“Neurochemistry was plainly ‘in,’ and so—dangerously, seductively, especially in California, where I was studying—were the drugs themselves.”
Jim Manske's insight:
Oliver Sacks recently died, leaving behind a legacy of clarity and lucidity about the Mind. This long read from the New Yorker gives some insight into the unquenchable curiosity of an explorer of human consciousness, who never found another nervous system that he could not enjoy and learn from.
“Take everything that’s bright and beautiful in you and introduce it to the shadow side of yourself,” the wise and wonderful Parker Palmer counseled the young in his superb Naropa Unviersity commencement address. Only by accepting our own interior contradictions and dualities, he argued, are we liberated to put the shadow’s power in service of the good in the exterior world.
This seems like a particularly timely message, urgently needed in a culture intolerant of duality, where we hasten to polarize everything into good and bad, unfailingly placing ourselves in the former category and the Other — whether their otherness is manifested in race, gender, orientation, or sports team preference — in the latter. And yet the message is a timeless one, most piercingly articulated two millennia earlier in the writings of Marcus Aurelius — the last of Ancient Rome’s Five Good Emperors and one of the most influential Stoic philosophers.
In his Meditations (public library | free ebook) — the same indispensable proto-blog that gave us the philosophic emperor on what his father taught him about honor and humility — Marcus Aurelius, translated here by Gregory Hays, offers a remarkable recipe for how to begin each day in order to live with maximum sanity and inner peace:
When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own — not of the same blood or birth, but of the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands, and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.
Meditations, it bears repeating, is a requisite read in its entirety. Complement it with Seneca, a fellow Stoic, on how to fill the shortness of life with greater width of aliveness and Richard Feynman on the choice between good and evil.
The truth is that being empathetic is one of the most worthwhile traits a person can have. To not only be able to acknowledge one another's wellbeing, but to actually feel what someone else is experiencing, and to truly connect at that core level, is unprecedentedly powerful.
It's something we all need to develop a bit more, especially on a mass scale. But, like most things in the world, it's stigmatized to an unfair degree (if not disregarded completely).
Here are all the things people tend to get wrong about empaths, and the truth that may make you realize you are one (but perhaps in denial):
Highly Empathetic People Usually Come From Difficult, If Not Abusive, Pasts
Fukushima Kids Hawaii is a project of Aloha-Keiki that hosts children from the island of Honshu in the Kona area. Children range in ages from 10 to 17 years of age are hosted during winter and summer vacations. In addition to being a reprieve from the tumultuous events, they come to find healing and joy in the landscape and aloha that is so much a part of Hawaii.
Jim Manske's insight:
NVC in Action on the Big Island of Hawaii, with HI-NVC Board Members Yumi and Gen! Mahalo mahalo for your compassionate social change!
The minds of those both with mental health problems and those without can be invaded by unwanted intrusive thoughts often on a daily basis. Finding the best strategy for when a nasty intrusive thought comes to mind is a challenge many of us share, and for some of us it can ultimately make the difference between happiness and despair.
Suppression of intrusive thoughts
Quite simply, as defined in a recent review paper:
“Thought suppression is a conscious process whereby an individual attempts notto think about something… Acts of thought suppression are, by definition, conscious and volitional attempts to push a thought from one’s mind”
With this in mind, try not to think about the grime under your toilet seat. Haha, gross but gotcha! It’s near impossible NOT to think about it—YUK! This is the problem with attempting to prevent thoughts. Both experience and research are in agreement that suppressed thoughts can rebound. By trying to suppress intrusive thoughts, you can actually think about it more rather than less.
In fact, research has gone so far as to say that suppression of intrusive thoughts can actually lead to them being hyper-accessible. This hyper-accessibility in turn makes any stimuli related to the thought hyper-salient. Basically, like the word toilet, anything related to the poorly suppressed thought becomes more noticeable. The final nail in the coffin is that these heightened intrusive thoughts and their triggers make it even harder to control related unwanted behaviours.
This is not good news for those with mental health problems, like obsessive compulsive disorder(OCD), depression, anxiety or addiction. For example, while almost all addicted smokers wishing toquit report attempting to suppress thoughts of smoking, multiple studies suggest this suppression actually increases thoughts of smoking, cravings and the act of smoking itself. Moreover, successful quitters were shown to use less thought suppression in day-to-day life than failed quitters.
