Taking life as it comes allows us to appreciate the vibrant swimming pool blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds of cotton and the air washed in unseen waves of fragrant garden blossoms, enjoying the experience of whatever happens to come along at the time, no planning or purpose to our actions, turning off our sense of self and finding a peace like that found in prayer, no expectations or goals to be accomplished, so we pick up the closest wildflower, looking at its color, studying its bright yellow petals, gently plucking a leaf and looking with intrigue at the golden pollen dust that speckle our fingers, puffing at a dandelion and watching the fluffy seeds dance through the air, flying lightly with the breeze and floating to the ground, no hurry in this motion. The unexpected can hold important lessons, part of our learning process, some walk to reach a destination others set off on a journey of discover, the destination is not as meaningful as the process of simply enjoying the experience along the way.
We think this kind of daydreaming is romantic, but it is just the opposite. If you really want to know how to love, you will want to give your beloved your full attention — which means gaining some control over your mind, teaching it to listen to you. And that means you have to train it. After all, you have been teaching it just the opposite all your life, letting it do whatever it likes. Now you have to teach your mind some new habits. In that meeting, for example, you can start paying attention to what your manager wants to say about efficiency instead of daydreaming about what you’re going to do that evening. If the mind starts to wander, you bring it back to the speaker. You can see how difficult this is. But if you can do it, when you and your beloved finally get together that evening, you will know you can give your complete attention, without the slightest flicker. And the next day, instead of replaying the highlights of the evening, you give all your attention to what’s on your desk. That too sounds unromantic — and no fun at all. But it is the secret of a free mind.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Swings are like life, they have their ups and downs, their backs and forth’s, some times they twist out of balance, they may not always be smooth as we hope, there is not always stable foot when we touch the ground, there are many factors that are beyond our control, like the length of the ropes, the strength of the breeze, or the pressure applied by the pusher, the more we swing, the better we become and easier it is to manage, but swings have a habit of settling down, losing their upward motion and centering themselves even if we do nothing at all.
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We need only to do something once to know we are capable of doing it, the more we do it the better we get, each time we do it, we gain confidence and are more capable, less fearful. The doubts we possess prevent us from trying and push our comfort zone, to step beyond what we are capable of achieving. What is familiar is comfortable, and we like to stick with what provides us comfort, but what is familiar is not always what’s better. Anything worth having in life takes some degree of effort, change is inevitable and what was once novel soon becomes familiar. We adapt to just about anything and are able to endure. We grow accustomed to what is familiar and in it we find security. We cannot necessarily control what is happening but we can adjust to the world around us, we are great at dealing with change we change our clothes, our hair, as you read this the hand on the clock are moving, the lights grow dimmer the sun sets, we cannot control the wind but we can adjust our sails. Yet we feel as powerless as a car without an engine to alter our environment, but we can be a role model to others to be an example of how we would like to be treated. If what I’m doing isn’t working, I need to change direction and find what I can alter, that being yourself, rather then fight what I cannot control.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
When we think about morality, many of us think about religion or what our parents taught us when we were young. Those influences are powerful, but many scientists now think of the brain as a more basic source for our moral instincts.
The tools scientists use to study how the brain makes moral decisions are often stories, said Joshua Greene, a Harvard psychologist,citing one well-known example: “A trolley is headed toward five people, and the only way you can save them is to hit a switch that will turn the trolley away from the five and onto a side track, but if you turn it onto the side track, it will run over one person.”
It’s a moral dilemma. Greene and other researchers have presented this dilemma to research volunteers.
Most people say they would flip the switch and divert the trolley. They say they don’t want to kill someone, but one innocent person dead is better than five innocent people dead.
What this shows is that people resolve the moral dilemma by doing a cost-benefit analysis. Greene says they look at the consequences of each choice, and pick the choice that does the least harm.
In other words, people are what philosophers would call utilitarians. Except, Greene tells me, sometimes they aren’t.
He asked me to visualize another well-known dilemma:
“This time, you’re on a footbridge, in between the oncoming trolley and the five people. And next to you is a big person wearing a big backpack. And the only way you can save those five people is to push this big guy off of the footbridge so that he lands on the tracks. And he’ll get squashed by the train; you sort of use him as a trolley stopper. But you can save the five people.”
