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Thu, 23 May 2019
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit

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The new APA guidelines: A symbolic castration of men?

teen boy
The anthropologist Margaret Mead famously quipped that a fundamental challenge for any culture is what to do with the young men. Without guidance, young men can become violent and destructive. In every society of which we have substantial knowledge, men are more likely than women to commit violent crimes.

This male/female disparity appears to hold not only across all known human cultures but across the primate order as well. Male chimpanzees engage in violence much more often than female chimpanzees do, and the male/female disparity in violence is larger among chimpanzees than among humans. For example, Jane Goodall and her colleagues found that adolescent male chimpanzees often kill and eat monkeys; adolescent female chimpanzees almost never kill monkeys, preferring a more vegetarian diet.

In the classroom, girls are more likely to seek to please the adult; boys are more likely to disregard or defy the adult. Again, this female/male disparity has been widely documented not only among humans but among chimpanzees in the wild as well. There is a growing disparity in academic achievement, with American boys falling behind their sisters. As a practicing family doctor, and also as a veteran of visits to more than 400 schools over the past 18 years, I have observed that many boys care more about getting to the next level in their video game than about doing well in school and pleasing the teacher. I recently wrote about a boy who stayed up till 3 AM on a school night playing video games. He refused to go to school the following morning, preferring to sleep in. His mother called 911 to ask the police to get her son out of bed. I have never encountered a girl who stayed up till 3 AM playing video games and refused to go to school the next day.

Comment: See also:


The 'silent treatment' is a sign of an unhealthy relationship

silent treatment
Communication is one of the most important factors in any healthy relationship - whether it's with family, friends, loved ones, coworkers, bosses, or whomever. And much of the social conflict we experience in our lives is due to some type of miscommunication or lack of communication.

One study published in the journal Personal Relationships has identified one pattern that's common in most negative and toxic relationships.

Psychologists looked at over 100 married couples in the U.S. and had them keep diary reports of the status of their marriage and current marital conflicts. The participants also rated their individual depressive symptoms. By analyzing these reports, researchers discovered that a "demand-withdraw" pattern was one of the biggest predictors of marital dissatisfaction and symptoms of spousal depression.

A "demand-withdraw" pattern is when one individual attempts to "demand" a change from their partner, and the partner "withdraws" from the conflict by walking away, being silent, or pretending to ignore the other person.

Both types of behaviors can be damaging toward a relationship: 1) Trying to force someone to make a change, and 2) Not communicating with your partner.

One of the most popular examples of this type of communication style is the "silent treatment." This is when someone tries to express that they are mad by completely cutting off any communication with the other person: no verbal responses, no answering phone calls, no text messages, no eye contact, etc.

Comment: See also:Two relationship patterns that are most harmful to couples


Is DNA to blame? Should killers with a violence gene get lighter sentences?

Violent Genes
© grandeduc/iStock/Getty Images Plus
In 2015, Anthony Blas Yepez was sentenced to more than 22 years in prison after killing George Ortiz, his girlfriend's step-grandfather.

Three years prior, Yepez and his girlfriend were living with Ortiz when, according to testimony, Ortiz hit Yepez's girlfriend in the face. Yepez says he isn't sure what happened next but that he "must have blacked out." When he came to, he was on top of Ortiz, who was bleeding and appeared to be dead. Yepez and his girlfriend then poured cooking oil on the victim, lit him on fire, and fled the scene in Ortiz's car.

Now, Yepez's lawyer, Helen Bennett, is seeking a retrial for her client - and she's relying on an unusual argument: that Yepez is genetically inclined to act violently due to the "warrior gene."

Specifically, Bennett is arguing that Yepez has low levels of the enzyme monoamine oxidase A (MAOA). Some research implies that people with low MAOA do not regulate chemicals in the brain properly, which can result in abnormal aggression. Later this year, the New Mexico Supreme Court is expected to review the case.
"Now is the time for courts to begin to analyze this intersection between science and law."
According to Bennett, Yepez has low MAOA levels and suffered abuse in childhood. (Some evidence suggests that childhood trauma combined with low MAOA can lead to antisocial problems.)

