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Are You Smarter than You Think?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 4, 2010 by dredslack

  You’re probably smarter than you think. Most people are. This doesn’t mean most folks make great decisions or achieve a lot, but that underlying ability is often there, waiting for the chance to come out and show what it can really do. 

  When we’re kids a big part of our job is to push our agenda to see what works and what doesn’t work, what we can get away with and what leads to unpleasant consequences. That’s one of the ways we learn how the world works and what’s best for us to do. It’s left to our folks to set limits for us so we don’t kill ourselves in the process. It’s not an easy job. A lot of their message comes across as “you don’t know what you’re doing” and for the most part that’s probably quite true. 

  Societies “more primitive” than ours usually have a ritual called ‘the rite of passage’. In this ritual a sub-adult can prove themselves competent and worthy of adult status, typically by performing a set of difficult and / or dangerous tasks successfully. This is followed by a ceremony where the sub-adult is ‘transformed’ into an adult and from then on out, to both themselves and their society, they are no longer some dumb ass kid but an adult worthy of respect. 

  Aside from some ill advised drinking rituals our society does not have a defined marking place for us to shift gears from adolescence to adulthood. This leaves many of us with the lingering sense we’re still dumb ass kids. 

  To compound this being able to critically, logically think for one’s self is not part of the curriculum (required classes) of any public education system currently in the United States. Clearly learning to think for one’s self is not important enough to be part of a general education. It’s not important. 

  Further, the road to any type of competency or wisdom is strewn with errors and mistakes, ask anyone whose achieved anything of significance. Mistakes are how we learn and grow. In spite of this a preponderance of people respond to any error as proof of hopeless incompetence. Even more sadly many of us do this to ourselves.

                     You’re probably a lot smarter than you think.

Are You Post Sheep?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on July 23, 2010 by dredslack

 I recently responded to a blog about manipulation in film by Mihai Stoian, ( He made some good points so I added my voice to the discussion, supporting identifying manipulations and being aware of them as a good and often pleasant way to avoid their influence. Mihai  replied in a very gracious manner and implied that most people need more protection than simple awareness and self analysis, without some other source to lead them, life would be too much. It seems to me that this perspective views most people as sheep that need to be told what to do. 

 The Bible contains many analogies regarding Shepard’s and their flocks that make the same implication; people aren’t smart enough to think for themselves. Well, I don’t agree, I think that most people have the ability to think for themselves. To get good at it we all need to work at it and we’ll need some education about thinking logically and not being tricked by simple forms of manipulative argument. We also need to be honest with ourselves and it’s of course wise to seek the council of respected others but I believe most of us are capable of making good decisions on our own. Sure they’ll be mistakes but that’s how we learn. Miles Davis (American Musician 1926-91) says it best: “Do not fear mistakes … there are none”.   

 Perhaps in the past, for society to survive we did need to do a Shepard / flock thing. We may have done ourselves in if we hadn’t. However now it seems the leadership caste (& I’m not talking about the Obama administration) has become the child that needs leading and we need to think for ourselves at a more complete level than ever before.

 Every generation has its challenges and perhaps one of ours is to assert ourselves as thinking, aware individuals. Whether it’s a political party, a gang of skinhead punk’s with white laces on their boot’s or a revered leader, do you need to follow a doctrine, group or charismatic individual ….. or are you post sheep?

Finding Content in a World of Hype

Posted in quest for content, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2010 by dredslack

                                    Finding Content in a world of Hype 

  In the latest issue (July/August 2010) of Fast Company magazine the lead story is about how Steve Jobs built Apple Computers to be what is now the second largest company in the nation. Author Farhad Manjoo distills the principal actions that led to this success into seven maxims, one of those being the cliché “everything is marketing”. 

 That phrase stuck with me like a commercial jingle and pushed me up to a new level of self awareness. Driving from work the road side signs pulled at me as the radio extolled the virtues of Burger Kings new ‘Bourbon Burger’. At home the newspaper pushed its slanted perspectives like my mother in law trying to sneakily manipulate me into agreeing with some sort of tea party nonsense. The TV literally sang and danced about the products that would certainly turn my life into a show tune, filled with improbably attractive, sexually suggestive (and a bit on the thin side) ‘love’ interests. My computer home page offered no relief as it simmered and bubbled with pop up windows and embedded ads, even my cyber-social network via Facebook was awash with ads and suggestions. 

