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The Court Of Compassion

The Court Of Compassion | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

A blonde, middle-aged woman, petite and casually dressed in a loose gray workout ensemble, shifts nervously about 10 feet from the judge. Towering over her from behind his bench, he shuffles silently through a pile of papers in front of him.

 

For anyone who might have picked this moment to walk into Judge Brian MacKenzie’s chambers at the 52nd District Court in Novi, it looks as if the woman is about to receive a long sentence — or, at the very least, a harsh admonition.

 

Instead, MacKenzie suddenly looks up, locks eyes, and says in a soft and soothing voice, “You’re looking good today, Holly.”

 

“Thank you, Judge,” she says with a slight smile, her voice barely audible.

Holly Most isn’t exactly a typical defendant. Then again, this isn’t a typical courtroom. Most is a former radar operator in the Air Force, one of a dozen or so veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam assembled on this day in Judge MacKenzie’s Veterans Court.

 

Launched by MacKenzie in 2010, it was the first of its kind in the state. Now there are four courts in southeastern Michigan alone and 120 in 35 states nationwide — all specifically designed to handle the nonviolent transgressions of veterans.

 

Most, 40, suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety, which escalated after she left the service and began trying to make the transition to civilian life.

 

“I self-medicated my anxiety with drinking,” she says. After violating her probation by getting arrested a second time — for a DUI — Most was fully prepared to go to jail.

 

“You tell a veteran they’re going to do jail time and we don’t get as scared as the average person,” Most says with an easy laugh. “Three meals a day, a warm bed, and we don’t have to clean! Where do I sign up? I just wanted to get it over with, get out, and have a big party.”

 

But family and a few close friends intervened, convincing Most to opt for the alternative to jail offered by Veterans Court — a stringent 18-month program requiring alcohol- or substance-abuse counseling, as well as mandatory drug testing.

 

“I decided I wanted to get rid of the problem,” Most says. “I didn’t just want to do the time and come back out and be right back where I was.”

 

So she dove wholeheartedly into a routine that can be numbingly daunting.

“You have to decide first that you really want to do the work,” she says. “It’s not just something you just throw yourself into to get out of jail or trouble. If you go into it with that attitude, you’re not gonna make it.”

 

And Most was determined to make it.

 

“It became my new part-time job,” she says. “I actually couldn’t work full-time when I first started. It was approximately 15 hours a week. The first 90 days are the most intense. I had to do a 90 in 90, which is 90 AA meetings in 90 days. One a day for 90 days straight. That was intense. Not only that, but I had to go to substance-abuse group therapy through the VA hospital.”

 

And now here she is, beaming as Mike McGlown, the Veterans Court probation officer, tells all assembled just how far Most has come in the last nine months: “Today is her eighth review hearing,” he says, “and she has 229 days of sobriety. Her attitude is always good, Judge, so Holly is really doing terrific.”

 

A smattering round of applause breaks out as the judge homes in again on Most.

 

“I think you’re making real progress,” he says. “I’ve noticed a real transformation. I mean, before, you thought you were a good airman.” MacKenzie pauses here, leaning in a bit more before continuing. “But I’m not sure how you felt about yourself as a person. I’m beginning to see you feel you are a good person.” … another pause ... “and I really like that. I like that a lot. And it’s beginning to show on you. The smile isn’t as forced. And I want you to keep it up."

 

More applause as Holly approaches the bench, shakes hands with the judge, and happily heads for the exit as McGlown calls out the name of the next vet on the docket.

 

The bespectacled MacKenzie, who’s served as a judge of the 52nd District Court since 1988, is 63, and at 6-foot-3, can be an intimidating force in any room — never mind behind his bench. Both his cropped hair and the beard he’s worn since his 20s have turned a Santa Claus-white over the years. And he’s a nationally renowned and well-respected progressive when it comes to his views on the trauma many veterans suffer as a result of their time in combat.

 

“These are individuals who, for one reason or another, suffered a wound in the service of their country,” he says. “And when I say a wound, I mean a mental wound, an invisible wound. They started out as honorable people. They started out being willing to serve their country at a time when it needed them. They came back wounded. Call it PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Call it TBI (traumatic brain injury). Call it what you will, but there’s wound there; we just can’t see it. And they try and self-medicate.”

 

The traditional response is to lump these psychologically damaged veterans into the standard court and judicial system, where incarceration is often the inevitable outcome. Which is where MacKenzie seized the opportunity — not only to change the court culture, but also to change the lives of people whose true problems were being overlooked, if not completely ignored.

 

“Addiction is a health issue,” Mackenzie says emphatically. “If you think of it just as a criminal-justice thing, which we’ve done far too long, you end up with a lot of people in prison, and you don’t solve their problem. But if you think of it as a health issue, where you make them deal with the thing, then what you get is success.”

 

And the success rate of the program is staggering: Of the 80 veterans he brought in, only four have failed to graduate. “And none of them, ” MacKenzie says proudly, “ none of them — not even the four who failed — have been re-arrested.”

 

Twice a month, on every other Monday, the vets in the program converge on MacKenzie’s Novi courthouse. They assemble in the waiting room, chatting as they sip their coffee and soda.

 

At 63, Marine veteran Jim Edwards is one of the oldest vets in the room. He served in Vietnam in 1969 and readily discusses the alcoholism that’s plagued him for much of his life.

 

“This holds you more accountable than the regular court system,” says Edwards, who’s been in the program since January 2012. “It’s like an accountability partner, by reporting in and trying to get you over this hump of whatever your addiction or problem is. And once you get over that hump, then you continue with your recovery on the outside.

 

“It’s a great recovery program,” he adds, “but it’s like any type of program: If you don’t put your heart into it, it’s not going to work. But I think Judge MacKenzie has done a wonderful job with the veterans I see coming through here.”

 

More vets arrive and mingle. Meanwhile, MacKenzie, his staff, and support team are just down the hall in his office, meticulously going over the file of each vet, assessing progress and addressing any issues or potential problems or obstacles to success.

 

There’s an attorney, working pro bono, who acts as an advocate and adviser for each of the participants. There’s also a representative from the Veterans Administration, who weighs in on the wide range of VA-supported programs available for everyone. Mike McGlown, the probation officer, recites updates:

> One vet found out his ACL is torn and requires surgery.The VA rep will line up an appointment with a surgeon.

> Another wants to get his driver’s license but needs to attend meetings more consistently. The judge decides to “dangle a carrot” — if he keeps going to the meetings, he can apply for his license in 30 days.

> Yet another has completed his substance-abuse program at the VA and has made what everyone agrees is a miraculous turnaround, both physically and emotionally. The judge observes that someone who’s pumping iron and not drinking is going to look better and feel better.

 

And on and on through every file. And as each case is wrapped up, the judge digs into a manila folder containing one of the rewards each vet will receive for his or her good report — a free pass to a movie, a reward card for Meijer, a complimentary meal at McDonald’s or Quiznos.

 

“These little rewards are important,” MacKenzie says. “Studies tell us that once you build a structure around a person and they know it and know what the sanctions are, the positive rewards, the praise — just the little things — make a big, big difference.”