Considering the sadly predictable aftermath of thought suppression’s rebound effect, it’s no surprise that people who frequently suppress thoughts are at higher risk of developing a wide range of psychopathologies. Thought suppression is certainly not a prime example of the easiest answer to a problem being the best one—it’s an awful solution! If you want to manage intrusive thoughts, don’t bother with suppressing your thoughts!
Repressive coping with intrusive thoughts
Wait, you might be thinking, I’m quite good at not thinking about stuff if I don’t want to. Well, you may be a “natural suppressor”, otherwise known as a repressor. Rather than actively trying and (likely counterproductively) suppressing a thought alone, repressors also intentionally avoid the negative intrusive thought. This often involves distracting attention elsewhere, and if need be, enhancing positive moods, dampening the thought suppression rebound effect.
Here’s what the authors of the review paper had to say:
“In general terms, repressive coping seems to be an effective short term strategy for exercising control over negative or threatening thoughts, though the longer term consequences of repressive coping do not seem to be adaptive, being associated with increased mortality and poorer health outcomes amongst various cohorts.”
The example given in the paper is that of heart attack patients receiving a psychological stress intervention. Poorer health was found for patients using repressive coping strategies than anxious patients, presumably because their problem avoiding strategies were foiled by the inherently problem-focused nature of interventions.
Moreover, this is likely related to reports of repressor’s superior self-deception abilities, involving unrealistic optimism and overly positive self-evaluation. This is reflected well in a study that showed that physiological signs of anxiety measured in the lab (like heart rate and muscle tension) are out of touch with how anxious repressors claim to feel.
Mindful management of intrusive thoughts
So how can we stop thinking certain intrusive thoughts without trying to stop thinking about them? One answer is mindfulness.
Mindfulness, i.e. non-judgemental present moment awareness, by definition and as proven through experimentation, is negatively correlated with thought suppression. In fact, the success of mindfulness practices in managing and reducing the occurrence of intrusive thoughts is partially mediated by inhibiting thought suppression. The goal is not to suppress or repress these unwanted thoughts as they arise, but to accept their place in your mind and make no effort to control, analyze or change them.
This is a lovely example of how the least obvious answer to a problem is sometimes the best one. For example, when comparing mindful management of intrusive smoking thoughts to suppression, only mindfulness had beneficial effects on reported nicotine dependence and emotional functioning over the course of the study.
Mindfulness trains a more effective way of dealing with and reducing intrusive thoughts, likely through enhancing executive control brain functions (willpower one could say). With mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) for example, mindfulness-based acceptance and lack of judgement have been suggested to facilitate both reductions in intrusive thoughts, as well as reframing thoughts and changing related behaviors.
Ultimately, mindfulness creates the space for the cognitive restructuring of how we think and behave, perfect for the control of intrusive thoughts.
What can we say with confidence from scientific findings? Suppression alone is a big fat no no; repression may provide a patch-up job allowing you to happily go about your day relatively unscathed, although may come with a catch; while mindful management of thoughts may provide the fastest route to blasting those intrusive thoughts from mind with no negative ramifications reported thus far.
Children who expect others to be aggressive are more aggressive themselves, new international research concludes.
Professor Kenneth A. Dodge, who led the study, said:
“When a child infers that he or she is being threatened by someone else and makes an attribution that the other person is acting with hostile intent, then that child is likely to react with aggression.
This study shows that this pattern is universal in every one of the 12 cultural groups studied worldwide.”
The research compared 1,299 children in the US, Italy, Jordan, Kenya Thailand, China — 12 countries in all.
Children were given scenarios to read involving common situations that could be interpreted ambiguously.
For example, when someone bumps into you it could be an aggressive move, but it’s more likely to be an accident.
Professor Dodge explained the results:
“Our research also indicates that cultures differ in their tendencies to socialize children to become defensive this way, and those differences account for why some cultures have children who act more aggressively than other cultures. It points toward the need to change how we socialize our children, to become more benign and more forgiving and less defensive. It will make our children less aggressive and our society more peaceful.”
Countries where children were the least aggressive included Sweden and China.