 Because of that cliché I became aware that much of my mind has automatically been occupied avoiding these seductive messages and has embarked on an unconscious quest for content: A battle to keep my mind my own and filled with the real stuff of life, not the suggestive fluff that’s constantly shoveled in our faces. Most of us do this ‘hype filtering’ quite consciously in our work or with the special interests we have. I write frequently on the subject of dealing with manipulative people (Two Legged Snakes) and their techniques, but this is a quieter, more subtle war. I think a lot of us have thought patterns that try to determine what might lead to connections that aren’t hype and sophistry and that have some reality to them, a humanness and relevancy that’s interesting to hear about and connect with. Like an immune system that works to keep out the hype this ‘programming’ looks for songs that have guts or books that (really) tell the truth. Articles, movies or TV shows are sought that are honest and intelligent and leave you glad you spent the time rather than wanting that time back. Perhaps that’s what a lot of us are ‘hunting and gathering’ these days: Content; reality, truthfulness and humanity, cared for facets of our experience that aren’t just widgets to make a dollar. 

  I’m optimistic that I’m not alone when it comes to this quest for authenticity. Currently my favorite TV shows is Lie to Me, where Tim Roth deftly portrays an eccentric psychologist who is expert in determining who is telling the truth. It’s a very content heavy show that delves into many of the dilemmas we all face, from managing our relationships to finding our best individual paths and so forth. There’s a lot more depth and honesty than you get from most programs and it’s growing and very dedicated audience (and ad density) is a small sample of proof that many of us are on a similar hunt for content and are fighting a good fight against the fluff majore.

 If you’ve noticed a similar ‘hunt for content’ operating in your life please leave a comment.  Thanks!

Disasters and Doors to a Better Life

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on June 24, 2010 by dredslack

Disasters and Doors to a Better Life

This may sound a bit Pollyanna (unrealistically positive), particularly if you’re currently enduring one of life’s bone crushingly hard phases, but its true: If we learn from the disasters we survive we can use what we’ve experienced as doors to a better way of life. Perhaps a lot better and possibly in ways we couldn’t have gotten to without the rough bits.

Your disaster might be a random chance disaster, like a brick falling on you as you’re walking downtown or some unexpected (and undeserved) disease. It could be a disaster of your own making, like a cell phone jabbering auto accident or a last second decision to go ‘all in’. Often it’s a combination of both; sure he was charming, intelligent and oh so attractive but you didn’t let yourself see his two legged snake signals of showing up late too often, being secretive about his past and you forgave him faster than the blink of an eye when he told you he had an STD after you had sex.

Whatever the cause, when disaster strikes all the emotional stages show up; denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance. We’ll do our ‘laps’ with them, in our own personal style, until the reactive emotion subsides & we start putting the pieces of our lives back together. If we’re going to turn this disaster into a doorway to a better, more informed, wiser way of living we’re going to have to look at what happened as honestly as possible, while not expecting ourselves to be perfect, wallowing in self pity or finding a goat to scape. We need to strive to understand what happened from a non-judgmental (‘it’s not good or bad, this is just what happened’) perspective and ask ourselves what this pain filled experience has taught us. Take your time, this is a big event; give yourself all the space you need to process it properly. Writing things out from all sorts of perspectives can be a good idea and can give you other angles to process your experience from. Be wary of the counsel of friends. They may be well intended and sometimes wise but my experience has been that much better results are achieved when this type of journey is held in a more personal light.

Disasters big and small befall all of us and even really, really good people aren’t excluded. If you learn from your disasters and open a door to a better life you’ve taken a bad situation and made something good come out of it. I can’t think of a better way to deal with it, can you?

Dr. Ed Slack // 2010

Risk Takers and Manipulators

Posted in relationships, trust, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 24, 2010 by dredslack

Risk Takers and Manipulators 

 Do you enjoy life? Do you try to live each day to its fullest? Would you rather take a few risks and get the most out of life or play it safe and not hurt? If you’re a ‘live life to the fullest’ sort of person I applaud you and hope your happiness is great and your troubles few, but be observant, manipulative people keep their eyes open for those who aren’t afraid to take a chance. 

