Archive for psychology

How We Look at Things Matters.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 1, 2011 by dredslack

I assume pretty much all of us want to enjoy and be satisfied with our lives as much of the time as we reasonably can. I know I do. And I’m not talking about the blissed-out pretend happiness exhibited by culty religious types, I’m talking about realistic, real world satisfaction with our lives in the endless variety of shapes and sizes and colors they come in. If we’re really going to do that it’s important that we attend to something many don’t consider; maximizing the operations of our own software … our belief systems.

Renowned Psychologist and Philosopher Carl Jung said “It all depends on how we look at things and not what they really are in themselves”. He’s not the first to express such a sentiment and he won’t be the last. The brilliant novelist Kurt Vonnegut’s book Cat’s Cradle took a longer approach to the powerful perspective that the value of a belief systems lies in what happens as a result of it. And we don’t have to choose one from a pull down menu or a list of some sort; we have the right to create our own. How we answer questions such as; “what is the purpose of life?” and “am I living well?” have a huge impact on the quality of our experience, as well as the choices we make.

As children we pick up our belief systems from what we see around us, what we’re taught and what we experience. Many accept this first iteration of philosophical perspective as who they are and identify so heavily with this initial software that it becomes their self-definition. When that’s the case the result is usually a person who is dissatisfied with their life. Some pretend and put on a happy face but I’ve never met a happy, well-adjusted person who is still rolling on their initial experience.

A large factor determining whether our software works well or not is how it causes us to see ourselves. What we’re taught we are is often inaccurate and negative and this will cause a multitude of problems if it’s not corrected. If we don’t have a reasonable way to put ourselves in a positive light, issues will be afoot! How many people do you know who think they’re ugly when they’re obviously not or stupid when they’re clearly not, etc.? How does this miss-perception affect them? An extreme example is found in the eating disorder anorexia where people think they’re fat when they’re not, usually due to a lot of body image criticism endured early on. Resultantly they starve themselves trying to be thin, sometimes to death. Mega-talented singer Karen Carpenter was a tragic example.

So what about you? Do you have beliefs about yourself that might not be true? How many perspectives about the world and/or your place in it could be false? Do your beliefs about the purpose of life comfort you or depress you? Ironically the beliefs we hold with the most passion are often the most off base.

If we’re taught something with great intensity when we’re young, the belief tends to be wrapped in powerful defensive emotions. It’s usually the fear based and full of baloney belief systems that are taught in such a manner, such as racism and homophobia. When this software is confronted a powerful emotional reaction is common … but that doesn’t make these beliefs any less baloney. When you’re examining your personal algorithms pay special attention to the ‘hot button’ issues as they often need the most work.

We humans tend to feel first and then use our rational powers to justify our emotion based opinions and beliefs. To get past this default setting all that’s needed is the knowledge that our emotions and brains can and will lie to us! Just because you feel something or think something doesn’t mean it’s so. It wasn’t that long ago that we practiced human sacrifice trying to appease Gods and alter physical circumstances. Now we know that to be ridiculous but the ‘not so ancients’ emotions and beliefs told them it made sense and was a good way to go.

When I was a kid I remember a bloom of ‘Question Authority’ bumper stickers. I wholeheartedly agree with its sentiment but think the addition of ‘… & Your Own Beliefs’ is a better sound bite.

The majority of us are born into the family religion (or other belief system) and default to that. As we mature we tend to practice an abridged form of this system, modifying it to fit our circumstances and lifestyle. There’s usually not a lot of questioning of the beliefs inherent in the ‘adopted and modified’ system. I guess this could be seen as upholding a positive tradition on one end of the spectrum and blind acceptance that could have nasty consequences on the other. If this ‘adopted and modified’ system really fits for you great! If it doesn’t you have right to choose for yourself what to believe. It’s a mammoth question because your satisfaction with life and your level of happiness depends on it. Be wary of false experts, there’s no shortage of proselytizers who will show you ‘the way’. But it won’t be your way it’ll be theirs and it’s going to cost a bunch, and it’s only likely to work for a short time.

What makes a good belief? It is a personal question but I’ve got a few guide-line questions that are helpful when it’s time to shift into self-examination mode:

– Does the belief promote happiness (for you, those around you and the world in general)? – Does the belief promote love // a positive energy?
– Does the belief promote growth, productivity and contribution?
– Does the belief promote peace and serenity?
– Is this belief truthful as far as I can reasonably tell?

It’s easy to see that I want my belief structure to honestly promote happiness, positive energy, growth, productivity, contribution and serenity. What are the qualities you’d like to bring out in your life? It’s easy to modify those questions to emphasize what’s important to you. For example, if you have kids, questioning a possible software perspective might include, “Does this belief promote the well-being, health and development of my children?” Having a belief system that supports what’s important to you will make it much more likely you’ll be more happy and satisfied with your life.

‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ is a cliché I like a lot but I’ve seen it used to hold onto beliefs that were up to no good. ‘If it ain’t runnin’ as good as it could then take the time to look under the hood’ is a cliché that’s a lot better. It does take effort and some courage to develop your own software but I’m sure you’ll find the benefits far outweigh the costs.