The most aggressive children were found in Italy and Jordan.
Professor Dodge thinks the way children are socialised is key:
“The findings point toward a new wrinkle to the Golden Rule,
Not only should we teach our children to do unto others as we would have them do unto ourselves, but also to think about others as we would have them think about us. By teaching our children to give others the benefit of the doubt, we will help them grow up to be less aggressive, less anxious and more competent.”
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Dodge et al., 2015).
"Perfection is inhuman... What evokes our love ... is the imperfection of the human being."
“Where the myth fails, human love begins,"
Jim Manske's insight:
I am so grateful for the insights I have received in the last few years that have helped me to heal from thoughts of perfectionism...and thus I continue to deepen in to self-acceptance, self-compassion, and Love.
You’re in your cave preparing for a hunt, but something outside seems dangerous, violent sounds you don’t understand.
You have two choices: Skip the hunt, spend the night hungry but live another day. Or risk death and go outside.
Hold onto that thought. We’ll be getting back to that.
Now imagine you’re driving to work. While getting off the highway, someone cuts you off. You slam on your brakes.
You know the feeling that’s coming. That tense anger rises up. Your fingers clench the steering wheel.
It’s enough to set you on a path to feel horrible all day. You might be less productive at work, distracted during meetings. You might try to counterbalance the feeling with a quick shot of endorphins from junk food, mindless web surfing or time-wasting YouTube videos. This only compounds the problem. This is like taking short-term unhappiness and investing it in a long-term, high-yield unhappiness investment plan, ensuring belly flab and career stagnation for years to come.
So why does this one minor thing, getting cut off, have such a powerful effect on us? Why does one negative experience ruin an otherwise great day?
The answer has to do with our friend, Mr. Caveman. Research shows that our brains evolved to react much more strongly to negative experiences than positive ones. It kept us safe from danger. But in modern days, where physical danger is minimal, it often just gets in the way.
It’s called the negativity bias.
What is the negativity bias
It isn’t entirely Mr. Caveman’s fault. The neurological roots of the negativity bias started long before that.
In Dr. Rick Hansen’s excellent book on this topic, “Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence,” he writes that humans share ancestors with “bats, begonias and bacteria that go back at least 3.5 billion years.”
Hanson describes these ancestors as living in a world of carrots and sticks, carrots being rewards (food, sex, shelter) and sticks being punishment (predators, disease, injury).
“Over hundreds of millions of years, it was a matter of life and death to pay extra attention to sticks, react to them intensely, remember them well, and over time become even more sensitive to them.”
How the negativity bias hurts our productivity
The negativity bias can be seriously detrimental to our work productivity.
Not only does negative stimuli trigger more neural activity, but research shows negativity is detected more quickly and easily. The amygdala — the brain region that regulates emotion and motivation — uses about two-thirds of its neurons to detect bad news, Hanson wrote.
Think about this, two thirds of your motivation regulator is designed to focus on negativity. That seems problematic. Also, economic studies have shown people are more likely to make financial and career decisions based not on achieving something good, but on avoiding something bad.
Older workplace models may have supported this behavior — 20th Century assembly line workers were not expected to “fail fast” or innovate. Being a good employee was following a series of don’ts. Don’t show up late, don’t talk back to the boss, don’t touch that button.
Most of us aren’t working that way anymore. We need to focus on growth and progress, behaviors that inherently need action, not avoidance.
Furthermore, values like openness and transparency are celebrated in workplaces more than ever. But we’re often not taught how to deal with a simple reality: sometimes transparency hurts our feelings.
Picture a team meeting.
“I think our UI could be better, feels a little clunky,” says one employee.
It’s a great example of transparency and openly sharing insights.
However, employee Josh designed the UI. And even though Josh welcomes criticism and is on board with the company’s culture of transparency, his feelings are hurt.
Outwardly, he plays it cool. But deep down, some ancient part of Josh’s brain is stirring, latching onto this comment like an octopus.
His negativity bias is kicking in. He will be distracted and upset. We might as well send him home for the day.
5 ways to beat the negativity bias
Thankfully, there are things we can all do to minimize the negativity bias. We won’t erase it. It took 3.5 billion years to develop, it’s going to stick around for a while. But there are specific steps we can take to fight back, and research even shows we can physically change our brain to minimize the negativity bias. Here are a few exercises that can help.
