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Sun, 23 Apr 2017
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Feeling authentic in a relationship comes from being able to be your best self, not your actual self

Feeling authentic in a relationship - that is, feeling like you are able to be yourself, rather than acting out of character - is healthy, not just for the relationship, but for your wellbeing in general. This makes sense: after all, putting on a fake show can be exhausting. But dig a little deeper and things get more complicated because there are different ways to define who "you" really are.

Is the real you how you actually think and behave, for instance? Or, taking a more dynamic perspective, is it fairer to say that the true you is the person you aspire to be: what psychologists call your "ideal self"?


Facebook blues: Spending too much time on social media increases sense of isolation

© Christian Ohde / Global Look Press
Those who used social media more than two hours daily were around twice as likely to report feeling high levels of social isolation.
Facebook may have revolutionized how we stay in touch with friends and family, but a new study has found that too much time on social media actually leads to increased feelings of isolation.

The study, published Monday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, examined feelings of social isolation among more than 1,787 US adults between the ages of 19 and 32.

The researchers defined social isolation as the lack of a sense of belonging, true engagement with others, and fulfilling relationships.

Comment: When technology becomes too much of a good thing: Tips for breaking your screen addiction


We can understand people better by putting ourselves in their shoes

We tend to believe that people telegraph how they're feeling through facial expressions and body language and we only need to watch them to know what they're experiencing -- but new research shows we'd get a much better idea if we put ourselves in their shoes instead. The findings are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

All our perspectives help us define our truths. Within this perspective, what is true works for the situation at hand and it is what allows us to assess all our experiences. When we realize that all truths are true, we no longer have a need to be right. So what happens when we consider the perspective of others?

"People expected that they could infer another's emotions by watching him or her, when in fact they were more accurate when they were actually in the same situation as the other person. And this bias persisted even after our participants gained firsthand experience with both strategies," explain study authors Haotian Zhou (Shanghai Tech University) and Nicholas Epley (University of Chicago).

To explore out how we go about understanding others' minds, Zhou, Epley, and co-author Elizabeth Majka (Elmhurst College) decided to focus on two potential mechanisms: theorization and simulation. When we theorize about someone's experience, we observe their actions and make inferences based on our observations. When we simulate someone's experience, we use our own experience of the same situation as a guide.


The dark side of positivity and the emotional burden of 'happiness'

© Reuters/ David Gray
The pressure to put on a happy face can make us miserable.
Everyone wants you to be happy: Self-help books dish out advice on how to stop worrying, boost happiness, and banish negative thoughts; bosses want to see smiling enthusiasm in the workplace; and the only way to respond to "how are you?" is with a joyful "great!" But according to Svend Brinkmann, a psychology professor at Denmark's Aalborg University, the culture of positivity has a dark side.

Happiness is simply not the appropriate response to many situations in life, says Brinkmann, whose Danish bestseller Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze is published in English by international publisher Polity this month. Even worse, faking it can leave us emotionally stunted.

"I believe our thoughts and emotions should mirror the world. When something bad happens, we should be allowed to have negative thoughts and feelings about it because that's how we understand the world," he says.

"Life is wonderful from time to time, but it's also tragic. People die in our lives, we lose them, if we have only been accustomed to being allowed to have positive thoughts, then these realities can strike us even more intensely when they happen—and they will happen."

Comment: Happiness: Enough Already
The drawbacks of constant, extreme happiness should not be surprising, since negative emotions evolved for a reason. Fear tips us off to the presence of danger, for instance. Sadness, too, seems to be part of our biological inheritance: apes, dogs and elephants all display something that looks like sadness, perhaps because it signals to others a need for help. One hint that too much euphoria can be detrimental comes from studies finding that among people with late-stage illnesses, those with the greatest sense of well-being were more likely to die in any given period of time than the mildly content were. Being "up" all the time can cause you to play down very real threats.

2 + 2 = 4

Interview with great U Texas Austin psych prof JW Pennebaker

© YouTube/Jordan B Peterson
Dr. James W. Pennebaker is Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, and the Executive Director of Project 2021, aimed at rethinking undergrad education at that university.

I first encountered Dr. Pennebaker's work when I was working on the Self Authoring Suite (www.selfauthoring.com), an online writing program which has helped thousands of college students stay in school and get better grades. He conducted the original work on "expressive writing," starting in the 1980's, showing that people's health and productivity improved when they wrote about traumatic experiences or uncertainty -- particularly if they constructed causal accounts or plans. He has also investigated the psychological significance of patterns of word use (particularly about everyone's favorites, pronouns). We talk about all of this, and much more.