Would you push the big guy to his death? More important, do you feel this moral dilemma is identical to the earlier one?
“In a certain sense, they’re identical,” Greene said. “Trade one life to save five. But psychologically, they’re very different.”
Pushing someone to their death feels very different from pushing a switch. When Greene gives people this dilemma, most people don’t choose to push the big guy to his death.
In other words, people use utilitarian, cost-benefit calculations — sometimes. But other times, they make an emotional decision.
“There are certain lines that are drawn in the moral sand,” Green said. “Some things are inherently wrong, or some things inherently must be done.”
There’s another dimension here that’s interesting: If you watched yourself during the first dilemma, you may have noticed you had to think about whether you’d push that switch. In the footbridge dilemma, you probably didn’t have to think — you just knew that pushing someone to his death is wrong.
Greene says we really have two completely different moral circuits in our brain.
When you listen to a dilemma, the two circuits literally have a fight inside your brain. Part of your brain says, slow down, think rationally — make a cost-benefit analysis. Another says, no, don’t think about it. This is just wrong!
“These responses compete in a part of the brain called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is a kind of place where different types of values can be weighed against each other to produce an all-things-considered decision,” Greene said.
So what makes the ventromedial prefrontal cortex go with the rational mode sometimes, and the emotional mode other times?
Greene and a colleague, Elinor Amit, thought closely about what was happening to people as they tipped from rational mode to an emotional mode. In new research they’ve just published in the journal Psychological Science, these psychologists say they have the answer.
“Emotional responses don’t just pop out of nowhere,” Greene said. “They have to be triggered by something. And one possibility is that you hear the words describing some event, you picture that event in your mind, and then you respond emotionally to that picture.”
That’s the key: Some dilemmas produce vivid images in our heads. And we’re wired to respond emotionally to pictures. Take away the pictures — the brain goes into rational, calculation mode.
Here’s how they found that out: Greene and Amit set up an experiment. They presented people with moral dilemmas that evoked strong visual images. As expected, the volunteers made emotional moral judgments. Then the psychologists made it difficult for volunteers to visualize the dilemma. They distracted them by making them visualize something else instead.
When that happened, the volunteers stopped making emotional decisions. Not having pictures of the moral dilemma in their head prompted them into rational, cost-benefit mode.
In another experiment, Greene and Amit also found that people who think visually make more emotional moral judgments. Verbal people make more rational calculations.
Amit says people don’t realize how images tip the brain one way or another. And that can create biases we aren’t even aware of.
She laid out a scenario to think about: “Imagine a horrible scenario in which a terrorist takes an ax and starts slaughtering people in a bus,” she said. “I’m coming from Israel, so these are the examples that I have in my mind.”
The story produces a movie in our heads. We can see blood everywhere. We can hear people screaming. We don’t have to think at all. It feels terribly wrong.
Then Amit presented another kind of news event: A drone strike that sends a missile hurtling toward a target. At the center of the cross-hairs, an explosion. There’s dust billowing everywhere.
“So if you learn about these events from television or from pictures in a newspaper, which one [would you] judge as more horrible?” Amit asked. “The person with the ax that killed maybe two people but the scene looks horrible and extremely violent, or the picture of the drone that killed 100 people but looks relatively clean and nice?”
To be sure, the events Amit describes are completely different. One’s a terrorist attack, the other is a military action. But it’s true the ax murderer instantly sends the brain into emotional mode.
The drone strike has less vivid imagery. You can’t see, up close, what the missile does. So most people go into utilitarian mode — they start to think about the costs and benefits.
Amit’s point is not that one mode is better than the other. It’s something much more disturbing. As you listen to the news everyday, hidden circuits in your brain are literally changing the ground rules by which you judge events.
You think you’re making consistent moral choices when, really, the movies playing in your head might be making your choices for you.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I have some bad news for young people entering the workforce: You’re all a bunch of weenies, and we don’t like you.
LOL! JUST KIDDING!
No, seriously, millennials are great, but we do need to have a talk. So sit down with Old Man Huppke and let me address a generational problem that’s rearing its head — big time — in workplaces across the country.
First off, I’m talking about those of you born between 1982 and 1999. It’s the group that followed Generation X, which is the group that followed the baby boomers.
