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Wed, 21 Nov 2018
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Science of the Spirit

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Tips for raising mentally strong children

Give up the bad habits that rob kids of mental strength.

Raising a mentally strong kid doesn't mean he won't cry when he's sad or that he won't fail sometimes. Mental strength doesn't make you immune to hardship and it's not about suppressing your emotions.

In fact, it's quite the opposite. Mental strength is what helps kids bounce back from setbacks and it gives them the strength to keep going, even when they're plagued with self-doubt. A strong mental muscle is the key to helping kids reach their greatest potential in life.

Post-It Note

The psychology of denial and how to make it through a disaster

Preparedness isn't just about the supplies you stockpile and the skills you learn. It's about psychology too. And an important step toward survival is understanding the psychology behind hesitation.

In a worst-case scenario, hesitation kills.
He who hesitates is lost. Swift and resolute action leads to success. Self-doubt is a prelude to disaster.

~Joseph Addison
It's simple psychology that no one wants to accept that something horrible has happened.

The human brain is configured in a way that it is in our very nature to deny that something outside our normal paradigm has occurred. This is called cognitive dissonance.
"Cognitive dissonance is the feeling of discomfort when simultaneously holding two or more conflicting cognitions: ideas, beliefs, values or emotional reactions...Dissonance is aroused when people are confronted with information that is inconsistent with their beliefs. If the dissonance is not reduced by changing one's belief, the dissonance can result in restoring consonance through misperception, rejection or refutation of the information, seeking support from others who share the beliefs, and attempting to persuade others." (source)
In a crisis situation, denial can be deadly.

Comment: See also:

Apple Red

Lao Tzu's four cardinal virtues on how to live a more meaningful life

Lao Tzu
Many centuries ago, Lao Tzu, spoke of the four cardinal virtues, teaching that when we practice them as a way of life, we come to know the truth of the universe. The ancient Chinese master said that living and practicing these teachings can open you to higher wisdom and greater happiness, as they realign you to the source and enable you to access all the powers that source energy has to offer.
"When you succeed in connecting your energy with the divine realm through high awareness and the practice of undiscriminating virtue, the transmission of the ultimate subtle truths will follow." Lao Tzu
Lao Tzu means 'Old Master,' and he was believed by some to be a God-realised being. The Four Cardinal Virtues are found in the Tao Te Ching, a collection of sayings expounding the principal Taoist teachings. It has 81 short poetic verses packed full of universal wisdom for politics, society, and personal life, and aims to support personal harmony through the right view and understanding of existence. The Tao (also known as the Way or the Dao) has baffled its readers for centuries with its cryptic and deliberate contradictions, yet it offers a profound contemplation to seekers, lending itself to varied interpretations and inner questioning.

SOTT Logo Radio

The Truth Perspective: Journey Into Darkness: Inside the Criminal Mind

inside the criminal mind
© Desconocido
Una obra que debería ser conocida por todos...
Are criminals born or made? Do they choose to act in antisocial ways, or do they lack free will? How does crime relate to personality? Is there a criminal personality? And can they change? On today's Truth Perspective we share our thoughts on Stanton Samenow's book Inside the Criminal Mind, the science of personality disorders, violence, how thoughts determine behavior, and how it all relates to the Big 5 personality traits.

Running Time: 01:06:00

Download: OGG, MP3

Listen live, chat, and call in to future shows on the SOTT Radio Network!


It's all about the screens: Why it matters that teens are reading less

© Aha-Soft/Shutterstock.com
SAT reading scores in 2016 were the lowest they’ve ever been.
Most of us spend much more time with digital media than we did a decade ago. But today's teens have come of age with smartphones in their pockets. Compared to teens a couple of decades ago, the way they interact with traditional media like books and movies is fundamentally different.

My co-authors and I analyzed nationally representative surveys of over one million U.S. teens collected since 1976 and discovered an almost seismic shift in how teens are spending their free time.

Increasingly, books seem to be gathering dust.

Comment: For more information on the effects of 'too much tech for teens' read Jean Twenge's article iGen life: Have smartphones destroyed a generation?
The advent of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet was followed quickly by hand-wringing about the deleterious effects of "screen time." But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans. The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers' lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone.


New study suggests women's brains are better suited for deep space travel

Astronaut in Space
Three hundred thousand kilometers from Earth, Apollo 17 astronaut Ron Evans retrieves a film cassette from the spacecraft’s exterior as the mission returns from the moon. Astronauts flying through deep space are more exposed to dangerous cosmic radiation than their counterparts in low-Earth orbit.
Just past the confines of Earth's geomagnetic field, deep space gets downright nasty. There, cosmic radiation from solar flares, supernovae, supermassive black holes and other powerful astrophysical phenomena could spark cancer, vision loss and impaired thinking in future astronauts voyaging to the moon, Mars or beyond.

But a new NASA-funded study published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity makes a bold claim: When exposed to cosmic radiation, women may have an innate biological capacity to stave off associated cognitive declines. A team of researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, (U.C.S.F.) and at Brookhaven National Laboratory found female mice somehow kept clear heads after dangerous doses of radiation whereas males developed obvious cognitive impairment. The group may have also discovered the reason why - which could help create "vaccines" to inoculate humans against radiation's worst effects on the brain.