Comment: See also:

2 + 2 = 4

Pt 1: Freedom of Speech/Political Correctness: Dr. Norman Doidge

This is Part 1 of a 3-part posting from The Speakers Action Group, who hosted Dr. Norman Doidge, author of the bestselling The Brain that Changes Itself and The Brain's Way of Healing (www.normandoidge.com/) and Dr. Jordan B Peterson Sunday, January 22, 2017 to speak on freedom of speech and political correctness. Dr. Doidge speaks in this first section on the history of the modernist, enlightenment ideals of the West and the recent post-modern assault conducted on those ideals.

Dr. Doidge speaks first in this 3-part series (this video).


The coddling of the American mind

In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don't like. Here's why that's disastrous for education—and mental health.

© Andrew B. Myers / The Atlantic
Something strange is happening at America's colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in "that violates the law") lest it cause students distress.



How to die well

© Adrian Lyon—Gallery Stock
I first met Stephanie in the Intensive Care Unit. She was an urgent admission — in shock, her blood pressure was almost unmeasurable. Over the previous month, the rate of cancerous fluid building up around her lungs had increased. She had used the permanent drainage tube in her chest wall more frequently to manage her shortness of breath. But in the process, she had made her blood pressure dangerously low. She was unconscious and mumbling incoherently. Her kidneys and liver weren't getting enough blood and were effectively dying. We worked quickly. And we were lucky enough to be able to rehydrate her before her organs became permanently damaged. Slowly, she woke up again. We had saved her.

Stephanie was a 60-year-old wife, mother and grandmother. She loved life. Wine tastings, gardening, spending time with her family — this didn't stop when she was diagnosed. When she had learned that the cancer had spread to the other lung and brain, she took a deep breath and went back into the ring to fight. She signed up for more chemotherapy. If she worked hard, she thought, she could beat it.

Comment: Writing your own obituary to inspire others


Rhythmic breathing and correct inhalation is key to controlling fear and emotional responses

We live in a fearful world with exposure to a deluge of stressors everyday. As much as fear is a result of reacting to the actual or perceived events in our lives, it is also a biological function of the human body, and when equipped with an understanding of how the body manages the emotional system, we can easily outsmart it, tricking ourselves into emotional balance.

This perspective is scientifically validated by new research from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago Illinois, which discovered how the various rhythmic patterns of breath profoundly impact memory recall and the emotional body, specifically the fear response.

The brain creates electrical impulses which link physical functions to emotional reactions, and the electrical activity of the brain is deeply affected by our breathing patterns. The outcome of this balance is determined by whether or not we are inhaling or exhaling, as well as if we are breathing through the nose or the mouth, as each variable creates a different electrical response within the brain.

Comment: The points covered in the above article - and many more - are discussed at length in the following presentation of
Éiriú Eolas- The revolutionary breathing and meditation program. Watch it and give it a good try over several weeks.
You'll be very happy you did!


Neuroplasticity may explain the healing powers of music


The principles of neuroplasticity may underlie the positive effects of music therapy in treating a diversity of diseases.

A man with Parkinson's disease sitting in a crowded restaurant has to use the rest room, but he cannot get there. His feet are frozen; he cannot move. The more he tries, the more stressed he becomes. People are beginning to stare at him and wonder what is wrong. Then he remembers the song "You Are My Sunshine," which his music therapist taught him to use in situations like this. He starts humming the tune. In time with the music, he steps forward—one foot and then the other—and begins walking to the beat in his head. Still humming, he makes it to the rest room, avoiding a potentially embarrassing situation.

Freezing of gait is a common occurrence for many people with Parkinson's disease. Such struggles can limit social experience and lead to seclusion and depression. Unfortunately, available pharmacological and surgical treatments for Parkinson's do a poor job of quelling this and many other symptoms. But where conventional medicine has failed, music therapy can sometimes provide relief.

Music therapy is the use of music by a credentialed professional as an intervention to improve, restore, or maintain a non-music-related behavior in a patient or client. As a music therapist, I have worked with many people with Parkinson's disease and have seen how music can provide an external cue for patients to walk in time to, allowing them to overcome freezing. I have also used group singing to help patients with Parkinson's improve their respiratory control and swallowing. Impaired swallowing can lead to aspiration pneumonia, which is a leading cause of death among this patient population.

Comment: The brain is actually a supple, malleable organ, as ready to unlearn as it is to learn, capable of resetting and repairing its internal communications. Far more than once dreamed possible, the brain can—if not always cure—heal itself.