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Sat, 21 Jan 2017
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit

People 2

Frauds and fakers: The imposter phenomenon

How many times in our lives do we fake it? We typically feel like a fraud when we think we are more important than we really are. It's usually in relation to some perfection that never actually existed. Do you ever feel that you are not good enough and that someday soon people will see through what you perceive as a facade of competence? If so, you are not alone.

Many people feel like frauds when they are unable to internalize their own success. This sensation of being a fake, somehow in a position beyond one's true capabilities is known as "the impostor phenomenon". Some estimate that about 70% of people from all walks of life feel like impostors for at least some part of their lives. The sensation is far from pleasant, but a new study from the University of Salzburg, Austria that was published in Frontiers in Psychology, suggests that it might not only be detrimental to your self-esteem but to your career prospects and business as well.

Constantly seeking information and reassurance from our actions is a big part of the imposter phenomenon. This reassurance is typically short-lived, which only means we need more of it to feel better. Seeking reassurance just keeps the symptoms in our head, and usually makes us feel worse.

Comment: Of course there are people who are genuine imposters who wear a mask and are not just neurotics having difficulty coping with job stress. They're called psychopaths and no amount of talking about feelings with their colleagues will help.


Study reveals sexist men more likely to suffer from mental health problems

© Reuters
Men who see themselves as playboys or having power over women are generally seen as arrogant and chauvinistic - but there could be more at play than just a bad attitude. A new study found that sexist males are more likely to suffer from mental health issues.

The research, conducted by the American Psychological Association and published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology on Monday, involved a meta-analysis of 78 research samples involving 19,453 men over the course of 11 years.

Those samples focused on the relationship between mental health and conformity to 11 norms generally considered by experts to reflect society's view of traditional masculinity.

Cloud Grey

Disconnected: The true cost of nature deficit disorder in children

If there's one thing that most of us can agree on, it's that we've lost touch with nature. At the very least, I know we should be spending more time outdoors, and this is especially true for the children of this generation. More screens than ever before have our attention, and while we used to have to be stationary to enjoy them, sitting in front of our televisions, we now have the ability to carry screens around with us at all times, as they so conveniently fit in our pockets. Yet this isn't making us more active, only more distracted. Think about how many times a day you see children, or adults for that matter, glued to a tablet or phone at a restaurant or on a bus?

Of course, there are many educational games and programs that can assist with learning how to read, or count, or solve puzzles, but are our children missing lessons from the greatest teacher of all? What is the true cost of being disconnected from nature and how is it affecting children today?

Comment: Learn more about the healing benefits of being outside, both for children and adults:


Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius - timeless stoic philosophy that is essential to the human spirit

The stoic Epictetus
Few words have been more corrupted by appropriation and misuse than the modern derivative of the ancient philosophy of Stoicism. Today, stoic is a word rendered vacant of the original quest for enlivenment that animated Stoic philosophy, instead warped to connote the very opposite — a kind of unfeeling forbearance that borders on pursed-lipped resignation. But two millennia ago, Stoicism emerged as a life-affirming platform for being — a kind of supervitamin for the soul, fortifying the human spirit against the trials of daily life, against the onslaught of the world, and, above all, against its own foibles. At its heart was the idea that the four cardinal virtues of courage, justice, wisdom, and self-control are the seedbed of human flourishing, and that all of our suffering arises from our perception and interpretation of events, rather than the events themselves — an idea that has as much in common with Buddhism as it does with Bertrand Russell.

Stoicism's wide appeal and application is reflected in the diversity of its originators and early proponents — a Roman emperor and military leader, a celebrated playwright, a former slave who freed and sculpted himself into a prominent lecturer, a successful merchant, and a former boxer who put himself through school by working as a water carrier. Over the millennia, Stoicism has continued to influence minds as varied as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Martha Nussbaum, and Tim Ferriss. Today, the Stoics' wisdom is as valid and empowering as ever — Marcus Aurelius's advice on how to begin each day is a potent recipe for sanity in the modern world; Seneca's meditation on how to stretch life's shortness by living wide rather than long remains the greatest consolation for the fact of our finitude, and his advice on the mightiest antidote to fear continues to fortify the spirit; Epictetus's notion of self-scrutiny applied with kindness is perhaps the best attitude we can cultivate toward ourselves and the surest strategy for true growth.

Arrow Up

How facing your fear and self-doubts can change your life

In yesterday's post, "My 7 Favorite Practices for Engineering the Good Life," I included a curveball of sorts—right at the end. Chase down fear.

While all seven have been game changers, that one claims the pinnacle. The fact is, it's the hardest one to embrace time and again, but it's never ceased to move my life forward in very clear, tangible ways. Still, every time I have to talk myself through the same process.... How can I possibly take on something this substantial? What am I thinking? That one's just too big, too complicated, too ambitious. This time, surely, you've overstretched, Sisson.

