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Mon, 25 Jul 2016
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit

Book 2

Sleep through your waking life

Nino Ricci's latest novel, Sleep, inspired by his own sleep disorder, is really more a fun text book on the latest brain research and the blind use of powerful drugs to alter — and possibly restructure (who knows?) — the brain. It's like a 'don't smoke' ad that's actually informative and hilarious, with a classic 'death of a salesman' plot moving it along.

The complexity of the brain and the perilousness of the chemical warfare we casually inflict on it is far greater than, say, sending a man around the moon or deploying star wars 'defense' systems. Imagine your brain: a ball the size of a large fist, crammed with billions of neurons, brain cells, a tiny Mission Control module, with dozens of centres, some highly specialized, some working in tandem with others, a fantastic electrical grid.

People 2

Victims of childhood bullying can have symptoms similar to PTSD

The following is an excerpt from the new book Bullying Scars by Ellen deLara (Oxford University Press, 2016):

In interviewing the people in my research study, I began to notice something unusual. While many of the participants spoke of the bullying episodes they experienced as traumatic and described the impact they felt at the time and what they are left with now in terms of traumatic memories, no one explicitly said they felt like they had PTSD. However, collectively, they listed many symptoms that did fit the PTSD diagnosis. Still others clearly experience what I call adult post-bullying syndrome, or APBS. I have named it this to distinguish it from PTSD.

While APBS can share some symptoms with PTSD, there are distinct differences. One is that there can be both negative and positive aspects to APBS, whereas there are no positive aspects in the research literature associated with PTSD. The negative symptoms of APBS can mimic those of PTSD or the effects seen from child abuse. These effects, similar for child abuse, APBS, and PTSD, and lasting into adulthood , can include shame, anxiety, and relational difficulties. Further, negative cognitions about the self often occur after a trauma. This trauma-related thinking is often inaccurate and serves to support and maintain PTSD. The changes in emotional reactions that characterize PTSD can lead to unexpected and often unpredictable outbursts of anger and aggression. Something can happen to which the person with PTSD just reacts. There does not appear to be an intermediary step of thinking. There is the event, then the reaction. This is a critical difference between PTSD and APBS, where adults do not tend to show this kind of event/reaction immediacy but rather seem more inclined to take no action and instead ruminate on past and present events.

While there are negative aspects of adult post-bullying syndrome, there are some unexpected positives that seem to accompany it also. In interviewing people who appear to experience APBS, I noticed that they have a tendency to exhibit some, if not all, of the following issues:

Self-Esteem Issues and Shame

"I have low self-esteem, a poor self-image, and virtually no confidence in myself."

"Unfortunately, I took right to heart, literally, the hurtful things that were said to me. Now that I am grown up I try to see things differently, but in my core I still believe they are true."

Self-doubt and harsh self-judgment are byproducts of childhood bullying. They leave an indelible mark on self-esteem for those who suffer with APBS. Children take to heart relentless torment through name calling and castigation of their character and looks. Years later, as adults, people can still easily recall what they were bullied about: their weight, their height, their clothes, having acne, the people to whom they were attracted. People with APBS typically report having low self-esteem. They feel a sense of shame connected to the core of their being. People who feel a great deal of shame or who are shame-based can manifest this in arrogant behavior. This can be seen in vacillations in thinking between: "I'm a loser" and "I'm better than all of you."



Music: How this powerful social glue bonds us together

According to new research, music helps synchronize our bodies and our brains.

At GGSC's recent awe conference, Melanie DeMore led the audience in a group sing as part of the day's activities. Judging from participant responses, it was clear that something magical happened: We all felt closer and more connected because of that experience of singing together.

Why is singing such a powerful social glue? Most of us hear music from the moment we are born, often via lullabies, and through many of the most important occasions in our lives, from graduations to weddings to funerals. There is something about music that seems to bring us closer to each other and help us come together as a community.

There's little question that humans are wired for music. Researchers recently discovered that we have a dedicated part of our brain for processing music, supporting the theory that it has a special, important function in our lives.

Listening to music and singing together has been shown in several studies to directly impact neuro-chemicals in the brain, many of which play a role in closeness and connection.

Now new research suggests that playing music or singing together may be particularly potent in bringing about social closeness through the release of endorphins.

In one study, researchers found that performing music—through singing, drumming, and dancing—all resulted in participants having higher pain thresholds (a proxy measure for increased endorphin release in the brain) in comparison to listening to music alone. In addition, the performance of music resulted in greater positive emotion, suggesting one pathway through which people feel closer to one another when playing music together is through endorphin release.

Comment: Singing together encourages social bonding

Magic Wand

Psychological distance: 10 fascinating effects of a simple mind hack

© Michelle Catania
Think distant: the incredible power of abstract thought.

This mind hack is simple: you imagine yourself way off in the future, or living in a different country or as a different person. The aim is to have that feeling of detachment, of stepping outside yourself, by whatever means you can.

This puts you into an abstract or psychologically distant frame of mind that has all kinds of effects on your perceptions of the world. Here are ten of my favourite examples:


Rush of wild nature lowers PTSD in combat veterans

Post-traumatic stress disorder wreaks havoc on war veterans, survivors of various forms of abuse, accident or disaster witnesses and victims, and many more — but the pharmaceuticals dispensed for treatment can worsen the problem.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac, Celexa, Zoloft, and Paxil, comprise the most frequently prescribed class of antidepressants — but bear the burden of responsibility for an epidemic of suicide in the U.S. One of the most telling and tragic potential side effects caused by SSRIs: suicide.

