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Wed, 24 Aug 2016
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit


Tips for overcoming obsessive thinking

A few years ago I remodeled my kitchen. Having to make that many decisions is an overthinker's nightmare. If you've ever remodeled, you know that it's one decision after another — fixtures, appliances, countertops, paint. Do you even know how many models of faucets are made?

People who overthink feel like their brains won't turn off. They are constantly questioning, second-guessing, and evaluating to the extent that they create analysis paralysis, or the inability to make decisions.

Overthinking is common among anxious perfectionists. It is obsessive thinking or ruminating. Sometimes you can't even decide something simple like what you want for dinner. Instead you say "I don't know" or "I don't care" and inevitably annoy your partner or friends because you never seem to have an opinion.

Comment: Another useful technique for calming the the mind and helping you to focus is the Eiriu Eolas stress reducing program. Getting adequate sleep can help diminish persistent intrusive thoughts as well.


Stalking: Using our mind's own voice to be free of the voice

© Crow-Boy by Anna Magruder
If we are relentless and impeccable about stalking ourselves, a result is that we leave the world and other people alone.

There is a very old tradition taught by indigenous elders from the Americas that trains us to use the voice of the mind to be free of the voice. The term these elders use for this process is called "stalking." It is understood that the word stalking has some negative connotations in our society. However, stalking is an honored part of this Medicine Way. These societies were hunter-gatherers: Just as they stalked animals for their energy, we have been taught to stalk the voice in the mind for its energy.

In stalking, we use three areas to assist us in finding energy. The first area is our thoughts: judgmental and critical, future or past, and self-pitying. The second place we look for energy is emotion: Am I having an emotional reaction to this person or event? The third area of awareness is physical: If I am unaware of my thinking or emotional responses I can almost always become aware of physical tension or upset in the body.


Beliefs that can help to transform negative emotions

Are you sad, anxious, managing a difficult relationship, grief or divorce? Are you feeling the stress of medical issues, parenting or work? Whatever difficulty we experience is made exponentially worse by how we talk to ourselves about those same experiences. Like flipping on a switch, changing the meaning you ascribe to life's hardships instantaneously short circuits the thoughts that breed negative emotions. Adopt these five beliefs to transform unhappiness to well-being.

1. Believe in Your Power to Challenge Your Difficulties: Do you wake up feeling daunted by life? Or, do you start your day in a good space only to stumble in the face of difficult news later or an unforeseen problem? And when that happens, do you feel like giving up? Do you tell yourself, "Ugh, this is impossible, I can't do it!" Self-efficacy is a term psychologists use to refer to how much a person believes in her ability to reach goals or tackle her life's problems. Your ability to believe you can persist in obtaining your goals and solving your problems -- including work issues, social issues, financial goals, healthy behaviors, workout and diet regimes -- is almost entirely dependent on your ability to persist in spite of setbacks. People who continue to persevere do so because they force themselves to believe deep down in their core, that if they hang in there long enough they will solve the problem at hand or meet their goal. So whatever you are managing that is hard on you today, start by telling yourself "I can handle this, even if I don't have all of the answers right now, I know I will find a way."

Comment: See also:


Irrational decisions might be the result of quantum theory, mathematicians say

© The Independent, UK
New theory might be able to answer why humans make irrational and surprising decisions.
If you've ever made a decision that didn't make any rational sense, you might now have a great excuse for why. New research has taken a step forward in modelling human judgement and decision making using mathematics.

If you've ever seen the game show Golden Balls you will have watched judgements and decisions made with uncertainty and under conflict. Whether choosing to steal or to split, you have a risk of going home with nothing. Quantum theory may be able to explain the irrational decisions made on the show.

"Quantum cognition" may explain our decisions when we don't have a definite feeling about which option to choose or which decision to make, according to researchers at Indiana University and Ohio State University. Jerome Busemeyer and Zheng Wang propose that all options we could possibly make co-exist and have varying potential to be chosen. Once a choice is made, all other possible options no longer exist in our minds.


Feeling intense emotions doesn't mean you're crazy, it means you're human

"The thing about people who are truly and malignantly crazy: their real genius is for making the people around them think they themselves are crazy. In military science this is called Psy-Ops, for your info." - David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest
When we utilize critical thinking and question whether what society tells us is true or not, we are called "paranoid." When a major tragedy strikes, we are conditioned to automatically accept what authority figures and the media tell us without question, lest we wish to be cast into the tainted demographic of society known as "conspiracy theorists" - basically, a manipulation of the term free-thinkers, insinuating a person's open mind is instead a psychologically deranged prison. When we feel sad, we put on brave faces like we were taught to do; and we certainly do not let others see us "break" down, as to do so would be socially unacceptable. We fail to realize this, in reality, is the very definition of weakness. The truly brave thing to do would be to embrace and listen to our feelings, otherwise known as embracing our innate human nature. Rarely do we consider that by repeatedly denying ourselves the opportunity to "break" down and feel our emotions in their entirety, we are simultaneously sealing our fate to break down on a chronic basis in the future, as the accumulated negative energies within us from our repressed emotions will eventually reach full capacity and burst.


Researchers show that dwelling on the past negatively impacts self control in the present

Fear, anger, uncertainty, discomfort, shame, guilt and many other emotions we perceive as negative are often our compass towards growth. It is our resistance to our past and our interpretation of how our experiences should have manifested which define our expectations for the future. How people remember past behavior affects their choices in the present, according to a new study that suggests the relationship between recall and self-control is more complicated than previously believed.

Research on self-control often suggests recollecting past mistakes as a way to avoid making them again. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people with food addictions reflect on past lapses to keep from overeating. But Vanderbilt University professor Kelly Haws thought there might be more to the story, so she and her team designed several studies to test the nuances of recall. Haws and colleagues found that focusing on past behaviors is not always a good idea.