1. Re-frame the language behind your goals
Even Pixar Animation Studios has felt the effects of negativity bias. Company leaders began to notice that employees were hesitant to share honest opinions in meetings, wrote Pixar Founder Ed Catmull in his book, “Creativity, Inc..”
People were afraid. Afraid of hurting someone else’s feelings, afraid of having their own feelings hurt.
So leadership introduced a new word: candor.
Pixar drives its teams to embrace candor through the Pixar Braintrust, a small group of well-respected creative leaders in the company who oversee a film’s development process.
The Braintrust strives to demonstrate candor by stressing that the film, not the filmmaker, is under the microscope.
By establishing this distinction early and often, creative workers are less likely to take feedback personally.
And the word candor, in Pixar’s hallways, became associated with analyzing projects, not people.
It worked. “Candor,” as Catmull put it, freed Pixar’s teams from “honesty’s baggage.”
This also helps workers buy in to the process early on, ensure creative momentum instead of negativity bias quicksand.
“Filmmakers must be ready to hear the truth; candor is only valuable if the person on the receiving end is open to it and willing, if necessary, to let go of things that don’t work,” Catmull wrote.
2. Be aware of the negativity bias
Hanson suggests being mindful of the negativity bias and recognizing that your brain wants to cling to these events like your life depends on it. It’s up to you to decide how dangerous, if at all, these experiences really are.
“Then you won’t be so vulnerable to intimidation by apparent ‘tigers’ that are in fact manageable, blown out of proportion, or made of paper-mache,” Hanson wrote in The Huffington Post.
So be aware when you feel yourself drawn to negativity. Tell yourself you’re smarter than your brain thinks you are. Develop a mantra. Try this: “I am not a caveman and this is not a tiger.” Repeat it in your head a few times.
And now that you know the immense power of negativity, you’ll be less likely to invite it into your environment.
The Milwaukee-based Robert W. Baird financial services firm landed on Fortune magazine’s list of the “100 Best Places to Work” in large part thanks to CEO Paul Purcell’s ruthless aversion to hiring jerks.
As the CEO put it to author Robert I. Sutton: “During the interview, I look them in the eye, and tell them, ‘If I discover that you are an asshole, I am going to fire you.’ Most candidates aren’t fazed by this, but every now and then, one turns pale, and we never see them again — they find some reason to back out of the search.”
3. Keep a gratitude journal
For years, one of the richest and most powerful women in the world found herself struggling to feel happiness.
“I was stretched in so many directions, I wasn’t feeling much of anything,” Oprah Winfrey wrote in 2012.
That’s when she realized what had changed, her years-long habit of recording what she was grateful for each day had fallen by the wayside.
After picking up the habit again, the positive feelings returned.
Don’t take Oprah’s word for it. There’s plenty of research showing that gratitude journaling pays great benefits.
“As we’ve reported many times over the years, studies have traced a range of impressive benefits to the simple act of writing down the things for which we’re grateful—benefits including better sleep, fewer symptoms of illness, and more happiness among adults and kids alike,” wrote Jason Marsh for the University of California, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.
Robert Emmons, a psychologist at the University of California, Davis, and a leading expert in positive psychology, has offered several tips on keeping a gratitude journal. They include:
Focus on people rather than thingsSavor surprise eventsWrite only once or twice per week, but write with depth4. Work on a challenging puzzle
Do you ever notice how working on a challenging problem can make you forget about minor aches and pains? It turns out, we may be able to shake off negative emotions by diverting our mental energy elsewhere, like on a puzzle or memory game.
In 2010, a group of Israeli researchers found that “the intensity of both negative and positive feelings diminished under a cognitive load.”
Or as it was put in Psychology Today:
“New research suggests that this phenomenon occurs because emotions are mentally taxing; they take up brain resources.
When you focus your brain on something challenging, mental resources that were being previously devoted to producing and experiencing the negative emotion are now being pulled away to solve the puzzle or remember the poem.”