In the study Brookhaven scientists bombarded an equal number of male and female mice with a potent mix of radioactive particles mimicking those that suffuse deep space - such as high-energy atomic nuclei of oxygen, helium and hydrogen. These particles and others like them ping-pong through the void beyond Earth's protective magnetic bubble, and some are even channeled into the Van Allen Belts-a zone of seething radiation that girdles our globe. Only 24 human beings have ever traversed this treacherous territory: the Apollo astronauts, who sped through the belts en route to the moon. Just how deleterious that radiation bath was for each Apollo voyager remains a matter of contentious debate, but on each trip an astronaut only spent about four hours in the belts, and less than two weeks outside of Earth's geomagnetic field. Astronauts on future missions to deep space may have to contend with much longer exposure times.

Wedding Rings

Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person (and why it doesn't matter)

It's one of the things we are most afraid might happen to us. We go to great lengths to avoid it. And yet we do it all the same: We marry the wrong person.

Partly, it's because we have a bewildering array of problems that emerge when we try to get close to others. We seem normal only to those who don't know us very well. In a wiser, more self-aware society than our own, a standard question on any early dinner date would be: "And how are you crazy?"

Perhaps we have a latent tendency to get furious when someone disagrees with us or can relax only when we are working; perhaps we're tricky about intimacy after sex or clam up in response to humiliation. Nobody's perfect. The problem is that before marriage, we rarely delve into our complexities. Whenever casual relationships threaten to reveal our flaws, we blame our partners and call it a day. As for our friends, they don't care enough to do the hard work of enlightening us. One of the privileges of being on our own is therefore the sincere impression that we are really quite easy to live with.

Our partners are no more self-aware. Naturally, we make a stab at trying to understand them. We visit their families. We look at their photos, we meet their college friends. All this contributes to a sense that we've done our homework. We haven't. Marriage ends up as a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don't know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully avoided investigating.

Comment: After penning the above, Alain de Botton was asked for a presentation, in which, as you can see below, he expands the theme in his unique and delightful manner. Highly recommended, for his "counsel and consolation" as he calls it, can be applied to all our relationships, not just our romantic or legally bound ones:


Why boys need their fathers (or at least fatherly role-models): Masculinity becomes toxic only when it's without MEANING

Comment: We're re-running this because it can't be said enough...

© Frank Polich/Reuters
When you spend time with boys and girls, one of the first things you notice is that they're generally profoundly different. I say generally, of course, because there are exceptions to every human behavioral rule. All girls aren't the same. All boys aren't the same. But there are general truths, and those who view the world with honest eyes can see them every day.

I sometimes think back to the week I spent a few years ago chaperoning my daughter's eighth-grade class trip to Washington, D.C. It was like shepherding two different colonies of humans. There was the girl group - quiet, dutiful, occasionally tearful, but handling their drama via text message and social media. Then there was the boy group, best described as a rolling, nonstop low-level brawl. They were constantly pushing, grabbing, and mocking. One could often discern the best friendships by finding the guys who most aggressively attacked each other, verbally and physically.

The patterns - though less pronounced, since everything is less pronounced outside of middle school - persist throughout life. Boys are stronger than girls. They're more physically active, less willing to sit still. They're more aggressive. In many ways, their very nature rebels against the increasing emphasis on order and quiet in American schooling. There is less room for play. There is less room for conflict. There is less room for boys.

Comment: See also:


Living with aphantasia: 'I can't picture things in my mind'

Mia Tomova aphantasia
© Nikolay Doychinov for the Guardian
Mia Tomova: ‘I’m dreadful with directions because I can’t remember landmarks.’
I have a condition called aphantasia where I can't visualise things. When I try to picture my daughter when she's not there, I see nothing

I was seven when, in hindsight, I first questioned my imagination. I remember watching the first Harry Potter film and my friend, who was a huge fan, was complaining that the characters weren't how she imagined them to be. I couldn't understand what she meant because, in my mind, they had never been images at all, just concepts. When I shut my eyes, I see nothing. It is black. I have no visual imagination.

I thought everyone's minds worked this way until about two years ago, when I stumbled across a blog post about aphantasia; a condition where you lack a functioning mind's eye. I was 23, and it blew my mind to learn that others could visualise things. I'd never known any different but it was clear I had aphantasia, too, and a lot of things started to make more sense.

Comment: Can't see images in your mind? You may have aphantasia

Book 2

The wide-ranging, negative consequences of skim reading: We're losing our ability for complex thought and emotion

reading brain
© Sebastien Thibault
‘We need to cultivate a new kind of brain: a “bi-literate’ reading brain’
Look around on your next plane trip. The iPad is the new pacifier for babies and toddlers. Younger school-aged children read stories on smartphones; older boys don't read at all, but hunch over video games. Parents and other passengers read on Kindles or skim a flotilla of email and news feeds. Unbeknownst to most of us, an invisible, game-changing transformation links everyone in this picture: the neuronal circuit that underlies the brain's ability to read is subtly, rapidly changing - a change with implications for everyone from the pre-reading toddler to the expert adult.

As work in neurosciences indicates, the acquisition of literacy necessitated a new circuit in our species' brain more than 6,000 years ago. That circuit evolved from a very simple mechanism for decoding basic information, like the number of goats in one's herd, to the present, highly elaborated reading brain. My research depicts how the present reading brain enables the development of some of our most important intellectual and affective processes: internalized knowledge, analogical reasoning, and inference; perspective-taking and empathy; critical analysis and the generation of insight. Research surfacing in many parts of the world now cautions that each of these essential "deep reading" processes may be under threat as we move into digital-based modes of reading.

This is not a simple, binary issue of print vs digital reading and technological innovation. As MIT scholar Sherry Turkle has written, we do not err as a society when we innovate, but when we ignore what we disrupt or diminish while innovating. In this hinge moment between print and digital cultures, society needs to confront what is diminishing in the expert reading circuit, what our children and older students are not developing, and what we can do about it.