Those of us who live ‘large’ will move pretty quickly in our professions, our relationships and our recreational activities. This tendency to go fast gives Two Legged Snakes (my term for manipulative people) a big advantage because that’s how they like to work; move quickly so their snaky deeds are done before they get discovered. Many a financial deal has become a disaster because too much was risked in a decision that was made too quickly for the snaky scheme to be revealed. 

 Besides finance, romance is the next life area where fast movers get hit hard. Even if your feelings say ‘full steam ahead, nothing bad could happen because this feeling is too good’, don’t move quickly with decisions that can have lasting consequences (like marriage or signing something). Take your time and savor the love you’re lucky to enjoy, if it’s the real, long lasting type it feels like, it’ll still be there next year. It’s a particularly bad sign if you’re getting a lot of encouragement from you lover to move fast or up the pace. Don’t do it, it’s your choice, the more pressure you get the more likely your dealing with a manipulator. 

 Lord knows I certainly don’t want to slow anyone down and I’m not one to encourage a fear based perspective, this is just a word to the wise that at times, fast movement can attract some unwanted and dangerous snaky attention. This is one of the reasons the music and entertainment industries have a lot of snaky people in them. Manipulators populate these industries because they are a prime target population to exploit; fast moving risk takers! Thankfully, if we are aware of this dynamic we can avoid snaky games and pay attention to the risks, and fun, at hand. At times we may slow down a bit, but that’s a lot better than a rag doll, lawn dart, Two Legged Snake disaster!

Watching the Watcher

Posted in relationships, trust, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 19, 2010 by dredslack

Watching the Watcher 

 Manipulative people, or Two Legged Snakes (as I like to call them), if they are of the intelligent variety are watching you to see what sort or ‘trust cues’ are important to you in determining who you let your walls down for. 

 For example, if you’re on a date with a potentially manipulative person (TLS) and he observes you smiling approvingly at a father interacting positively with his young child the TLS may make a point of being kind to children as a way to gain your trust. 

 If you’re a ‘look a person in the eyes when you talk to them, firm handshake, straight shooting type’ a bright TLS will pick up on this immediately and will ironically give you this no BS behavior in spades. 

 Taking your time is a great defense against this type of manipulator because the manipulative person’s inconsistency and insincerity will surface fairly quickly to an observant eye. Also, watch out for a change in behavior after your display of a trust cue. Keeping in mind the first example, if your date soon after observing your approving smile found some way to be helpful to a child you’ve most likely uncovered a TLS, simply by watching the watcher.

A Tea Party of Two Legged Snakes

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 18, 2010 by dredslack

The Two Legged Snakes who call themselves the Tea Party grossly (mis)associate themselves with the principles of the American Revolution …. when nothing could be further from the truth. Their Tea Party is not a justifiable rebellion against taxes collected to benefit a distant aristocracy and is no less a fantasy than the tea parties little girls have with their dolls and pretend friends. Only this one is uglier, louder and brimming with simplistic, snaky sophistry such as misassociation, baiting and reinventing history.

This (supposedly) ‘grass roots’ political movement’s recent use of the term ‘gangster government’ to characterize President Obama’s administration demonstrates their use of the Two Legged Snake (people who use sophistry and other manipulations) technique of misassociation. There is no demonstrable connection between President Obama and gangsters. But the association doesn’t sound good and, in fact, surely sounds mighty scary to the Fox news audience, who unquestioningly believe what they’ve been told by their favorite conservative pundit. Associating President Obama with gangster culture is ridiculously out of bounds and engenders another Two Legged Snake manipulative technique: baiting.

Baiting is making outlandish statements in an attempt to access the more primitive parts of our brains that are reactive and ‘animalistic’, the ‘fight or flight’ area. The higher brain stem locations that are more suited for analysis are largely bypassed because of the loud emotional reaction to the outrageous bombast. Because their opponents are too pissed off to think straight it’s then easier to draw them into a catch phrase battle where volume is more important than making sense. And that’s a battle they can win.