The author suggests a few different techniques:
Try to remember the lines of a poem memorized many years ago.Count backward from 100 in increments of 7.Multiply two numbers like 14 and 23 in your head.5. Take in the good
Hanson also suggests “taking in the good,” by spending more time soaking in positive experiences, even small ones.
“Most of the time, a good experience is pretty mild, and that’s fine. But try to stay with it for 20 or 30 seconds in a row – instead of getting distracted by something else,” Hanson wrote.
By doing this, you’re reinforcing positive patterns in your brain. And your brain learns from experiences, building new neural pathways, researchers call this neuroplasticity.
The key here is give yourself time to let those thoughts settle in. Don’t just push them aside.
“People tend to be really good at having that beneficial state of mind in the first place, but they don’t take the extra 10 seconds required for the transfer to occur from short-term memory buffers to long-term storage,” Hanson told Fast Company. “Really get those neurons firing together so that they wire this growing inner strength in your brain.”
The negativity bias is powerful and fighting it will take time. But it’s well worth the effort. Practice these things consistently, and you’ll notice your negativity bias shrinking.
Can you eat your way to an anxiety-free existence? It might sound outlandish, but the idea that your diet can have a huge effect on your emotions has become the focus of an exciting new area of psychology...
Cancer cells have been programmed back to normal by scientists in a breakthrough which could lead to new treatments and even reverse tumour growth.
For the first time, aggressive breast, lung and bladder cancer cells have been turned back into harmless benign cells by restoring the function which prevents them from multiplying excessively and forming dangerous growths.
Scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Florida in the U.S. said it was like applying the brakes to a speeding car.
So far it has only been tested on human cells in the lab, but the researchers are hopeful that the technique could one day be used to target tumours so that cancer could be “switched off” without the need for harsh chemotherapy or surgery.
“We should be able to re-establish the brakes and restore normal cell function,” said Prof Panos Anastasiadis, of the Department for Cancer Biology.
“Initial experiments in some aggressive types of cancer are indeed very promising. It represents an unexpected new biology that provides the code, the software for turning off cancer.”
Cells need to divide constantly to replace themselves. But in cancer the cells do not stop dividing, leading to huge cell reproduction and tumour growth.
The scientists discovered that the glue which holds cells together is regulated by biological microprocessors called microRNAs. When everything is working normally, the microRNAs instruct the cells to stop dividing when they have replicated sufficiently. They do this by triggering production of a protein called PLEKHA7 which breaks the cell bonds. But in cancer that process does not work.
Scientists discovered they could switch on cancer in cells by removing the microRNAs from cells and preventing them from producing the protein.
And, crucially, they found that they could reverse the process, switching the brakes back on and stopping cancer.
MicroRNAs are small molecules which can be delivered directly to cells or tumours so an injection to increase levels could switch off disease.
“We have now done this in very aggressive human cell lines from breast and bladder cancer,” added Prof Anastasiadis.
“These cells are already missing PLEKHA7. Restoring either PLEKHA7 levels, or the levels of miRNAs in these cells turns them back to a benign state. We are now working on better delivery options.”
Cancer experts in Britain said the research solved a riddle that biologists had puzzled over for decades, why cells did not naturally prevent the proliferation of cancer. “This is an unexpected finding,” said Dr Chris Bakal, a specialist in how cells change shape to become cancerous, at the Institute for Cancer Research in London.
The research was published in the journal Nature Cell Biology.
Jim Manske's insight:
I often marvel at the Mind's power to focus on considerations that can lead to quantum leaps of well-being.
I’ve been studying the amygdala for more than 30 years. When I started this work, research on this brain region was a lonely field of inquiry. The hippocampus was all therage, and I sometimes felt jealous of the attention lavished on this brain region because of its contribution to memory. These days, though, it is the amygdala that is in the spotlight. This little neural nugget has gone from an obscure area of the brain to practically a household word, one that has come to be synonymous with “fear.” And for many people, my name, too, is practically synonymous with “fear.” I am often said to have identified the amygdala as the brain’s “fear” center. But the fact is, I have not done this, nor has anyone else.
The idea that the amygdala is the home of fear in the brain is just that—an idea. It is not a scientific finding but instead a conclusion based on an interpretation of a finding. So what is the finding, what is the interpretation, and how did the interpretation come about?