Every generation has its unique characteristics, of course. Gen Xers are largely the product of two-income households and tend to be independent and self-sufficient. Boomers prefer to work collaboratively and are known to enjoy dreadful folk music.
But the millennials, along with entering the workforce with unrealistic confidence and expectations, seem to have a problem with personal interaction and conflict resolution.
“One of the primary reasons in this past year or two that I’ve been called in to coach executives or companies around generational differences is to help them leverage the skills and talents of millennials,” said Linda Gravett, a psychologist and senior partner with the Cincinnati-based human resources consulting firm Gravett & Associates. “Many of them have trouble handling conflicts and don’t have confrontational skills or seem able to deal with conflicts in a straightforward way.”
Gravett said that in a recent focus group with 10 millennials, the subjects said they prefer to text someone they’re having a problem with rather than speak by phone or face to face.
“I asked them why they won’t just talk to someone over coffee or something,” she said. “And they said, ‘Oh, that’s too personal.’”
Another millennial told Gravett that the boss had yelled at him. She asked whether the boss raised his voice. The millennial said, “No.”
She asked whether the boss used profanity. The millennial said, “No.”
“So I said, ‘Explain to me what yelling at you means,’ and the young man said, ‘Well, he was really firm and he disagreed with me.’ He took that as being yelled at.”
Oh boy. If having someone disagree with you is akin to yelling, your work life is going to be deafening.
Cynthia Sims, associate professor of workforce education and development at Southern Illinois University, believes companies can best help millennials — and all staffers, for that matter — by treating generational issues as a matter of workplace diversity.
“What we’re describing are dimensions of diversity,” she said. “Folks don’t see generations as a diversity issue. They look at race and gender, but there’s more to it than that. There’s age, education, communication style. These are all dimensions of diversity, and we need to have training that talks about them that way.”
Companies often ignore generational differences, assuming people will just blend into a nice, smooth batter of productivity. But experts such as Sims and Gravett say it’s critical that companies acknowledge that every age group brings its own quirks and advantages to the table.
“I’m not sure the millennials are problematic; I just think there are communication and expectation differences that groups need to talk about,” Sims said. “We don’t have a forum in the workplace to talk about those differences. There may be some skills that millennials don’t have because they’re so used to technology; they may not have the social skills that some of us have. But that’s where boomers and Gen Xers can come in and help.”
Gravett said millennials tend to relate well to baby boomers because they view them more as grandparents, whereas Gen Xers could be seen as hovering, lecturing parents. Companies would be wise to pair millennials with older employees for symbiotic mentoring.
“Boomers can learn how to text, and the millennials can learn to walk down the hall and sit next to someone and look them in the face,” Gravett said. “If they start there, there doesn’t seem to be so much of a gap between them.”
So talk openly about the fact that your workforce is generationally diverse.
“The commonality would be, ‘What’s the mission of our company? What’s the mission of our department? What are our customer needs?’” Gravett said. “Let’s move toward that similar objective. But let’s acknowledge that maybe we have to communicate around those objectives in different ways.”
As with other workplace issues, we tend to clam up about generational issues. The key here is putting the fact that differences exist on the table and fostering some cross-generational understanding.
If millennials are struggling with overconfidence or an inability to handle confrontation, that’s not a sweeping indictment of any individual or the group. It’s just something that needs to be addressed.
And if we learn to address these things now, we’ll be better prepared for the next generation, whatever it may be called and whatever weird issues it has.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Take this quiz:
- Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
- Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
- Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.
- Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.
- Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
- Name the last decade’s worth of World Series winners.
How did you do?
The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are not second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.
Here’s another quiz. See how you do on this one:
- List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
- Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
- Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
- Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
- Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
- Name half a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.
The lesson? The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Donna Talarico sat at her computer one morning, stared at the screen and realized she had forgotten—again!—her password.
She was having financial difficulties at the time, and was reading self-help books to boost her mood and self-confidence. The books talked about the power of positive affirmation—which gave her an idea: She changed her various passwords to private messages to herself, like “imawe$some1″ or “dogoodworktoday.”
“It’s something so simple,” says the 34-year-old marketing manager at Elizabethtown College, in Pennsylvania. “It just reinforces that you’re a good person. You can do a good job at whatever you are trying to talk yourself into.”