Empathy: Being comfortable sitting with another persons pain

I learned something valuable this week that I would like to share it with you. But first, a little reflection on something I wrote last week, because it's connected to what I learned this week.

In a recent post on my blog I wrote about "How to respond to those we love when they are in pain." I've had a few people thank me for the words I suggested because they don't always know what to say to someone who's suffering.

In this same vein, I also recently watched a Dateline episode about newscaster Tom Brokaw, who shared his experience and what he learned through his recent battle with cancer. One thing he found upsetting was how people responded to him as he suffered with his disease. He said no one could empathize unless they'd also had cancer. I think what he was trying to say was that he felt people didn't understand what he was going through during his incredible challenge with the disease. I believe that he may have experienced people "trying to make someone feel better when they are suffering," which ultimately made him feel as if people did not understand what he was going through.


Evangelical Christianity - creating and manipulating low self-esteem

© Julian Stratenschulte/Archiv/dpa
Like most swimmers, I try to get in some laps almost every day, but there is only one health club with a pool within decent driving distance from where I live. It doesn't call itself a Christian gym, but it plays primarily Christian music overhead, holds prayer meetings and Bible studies, and incidentally it also leaves most of its hi-def televisions parked on the same 24-hour news network all the time.

Even though I don't intentionally listen to Christian music, I find it difficult to escape it where I live. My regular readers have already heard me gripe about how it's not this way only at a local health club but also at local restaurants, skating rinks, doctor's offices, gas stations, and just about any other place you can go around here. That means I get a decent feel for what messages my Christian friends and family are exposed to on a regular basis. I already knew that fare pretty well, of course, since I was a devoted Christian myself for twenty years. But this way I guess you could say it keeps me current.

And the songs we listen to matter. They help shape the way we think. Andrew Fletcher famously said, "If a man were permitted to make all the ballads he need not care who should make the laws of a nation." I would modify that to say that Sunday morning sermons can go in one ear and out the other, but the songs Christians hear replay over and over again several times a week, impacting them in their daily lives in a way no eloquent speech ever could. Back when I was a leader in my church group, I put a good deal of time into writing songs for our group (we often stole popular tunes and wrote our own lyrics for the group to learn and sing—loads of fun, by the way!) because I understood the weight that songs carry.

Teachers and preachers like to think they shape the theology of a congregation but they can't hold a candle to the music. The most forward-thinking leaders of Evangelicalism have known for years that if you can influence the music in people's earbuds, you can steer an entire generation in the direction you feel is best. Of course, if you can also commandeer control over the hiring and firing of Christian seminaries and universities, that can powerfully reshape a culture as well. But that's a topic for another day, perhaps.

Comment: Comment: Getting free of lifelong programming can be done, but it is hard work. Kudos to Mr. Carter.

Eye 2

New study suggests that psychopaths don't "catch" yawns

© iStock
People with psychopathic traits are less affected by others' yawns, a new study finds.

Contagious yawning has been linked to empathy levels in several studies, though not all research supports the association. However, new research in the journal Personality and Individual Differences finds that people with psychopathic traits—especially a lack of empathy—are not as susceptible to catching a case of the yawns ... at least among college students, the only group tested.

Researchers from Baylor University in Texas tried to provoke 135 students to yawn in reaction to someone else's yawn. Each of the participants also completed a questionnaire regarding their personality traits, measuring psychopathic characteristics like selfishness, tendency to be manipulative, impulsivity, and a lack of empathy. Then they sat at a computer and watched 10-second video clips of facial movements, including yawning. Electrodes were attached to their faces just under the lower eyelids, on their foreheads, on the outer corners of their eyes, and on their fingertips to measure their movements in reaction to the videos.


The US military and the myth that humanity is predisposed to violence

© wehuntedthemammoth.com
We have this tragic misperception that humanity is predisposed to violence.

The truth is that humanity is predisposed to peace. The default position for humanity is that of conscientious objector to war and violence.

In our work at the Center on Conscience & War, this is proven to us daily, through our individual conscientious objectors. Science has proven it, too. This tendency for cooperation over competition is evident in daily life: on an average day, most people will witness countless acts of cooperation, kindness, and humanity towards one another, and not one act of violence or competition. And most of it is so commonplace, we barely even notice it. We take our nonviolence for granted.

And so does the news. What makes the news is violence, not cooperation. Particularly, on our local news programs, the top stories are the ones that depict street crimes and "home invasions." Seeing this interpersonal violence, I am convinced, leads us to believe that people are predisposed to acting violently toward one another. We all make decisions based on patterns we observe, and if the patterns we observe are highlighting violence, we are going to decide that humanity is violent.

How does this relate to war? If we believe that violence among humans is natural, we will believe that war is inevitable.

But violence is not natural. Our conscience tells us killing another human being is wrong. And it is the military that knows this better than anyone.

The military has taken notice that, over time, and through the history of war, the vast majority of individuals refuse to shoot to kill. That means, instead of firing directly at an "enemy," soldiers (used here to cover all members of the Armed Forces: soldiers, Marines, airmen and women, and sailors) would fire their weapons away from their "targets," or pretend to shoot. One investigation found -- and these studies have been replicated -- that in World War I only about 5% of people shot to kill; in World War II, about 15% of people shot to kill. By the US war in Vietnam, the rate at which soldiers were shooting to kill was found to be 90%. Today, that number could be even higher.

What happened? Training evolved to meet the military's goals.

There is a science of teaching soldiers to kill and it is called killology. It is the science of circumventing the conscience.

In order to get an otherwise psychologically healthy individual to kill, US military training has been developed to bypass the conscience and have the act of killing - the act of firing one's weapon with the intent to kill -- become reflexive.