The Finding: When the amygdala is damaged, previously threatening stimuli come to be treated as benign. The classic discovery was that monkeys with amygdala damage were “tamed;” snakes, for example, no longer elicited so-called fight-flight responses after amygdala damage. Later studies in rats by me, and others, mapped out the amygdala’s role in a neural system that detects and responds to threats, and similar circuits were found to be operative when the human brain processes threats.
The Interpretation: Since damage to the amygdala eliminates behavioral responses to threats, feelings of "fear" are products of the amygdala. People are indeed less responsive to threats when the amygdala is damaged (in humans amygdala damage can occur as a result of epilepsy or other medical conditions or their surgical treatment). Yet, these people can still experience (feel) “fear.” In other words, the amygdala is an important part of the circuit that allows the brain to detect and respond to threats but is not necessary to feel “fear.”
Brain imaging studies of healthy humans (people without brain damage) suggest something similar. When they are exposed to threats, neural activity in the amygdala increases and body responses (like sweating or increased heart rate) result. This is true even if the threatening stimuli are presented subliminally, such that the person is not consciously aware that the threat is present and does not consciously experience (feel) “fear.” Amygdala activity does not mean that fear is experienced.
The conclusion that the amygdala is the brain’s fear center wrongly assumes that the feelings of “fear” and the responses elicited by threats are products of the same brain system. While amygdala circuits are directly responsible for behavioral/physiological responses elicited by threats, they are not directly responsible for feelings of “fear.”
How did the interpretation come to be? We humans frequently feel afraid when we find ourselves freezing or fleeing when in harm’s way. In other words, these two things (the feeling and the body responses) tend to be tightly correlated in our conscious introspections. These introspections are talked about and become shared experiences that are ingrained as natural truths. Most people thus believe that the feeling of fear is the reason an animal or person runs from danger; or that the classic facial expression we know as “fear” is driven by feeling afraid. But when it comes to the brain, what is obvious is not always what is the case. The purpose of science is to go beyond the obvious to reveal the deeper truths that cannot be gleaned simply from observing nature.
One of the first things a scientist learns is that a correlation does not necessarily reveal causation. The interpretation that the amygdala is the brain’s fear center confuses correlation and causation. Actually, there are two confusions involved: (1) because we often feel afraid when we are responding to danger, fear is the reason we respond the way we do; and (2) because the amygdala is responsible for the response to danger, it must also be responsible for the feeling of fear.
From the beginning, my research suggested that the amygdala contributes to non-conscious aspects of fear, by which I meant the detection of threats and the control of body responses that help cope with the threat. Conscious fear, I argued in my books The Emotional Brain (Simon and Schuster, 1996) and Synaptic Self (Viking, 2002), and most recently in Anxious (Viking, 2015), is a product of cognitive systems in the neocortex that operate in parallel with the amygdala circuit. But that subtlety (the distinction between conscious and non-conscious aspects of fear) was lost on most people.
When one hears the word “fear,” the pull of the vernacular meaning is so strong that the mind is compelled to think of the feeling of being afraid. For this reason, I eventually concluded that it is not helpful to talk about conscious and non-conscious aspects of fear. A feeling like “fear” is a conscious experience. To use the word “fear” in any other way only leads to confusion.
The amygdala has a role in fear, but it is not the one that is popularly described. It’s role in fear is more fundamental and also more mundane. It is responsible for detecting and responding to threats, and only contributes to feelings of fear indirectly. For example, the amygdala outputs driven by threat detection alter information processing in diverse regions of the brain. One important set of outputs result in the secretion of chemicals throughout the brain (norepinephrine, acetylcholine, dopamine, serotonin) and body (hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol). In situations of danger, these chemicals alert the organism that something important is happening. As a result, attention systems in the neocortex guide the perceptual search the environment for an explanation for the highly aroused state. The meaning of the environmental stimuli present is added by the retrieval of memories. If the stimuli are known sources of danger, “fear” schema are retrieved from memory. My hypothesis, then, is that the feeling of “fear” results when the outcome of these various processes (attention, perception, memory, arousal) coalesce in consciousness and compel one to feel “fear.” This can only happen in a brain that has the cognitive wherewithal have the concept of “me,” or what Endel Tulving has called “autonoetic consciousness.” In a later post, I will elaborate on the autonoetic nature of our conscious feelings.