In times of stress, even people with close social networks can feel utterly alone. We’re often advised to “buck up,” “talk to someone” (who is often paid to listen) or take a pill. Wouldn’t it also make sense to learn ways to comfort and be supportive of ourselves?
Think of it as becoming our own best friend, or our own personal coach, ready with the kind of encouragement and tough love that works best for us. After all, who else knows us better than ourselves? If that sounds crazy, bear in mind it sure beats turning to chocolate, alcohol or your Pekingese for support.
Experts say that to feel better you need to treat yourself kindly—this is called “self-compassion”—and focus on the positive, by being optimistic. Research shows self-compassionate people cope better with everything from a major relationship breakup to the loss of their car keys. They don’t compound their misery by beating themselves up over every unfortunate accident or mistake. Car broke down? Sure, it’s a drag, but it doesn’t make you an idiot.
“They are treating themselves like a kind friend,” says Mark Leary, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University. “When bad things happen to a friend, you wouldn’t yell at him.”
In 15 studies conducted over the past seven years, Dr. Leary has found that self-compassionate people are happier. Three of the studies, soon to be published, examine how self-compassion affects people over age 65. The studies found that people who accepted memory lapses, arthritis and other difficulties of getting older, and who treated themselves extra nicely on tough days, reported more positive emotions and were coping better with the aging process.
Self-compassion helps people overcome life’s little, and not-so-little, stressors, such as public speaking. In another study, Dr. Leary asked people to stand in front of a videocamera and make up a story starting with the phrase, “Once there was a little bear…” Then he asked them to critique their performance, captured on videotape.
People whom the study had identified as being high in self-compassion admitted they looked silly, recognized the task wasn’t easy and joked about it. People low in self-compassion gave harsh self-criticism.
Experts say you can learn self-compassion in real time. You can train your brain to focus on the positive—even if you’re wired to see the glass as half empty. A person’s perspective, or outlook, is influenced by factors including genetic makeup (is he prone to depression?), experiences (what happened to him?) and “cognitive bias” (how does he interpret his experiences?). We can’t change our genes or our experiences, but experts say we can change the way we interpret what has happened in the past.
Everyone has an optimistic and a pessimistic circuit in their brain, says Elaine Fox, visiting research professor at the University of Oxford, England, and director of the Affective Neuroscience Laboratory in the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex. Fear, rooted in the amygdala, helps us identify and respond to threats and is at the root of pessimism. Optimism, in contrast, is rooted in the nucleus accumbens, the brain’s pleasure center, which responds to food, sex and other healthy, good things in life.
“The most resilient people experience a wide range of emotions, both negative and positive,” says Dr. Fox, author of “Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain.” To enjoy life and feel good, people need roughly four positive emotions to counteract the effect of one negative emotion, she says. People who experience life as drudgery had two or even one positive emotion for every negative one, Dr. Fox has found.
It’s possible to change your cognitive bias by training the brain to focus more on the positive than on the negative. In the lab, Dr. Fox showed subjects pairs of images, one negative (the aftermath of a bomb blast, say) and one either positive (a cute child) or neutral (an office). Participants were asked to point out, as quickly as possible, a small target that appeared immediately after each positive or neutral image—subliminally requiring them to pay less attention to the negative images, which had no target.
Want to try this at home? Write down, in a journal, the positive and negative things that happen to you each day, whether running into an old friend or missing your bus. Try for four positives for each negative. You’ll be training your brain to look for the good even as you acknowledge the bad, Dr. Fox says.
When I asked, I was pleasantly surprised by the number and variety of ways people said they treat themselves with compassion, care and kindness. Anittah Patrick, a 35-year-old online marketing consultant in Philadelphia, celebrated her emergence from a long depression by making herself a valentine. She covered an old picture frame with lace and corks from special bottles of wine, and drew a big heart inside. Using old computer keys, she spelled out the message “Welc*me Back.” Then she put it on her dressing table, where she sees it every morning. “It’s a nice reminder that I’ll get through whatever challenge I’m facing,” she says.
If Kris Wittenberg, a 45-year-old entrepreneur from Vail, Colo., starts to feel bad, she tells herself “Stop,” and jots down something she is grateful for. She writes down at least five things at the end of each day. “You start to see how many negative thoughts you have,” she says.