The Holiday Plague of Two Legged Snakes

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on December 8, 2010 by dredslack

Nothing seems to bring out deceivers, manipulators and outright thieves like the holidays. The trust, goodwill and increased spending whips many a Two Legged Snake into frenzy. Robberies both of homes and businesses peak this time of year, so it’s important to keep the alarms on and beware of suspicious activity. Thieves will often ‘case’ (research) their potential victims by going door to door selling gutter cleaning or tree services, etc. Even if they do perform the service watch out, particularly if they seem interested in what’s in your house, (for example their eye’s dart in when you talk to them at the front door). Write down the license numbers of their vehicles and don’t let them in on your travel plans. If they seem really snaky give your neighbors and the local constabulary a call so they’re on alert.

We spend a lot of time with socializing during the holidays and most of us are going to have to deal with some snaky family or friends. It’s wise to be prepared; think about who’ll do what and have a plan. If your Mom is prone to playing guilt trips become adept at changing the subject or having to leave to take a call on your cell phone when she starts in. Do you have a cousin who tries to get you to validate her negative opinions about her brother? Be mentally practiced at telling her you understand how she feels and then excuse yourself firmly and politely, and walk away from the alliance making. If you’ve an uncle or co-worker who always has their hand out for a loan (and the likelihood of your ever being paid back is close to nil), practice the art of saying “No”. Sure, it’s a lot easier said than done but practice makes perfect. Don’t let your holiday spirit talk you into being an easy mark. If you keep getting pushed, don’t be afraid of a possible loud, dramatic scene; keep with your “No” in a clear, calm voice and walk away if you have to. You’re not being rude, the boundary pushing pest is. It’s also important to not let yourself be bullied into explaining ‘why’. It’s your decision and that’s good enough, explaining just opens the door to argument. I know I’m encouraging a focus on the basics here, but that’s what these situations call for. Like football coach extraordinaire Vince Lombardi said “without the basics you’ve got nothing to build on and nowhere to go”.

If you’re single the holidays hold another potential pitfall: The Holiday Hook-up. Two Legged Snakes who’re focused on romantic conquest know this can be a tough time for single people and they become much more aggressive as a result. Keep a relaxed, slow pace with any new romance that blossoms this time of year, particularly if he or she comes on fast and seems too good to be true. It may seem churlish but ask around, do a bit of background checking on your new love interest … what you find out, good or bad, could be the best present you get this year.

Happy Holidays!

The 15% Solution – Part Deux

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

After the applause stopped, Simon sat down and readjusted his cam. “I agree with you,” I said, “it’s unfair to criminalize some people for the supposed good of the whole but I think your story misses a bigger picture; the fact that so many people equate drug & alcohol use with a BIG life, one that’s fully lived and experienced … and that’s just not true, it’s a myth, a romantic rock-n-roll excess ideation.”

“Go on” Simon said as he put his elbows on his desk, looking a bit spent from his theatrical diatribe. “Well I think its crap that so many people equate drugging and excitement when for most, it usually ends up being quite a bore. If it works fine but if it doesn’t, big deal. One of my clients was a bank robbing, don’t care if I die heroin addict, who had a miserable existence; he cleaned up, went back to school, got his degree and became a drugs counselor. He also took up competitive running, got into a relationship and created a great life. Who’s to say his life isn’t as good if not better than the client you we’re just on about? Who’s to say anyone who doesn’t use for whatever reason has less of a life? Perhaps the brains of the 85% who ‘can’t’ see and feel things more brightly than the 15% who ‘can’ because of some sort of perceptual or experiential sensitivity?”

His face looming large on the screen Simon scowled and said, “I don’t buy that ‘living large’ baloney either, I was simply saying dear Mr. Richards is not an isolated case. My client’s situation is also a small example of a much bigger issue; how the variety of abilities and capacities inherent in human beings is not respected. Sociologists speculate that we stopped being nomadic hunters and gatherers and became community based farmers so we could ferment beer. It seems pretty clear that most everyone wants to change their state of consciousness now and again, so it’s really a matter of how far it’s good to go, for each individual. What a lot of people don’t realize is that there’s a huge range in what can logically be considered ‘appropriate behavior’. If someone’s not hurting themselves or others and isn’t doing any sort of damage, who cares what they get up to? Hopefully, one of the next steps in our evolution perspective-wise, is to realize that and stop trying to have a ‘one size fits all’ society.”

“But what about the children” I chided, “won’t anyone think of the children?”

“I know you’re trying to be funny” he said, “but you’ve actually hit the nail on the head. Our desire to protect our kids and create a safe world for them is probably the biggest motivation for creating so many limits and so much ‘one size fits all’ thinking. This creates many problems and the drugs issue is a relatively small one. For example the laws prohibiting gay marriage or the type of sex consenting partners can have are completely irrational, that’s no one else’s business but the people involved. We’re an over mothered society choking on the fear based rules of people who think they ‘know best’ but who really can’t tell their asses from a hole in the ground. Resultantly, many people are unhappy and restricted because they go along with this normative charade. They won’t face the necessary risks to build a life that’s authentically theirs because that would be out of bounds. Then ‘surprise, surprise’ they end up depressed, self-stuck in crap lives.”