There’s nothing wrong with speculation in science (I just speculated about how feelings come about). But when a speculative interpretation becomes ingrained in the culture of science, and the culture at large, as an unquestioned fact, we have a problem. This is problem is especially acute in neuroscience, where we start from mental state words (like fear) that have historical meanings, and treat the words as if they are entities that live in brain areas (like the amygdala).
In sum, there is no fear center out of which effuses the feeling of being afraid. "Fear" is, in my view, better thought of as a cognitively assembled conscious experience that is related to threat processing, but that should not be confused with the non-conscious processes that detect and control responses to threats.
Postscript: Be suspicious of any statement that says a brain area is a center responsible for some function. The notion of functions being products of brain areas or centers is left over from the days when most evidence about brain function was based on the effects of brain lesions localized to specific areas. Today, we think of functions as products of systems rather than of areas. Neurons in areas contribute because they are part of a system. The amygdala, for example, contributes to threat detection because it is part of a threat detection system. And just because the amygdala contributes to threat detection does not mean that threat detection is the only function to which it contributes. Amygdala neurons, for example, are also components of systems that process the significance of stimuli related to eating, drinking, sex, and addictive drugs
The business community has embraced the concept of emotional intelligence and its importance ever since Daniel Goleman's best-selling book, Working with Emotional Intelligence(1998). The challenge is to demonstrate that such competencies significantly impact employee performance.
Ten Ways to Develop Empathy
1. Keep a note of situations in which you felt you were able to demonstrate empathy and a note when you felt you did not. Make a note of missed opportunities to respond with empathy.
2. Become aware of incidents where there may be some underlying concerns that are not explicitly expressed by others.
3. Make a note of possible emotions or feelings that the other person may be experiencing. Keep an open mind and never assume, merely explore the possibilities.
4. Develop a list of questions to ask at your next encounter with that person. Try to make the questions open-ended, that is, questions that can't be answered by yes or no.
5. Practice listening without interrupting. Wait until the other person is complete with their point of view before offering yours.
6. Avoid being defensive in order to create an open dialogue where possibilities can be explored freely.
7. Allow creative time for people to express opinions and ideas without judgment.
8. Practice active listening: always check out the meaning of what was said with the person speaking. Paraphrasing what was said helps to clear up misconceptions and to deepen understanding.
9. Always bring focus back into the conversation. Remember that optimal effectiveness is achieved by a combination of focus and empathy.
10. Work on achieving an effective balance of focus, goal orientation and empathic listening.
Don’t Believe These 7 Bullying Myths AUGUST 7, 2015 SARA MARTINLEAVE A COMMENT
Two teenage boys bullying their classmate in school hall. Bullying has been a favorite media topic since 2011 when President Obama launched his anti-bullying campaign. But too often, the media’s reports on bullying are just plain wrong, according to Dorothy Espelage, PhD.
“It’s not grounded in science or evidence,” she said at a Friday plenary address on the topic at APA’s Annual Convention.
Espelage, a professor at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign, who for 20 years has conducted research on bullying, homophobic teasing, sexual harassment, dating violence and gang violence, listed seven the myths the media are irresponsibly reporting:
Myth #1: Bullying is an epidemic. Wrong. Bullying rates vary from school to school and some kids go to schools where there is no bullying.
Myth #2: Bullying is linked to suicide. No, it’s just one of many predictors of suicide.
Myth #3: Bullies are budding criminals. Research shows bullies have diverse outcomes.
Myth #4: Bullies need to be punished –- the idea of “zero tolerance.” That doesn’t work, she said, because it ignores that bullying is a group phenomenon that starts around fifth grade.
Myth #5: Bullies come from dysfunctional families. Not true. Lots of bullies come from typical families.
Myth #6: Bullying is “hard-wired” in youth. Really wrong -– it’s malleable and it’s environment that matters when it comes to bullying.
Myth #7: Cyberbullying is unique. No, cyberbullying is just one mode of bullying. Bullying usually starts face to face and continues online.