"Under certain circumstances with people with a certain genetic makeup who have had experiences of abuse or trauma in their childhood, their free will can be overrun by this impulse to violence," Bennett tells Medium.

It's not the first time Bennett has attempted this argument for Yepez. In 2015, she tried to introduce the warrior gene theory into case evidence, but the judge at the time rejected it. Bennett is hoping for a second shot.

"Now is the time for courts to begin to analyze this intersection between science and law," she says. "As science envelops and touches upon so many aspects of our society, it's really incumbent upon the courts to engage in this consideration."

Comment: For more on this, see these articles:


Yes, the rich and famous actually are quite narcissistic

rich and famous
Have you ever wondered whether those who inhabit the ethereal world of the truly wealthy are, at their core, narcissistic? Does it seem that the ability to satisfy your every whim, to have well-paid staff wait on you hand and foot, and to socialize with other high-flyers can make almost anyone become unduly self-centered and entitled? Imagine yourself being able to walk into a room and immediately draw the attention of all who want to impress you. Consider what it would be like to have personal shoppers come to you with a panoply of expensive designer clothes and jewelry and you don't even have to peek at the price tag. Someone is hired to come every day to freshen your appearance and you have personal trainers who inspect every muscle as you enter your in-home gym. If you're not just rich but famous, imagine that your every move is followed and reported in the media by reporters and photographers. You read about yourself daily in the musings of the celebrity press, and your social media following is flourishing.


Proper breathing brings better health

© Ruslan Ivanov Getty Images
Breathing is like solar energy for powering relaxation: it’s a way to regulate emotions that is free, always accessible, inexhaustible and easy to use.
As newborns, we enter the world by inhaling. In leaving, we exhale. (In fact, in many languages the word "exhale" is synonymous with "dying.") Breathing is so central to life that it is no wonder humankind long ago noted its value not only to survival but to the functioning of the body and mind and began controlling it to improve well-being.

As early as the first millennium B.C., both the Tao religion of China and Hinduism placed importance on a "vital principle" that flows through the body, a kind of energy or internal breath, and viewed respiration as one of its manifestations. The Chinese call this energy qi, and Hindus call it prana (one of the key concepts of yoga).

A little later, in the West, the Greek term pneuma and the Hebrew term rûah referred both to the breath and to the divine presence. In Latin languages, spiritus is at the root of both "spirit" and "respiration."

Comment: The Éiriú Eolas Stress Control, Healing and Rejuvenation Program is an easy to practice breathing and meditation technique. Stimulate your polyvagal system and breath your way to better health with the Éiriú Eolas program!


How to unwind your busy monkey mind

monkey mind
Most people believe relaxing activities are only done in the evenings, and should be grouped in categories, scheduled, or put in an evening "routine," as if it's simply another item to check off your "to-do" list.

The good news? You don't have to wait until the evening to unwind and relax. In fact, you shouldn't. You deserve to feel grounded in your center and a sense of peace all day, not for just a few hours at the end of your day. You shouldn't have to, and you absolutely do not have to and mustn't do so. It is time to do away with the philosophy that it is only safe to entertain the idea of relaxation at the very end of your day, after spending the large majority of your waking hours walking through the day scattered, stressed, anxious, drained, ungrounded and thrown about. You deserve more, and there's a way to get there. There is a way to unwind that busy, chaotic monkey mind which owns most of your waking hours and is not aligned with your true nature, or the place deep within where stillness and serenity reside.


'We hear what we listen for' - The art of listening well

Hearing is not always the same as actively listening.

Hearing is not always the same as actively listening.
Forget about what you were going to say next. Make sure you hear what the other person says

A zoologist was walking down a busy city street with a friend. In the midst of the honking horns and screeching tires, he exclaimed to his friend, "Listen to that cricket!"