“Sounds about right” I said, smiling as I looked through my desk drawer for a Reese’s peanut butter cup, “but you know what? Look on the bright side; you won’t be going out of business anytime soon will you?”

Simon chuckled, “well I guess there is that. I gotta get to my one o’clock. Next week?”

“You got it. Say ‘Hi’ to Sharon for me”.

Eureka! I found one.

The Subtle Music of Manipulative People

Posted in continued learning, enjoyable living, relationships, staying alive, trust, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2010 by dredslack

 Each of us has a particular style of speaking. Not just our language, accent and word choice but our tones, tone emphasis, cadence and dynamic (volume & intensity) range. If we listen for all these factors when trying to understand another’s statements the communication becomes more than simple text, it becomes a music with rhythms, melodies and time signatures (cadence and speed). 

 People who would manipulate us have a particular type of music in their language that if we discern, we can see as a warning flag and possibly avoid a painful consequence. Most manipulators first work to gain their victims trust so they can exert influence over their decisions and choices. To get their potential victim to feel ‘in sync’ with them (and thus liable to trust) they will not only mimic tastes, values and perspectives but also facets of speech such as cadence or dynamic range, etc. If the manipulator sounds like the person they’re working on, they’re more likely to be trusted by the person unaware. 

 For those of us who are aware, we have the opportunity not only to just observe but to throw out ‘false positives’ and see if they reveal a snaky ‘tell’ by being followed. For example if we exhibit a strong interest in animal welfare and our possibly manipulative person also ‘reveals’ a similar interest, a ‘building trust by matching’ dynamic may be afoot. Similarly, if we use hesitations (pausing for a second or two in the middle of a sentence) or make our main points with a staccato (sharp, almost jarring) style and we notice a bit of those unusual traits cropping up in a possible manipulator’s language, a subtle yet potentially destructive person may be showing themselves. Particularly if the effect is predominate. Snakes like to work quickly and will sometimes ‘ham it up’ in an attempt to speed the trust process. Thankfully that just makes them easier to see. 

 I worked ‘in house’ helping drug addicts overcome their addictions for years, and that afforded me the opportunity to see this effect over and over again. During the early part of their stay many patients would desperately argue that they needed this or that medication for a plethora of rationale (drug seeking behavior). Their perspectives and vocal music would shift to match mine (and the other councilors) at an almost unbelievable pace while they were trying to get what they wanted. The psychopathy temporarily caused by their withdrawal / addiction provided a resplendent example of why it’s important to listen to the music. Whether it’s subtle or screaming, it has a lot to say.

Are You Living Laterally?

Posted in continued learning, enjoyable living, quest for content, relationships, staying alive with tags , , , , on August 12, 2010 by dredslack

 Living laterally is moving through life without pressing forward into new territories or doing unfamiliar things. It’s a life style of pretty much doing the same thing, day in and day out. Think back to when you were in grade school… a huge part of life was about learning & acquiring new skills, it was a hurried movement forward. Pretty much the same in High School and if you went to collage more there, but what’s happened since? 

 Most of us move on to careers and families and that certainly takes time & effort, but what happened to our growth and development as human beings? Without the structure of school, what new aspects of life have you moved forward with? Some of us have careers that push us forward in ways, sometimes circumstance will push learning upon us, avocations can certainly fuel the growth continuum but I think a lot of us get caught in the comfy trap of lateral living and just kinda getting by. 

 There’s certainly not a lot of social cue’s to encourage increased self awareness or to develop our awareness at all. In fact I think a lot of us consider continuing self development to be a huge waste of time and a painful pain in the ass. I couldn’t disagree more. To take 5 minutes to reflect on what you experienced in your day can be mind bending and can be had for the time toll of a long traffic light. Spending 10 minutes reading something of a ‘moving forward’ nature can add surprising vigor to one’s step and one’s conversation. Connecting new dots is inherently a lot more interesting than connecting the old ones again. 

 And it’s fun. Moving forward is enjoyable and it doesn’t have to be a pain in the arse. Remember all those ‘learning is fun’ type books you had as a kid? Not all of them lied, (though many did), some really were a laugh. Their illustrations and lighthearted manner made it easier to learn phonics, language rules and lots of other things; I know my multiplication tables went down more easily. So much of school was a boring drag that many of us associate learning with boredom and judge mentality and a lot of other negative things. It doesn’t have to be that way.

 If we seek out things that aren’t ‘the usual’ be it books or movies or classes or websites or music or whatever and we think about them & give ourselves a bit of time for self reflection, particularly where our personal relationships are concerned, we’ve got a moving forward lifestyle going on. A continuation of our growth and personal evolution that’s a lot more stimulating and enjoyable than living laterally, which sooner or later ends up being laps of the same thing over & over & over & over. And we don’t have to approach our individual development with the pressing, grade obsessed urgency of our school days, which makes it all that much more enjoyable.

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