Fortunately, viable, infinitely safer, and more effective alternatives abound — all provided by nature.

Comment: It really is amazing the effects nature has on the human mind.

People 2

Blame the parents? Responses to child tragedies in the news reveal empathy decline in U.S.

© Smileus / Shutterstock.com
While some mourn and offer a helping hand after a tragedy, others point fingers, showing no empathy.
In the aftermath of the death of a 2-year-old boy who was drowned by an alligator at a Disney resort in Florida, much of the public response has been sympathetic. But not all of it: Sprinkled across social media, online comments and even whisperings you may hear at the water cooler, some individuals are instead pointing fingers, blaming the parents.

Is this a sign of the times? Is parenting shame on the rise and empathy taking a dive?

Research says maybe so. The brain is wired for empathy, but it's also wired for moral judgments. And some facets of modern American culture may push people away from the former and toward the latter.

The blame game

Beneath any given online article about the alligator attack, there are at least a few comments questioning the child's parents. The theme persists on the Twitter hashtag #DisneyGatorAttack.

"People are blaming an alligator for being an alligator, when the real issue here is child negligence. Watch your child," Tweeted a user with the handle @nuffsaidNY.


Everyone needs time to recharge - not just introverts

A new study suggests that socializing is always tiring, regardless of personality.

Ever since that book about the power of introverts, people seem to have gotten really into introversion. Do a quick Google of "only introverts will understand" if you need a sampling. Somehow, it seems like we've ended up with stereotypes where introverts order pizza in bed and think deep important thoughts while extroverts prance around them setting things on fire and begging them to come out for a drink. I exaggerate, but one 2012 opinion article in The Telegraph goes as far as saying that in "a world without introverts ... there'd be no art."

Sure, it's worth noting that everyone isn't equally enthusiastic about social interaction, but as a personality trait, which way you're verted is not quite as indicative of who you are and how you act as some seem to think. Enjoying reading books and spending time alone does not make you an introvert any more than enjoying mashed potatoes makes you a foodie.

Comment: All by myself: "Alone time" can be good for you
This desire for occasional solitude gives your body and, perhaps more importantly, your mind space and time to just be in the moment, experiencing it with your full attention and focus. It turns out alone time of this sort is highly rewarding...

What Makes Being Alone Healthy or Harmful? Feeling Lonely
Purposefully spending time alone is quite a different phenomenon than feeling lonely. The former is defined as solitude and is often associated with getting to know your inner self, finding inner peace, and restoring and refreshing your body, mind, and soul.

The latter, loneliness, is a feeling of being disconnected from those around you and wishing you had that connection. While solitude is great for mental health, stress relief, and even building relationships, loneliness is not.


Cacao the new 21st century high?

What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.
- Katharine Hepburn
Chocolate, that devilish aphrodisiac packed full of ecstasy and sensuality, once said to be the food of the gods, is spreading its magic into the most unlikely of places.

A sign of the times perhaps, today's clubbers drug of choice is organic, natural and packed with goodness. The trendy new upper on seething dance floors is a superfood with a long and seductive history. This is not surprising as one of the many benefits of cacao is it creates feelings of excitement and euphoria. From Ibiza to Manhattan, trendy clubbers are ditching coke for cocoa. And believe it or not, with a specially designed device by Belgian chocolatier Dominique Persoone, snorting chocolate is the new fad for ravers across Europe. Today young revellers can snort, take a pill or drink, this sweet, legal high.

Comment: Dark chocolate really is the 'food of the gods'


How to maximize your willpower as an introvert or extrovert: Being confident, charismatic, and effective

The note cards in my hands were shaking as I rehearsed the speech in my head...

I was about to do my first pitch to a room of investors in my entrepreneurial career. As the clock ticked down to my turn to speak, I no longer feared being on stage...I feared having a panic attack before I got there.

As I tried calming myself down and rehearsing my presentation points, I saw presenters before me that made it look so easy.

They were confident, charismatic, and effective.

Why couldn't I have that same confidence? I actually have a product and customers...some of these guys have barely more than an idea!

You can do this. I thought. If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, THIS is what you have to do.

I wasn't a disaster. I was just stiff, robotic, and completely drained by the experience.

I didn't stay for the networking I knew would be incredibly valuable,,,I needed some time alone to recharge.

Several of the companies that pitched that day set up further meetings with investors...mine wasn't one of them.

Such is the life of the introverted entrepreneur.

Comment: See also: The benefits of self-knowledge: Vital signs for understanding your identity

Brick Wall

Stuck in a rut? Five strategies to get out

For many of us, there comes a point in life when things feel flat, boring, negative, or even painful; simply put, you find yourself in a rut. Day-to-day life seems to be harder than it should be, and you start to feel stuck... even if it seems like you have everything going for you in terms of a good relationship, family or job.

The good news is that this is perfectly normal... and you have the power to change it!

By changing a few habits and your mental outlook, you can easily get out of a rut. You only live once, so don't be afraid to stir things up and try these five tricks that might get you back on track enjoying the beautiful experience of life.

1. Let Go of Expectations

It's easy to get caught up in the pipe dreams that mainstream culture conditions us to believe are the key to happiness: winning the lottery, owning a luxury sports car or the perfect house, finding an attractive partner... or just even finding a partner. Succeeding at the latest get-rich scheme or getting the glamorous job everyone wants.

Comment: Positive thoughts or mantras will get you nowhere in attaining goals if your subconscious mind doesn't believe what you're saying is true and obtainable. A good reference for changing yourself and getting out of rut by addressing the subconscious mind is Dr. Joe Dispenza's Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One.