 

Just ask Holly Most. Not that long ago, she was days away from a lengthy jail sentence and an uncertain future. Today, her life has been transformed. Most passed the halfway point in the program late last year, is living with her two daughters and working part-time as a care-giver for an elderly woman. She’s been sober for a year now, “the longest I’ve ever been since I started drinking,” she says. “And that was at a very early age.

 

“I’m just so happy I have this program,” she says, grinning. “Even I can’t believe all I’ve accomplished.”

 

And thanks to Judge MacKenzie and his revolutionary program, she has plenty of company.

 

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Dorothy Retha Cook's curator insight, March 12, 6:52 AM

Veterans getting a fair shake in a different court system of doing things. Seeing things the veteran rights not do wrong way.

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Sharing research on NVC in organizations: Hadassah Hill

Sharing research on NVC in organizations:  Hadassah Hill | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

In a two-part study jointly conducted by Merck Inc. and the Center for Collaborative Communication,significant results were found as a result of workplace communication training, including greater efficiency, effectiveness, motivation and team work. These preliminary findings were presented at the Psychologists for Social Responsibility 30th Anniversary Conference on July 13, 2012 in Washington, DC.

 

A fuller, more detailed peer-reviewed report is in preparation.In particular, the study found that:

• 100% of participants report increases in their and others’ efficiency. 
• the time to resolve issues was estimated to be reduced by 67-90% and problem-solving time was estimated as cut by 10-33%. 
• the increase in overall efficiency due to time saved was estimated as 10-80%. 
• the reduction in the number of meetings needed to address an issue was estimated as 50-80%, and staff meeting time was estimated as cut in half.

 

Feel free to share, repost, or link to this information. You can find the full report here:http://www.collaborative-communication.org/html/CC_report12.htm

Jim Manske's insight:

I'm very pleased to hear this good news!  

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Yes, Money Does Buy Happiness: 6 Lessons from the Newest Research on Income and Well-Being

Yes, Money Does Buy Happiness: 6 Lessons from the Newest Research on Income and Well-Being | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

For a long time, we knew that there was a happiness plateau, a point where more money basically stopped buying greater satisfaction. Maybe we were wrong.

 

Fittingly or ironically, the dismal science has a lot to say about happiness. 

 

The classic economic story about money and well-being goes something like this. Money buys happiness, sure, but only up to a point. Once basic needs are taken care of, extra money has diminishing (or non-existent) returns. Perhaps richer people use their money to move to richer areas, where they no longer feel rich. Perhaps relative income -- how much you have compared to your friends -- is matters much more thanabsolute income -- how much money you have, period. 

 

Economists call it the "Easterlin Paradox." You call it the "Keeping Up With the Jones' Principle."

 

And a new research paper calls it total bunk. Or, in the economists' parlance, "based on empirical claims which are simply false." People with more money have higher reported well-being, they say, all the way up to the top 10 percent of earners. More details and the 6 most interesting observations from "The New Stylized Facts about Income and Subjective Well-Being," a discussion paper by Daniel W. Sacks, Betsey Stevenson, and Justin Wolfers after the jump...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jim Manske's insight:

Begs the question for me, "How much is enough?"  The guidance from Financialintegrity.org and the work of Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez has supported me in clarity about that!

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What Good Is Positivity? Barbara Frederickson

What Good Is Positivity?  Barbara Frederickson | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

For years I've investigated the value of positive emotions - those pleasing yet fleeting moments of joy, serenity, gratitude, amusement, and the like. In controlled laboratory experiments, I've measured the effects of these states on people's thinking styles. In field studies, I've cataloged their effects on people's skills, traits, and well-being. What I've learned is that positive emotions carry far more benefits than most of us suspected.

 

I've encapsulate two classes of these benefits into my broaden-and-build theory. First, when we experience a positive emotion, our vision literally expands, allowing us to make creative connections, see our oneness with others, and face our problems with clear eyes (a.k.a. the broaden effect).

 

Second, as we make a habit of seeking out these pleasing states, we change and grow, becoming better versions of ourselves, developing the tools we need to make the most out of life (the build effect). And strikingly, these twin benefits of positive emotions obey a tipping point: When positive emotions outnumber negative emotions by at least 3 to 1, these benefits accrue, yet below this same ratio, they don't.

 

Initially, I was drawn to study positive emotions simply because they were mysterious, largely uncharted scientific terrain. Yet when the 3-to-1 positivity ratio surfaced, my motives shifted. I realized that my life's work held precious life lessons. I began experimenting with ways to inject more positivity into my own day, and into my own family life. The results were eye-opening. I began to recognize hidden opportunities for serenity and playfulness each day. What I once deemed frivolous now nourished me. I felt buoyant and alive. And this new and positive energy infused my relationships at home, at work and beyond. I wrote Positivity to share what I've learned, both scientifically and personally, about the value of positive emotions.

 

A few weeks after the book release, I was invited to speak at The Regulator Bookshop in nearby Durham, North Carolina. After I made opening remarks and read a passage from my book, a gentleman raised his hand to say that six days after he starting reading Positivity, his friends and family started calling him "the new Jim." He acknowledged that he'd been rather curmudgeonly most of his life, and that learning about the science of positive emotions opened up new possibilities for him, possibilities that rippled through his web of family and friends. No, I hadn't paid him to say this - I'd never met Jim before, old or new. Yet his words touched my heart and reminded me why I wrote the book. I wrote it for the new Jim.

 

Did I mention that Jim is 88?

Jim Manske's insight:

Barbara remains a powerful influence in my integration of NVC!  I'm confident of the resource building power of gratitude, love, inspiration and other life-affirming emotions!

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Can Forgiveness Play a Role in Criminal Justice?

Can Forgiveness Play a Role in Criminal Justice? | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
After 19-year-old Conor McBride killed his girlfriend, her devastated parents tried a process called “restorative justice” — because they decided his life was worth saving.
Jim Manske's insight:

I feel inspired that this long article graces the NY Times Sunday edition!  

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Sophia Tara's curator insight, January 8, 2013 7:17 PM

I feel inspired that this long article graces the NY Times Sunday edition!  

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9 Beliefs of Highly Ineffective People: Angel

9 Beliefs of Highly Ineffective People: Angel | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

It is nearly impossible for anyone, even the most ineffective among us, to continue to choose a life of tedious grief after becoming fully enlightened to the fact that ineffectiveness is a choice.  It is the direct outcome of unproductive beliefs and behaviors.

 

So here’s a quick reminder – nine things to stop believing:

1.  “I don’t know what I want.”

Never let what other people expect from you dictate what you expect from yourself.  Figure out what you want.  Clarity about your true desires is so liberating because you get to stop proving yourself to everyone, including yourself.

When you get real about the true feelings you crave, you end up surprising yourself with an abundance of new opportunities and possibilities.  ReadAwaken the Giant Within.

2.  “I can deal with it all later.”

Without a plan you’re going to stay where you are.  It’s time to figure it out.  It’stime to make a move.

You will not be judged by what you say; you will be judged by what you do.  Wake up each morning determined, so you can go to bed satisfied.  Have the courage and discipline today to do what is needed instead of simply what is convenient.

3.  “That’s too much work.”

Life is not always easy.  Wishing for a situation to be easier without taking action usually just makes it more difficult.  The most effective way to handle what must be done is to do it.