The Tea Party and others of their ilk will continue to use these techniques and more as long as they have an unwitting, dupable audience. The task for those of us who can see this blatantly manipulative sophistry is to help our fellow Americans see it as well.


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2010 by dredslack


Traditions happen on a lot of levels. There are holidays & habit pattern traditions, unconscious behavior and social standard traditions, knee jerk reactions and thought pattern traditions. Traditions aren’t limited to the context of celebrations and holidays and they are things we tend to accept without question.

On a societal level many of our celebration traditions stretch back to pagan times but are now defined as Christian holidays. Before Christmas was Christmas it was the celebration for the son of the Babylonian queen of heaven. Easter was the celebration of the pagan god, Ishtar and Halloween finds it’s origins in the Celtic festival of Samhain. These holidays and other social traditions such as birthday’s, weddings, baptisms, etc., serve to help keep us focused on what’s generally important and gives us the opportunity to strengthen our social bonds. In short they add meaning and structure to our lives and strengthen our social systems. And they change to keep pace with the world. The observation of the Sabbath, a once important Jewish tradition, has decreased steadily as work and family concerns became more important than strictly adhering to church doctrine. Similarly, a recent study by the British government found that two years ago parents considered the tradition of an annual break away with their children a necessity. Now largely due to economic concerns, it is regarded as something they can live without, a clear case of the tradition changing to fit a changing world.

On a personal level we develop our traditions from social experience and observation. If we observe our parents being contentious and in conflict constantly we could develop the personal tradition of being too aggressive as well. Perhaps we’d go the opposite route and develop a passivity designed to avoid conflict at any cost. Which ever direction we choose our first tradition ‘set’ is a reaction to our experience and sometimes that’s great and sometimes it’s not. How often do you question the traditions you participate in? Did you really want to fly to San Diego to spend Christmas with your brother’s family …. for the eighth year in a row? Do you really think its right to put up with the horrible things your Grandmother say’s because it’s your families’ tradition to put up with anything from the matriarch? What do you put up with in the name of tradition? Do you need to?

Obviously all traditions are not negative. Treating others as you’d like to be treated, getting together with family & friends to celebrate a holiday or a birthday or whatever can be wonderful and contribute very positively to our human experience.

Many of our personal traditions operate below the level of our awareness. Perhaps your unaware of a tendency to self deprecate when you meet someone new. Maybe your eyes tend to linger a bit too long when an attractive stranger enters the room. One of my old traditions was to be too passive and quiet when I really wanted to speak up, and then get really mad and explode. I thought that was just how I was, my ‘natural self’. When I finally realized I had a choice and that I didn’t have to behave on automatic, it wasn’t that hard to get into the new tradition of speaking up earlier and avoiding the explosions.

What I’m getting at here is that some traditions both personal and societal, are positive and should be kept and those that don’t work need to be modified or perhaps abandoned altogether …. and that’s OK, it’s a natural part of our evolution.

It’s our right to choose but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to stray from the path most traveled. In the context of family changing traditions can be about as much fun as a badger in your pants, particularly if the family in question is strict and/or patriarchal. For all its bluster, stiffness and resistance strict traditionalism simply doesn’t make sense. As times and circumstances change, our lives become different and some of the old traditions can’t possibly make sense anymore. Because IBM stock was a wise investment in the 70’s doesn’t make it so today. If sever traditionalists follow their ‘no change’ dogma completely shouldn’t we all be following the first patriarch from the earliest days of human society? Why would change between then and now be OK, but no further?

The more aware we are of our personal traditions and the social traditions that surround us the more freedom we have to create our lives as best we can, particularly if we give ourselves the permission to choose how we actualize those traditions. Change undoubtedly takes effort and trial & error to find what works best given current circumstances. While it may not be easy, that freedom sounds a lot better to me than a life limited by fear and unawareness.

We could also use some new traditions that could help our world function better. How would our society be effected if the super successful and wealthy followed Warren Buffet’s example and engaged in a tradition of changing their focus from supporting their personal businesses and endeavors to trying to help correct world problems such as poverty and hunger, when they hit a certain ‘max out’ wealth level?

What new traditions can you come up with to make your life and this world a better place to live?

(Maybe think about it while listening to David Bowie’s “Changes”).


Dr. Ed Slack

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