Kevin Kilpatrick, 55, a college professor and children’s author in San Diego, talks to himself—silently, unless he is in the car—going over everything positive he has accomplished recently. “It helps me to hear it out loud, especially from the voice that’s usually screaming at me to do better, work harder and whatever else it wants to berate me about,” he says.
Adam Urbanski, 42, who owns a marketing firm and lives in Irvine, Calif., keeps a binder labeled “My Raving Fans” in his office. Filling it are more than 100 cards and letters from clients and business contacts thanking him for his help. “All it takes is reading a couple of them to realize that I do make a difference,” Mr. Urbanski says.
He has something he calls his “1-800-DE-FUNK line.” It’s not a real number, but a strategy he uses when he is upset. He calls a friend, vents for 60 seconds, then asks her about her problems. “It’s amazing how five minutes of working on someone else’s problems makes my own disappear,” he says. Sometimes, as a reality check, he asks himself, “What Would John Nash Think?” in honor of the mathematician, Nobel laureate and subject of the film “A Beautiful Mind,” who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.
Are things really as dire as he thinks? Is he overreacting? “It always turns out that whatever keeps me down isn’t really as bad as I thought,” Mr. Urbanski says.
Here are ways to be your own best friend in stressful times.
- Instead of “pushing through” a bad day, look for ways to actively improve it. Take a small break. Get an ice-cream cone. Invite a friend out to dinner.
- Resist the urge to make your problems worse. “Ask yourself, How much of my distress is the real problem, and how much is stuff I am heaping on myself unnecessarily?” says Mark Leary, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University.
- Boost your daily ratio of positive-to-negative emotions, says Elaine Fox, a cognitive psychologist. What do you enjoy doing? Seeing your best buddy, watching a funny movie, walking in the park? Make a list and do one a day.
- Then list things you really don’t enjoy. Are there people who bring you down? Hobbies that no longer interest you? Errands you can delegate? Some of this stuff can be avoided.
- If you don’t feel happy, fake it. You wouldn’t constantly burden a friend with your bad mood, so don’t burden yourself. Try holding a pencil horizontally in your mouth. “This activates the same muscles that create a smile, and our brain interprets this as happiness,” Dr. Fox says.
Friends, family and co-workers: I think you’re fabulous—just not quite as fabulous as you think you are.
Consider your Facebook status updates:
Best gift ever from the best husband ever.
Swam 30 minutes at a very fast time despite the large amount of Chardonnay served to me on the plane last night.
Got my first royalty check for my book!
Sunset sail. Turned into a moonlight sail. Shooting stars everywhere…Perfect.
A benign reading would be that these are just typical daily updates. But folks, this is bragging, whether you recognize it or not. And it’s out of control. How did this happen?
Clearly, the Internet has given us a global audience for our bombast, and social media sites encourage it. We’re all expected to be perfect all the time. The result is more people carefully stage-managing their online image.
Boasting isn’t just a problem on the Internet. In a society of unrelenting competition—where reality-show contestants duke it out for the approval of aging celebrities and pastors have publicists—is it any wonder we market ourselves relentlessly?
In part, you can blame the economy. In the most competitive job market in memory, the lesson is clear: You must demonstrate—on multiple platforms—that you excel above all others.
Changes in parenting style also play a role. Nowadays, every moment—first day of school, exhausted nap in the back seat of the car—is documented. The problem is that these shared moments can easily come off as crowing about how great Mom and Dad are to have raised such an adorable kid.
We’ve become so accustomed to boasting that we don’t even realize what we’re doing. And it’s harmful to our relationships because it turns people off.
So why keep it up?
“We brag because we can,” says Julie Hanks, a licensed clinical social worker who has a therapy clinic in Salt Lake City. “And a lot more people are listening.”
People brag for all sorts of reasons, she says: to appear worthy of attention or love or to try and cover up our deepest insecurities. To prove to ourselves that we’re OK, that people from our past who said we wouldn’t measure up were wrong. Or simply because we’re excited when good things happen to us.
And talking about ourselves feels good. According to the results of a series of experiments conducted by Harvard University neuroscientists and published in May in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the reward areas of our brain—the same areas that respond to “primary rewards” such as food and sex—are activated when we talk about ourselves. We devote between 30% and 40% of our conversation time to doing just that, according to the study, which didn’t focus on boasting specifically, but on self-disclosure.
In one experiment, the researchers offered people small amounts of money to answer questions about themselves or others. They generally were willing to forgo earnings in order to talk about themselves.
Unfortunately, some people can’t seem to tell the difference between sharing positive information that others might actually want to know and flat-out crowing. Let me help: Bragging involves comparison, whether stated or implied. “It’s being overbearing and showing excessive pride,” says Ms. Hanks.
Often, bragging is in the eye of the beholder, as Faith McKinney found out at a church picnic one recent Sunday. The Indianapolis postal-service worker, 45, was telling an older member of her congregation about the interviews she does with celebrities for her freelance gig at a local online entertainment magazine, when her cousin—the one she donated a kidney to a few years ago—suddenly piped up: “There she goes again, dropping names.”
“You could have knocked me over with a feather,” says Ms. McKinney, who admits she mentions the famous people she’s met at every opportunity because she feels this makes her more interesting.
She continued her story—and even dropped a few more names, on purpose. But she felt humiliated, especially when she remembered that another relative had recently asked her why her “big head” was always in the photos of work she posted online. “If these are people who love me saying this, what am I to expect from strangers?”
According to yet-to-be-published research at Columbia University, browsing Facebook or another social media site increases our levels of narcissism as well as our self-esteem.
And while we’re more likely to be modest with our friends and family in person, these are the people we most want to see our enhanced updates online, says Keith Wilcox, assistant professor of marketing at Columbia Business School, who conducted the study.
“Their opinions matter more,” he says, adding that online, the usual social norms of modesty don’t necessarily hold.
“It’s become a phenomenon where if someone posts a status update and 500 people see it and no one objects, it must be true,” says Jennifer Mirsky, 45, a digital content strategist in New York.
“But could it really be that everyone else has a husband as thoughtful as the heroes of romance novels, children who combine the brilliance of Einstein with the winning charms of Shirley Temple, and jobs packed with wall-to-wall glamorous events?”
Ms. Mirsky says her strategy is to simply hit the “like” button and move on. “You input one keystroke of indeterminate meaning to say ‘hooray for you!’ ” she says.
So how should you deal with a braggart?
“Feel sorry for them, because they’re doing this impulsive, destructive thing that won’t help them in the long run,” says Simine Vazire, a research psychologist and associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis. Research on self-enhancement shows that people who brag make a good first impression, but that it diminishes over time.
When Ian McKenzie, 30, a schoolteacher in Lincoln, U.K., goes out to dinner with his wife and their friends, he says, everyone soon gets around to bragging—about the gadgets and cars they own, their kids, their vacations. “I have my fill of it and start to act up,” he says.
He mentions how he went to school with Prince William. (He attended St. Andrew’s in Scotland at the same time but never knew the prince.) Or he tells of the time he saw supermodel Kate Moss. (She got out of a car near where he was walking; he had no idea who she was until his wife clued him in.)
The reaction? “Stunned silence,” he says. “Hopefully, it will bring the pudding course on quicker and there will be a rush for the door.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
Over and over again, studies show that people set out on a mission to seek out reasons to support their emotional reactions. And because you are usually successful in this mission, you end up with the illusion of objectivity. You really believe that your position is logicallly and objectively justified. Most people give no real evidence for their emotional reactions and no effort is made to look for alternatives opposing this emotionally based sense of certainty. The mind generally uses the “makes-sense-to-me” rule, where you take a position, look for evidence that supports it, and if you find some evidence, enough so that your position “makes sense”, you stop thinking. If someone brings up reasons and evidence on the other side, you can may be swayed to change your mind. However, the problem is that you may not make any effort to seek out conflicting points of view unless they are presented to you.
This reminds me of a client I saw who ad two failed marriages and concluded, “All men are pigs.” From only two examples, she created a generalization that included three billion men! Her cynicism, her unwillingness to allow any men to get close to her, was the side-effect of two fundamental facts about how the brain work: 1) the brain has the amazing ability to see a pattern with minimal clues, and 2) your brain has a tendency to look for evidence that confirms an already-existing beliefs. So once you have concluded something, you have a strong tendency generalize that conclusion by noticing evidence that supports your pre-existing belief. So a pessimistic, cynical, or defeatist feeling, causes your mind to look for negative evidence and selectively ignore any positives. In this way the pain comes from making negative events larger and more awful than they really are.
Our memory allows us to recall information about what is likely to happen in different situations. Our memories promote expectations and predictions to how life will unfold. For example, when you walk into a grocery store, you know automatically, how things are supposed to go. You go in, grab a cart, pick food off the shelf, line up for a cashier who will take your money for the food, and you can go home. It is not as if you walk into the store and think `OK, what happened the last time I was here’ or `Why are people looting food off the shelves?’ You automatically know how to behave in the situation based on your experience. The knowledge from these memories, makes the world a much more predictable place.
So let me be clear, you are not conscious of everything you do and how you do it, for every aspect of your life. For example, tying your shoelaces, walking, dialing the phone, or driving, are all guided to a large degree by unconscious processing. Frequently performed actions and behaviors become automatic so your consciousness can turn to other things. In this our complex, information saturated world, the brain is required to handle a vast amount of data. This enormous amount of information exceeds the capacity of your consciousness, which can contain only one or a few things at a time. In fact some researchers suggest that most of what you do on a daily basis is habitual. Which side of the bed do you get out of in the morning? Do you think about the processes of getting dressed, or is it automatic? First the left leg and then the right leg. You put my trousers on the same way every morning. You shave the same way, eat the same breakfast. And so forth. In fact, most of the choices on a daily basis are automatic and out of your conscious awareness.
A good example would be to think of the name of your sixth grade teacher. Before reading the last sentence, you probably weren’t thinking about that period of your life or that teacher. But this information was stored unconsciously and has now entered your consciousness. Soon it will pass back into your unconsciousness, ready to be accessed again if the need arises.
Try for a moment, while reading this passage, to consciously piece together the individual letters in this sentence. Actively focus on how each letter is a symbol, then consider how their meaning changes when they stand in relation to one another, how they form words whose meaning is in turn affected by the words around them, and how these chunks of symbols form a representation in your brain of what the sentence says. Not easy right. Try again.
A few things are worth noting about this exercise; namely that a) in spite of your intentions, you probably couldn’t do it without a significant level of focus, b) you understood the sentence very quickly anyway, and c) it still affected your behavior. Also, since you already knew what it said, the meaning of the sentence didn’t really change when you went over it again, trying to consciously determine why it conveys the particular meaning it does. This illustrates a few factors involved in unconscious functioning, which can be fairly difficult to consciously understand. The first point is this that you unconsciously and very quickly derive meaning from past learning experiences. Second, you have incomplete insight into how this happens, and once the skill of reading is learned, it is hard to stop without conscious effort. Thus reading is an automatic skill that is guided by your unconscious, your behavior occurs without your being entirely aware of it or choosing that it happen.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Humans, for all their sophistication, tend to use unconscious processes. For example many of us drive using unconscious skills unless something unexpected happens, at which point conscious processes take over. These allow you to analyze the unfamiliar situation in more depth in order to figure out how best to respond. The same is true for social situations. Much of the information coming in from social situations is processed unconsciously. Only a small amount of the information is attended to and analyzed consciously. Because you rely so heavily upon unconscious processes, many of your responses to social situations occur “mindlessly.” You are thus free to think about Bob’s annoying table manners and Jane’s infectious laugh as you wander down the aisles, selecting all the necessary ingredients for the dinner party the next night.
The problem is that you unconsciously conform your new experiences into existing patterns. The compulsion to explain, or determine the generalizations, is hardwired in humans, it helps us to learn. Unfortunately, the compulsion to explain is not bound by reason. If a logical explanation does not fit, the mind will make up its own explanation based on exaggerated and unlikely patterns. When presented with bits of information that have no particular relationship, your mind will find one anyway. When the mind cannot generalize a pattern with the information that has, it will create an explanation to fit. No effort is made to test the validity of facts used as evidence. Your mind tries to find additional evidence that supports your conclusion and proves that you were right in the first place. No effort is ever made to prove that you could be wrong. You just assume you are right.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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