The time-tested strategy for making life truly easier is to work through each challenge as it arises, persistently following through to the best of your ability.  Use each challenge as an opportunity to create value and make a difference, and you’ll eventually get to wherever it is you hope to go.

4.  “I don’t have the strength.”

Stand up to your obstacles and do something about them.  You will find that they don’t have half the strength you think they have.

The struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow.  Even when you give it your best shot and you miss, it’s not a failure.  Instead, it’s just another opportunity to step up to the plate and do it better next time.  You are stronger than you think.  Don’t give up.  Read As a Man Thinketh.

5.  “My relationship with someone else will solve my problems.”

The most powerful relationship you will ever have is the relationship with yourself.  If you’re not comfortable enough with yourself or with your own truth when entering a relationship, then you’re not ready for that relationship.  Because you are incapable of loving another unless you love yourself, just as you are incapable of teaching someone else something unless you yourself understand it.

6.  “I will never forgive!”

You have to forgive.

You don’t have to like them, you don’t have to be friends with them, you don’t have to spend time with them ever again, but you have to forgive them, to let go, to let it rest, to let bygones be bygones.  Because if you don’t, you are choosing to tie boulders to your ankles, which are way too heavy for your growing wings to carry.

7.  “New paths and experiences are too risky.”

Have the willingness to feel the fear and do it anyway.  It’s not the future that you need to be afraid of; it’s repeating the past that threatens your growth.  Wouldn’t you rather attempt to do something great and learn a lesson, than attempt to do nothing and learn nothing for the rest of your life?  Read Authentic Happiness.

8.  “Starting over is not for me, no matter the circumstances.”

There comes a point in your life when you realize that nothing will ever be the same, and you realize that from now on, time will be divided in two parts:  before this and after this.

But that’s okay.  There’s no shame in starting over again, for you get a chance to rebuild things bigger and better than they ever were before, or reinvent yourself and do something you’ve always wanted to do.

9.  “My unhappiness now will create happiness in my future.”

Maybe you think you’re entitled to more happiness in the future by forgoing all of it now, but it doesn’t work that way.  Being happy takes as much practice as being unhappy.  It’s by living with a smile that you smile more.  By waiting you wait more.  Every waiting day makes your lifetime as a whole a little less happy.

To be happy is to truly live.  Every day you put off your life makes you less capable of living it to the fullest.

Jim Manske's insight:

Although to stop believing something is easier said than done, bringing limiting beleifes to light, examining them for their effect, and exploring how to modify beliefs so they are more life serving seems like a great use of introspection!

 

Do any of these beliefs resonate in you as holding you back from living your dream?

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Quick and Easy Ways to Quiet Your Mind

Quick and Easy Ways to Quiet Your Mind | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
Jim Manske's insight:

Mele Kalikimaka!  May your holiday season be filled with DeLight, Love and a Quiet Mind!

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Understanding How Children Develop Empathy: Perry Klass, MD

Understanding How Children Develop Empathy:  Perry Klass, MD | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
How do children develop prosocial behavior - "voluntary behavior intended to benefit another" - and is there a way to encourage it?

The mother was trying to hold the baby still, and I was pulling gently on the ear, angling for a better look at the infant’s eardrum. The wriggling baby didn’t like any of it, and her whimpering quickly turned to full-fledged wails.

Suddenly the baby’s 3-year-old brother, an innocent bystander in no danger of having his own ears examined, began to wail as well, creating the kind of harmonic cacophony that makes passers-by wince in recognition. And the poor mother, her hands full, could only look over and reassure him: Your sister is O.K., don’t worry, don’t feel bad.
But really, was that why the 3-year-old was crying? Was he tired and frustrated, scared by the noise, jealous of his mother’s attention? Or was he, in fact, upset because his sister was upset — an early step toward empathy, sympathy, kindness and charity?

The capacity to notice the distress of others, and to be moved by it, can be a critical component of what is called prosocial behavior, actions that benefit others: individuals, groups or society as a whole. Psychologists, neurobiologists and even economists are increasingly interested in the overarching question of how and why we become our better selves.

How do children develop prosocial behavior, and is there in fact any way to encourage it? If you do, will you eventually get altruistic adults, the sort who buy shoes for a homeless man on a freezing night, or rush to lift a commuter pushed onto the subway tracks as the train nears?
Nancy Eisenberg, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University, is an expert on the development in children of prosocial behavior, “voluntary behavior intended to benefit another.” Such behavior is often examined through the child’s ability to perceive and react to someone else’s distress. Attempts at concern and reassurance can be seen in children as young as 1.

Dr. Eisenberg draws a distinction between empathy and sympathy: “Empathy, at least the way I break it out, is experiencing the same emotion or highly similar emotion to what the other person is feeling,” she said. “Sympathy is feeling concern or sorrow for the other person.” While that may be based in part on empathy, she said, or on memory, “it’s not feeling the same emotion.”

By itself, intense empathy — really feeling someone else’s pain — can backfire, causing so much personal distress that the end result is a desire to avoid the source of the pain, researchers have found. The ingredients of prosocial behavior, from kindness to philanthropy, are more complex and varied.

They include the ability to perceive others’ distress, the sense of self that helps sort out your own identity and feelings, the regulatory skills that prevent distress so severe it turns to aversion, and the cognitive and emotional understanding of the value of helping.

Twin studies have suggested that there is some genetic component to prosocial tendencies. When reacting to an adult who is pretending to be distressed, for example, identical twins behave more like each other than do fraternal twins. And as children grow up, these early manifestations of sympathy and empathy become part of complex decision-making and personal morality.

“There is some degree of heritability,” said Carolyn Zahn-Waxler, a senior research scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has done some of these twin studies. But she notes that the effect is small: “There is no gene for empathy, there is no gene for altruism. What’s heritable may be some personality characteristics.”

Scott Huettel, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke, described two broad theories to explain prosocial behavior. One, he said, was essentially motivational: It feels good to help other people. Economists have also looked at the question of altruism, and have hypothesized about a “warm glow effect” to account for charitable giving.

Experimental studies have shown that the same brain region that is activated when people win money for themselves is active when they give to charity — that is, that there is a kind of neurologic “reward” built into the motivational system of the brain.

“Charitable giving can activate the same pleasure-reward centers, the dopaminergic centers, in the brain that are very closely tied to habit formation,” said Bill Harbaugh, an economist at the University of Oregon who studies altruism. “This suggests it might be possible to foster the same sorts of habits for charitable giving you see with other sorts of habits.”

The other theory of prosocial behavior, Dr. Huettel said, is based on social cognition — the recognition that other people have needs and goals. The two theories aren’t mutually exclusive: Cognitive understanding accompanied by a motivational reward reinforces prosocial behavior.

But shaping prosocial behavior is a tricky business. For instance, certain financial incentives seem to deter prosocial impulses, a phenomenon called reward undermining, Dr. Huettel said.
Consider that in the United States, historically, blood donors could be paid, but not in Britain. And the British donated more blood. “When you give extrinsic motivations, they can supplant the intrinsic ones,” he said.

What would the experts say about fostering prosocial behavior in children, from kindness on to charity?

Parental modeling is important, of course; sympathy and compassion should be part of children’s experience long before they know the words.

“Explain how other people feel,” Dr. Eisenberg said. “Reflect the child’s feelings, but also point out, look, you hurt Johnny’s feelings.”
Don’t offer material rewards for prosocial behavior, but do offer opportunities to do good — opportunities that the child will see as voluntary. And help children see themselves and frame their own behavior as generous, kind, helpful, as the mother in my exam room did.

Working with a child’s temperament, taking advantage of an emerging sense of self and increasing cognitive understanding of the world and helped by the reward centers of the brain, parents can try to foster that warm glow and the worldview that goes with it. Empathy, sympathy, compassion, kindness and charity begin at home, and very early.
Jim Manske's insight:

I feel encouraged and grateful that articles addressing emapthy seem to be offered in the mainstream press with more frequency.

 

I appreciate the support for the idea that we are all born with the capacity for empathy and that we can support one another (especially our children) in awakening this capability.

 

I wonder how we can help folks to become liberated from the unconscious domination paradigm that seems to leak out of many of these discussions, for example "...Look, you hurt Johnny's feelings".

 

What I prefer is, "Look, Johnny feels hurt...I wonder if he wants to have more fun..."

 

Sigh.

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'Tis better to give than to receive? Life scientists find that giving support offers health benefits -- to the giver

Providing support to a loved one offers benefits, to the giver, not just the recipient, a new neuroimaging study reveals.

 

"When people talk about the ways in which social support is good for our health, they typically assume that the benefits of social support come from the support we receive from others, but it now seems likely that some of the health benefits of social support actually come from the support we provide to others," said Naomi Eisenberger, a UCLA assistant professor of psychology and the senior author of the study, published in the online edition of Psychosomatic Medicine, a peer-reviewed health psychology journal.


Eisenberger and UCLA psychology graduate student Tristen Inagaki studied 20 young heterosexual couples in good relationships at UCLA's Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center. The 20 women in the couples underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans while their boyfriends were just outside the scanner receiving painful electric shocks. At times, the women could provide support by holding the arm of their boyfriends, while at other times, they had to watch their boyfriends receive shocks without being able to provide support (each woman instead held a squeeze-ball). At still other times, the boyfriends did not receive a shock, and the women could either touch or not touch them.


The life scientists found that when women gave support to their boyfriends in pain, the women showed increased activity in reward-related regions of the brain, including the ventral striatum and septal area. In addition, the more reward-related neural activity these women showed, the more connected they reported feeling with their boyfriends while providing support. Under conditions in which no support was provided, these regions showed decreased activity.


"One of these regions, the ventral striatum, is typically active in response to simple rewards like chocolate, sex and money," Eisenberger said. "The fact that support-giving also activates this region suggests that support-giving may be processed by the brain as a very basic type of rewarding experience."


The researchers also found another interesting pattern of neural activity in the septal area. In addition to being a pleasure center, this region plays a role in threat- or stress-reduction by inhibiting other regions of the brain that process threats, such as the amygdala. Researchers found that the women who showed greater activity in the septal area also showed less activity in the amygdala.


"This finding suggests that support-giving may have stress-reducing effects for the person who provides the support," said Eisenberger, who directs UCLA's Social and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory. "Activity in the septal area during support-giving was negatively correlated with activity in the amygdala, which is a region known to play a role in fear and stress responses. If there is something about support-giving that leads to reductions in amygdala activity, this suggests that support-giving itself may have stress-reducing properties."


"Giving to others has benefits," said Inagaki, the lead author of the study, who has been awarded National Science Foundation and Jacob K. Javits fellowships. "We even saw substantially more activity in these reward brain regions when the women were giving support than when they were touching their boyfriend when he was not getting shocked. You might think it would be more pleasurable to touch your boyfriend when he is not going through something painful, but we found the opposite, which was surprising."
Eisenberger said she thinks the benefits of providing support also apply when a loved one is experiencing other stressful events, including emotionally painful events. She offered a theory to explain the findings.


"Giving support to those we are close to, such as family members or children, may increase their likelihood of survival and, therefore, the likelihood that our genes will get passed on," she said. "Because of the importance of support-giving for the survival of our species, it is possible that over the course of our evolutionary history, support-giving may have become psychologically rewarding to ensure that this behavior persisted."


Currently, Eisenberger and Inagaki are conducting further research on how giving to others may reduce our stress responses and ultimately contribute to better health.

 

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How to Motivate People to Do Things They Don't Want to Do: Nir Iyal

How to Motivate People to Do Things They Don't Want to Do: Nir Iyal | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

A reader recently asked me a pointed question: "I've read your work on creating user habits. It's all well and good for getting people to do things, like using an app on their iPhone, but I've got a bigger problem...

 

...How do I get people to do things they don't want to do?"

 

Taken aback by the directness and potentially immoral implications of his question, my gut reaction was to say, "You can't and shouldn't!" To which his response was, "I have to; it's my job."


This gentleman, who asked that I not disclose his name, is the corporate equivalent of the guy the mob sends to break kneecaps if a worker doesn't do as they're told. For the past decade, he has run the same methodical process of cajoling, and at times threatening, people to do things they don't want to do. "It's really unfair and mean. I know it is," he said. "But people have to comply or else people get hurt."

 

This man is an identity and access management auditor at a well-known public accounting firm. Not exactly Good Fellas, but high-stakes nonetheless. His Fortune 500 clients pay his firm to ensure managers complete lengthy inquiries involving hundreds of employees collecting thousands of pieces of information, usually on tight deadlines. "Ever since Sarbanes-Oxley, these user access reviews just have to get done."

 

Though the auditor's job is unique, getting others to do uninteresting tasks (specifically those that are infrequent and involve work done outside normal responsibilities) is a common challenge.

 

A Shot In the Arm


I pondered this question and searched my mental database for examples of companies I've worked with or could reference as case studies. But instead, I thought about the last time I saw someone willfully doing something they didn't want to do; my four-year-old daughter came to mind.

 

We had recently taken her to the pediatrician for a final round of shots before kindergarten and, to our surprise, she left the doctor's office with a spring in her step and a smile on her face. To a child, there are few things more terrifying than getting stuck with needles, and it was the closest equivalent I could think of to completing the auditor's "user access reviews."

 

What made my daughter's visit to the doctor so painless helps illustrate three tactics anyone can use to get people to do things they don't inherently want to do.

 

One Prick at a Time


When the nurse stepped into the examining room, my daughter knew something was up. On a small tray, she carried four intimidating syringes. But instead of showing them all to my daughter, she thoughtfully kept them out of view. At the appropriate time, she reached for a needle, one by one, careful to consider how her actions would be perceived by my daughter. She tamed the instruments of toddler torment through what designers call progressive disclosure; to the nurse, it was just considerate common sense.

 

Staging tasks into small conquerable chunks is so basic yet so underutilized. Who wouldn't take the time to ease a child's fear with a little well-planned parsing? Yet in the office, it is all too common to lob large complex requests at our colleagues and be surprised by the ill-will we get in return. In the auditor's case for example, he admitted that his clients start by sending long memos accompanied by even longer spreadsheets detailing the entire tedious task. No wonder their emails are met with contempt.

 

Managers pushing down tasks know all the level of details and tend to think everyone else should, too. But that's just not the case. Most users just want to know what to do next, and flooding them with too much information induces stress and fear. Having the forethought to appropriately stage the work can reduce this fear, which ironically, in both children and adults, is often much worse than the prick of the needle itself. Image via StudioVin (Shutterstock).

 

Reduce the Pain with Progress


In the auditor's case, his requests were particularly painful because they were too infrequent to become skill-building routines. Whereas many tasks become easier with time as people improve their abilities, corporate fire drills are dreaded for many reasons. For one, they distract workers from their regular duties. They often require learning new processes or hunting down long-discarded information. And worst of all, they can last for an undefined period of time, providing little visibility into when the pain will end.

 

Just as parsing tasks into smaller chunks can make a job seem more achievable, providing greater insight into the progress made is another way to reduce cognitive stress. In the pediatrician's office, the thoughtful nurse asked my daughter to count to five as she administered each shot, giving my daughter an idea of how long the pain would last and creating a sense of control.

 

For years, game designers have utilized mechanisms to track advancement. Progress bars help players understand where they are in the game just as tracking and estimation tools could help workers better plan their work. These tools help inform how much time the next task should take and its relative place in the entire job. Providing a sense of progression is a form of feedback and is a key component of making unpleasant tasks more manageable.

 

Get Out the Treasure Chest


To our amazement, even after receiving four shots, my daughter left the doctor's office without shedding a single tear. The nurse used staged disclosure and eased the pain through progress indicators, but the final secret sat just outside the examination room.

 

There, on her way in, my daughter ogled a mysterious box she knew was filled with prizes. "After your visit," the nurse told her, "you'll get to pick anything you'd like from the treasure chest." Offering prizes for the completion of certain tasks is effective in both children and adults, but beware, there is risk in rewards.

 

Numerous studies have shown that extrinsic rewards—incentives that are separate from the activity itself - often backfire. Reinforcing behavior this way tends to extinguish the pleasure of doing something for its own sake. For example, studies of children rewarded for doing activities they already enjoyed—like playing drums or drawing pictures—resulted in less motivation to do the activity later on.

 

Where long-term behaviors are the goal, more purposeful incentives are better. Self-Determination Theory, as espoused by researchers Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, contends that people are motivated by deeper psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness. Clearly, making sure people know why their work matters is always the first step.

 

But while motivating through meaning is preferred, there are circumstances when prizes are in fact appropriate. When it comes to tasks people don't want to do, specifically infrequent and uninteresting assignments, utilizing extrinsic rewards is safe because there is no existing behavior to de-motivate or extinguish. Shots in a four-year-old's arm and the boring, routine work doled out by the auditor qualify as just such occasions.

 

What are appropriate rewards? Like everything in design, that depends on the person. Making a game out of the task doesn't necessarily mean giving away points and badges if the user doesn't find those incentives appropriate. However, utilizing other incentives, particularly those awarded with an element of variability, can be highly encouraging, just as long as they're used only in this very specific condition and not as part of day-to-day operations. 

 

Better Behavior Design


Unfortunately, the corporate norm remains drawing up a long list of what needs to get done and throwing it over the email wall to be completed … or else! There will always be tasks people don't want to do. But there are better ways to motivate others, principally by designing conditions where people actuate themselves.

 

Fundamentally, people resist being controlled and both the carrot and the stick can be tools for unwanted manipulation. Instead, designing behavior by putting in the forethought to appropriately stage tasks, providing progress indicators, and finally, offering celebratory rewards under the right circumstances, are easy ways to motivate while maintaining a sense of autonomy.

 

Whether in the doctor's office or the corner office, it is the job of the person inflicting the pain to do their utmost to ease it. Not doing so is intellectually lazy, whether to a kid or to a colleague. Considering how the receiver could more easily comply with the request is at the heart of inspiring action.

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Are more trusting people healthier?

Are more trusting people healthier? | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

The positive effects of trust are manifold. Recent research has shown that trust levels may even influence physical health.

 

The current work explores this issue and aims to shed light on the mechanisms underlying the relationship between trust and health in a 5-wave longitudinal data set. Results showed that trust was positively related to physical health: Participants report fewer health problems when they trust their partner more, replicating earlier findings. More importantly, symptoms of anxiety and depression mediate the effect of trust on self-reported health.

 

Finally, results of residual lagged analyses show that earlier levels of trust predict later symptoms of anxiety and depression symptoms, in turn predicting changes in physical health symptoms over time.

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Giving thanks for our place in the Universe

Giving thanks for our place in the Universe | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

All that is real about ourselves is nothing to be ashamed about; quite to the contrary, it’s something to be eminently thankful for. This very existence is all we have, and while it’s minuscule compared to the entire Universe, it required the entire Universe to bring us to the point where it’s possible for us to exist...

 

http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2012/11/21/giving-thanks-for-our-place-in-the-universe/

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The World’s Happiest Man Is a Tibetan Monk: Smithsonian.com

The World’s Happiest Man Is a Tibetan Monk: Smithsonian.com | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
Matthieu Ricard, a 66-year old Tibetan monk and geneticist, produces brain gamma waves never before reported in neuroscience...

 

...linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory—never before reported in neuroscience, leading researchers to conclude that Ricard is the world’s happiest man. The secret to his success in achieving bliss? Meditation, he claims.

 

Meditating is like lifting weights or exercising for the mind, Ricard told the Daily News. Anyone can be happy by simply training their brain, he says.

 

To quantify just how happy Ricard is, neuroscientists at the University of Wisconsin attached 256 sensors to the monk’s skull. When he meditated on compassion, the researchers were shocked to see that Ricard’s brian produces a level of gamma waves off the charts. He also demonstrated excessive activity in his brain’s left prefrontal cortex compared to its right counterpart, meaning he has an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity, the researchers say.

 

During the same study, the neuroscientists also peeked into the minds of other monks. They found that long-term practitioners—those who have engaged in more than 50,000 rounds of meditation—showed significant changes in their brain function, although that those with only three weeks of 20-minute meditation per day also demonstrated some change.

 

To spread the word on achieving happiness and enlightenment, Ricard authored Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill. Proceeds from the book go towards over 100 humanitarian projects.

 

“Try sincerely to check, to investigate,” he explained to the Daily News. “That’s what Buddhism has been trying to unravel — the mechanism of happiness and suffering. It is a science of the mind.”

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Why Sharing Power At Work Is The Very Best Way To Build It

Why Sharing Power At Work Is The Very Best Way To Build It | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
Good leaders build a powerful team by sharing power, not by building themselves up (falsely) by imagining they can hoard power personally.I see leaders who imagine that they have more power than they actually do, and don’t really distinguish...
Jim Manske's insight:

Join me tomorrow for our monthly free teleconfernce.  We will be exploring Sharing Power.  

 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

4pm US-PT, 7pm US-ET,  2pm HT

24:00 GMT, 

Sunday 11am Sydney, 9am Korea

 

If you have previously registered for this series you will receive a reminder with your dial-in number and PIN about 8 hours before the class.  IF YOU HAVE NOT PREVIOUSLY REGISTERED OR YOU ARE NOT RECEIVING THE REMINDERS, Register here for FREE Teleclasses.   
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Edge.org

Edge.org | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

Today the vast majority of the world's people do not have to worry about dying in war. Since 1945, wars between great powers and developed states have essentially vanished, and since 1991, wars in the rest of the world have become fewer and less deadly.

 

But how long will this trend last? Many people have assured me that it must be a momentary respite, and that a Big One is just around the corner.

Maybe they're right. The world has plenty of unknown unknowns, and perhaps some unfathomable cataclysm will wallop us out of the blue. But since by definition we have no idea what the unknown unknowns are, we can't constructively worry about them.

 

What, then, about the known unknowns? Are certain risk factors numbering our days of relative peace? In my view, most people are worrying about the wrong ones, or are worrying about them for the wrong reasons.

 

Resource shortages. Will nations go to war over the last dollop of oil, water, or strategic minerals? It's unlikely. First, resource shortages are self-limiting: as a resource becomes scarcer and thus more expensive, technologies for finding and extracting it improve, or substitutes are found. Also, wars are rarely fought over scarce physical resources (unless you subscribe to the unfalsifiable theory that all wars, regardless of stated motives, are really about resources: Vietnam was about tungsten; Iraq was about oil, and so on.) Physical resources can be divided or traded, so compromises are always available; not so for psychological motives such as glory, fear, revenge, or ideology.

 

Climate change. There are many reasons to worry about climate change, but major war is probably not among them. Most studies have failed to find a correlation between environmental degradation and war; environmental crises can cause local skirmishes, but a major war requires a political decision that a war would be advantageous. The 1930s Dust Bowl did not cause an American Civil war; when we did have a Civil War, its causes were very different.

 

Drones. The whole point of drones is to minimize loss of life compared to indiscriminate forms of destruction such as artillery, aerial bombardment, tank battles, and search-and-destroy missions, which killed orders of magnitude more people than drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

 

Cyberwarfare. No doubt cyberattacks will continue to be a nuisance, and I'm glad that experts are worrying about them. But the cyber-Pearl-Harbor that brings civilization to its knees may be as illusory as the Y2K bug apocalypse. Should we really expect that the combined efforts of governments, universities, corporations, and programmer networks will be outsmarted for extended periods by some teenagers in Bulgaria? Or by government-sponsored hackers in technologically backwards countries? Could they escape detection indefinitely, and would they provoke retaliation for no strategic purpose? And even if they did muck up the internet for a while, could the damage really compare to being blitzed, firebombed, or nuked?

 

Nuclear inevitability. It's obviously important to worry about nuclear accidents, terrorism, and proliferation because of the magnitude of the devastation they could wreak, regardless of the probabilities. But how high are the probabilities? The 67-year history of nonuse of nuclear weapons casts doubt on the common narrative that we are still on the brink of nuclear Armageddon. That narrative requires two extraordinary propositions: (1) That leaders are so spectacularly irrational, reckless, and suicidal that they have kept the world in jeopardy of mass annihilation, and (2) we have enjoyed a spectacularly improbable run of good luck. Perhaps. But instead of believing in two riveting and unlikely propositions, perhaps we should believe in one boring and likely one: that world leaders, though stupid and short-sighted, are not that stupid and short-sighted, and have taken steps to minimize the chance of nuclear war, which is why nuclear war has not taken place. As for nuclear terrorism, though there was a window of vulnerability for theft of weapons and fissile material after the fall of the Soviet Union, most nuclear security experts believe it has shrunk and will soon be closed (see John Mueller's Atomic Obsession).

What the misleading risk factors have in common is that they contain the cognitive triggers of fear documented by Slovic, Kahneman, and Tversky: they are vivid, novel, undetectable, uncontrollable, catastrophic, and involuntarily imposed on their victims.

 

In my view there are threats to peace we should worry about, but the real risk factors—the ones that actually caused catastrophic wars such as the World Wars, wars of religion, and the major civil wars—don't press the buttons of our lurid imaginations.

 

Narcissistic leaders. The ultimate weapon of mass destruction is a state. When a state is taken over by a leader with the classic triad of narcissistic symptoms—grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy—the result can be imperial adventures with enormous human costs.

 

Groupism. The ideal of human rights—that the ultimate moral good is the flourishing of individual people, while groups are social constructions designed to further that good—is surprisingly recent and unnatural. People, at least in public, are apt to argue that the ultimate moral good is the glory of the group—the tribe, religion, nation, class, or race—and that individuals are expendable, like the cells of a body.

 

Perfect justice. Every group has suffered depredations and humiliations in its past. When groupism combines with the thirst for revenge, a group may feel justified in exacting damage on some other group, inflamed by a moralistic certitude which makes compromise tantamount to treason.

 

Utopian ideologies. If you have a religious or political vision of a world that will be infinitely good forever, any amount of violence is justified to bring about that world, and anyone standing in its way is infinitely evil and deserving of unlimited punishment.

 

Warfare as a normal or necessary tactic. Clausewitz characterized war as "the continuation of policy by other means." Many political and religious ideologies go a step further and consider violent struggle to be the driver of dialectical progress, revolutionary liberation, or the realization of a messianic age.

The relative peace we have enjoyed since 1945 is a gift of values and institutions which militate against these risks. Democracy selects for responsible stewards rather than charismatic despots. The ideal of human rights protects people from being treated as cannon fodder, collateral damage, or eggs to be broken for a revolutionary omelet. The maximization of peace and prosperity has been elevated over the rectification of historic injustices or the implementation of utopian fantasies. Conquest is stigmatized as "aggression" and becomes a taboo rather than a natural aspiration of nations or an everyday instrument of policy.

 

None of these protections is natural or permanent, and the possibility of their collapsing is what makes me worry. Perhaps some charismatic politician is working his way up the Chinese nomenklatura and dreams of overturning the intolerable insult of Taiwan once and for all. Perhaps an aging Putin will seek historical immortality and restore Russian greatness by swallowing a former Soviet republic or two. Perhaps a utopian ideology is fermenting in the mind of a cunning fanatic somewhere who will take over a major country and try to impose it elsewhere.

 

It's natural to worry about physical stuff like weaponry and resources. What we should really worry about is psychological stuff like ideologies and norms. As the UNESCO slogan puts it, "Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed."

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Louie Schwartzberg: Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. | Video on TED.com

TED Talks Nature’s beauty can be easily missed -- but not through Louie Schwartzberg’s lens.
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Stunning visuals and an inspitring message!

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Giraffe fights and friendships

Giraffe fights and friendships | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

As the tallest animals in the world, with gangly legs, twisting black tongues and patchwork markings, giraffes are instantly recognisable.

 

But we still know relatively little about the behaviour of these supposedly "gentle giants".

 

Footage recorded for a new landmark natural history series, Africa, coproduced by the BBC and Discovery, reveals a little seen brutal aspect to giraffes' lives.

 

Male giraffes were filmed engaging in a bruising fight, literally going head to head until a single giraffe is left standing.

 

New research just published also shows that female giraffes form previously unrecognised close bonds with a select group of female companions. 

 

Not only do they make "friends" in this way, they avoid other females they get on with less well.

 

Scientific studies of giraffes often focus on their iconic aspects: how fast they can travel or how high they can reach using their long legs, the strength of their necks and the colour of their coats.

 

But in recent years, biologists have turned their attention to the relationships between animals.

 

Although their tall height may make them conspicuous, it takes an expert to find giraffes in the desert.

 

The animals' home ranges extend up to 100 square miles as they seek out acacia trees in sparsely vegetated landscape.

 

"It took four weeks of waiting to capture about 60 seconds of fight," said Africa cameraman Martyn Colbeck, who described the sequence he filmed as "staggering".

 

The crew set up camp on the Hoanib River in the far north-west of Namibia with the aim of filming natural behaviour.

 

"[Guide and driver] Paul and I knew where we should be to stand the best chance of getting the most giraffes in the best location," Mr Colbeck told BBC Nature.

 

"We also knew that we would have to follow them all day, every day to stand a chance of getting a fight."

 

The filmmakers' "lucky break" came in the form of a female giraffe in oestrous: signalling her readiness to mate with any males in the vicinity.

Two males arrived competing for her attention. Their rivalry soon escalated into a physical fight.

 

"Paul and I have seen a lot of interesting animal behaviour in the remote deserts of Namibia, but neither of us had seen anything like this fight. And we are unlikely to see it ever again I suspect."

 

"Even though we were following the oestrous female and the consorting male, the fight came out of nowhere," he told BBC Nature.

The two challengers in the conflict were an older bull and a young male hoping to claim mating rights.

 

"Suddenly the challenger came around the corner of a bend in the river and immediately challenged the dominant male in the most brutal way," said Mr Colbeck.

 

In a giraffe fight, males stand side-by-side, pushing and shoving to judge which is strongest.

 

In evenly matched meetings, blows are sometimes exchanged - dealt by the giraffes' powerful, muscular necks.

 

The horn-like structures on the stop of the giraffes heads, called ossicones, can inflict injuries but, according to experts, fights rarely get this serious.

"Normally giraffes size each other up and after a bit of stand off and a few swings the fun is over," said Dr Julian Fennessy from the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, based in the UK and Namibia.

 

"When the battles are serious then it often ends in the subservient male skulking away. However, it can end in the death of one of them," he added.

In this exchange the loser only suffered a sore head after receiving a surprising knock-out blow.

 

Dr Fennessy told BBC Nature that such footage can help researchers understand more about this rarely witnessed behaviour.

 

"I am never surprised as we are only starting to learning more and more about giraffe behaviour as research on these iconic species is in its infancy," he said.

This instinct for competition makes male giraffe naturally anti-social. But female giraffes do maintain close relationships with one another, according to a study published recently in the journal Animal Behaviour.

 

Early studies of giraffe societies suggested that groups were unstructured. But recent research has found that the animals demonstrate a dynamic common to chimpanzees, spider monkeys and spotted hyenas.

 

Scientists identified that individuals temporarily associate, resulting in fluctuating group sizes and membership.

 

To understand more about these short alliances, researchers observed animals in Etosha National Park, Namibia.

 

The team, from the University of Queensland, Australia, were able to identify individuals by their unique markings.

 

They found that females chose which members of a group they associated with and purposefully avoided others.

 

According to the biologists, this behaviour could be the result of overlapping feeding grounds and frequent meetings between animals.

 

Or it might be that female giraffes recognise each other from when they were young, and lived in giraffe crèches, or nursery groups, which have been widely documented in the wild, the researchers report.

 

However, males are much more solitary beasts, choosing to wander alone as soon as they reach adulthood.

 

If there are few mating opportunities, some studies suggest male giraffes do form "friendships" with one another.

 

But in the main, male giraffes prefer to be lone warriors.

 

 

Jim Manske's insight:

I enjoy learning more about giraffes, the totem Marshall chose for NVC.  

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Group aims to keep Hawaiians out of prison system - Mauinews.com | News, Sports, Jobs, Visitor's Information - The Maui News

 

Native Hawaiians make up about one-quarter of the state's population, but about 40 percent of the state's inmates and those on parole.

 

A task force that spent a year studying ways to reduce the number of Native Hawaiians in the criminal justice system submitted a list of 38 recommendations to the state Legislature on Thursday.

 

A law created the task force after a 2010 report highlighted the disproportionate representation of Native Hawaiians in prison, on probation and in other aspects of the criminal justice system.

 

"It is a tragedy that in their homeland, Native Hawaiians are overrepresented at every stage of the criminal justice system," Michael Broderick, chairman of the task force and the CEO of YMCA Honolulu, said in a statement.

 

The panel laid the groundwork, "but for anything significant to change, all of Hawaii must take responsibility to address this unacceptable and sad reality," he said.

 

The task force recommended that the state recognize and support efforts to promote indigenous cultural practices in the criminal justice system. The report said this has been successful already in the Native Hawaiian community and has also worked in places like Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

 

Approaches such as sentencing circles, mediation and community justice are options for some defendants, the report said.

 

Incarceration and recidivism will likely decrease as poverty, unemployment, health care, housing and education are improved, the report said.

Panel member and Office of Hawaiian Affairs CEO Kamanaopono Crabbe said the task force's recommendations offer an opportunity for meaningful action.

 

"We no longer have an excuse not to try," Crabbe said in a statement.

The task force included representatives from the attorney general's office, Honolulu prosecutor's office and the state public defender's office.

 

They held public meetings on Oahu, Hawaii island, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kauai last summer and visited inmates at Halawa Correctional Facility and the Women's Community Correctional Center.

Jim Manske's insight:

This seems like a wonderful opportunity for social change here in Hawaii.  Imagine how NVC, Positive Psychology, Mindfulness, and Conflict Resolution skills could help!  What next steps can you imagine could help?

 

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6 Simple Rituals To Reach Your Potential Every Day

6 Simple Rituals To Reach Your Potential Every Day | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
It’s Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. Two San Francisco entrepreneurs are pitching their ventures to potential investors today. They’d both agree that this is one of the most important days of their lives.
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Metta Solutions's curator insight, January 2, 2013 8:41 AM

I love this set of recommendations.  Trying them on for size!

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The 5 Best Ways to Build Resiliency

The 5 Best Ways to Build Resiliency | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
Why do some people bounce back from adversity and misfortune? Why do others fall apart? Find out which character strengths make all the difference - and how you can develop them yourself.
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» The Little Trick to Make Any Moment Better: Leo Babauta

I learned a little trick while practicing meditation that helped me, not only with meditation, but with just about everything I do.
I noticed I was reluctant to start the meditation, and paused to wonder why that is. What I noticed was a kind of tightness, in my chest and shoulders and neck, but also in my mind. Something about the meditation was causing me to tighten up, and that made me not want to do it each morning.


Well, there are a few choices here: 1) I could stop doing the meditation because I wasn’t enjoying it; 2) I could push myself through it even though I disliked it, or 3) I could let go of the tightness.


I chose to let go of the tightness.


It was amazing. I just noticed where the tightness was, and let it dissipate into the air. What was left was a more relaxed body, a relaxed mindset. And actually it was the relaxed mindset that ended up being most important. I could now approach the meditation with a looseness, a sense of exploration and happiness, that I couldn’t do when I was tight. And then I smiled, and things got even better.


Then I started applying that to everything I did: if I was writing and noticed tightness, I let go of the tightness and smiled — and the writing became instantly more enjoyable. Same for running, for meeting someone new, for cooking and washing and going to the store.


Every moment became instantly better.