But in that moment I remind myself that those feelings don't drive the bus for me. They won't be the ones doing the work to make a vision happen (they never are). A stronger, bolder, more adept self-concept will be leading the charge. Because that's what formidable challenges call for. If I want something big, resisting fear will keep me from it every time. If, on the other hand, I can bluntly tell fear, "You've met your match," suddenly the game looks much different.

Comment: Ultimately we're faced with a choice in situations where we believe we aren't good enough, can't succeed, don't believe we should succeed, or any other negative self talk: believe it and never try, fulfilling the self-fulfilling prophecy in the process, or step into the unknown and see where it leads.

If you want to change your reality, then the only way to do so is to face the fear and make the choice to go into the unknown anyway and to see what comes of it.


Do smarter people need more time alone? Study says yes

There's no fighting it - humans are innately social creatures. But while it's widely accepted that socialising makes us happier, this might not be strictly true if you're highly intelligent.

Evolutionary psychologists from Singapore Management University and the London School of Economics and Political Science found exactly this when they studied more than 15,000 young adults.

They concluded that, while people generally feel happier when they spend time with others, very smart people are an exception to this rule.

The study said this could be because of evolution.

Smarter people can more easily adapt to their surroundings in the modern world, so they don't need close relationships to help them with food and shelter, like our ancestors did. Or, in the modern equivalent, the Wi-Fi password and a spare phone charger.

Comment: Lost, damaged, disordered and confused people digging their own psychological and emotional graves, legitimate social phenomenon or just bad research?

Surprising find: Smart people tend to be loners

Pocket Knife

The writing assignment that changes lives

© LA Johnson/NPR
Why do you do what you do? What is the engine that keeps you up late at night or gets you going in the morning? Where is your happy place? What stands between you and your ultimate dream?

Heavy questions. One researcher believes that writing down the answers can be decisive for students.


People 2

When it comes to gratitude, experiences trump materialism

Feeling gratitude leads to important health benefits and it is both a state of mind and perspective. It leads to increased happiness and social cohesion, better health outcomes, and even improved sleep quality. However, one person's idea of expressing gratitude may completely contradict another, and while some people perceive they will be more grateful from the purchase of an antique sofa rather than a vacation, new research shows one truly outweighs the other on the gratitude scale.

There is growing support that money spent on experiential items increases an individual's happiness. However, there has been minimal research on the causes and long-term consequences of the tendency to make experiential purchases.

New research shows that we feel more gratitude for what we've done than for what we have -- and more importantly, that kind of gratitude results in more generous behavior toward others.

"Think about how you feel when you come home from buying something new," explains Thomas Gilovich, professor of psychology at Cornell Universty and co-author the new study published online in a recent issue of the journal Emotion.

Comment: More on gratitude:


The gifts of grief: How sorrow can be a catalyst for growth

Not long after my infant son died of a neonatal heart defect, my wise friend Suzi told me - "You have to give thanks."

"I do," I said. "I practice gratitude all the time."

"No," she said. "You have to give thanks your baby died."

I felt like slapping her. What a stupid thing to say to someone who'd recently lost a child.

"Not just him, your father and brother's deaths too."

I was furious. But you know what? She was right.

It was hard. I won't pretend anything else. My mind scrambled for ways to be thankful. I could be grateful my father died at 42 because it relieved him of the pain he'd endured during his long battle with cancer. I was thankful that my brother's suicide at 20 finally ended the unendurable suffering his schizophrenia caused him. Death was an end to suffering — that I was grateful for. I could give thanks I had them with me for the time I did, that my father was a good man, my brother - a fun companion. But my baby? How could I be thankful he wasn't given a chance at life? How can people be grateful for the violent deaths of people they love?

Light Saber

Face everything technique: How not to be an avoidance machine

We are, all of us, amazing at avoiding things.

Our minds are less "thinking machines" than they are "avoiding machines." And the incredible thing is that we aren't even usually aware that we're avoiding thinking about something.

I'll give you a few examples:
  • Right now you're reading this article but probably avoiding the difficult thing you don't want to think about.
  • We are constantly checking messages, news, feeds, notifications ... to avoid doing something we don't want to face.
  • When we're facing difficulties in life, we try to tell ourselves that's it's OK because (fill in the blank), or get busy with some activity or numbing agent (like alcohol) so we don't have to face the difficulties.
  • When a problem comes up, our reaction is to want to go do something else, put it off.
  • We put off paying bills, doing taxes, dealing with long emails, dealing with clutter, because we don't want to face these difficulties.
  • We put off exercise because it's uncomfortable.
In fact, there are thousands more examples, every day, that come up and that we don't even notice, because our minds switch to thinking about something else.

Try this right now: pause for a minute and think about what difficulty you're avoiding thinking about right now.

Comment: Further reading: