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Mon, 24 Oct 2016
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Science of the Spirit


9 Tips to stop people pleasing and act in favor of your own destiny

"Be Selfish." It's without a doubt the habit of Highly Successful Hunter-Gatherers I've gotten the most feedback on throughout the last few years. (You can check out the other nine if you're curious or want a refresher.) The reason, I think, is that it's so unexpectedly radical, so brashly subversive to an almost universally held tenet: good people serve others rather than themselves. You can file it under the "better to give than receive" ethic and the general cult of self-sacrifice that permeates Western moral and work culture. We're supposed to want to help others, to devote our lives to the service of the greater good. To be selfish is to be shallow, vapid—a flimsy, one-dimensional model of what it means to be human. But as modestly proposed in The Primal Connection, we're working here with an unfortunate distortion that can quickly wade into treacherous, life-sucking waters.

To adapt an old proverb, I'd say the road to personal hell is often paved with the well-intentioned pursuit of people pleasing. While there's certainly nothing wrong with wanting to see others happy or making a positive difference in the world, we more quickly meet with a law of diminishing returns than we may admit. Where does natural, feel-good altruism morph into unhealthy self-sacrifice? At what point are we denying our basic needs for the comfort and good opinions of others? And what gets lost when we find ourselves down that dysfunctional rabbit hole?

Comment: Setting reasonable boundaries and saying "no" to maintain those boundaries is necessary not only to one's life and sanity, but also to one's health and well-being. Dr. Gabor Maté covers this in his studies of psychoneuroimmunology:

Snakes in Suits

How psychopaths maneuver their way into positions of power

© Unbekannt
A 2010 study that examined a sample of 203 individuals from different companies' management development programs revealed something interesting. It was found that about 3% of business managers scored in the psychopath range while the incidence of psychopathy in the general population is approximately 1%. So why are there so many psychopaths in senior management positions?

Comment: For a more in-depth analysis of how psychopaths/character disturbed individuals manage to secure positions of influence and power in society, see the following:

People 2

Are outdated childhood survival strategies causing you stress?

© Thinkstock
Human beings, like animals, are born with a primal instinct of survival. As infants and young children we rely solely on the ability of others to keep us safe in our new and unfamiliar environment. No matter what circumstances we are born into or how we are cared for, we must learn to adapt in order to survive. As we learn how to adapt to our environment as helpless infants and young children, we create the basis for how we will adapt to the world as we grow and explore more and more of it.

If it was important as a child for you to always finish your meal before you left the table so you would not be harshly reprimanded by a commanding parent, you may find yourself having a difficult time leaving food on your plate as an adult. As a young child, a part of you created a survival plan that would ensure that you always eat all the food on your plate so that you do not displease the people that are keeping you safe. This survival plan created by you as a small child becomes part of your unconscious memories.

As an adult, being unaware of this unconscious survival plan, you may find it quite frustrating when your belly feels satisfied after eating a good portion of your meal, and yet you continue to eat everything on your plate. You may even become angry at yourself for not having more control. Survival plans set up by us as children remain active into adulthood. The subconscious mind does not know time and does not know true or false, it only records the information and plays it back to you 24 hours a day. Since you are not consciously aware of the information that is being played back to you, you have a difficult time making changes in behavior because your behavior is automatic based on what the subconscious mind is repeating to you over and over again.

Cell Phone

Suffering from nomophobia? You need digital detox

Our daily connection with digital devices can be obsessive for many, and even addicting for others. "Sixty-six percent of us suffer from nomophobia, which is a fear of losing your phone or not having access to your phone," notes Techlicious' Suzanne Kantra. This has lead to a "digital detox" trend. More people are making time to disconnect. For those without the willpower to do it on their own there are retreats that structure time away from tech.

Comment: More on digital detox camp:

See also: Digital heroin: Technology addictions are turning kids into psychotic junkies


Focusing on your strengths can move you through depression and anxiety

When it comes to many things in our lives we all seem to have an intuitive knowledge that our strengths are what will propel us through life with the most advantageous outcomes. We focus on strengths when hiring recruits, looking for a spouse or building a team.

When battling emotional problems however, we often focus solely on the diagnosis, the symptoms of the diagnosis and all the issues that the identified problem causes us.

Positive psychology utilizes and focuses on the concept of strengths in treating depression and anxiety to a great deal. It is in fact a very exciting field and has much to offer treatment based psychology as a practice. Strengths are where our greatest successes can happen, where we will grow the most and where we will experience greater energy and happiness.

Even if you find yourself at a time in your life when you have depression, anxiety and panic or have experienced some terrible event, you have strengths. The focus on these strengths is what will take you through. But if you think about it, these are the times we usually focus on these unpleasantries as they have a way of taking over.

Comment: Further reading:

Magic Wand

Use it or lose it: Frequent dancing makes you smarter

© psychologytoday.com
For centuries, dance manuals and other writings have lauded the health benefits of dancing, usually as physical exercise. More recently we've seen research on further health benefits of dancing, such as stress reduction and increased serotonin level, with its sense of well-being.

Most recently we've heard of another benefit: Frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter.

A major study added to the growing evidence that stimulating one's mind by dancing can ward off Alzheimer's disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit. Dancing also increases cognitive acuity at all ages. You may have heard about the New England Journal of Medicine report on the effects of recreational activities on mental acuity in aging. Here it is in a nutshell.

The 21-year study of senior citizens, 75 and older, was led by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, funded by the National Institute on Aging, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Their method for objectively measuring mental acuity in aging was to monitor rates of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.

The study wanted to see if any physical or cognitive recreational activities influenced mental acuity. They discovered that some activities had a significant beneficial effect. Other activities had none. They studied cognitive activities such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing musical instruments. And they studied physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking for exercise and doing housework.

Comment: For more on the benefits of boogie, see:

People 2

Why dreaming of happiness doesn't lead to more happiness

In the 1990s, a psychologist named Martin Seligman led the positive psychology movement, which placed the study of human happiness squarely at the center of psychology research and theory. It continued a trend that began in the 1960s with humanistic and existential psychology, which emphasized the importance of reaching one's innate potential and creating meaning in one's life, respectively.

Since then, thousands of studies and hundreds of books have been published with the goal of increasing well-being and helping people lead more satisfying lives.

So why aren't we happier? Why have self-reported measures of happiness stayed stagnant for over 40 years?

Perversely, such efforts to improve happiness could be a futile attempt to swim against the tide, as we may actually be programmed to be dissatisfied most of the time.

Comment: From 1938 to now, how definition of happiness has changed - UK study


Digital heroin: Technology addictions are turning kids into psychotic junkies

© Getty
Susan* bought her 6-year-old son John an iPad when he was in first grade. "I thought, 'Why not let him get a jump on things?' " she told me during a therapy session. John's school had begun using the devices with younger and younger grades — and his technology teacher had raved about their educational benefits — so Susan wanted to do what was best for her sandy-haired boy who loved reading and playing baseball.

She started letting John play different educational games on his iPad. Eventually, he discovered Minecraft, which the technology teacher assured her was "just like electronic Lego." Remembering how much fun she had as a child building and playing with the interlocking plastic blocks, Susan let her son Minecraft his afternoons away.

At first, Susan was quite pleased. John seemed engaged in creative play as he explored the cube-world of the game. She did notice that the game wasn't quite like the Legos that she remembered — after all, she didn't have to kill animals and find rare minerals to survive and get to the next level with her beloved old game. But John did seem to really like playing and the school even had a Minecraft club, so how bad could it be?

Comment: A thought-provoking experiment: What happens when children don't have the internet for a whole day?


False memories: How false memories are created and can affect our ability to recall events

You may take it for granted that the person whose memory you can trust the most is your own.

Yet, psychologists have found that our recollection of everyday events may not be as dependable as we would believe. Moreover, even once information has been committed to memory, it can be altered. Our recollection of memories can be manipulated and even entire sets of events can be confabulated (Coan, 1997).1

False memories have been investigated by psychologists as early as Freud but have attracted significant attention in recent decades. Our recollection of past events can affect not only our future decisions and opinions but also more significant outcomes, such as court verdicts, when influenced by inaccurate eyewitness testimonies (Loftus, 1975).2


Emotional agility: Showing up to your emotions frees your spirit

© Flickr/taylor.f11
Free yourself up to just be.
Generally speaking, trying hard is a great way to achieve most of what you want in life.

Put in more effort at work and your prospects for a promotion will almost definitely improve — at least more than they would if you simply accepted the status quo of being a slacker.

Date a lot of people and you'll have a better chance of meeting your soulmate than if you stayed at home moping on the couch.

So if it's happiness you want, it makes sense to think that actively trying to be happier is the sure path to getting there, especially compared to resigning yourself to a future of never smiling again.

But psychologists are increasingly discovering that when it comes to happiness, trying can backfire. Instead, the paradoxical key to true happiness seems to be accepting unhappiness — not forcing yourself to feel how you don't.

Susan David calls it "showing up" to your emotions.

David is a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and the author of the new book "Emotional Agility." In the book, she teaches readers to deal with their emotions in a healthy way, so that they're neither hiding them nor letting their feelings control their behavior.