The friend looked at the zoologist in astonishment and said, "You hear a cricket in the middle of all this noise and confusion?"

Without a word, the zoologist reached into his pocket, took out a coin, and flipped it into the air. As it clinked on the sidewalk, a dozen heads turned in response.

The zoologist said quietly to his friend, "We hear what we listen for."

Comment: The practice of listening


The APA guidelines are wrong. It's ok to be stoic, competitive, dominant and aggressive - but don't take it to the extreme

Boys and men shouldn't follow the advice of a recent report by the American Psychological Association called "Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Men and Boys." These guidelines imply that "traditional masculinity" - such as stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression - are harmful.

These guidelines are wrong.

Stoically controlling your emotions is necessary. Competitive spirit drives success. Dominance - and the mental and physical strength required to dominate - is far superior to a lack of strength, which results in being dominated by someone else.

And aggression is a means to an end. Without aggressive action, you will likely be on the receiving end, bowing to someone else's aggression.

Of course, it would be nice to conjure up a world where those "traditionally masculine" traits are outmoded and unnecessary. Perhaps in that fantasy world everyone could just let their emotions spill out.

Instead of competition, in that imagined world everyone would win. Rather than looking to dominate, in this imaginary realm everyone would collaborate and live as equals. And finally, in this fictional domain, aggression would not stand and people would simply hug each other and get along.

Comment: What the APA seems to not understand is that context is important when it comes to these traits. And as the author illustrates, it's the application of such that really defines the person, not the trait itself. See also:


Carl Sagan said 'reincarnation deserves serious study': Years later the results of those studies are in

Carl Sagan and Dalai Llama
Carl Sagan, the well-known American astronomer, astrobiologist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, and author passed away in 1996. He was very skeptical of non-mainstream work, and was the same when it came to many topics within the realm of parapsychology. Almost 20 years later, we now have substantial evidence to confirm that various phenomena within the realm of parapsychology are indeed real. Some of these include telepathy, psychokinesis, distant healing, ESP, and many others, including reincarnation.

Sagan did not brush off the scientific study of these phenomena, in fact, he felt that some of them deserve "serious study."
"There are claims in the parapsychology field which, in my opinion, deserve serious study," with [one] being "that young children sometimes report details of a previous life, which upon checking turn out to be accurate and which they could not have known about in any other way than reincarnation." (source) (1)
He also mentions two others. One is that, by thought alone, humans can affect random number generators in computers (you can read more about that here), and the other is that people under mild sensory deprivation can receive thoughts or images "projected" towards them (you can read more about that here).

If Sagan were alive today, he would see that the serious scientific study of reincarnation has indeed been undertaken, despite the fact that it is a touchy subject, and the results challenge the belief systems of many. When looking at these topics from a scientific standpoint, it's a good idea to suspend all belief systems and simply examine the information that's been gathered from a neutral standpoint (which is, of course, easier said than done).



Why does it feel good to see someone fail?

pain pleasure mask
© VixCompaNi/Shutterstock
To feel a pang of pleasure at the misfortune of others is to be human.

In the Pixar animated film Inside Out, most of the plot plays out inside protagonist Riley's head, where five emotions - Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger - direct her behavior.

The film was released to glowing reviews. But director Pete Docter later admitted that he always regretted that one emotion didn't make the cut: Schadenfreude.

Schadenfreude, which literally means "harm joy" in German, is the peculiar pleasure people derive from others' misfortune.

You might feel it when the career of a high-profile celebrity craters, when a particularly noxious criminal is locked up or when a rival sporting team gets vanquished.

Psychologists have long struggled with how to best understand, explain and study the emotion: It arises in such a wide range of situations that it can seem almost impossible to come up with some sort of unifying framework. Yet that's exactly what my colleagues and I have attempted to do.

Comment: See also: Your Brain on Schadenfreude...or Not