"While it was reassuring to find that Canadians in general don't stigmatize male depression or suicide, it was concerning that the men with depression or suicidal thoughts felt a strong stigma around their condition, and many were afraid of being discovered."

Comment: More on depression in males:
Many men try to hide their condition, thinking it unmanly to act moody. And it works: National studies suggest that doctors miss the diagnosis in men a full 70% of the time. But male depression also stays hidden because men tend to express depression differently than women do.

Research shows that women usually internalize distress, while men externalize it. Depressed women are more likely to talk about their problem and reach out for help; depressed men often have less tolerance for internal pain and turn to some action or substance for relief. Male depression isn't as obvious as the defenses men use to run from it. I call this "covert depression." It has three major symptoms. First, men attempt to escape pain by overusing alcohol or drugs, working excessively or seeking extramarital affairs. They go into isolation, withdrawing from loved ones. And they may lash out, becoming irritable or violent.

Post-It Note

New Year's Resolutions: Changing your life is harder than a drunken promise

Quit New year resolution
© Unknown
New Year's resolutions are the election promises of everyday life. You say the words, make the commitment, swear on everything you hold dear that you'll fix those potholes, but when push comes to shove it's a decade on and the cars are still bouncing and rolling over a broken road.

Resolutions are the same. You swear that you'll never touch another chocolate, but two months later you're guiltily staring at an empty box of fondants wondering where your self control went.


Inspiring example of how a loving bond between owner and dog brought new meaning to life


Goes to show the strength of bonds and connection can change how we perceive and respond to life.
This was the sweetest thing I have seen in a long time, so I wanted to share this true connection with you all. I'm sure that all dog lovers out there can appreciate this and also anyone who has a compassionate bone in their body. This bond is real, and it goes to show just how much us humans thrive on connection and need it in our lives. It is also a wonderful example of how much our animal friends can assist us on this path if we are open to their assistance.

"He loves me unconditionally. I count my blessings every day."

This story is also a prime example of the notion that the opposite of addiction is connection. This man was addicted to drugs and quit so that he could help his dog get off the drugs. All of a sudden he had a purpose in life, and that purpose was to take care of this little friend who loved him unconditionally. In doing so, he was able to live his life, get clean, and recover from suicidal tendencies. My heart just melts to see this. There is no judgement with animals. Humans tend to make judgments and assumptions very quickly, especially about homeless people on the streets, but animals do not see these perceived "faults," and they love us anyways.

We can truly learn a lot from animals, as they have much to teach us about unconditional love and acceptance. We are so happy for this man and his little animal friend and hope they enjoy their time together.

Comment: What's also noteworthy and inspiring about the video is how his dog helped him to perceive the world differently, not through the eyes of an addict or someone who thought himself worthless, but through the eyes of someone who had a reason to live and someone to live for. He changed his thought patterns, and in turn, changed who he was.

Snakes in Suits

How to tell when you are talking to a psychopath

Approximately 1% of the human population fit the description of a psychopath: a personality type defined by a lack of care for others, a lack of empathy, violent and aggressive tendencies, shallow emotions, selfishness, dishonesty, overconfidence in themselves, and the ability to manipulate people. These types of people often exhibit behavioral traits known as the Dark Triad, a trio of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.

Some 25% of male inmates in the federal corrections system fit this description, but many psychopaths are often high-functioning people who often make their way into positions of power, such as CEO's, lawyers, media personalities, sales people, police officers and religious clergy.

Comment: To learn more about the biological roots of psychopathy, which includes violence as well as anti-social and dangerous behaviour, do read Professor Adrian Raine's Anatomy of Violence, and Stanton Samenow's Inside the Criminal Mind. For more on how to spot psychopaths you can read the following links:


Best Friends For 60 Years Discover They Are Brothers

Walter Macfarlane and Alan Robinson brothers
© CBS News
Two men who have been best friends for six decades recently discovered they are brothers.
Two life-long friends from Hawaii found out that they have even more in common than they first thought.

Walter Macfarlane and Alan Robinson have been friends for more than 60 years.

Macfarlane never knew his father, and Robinson was adopted.

Both turned to DNA-matching websites to find out more.