The fact Espelage wishes more people would realize is that 1 out of 3 boys and 1 out 5 girls engage homophobic teasing –- name calling or phrases like, “That’s so gay.” It emerges in middle school, but often teachers don’t address it. The result? “We are setting the groundwork for sexual harassment in our schools,” Espelage said.
Jim Manske's insight:
Myth # 8: Bullies are creeps. As far as I can tell, those who sometimes display "bullying behavior" are fully human beings, and thus their natural state is compassion. Those we label bullies need empathy too, and our honesty. What might the world be like if 5th graders received Nonviolent Communication support as the social pressures for conformity build, so that all can learn skills of self-compassion, empathy and honesty?
What is an interactive business without empathy? What is a business team without an understanding of the employees’ sentiments? What is an organization serving people’s needs without an actual acknowledgement of their needs? What is a company without an understanding of how their service will actually benefit people and their well being?
A business without empathetic traits is a hollow one. Why? Because empathy is a characteristic that most successful businesses inherently require.
A business that demonstrates the capacity to see things from the point of view of the consumer, to put themselves in the consumer’s shoes, is a multidimensional business, a business that can get an accurate idea of consumer’s needs.
Moreover, an “empathetic business” is already putting themselves in a place for success by just genuinely caring for the consumer in this way.
(EnviroNews World News) — An accidental discovery made by medical researches has yielded a “quick” and “easy” way to remove toxic chemicals from the environment MIT News has reported. In a paper published in Nature Communications, scientists from MIT and the Federal University of Goiás…
Jim Manske's insight:
I love it when our "mistakes" lead to unexpected breakthroughs!
Funny how you can learn something about the mind many times with no change in behavior. Then, one day, you hear the same notion again, and the psyche transforms. Decades ago I watched videos of John Bradshaw talking about shame.
By Leo Babauta Would it seem miraculous if you could dissolve anxiety, fears, stress, frustration, anger … by making a small mental shift? The answer might lie in thinking about how we watch films.
Last night, I was watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy with my kids, and my 9-year-old daughter said some of the things in the movie scared her. I started talking about how they’re all just actors, and isn’t it funny how they dress up in these costumes to tell us this story? By helping her to see through the make-believe of films, I was trying to help her dissolve some of the fears she had.
Amazingly, I’ve found that this works for all our other fears and difficult feelings. We just need to stop believing in the make-believe in our heads.
Think about this: when you watch a film, you suspend your disbelief. You know it’s all pretend, but for the 90 minutes or so you’re watching the film, you agree to forget that it’s make-believe. You believe. And this allows the film to move you, to cause you to cry, be angry, be scared, be overjoyed by the climax. Not everyone does this — some of us think, “God, the story-telling is awful, the actors aren’t very good, the special effects are cheesy, I can’t believe they’re making me watch this.”
Those of us who don’t suspend our disbelief aren’t very moved. In the rest of our lives, we constantly believe in the stories in our heads. When we think about how someone has been inconsiderate, we believe in a story where we are the hero and the other person is the villain, and think of how they wronged us. When we are disappointed when someone else doesn’t love us the way we want them to, we believe we’re in a romantic comedy and the other person should fall in love with us and be the perfect partner.
This happens over and over: all of our anger, stress, sadness, depression … it all comes from the stories we tell ourselves about what’s happening in the world around us. The things happening in the world around us don’t revolve around us, and aren’t part of a story. They’re just happening. Often it’s all random, but to deal with this chaos, we try to make sense of it as part of a story. We create meaning where none exists. We think the other person has bad intentions towards us when actually they are just thinking about their own stories. So what’s the answer? The answer is in how we watch films: if we stop believing in the story of a film, and start to see the film as a series of moving pictures that someone has created from props, sets, costumes, digital effects, scripts, sound studios and more … we see the reality and don’t feel the hurt, the anger, the fear. When we feel difficult emotions in real life, we can stop believing in the story, and start to see the reality of what’s happening: there’s just physical objects around us, moving.
There are atoms and molecules, living organisms, people who can talk and create. Those are not part of a story, but just happening. By letting go of this false belief, this mis-belief in the made-up story, we can let go of the fears and anger and frustrations that come with it. So when you feel stressed, sad, mad … that’s totally fine. But just realize that you can stop believing in the story, if you choose.
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