The brilliant Lissa Rankin tells us that our mental and spiritual health are just as important as, if not more important than, our body health. She told me that at the root of it is our stress response and relaxation response to everything — work, relationships, day-to-day activities, sex and so on.


There are lots of ways to relax when we are stressed: meditation, yoga, tea, massage, exercise, talking with a friend, taking a hot bath or shower, sex. And I highly recommend all these.

 

But none of these actually relax you unless your mind approaches them with a relaxed attitude, and lets go of tightness. These things happen to trigger the release of tightness for most of us, but in truth, you can let go of tightness without any of these relaxing activities, no matter what you’re doing.


Here’s how to let go of tightness:


1.  Notice the tightness. Pay attention to your body and mindset as you do any activity: work, meetings, driving, walking, reading, cleaning, talking with a loved one. If you notice tightness, that’s your cue.
2.  Visualize it dissipating. Just imagine the tightness floating out of you and into the air, dissolving into little bits and then being blown away by the breeze. The simple act of this visualization can often work.
3. Go from tight to loose. You can practice this right now. Pause for a second and clench your fists. Now relax them. It’s that easy. Do it with your jaw. Now your abs. Now your shoulders. You can let go of tightness just by softening, letting go of the tightening that you’re creating yourself. It works for the mind too.
4. Breathe. Take in a deep, slow breath. Let your attention stay on this breath. Hold the breath in for 5 seconds, then slowly exhale and pause for another 5 seconds at the end of the exhale. Repeat a few times if you like. This can help loosen you up if you need it. If you don’t need it after Step 2 or 3, you can skip it.
5. Smile. This transforms everything. You can now approach any activity, any moment, with an attitude of relaxed enjoyment.

 

Honestly, once you’re good at it, you really only need to do one of the three middle steps (2-4). But steps 1 and 5 are crucial.
Notice the tightness, let it go, and smile. This moment, and every moment after, can become instantly better.

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Gratitude As An Antidote To Aggression

Gratitude As An Antidote To Aggression | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
Grateful people aren't just kinder people, according to UK College of Arts & Sciences psychology Professor Nathan DeWall.

 

They are also less aggressive.

 

DeWall proves his point with five studies on gratitude as a trait and as a fleeting mood, discovering that giving thanks lowers daily aggression, hurt feelings and overall sensitivity.

 

"If you count your blessings, you're more likely to empathize with other people," said the researcher who is more well-known for studying factors that increased aggression. "More empathic people are less aggressive."

 

Gratitude motivates people to express sensitivity and concern for others and stimulates pro-social behavior, according to DeWall. Although gratitude increases mental well-being, it was unknown whether gratitude reduced aggression.

 

DeWall and his colleagues conducted cross-sectional, longitudinal, experience sampling, and experimental studies with more than 900 undergraduate students to show that gratitude is linked to lower aggression.

 

"We tried to triangulate on this phenomenon in as many different ways as we could," said DeWall, who tested the effects of gratitude both inside and outside of the lab.

 

The study, found in Social Psychological and Personality Science, links gratitude to "a nonviolent heart," with those less inclined to aggression.

 

Across all, there was "converging support for the hypothesis that gratitude is an antidote to aggression," according to DeWall. The relationship proved consistent even after controlling for general positive emotion.

 

"We know that grateful people are nice people," said DeWall. "But this is the first study to really show that they're not very aggressive either."

 

You don't have to be a naturally appreciative person to experience these effects, either.

 

"I wanted to bust the myth that only certain people are grateful," DeWall said. "Gratitude is an equal opportunity emotion that causes lower levels of aggression."

 

An activity as basic as writing a letter or mentally counting your blessings can be enough to decrease aggression.

 

"Take a step back, and look at what you've got," said DeWall. "Don't spend every waking moment being grateful, but one time a week definitely increases your well-being over time. And if you get bad news you're given a shot that protects you."

 

DeWall's findings have broad applications and can inform interventions aimed at reducing interpersonal aggression and anger.

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Moral evaluations of harm are instant and emotional, brain study shows | ScienceBlog.com

Moral evaluations of harm are instant and emotional, brain study shows | ScienceBlog.com | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

People are able to detect, within a split second, if a hurtful action they are witnessing is intentional or accidental, according to new research on the brain.

 

“Our data strongly support the notion that determining intentionality is the first step in moral computations,” said Decety, who conducted research on the topic with Stephanie Cacioppo, a research associate (assistant professor) in psychology at UChicago. They published the results in a paper, “The Speed of Morality: A High-Density Electrical Neuroimaging Study,” to be published Dec. 1 and now on early preview in the Journal of Neurophysiology.


Read more at http://scienceblog.com/58250/moral-evaluations-of-harm-are-instant-and-emotional-brain-study-shows/#KqoSc6B0UIV5BkPX.99

 

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Where is your mind?: Tom Stafford

Where is your mind?: Tom Stafford | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it

We like to think our intelligence is self-made; it happens inside our heads, the product of our inner thoughts alone. But the rise of Google, Wikipedia and other online tools has made many people question the impact of these technologies on our brains. Is typing in the search term, “Who has played James Bond in the movies?” the same as knowing that the answer is Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig (… plus David Niven in Casino Royale)? Can we say we know the answer to this question when what we actually know is how to rapidly access the information?

 

I’ve written before about whether or not the internet is rewiring our brains, but here the question is about how we seek to define intelligence itself. And the answer appears to be an intriguing one. Because when you look at the evidence from psychological studies, it suggests that much of our intelligence comes from how we coordinate ourselves with other people and our environment.

 

An influential theory among psychologists is that we’re cognitive misers. This is the idea that we are reluctant to do mental work unless we have to, we try to avoid thinking things though fully when a short cut is available. If you’ve ever voted for the political candidate with the most honest smile, or chosen a restaurant based on how many people are already sitting in there, then you’ve been a cognitive miser. The theory explains why we’d much rather type a zipcode into a sat-nav device or Google Maps than memorise and recall the location of a venue – it’s so much easier to do so.

 

Research shows that people don’t tend to rely on their memories for things they can easily access. Things like the world in front of our eyes, for example, can be changed quite radically without people noticing. Experiments have shown that buildings can somehow disappear from pictures we’re looking at, or the people we’re talking to can be switched with someone else, and often we won’t notice – a phenomenon called “change blindness”. This isn’t as an example of human stupidity – far from it, in fact – this is an example of mental efficiency. The mind relies on the world as a better record than memory, and usually that’s a good assumption.

 

As a result, philosophers have suggested that the mind is designed to spread itself out over the environment. So much so that, they suggest, the thinking is really happening in the environment as much as it is happening in our brains. The philosopher Andy Clark called humans “natural born cyborgs“, beings with minds that naturally incorporate new tools, ideas and abilities. From Clark’s perspective, the route to a solution is not the issue – having the right tools really does mean you know the answers, just as much as already knowing the answer.

 

Society wins

 

A memory study by Daniel Wegner of Harvard University provides a neat example of this effect. Couples were asked to come into the lab to take a memorisation test. Half the couples were kept together, and half were reassigned to pair up with someone they didn’t know. Both groups then studied a list of words in silence, and were then tested individually. The pairs that were made up of a couple in a relationship could remember more items, both overall and as individuals.

 

What happened, according to Wegner, was that the couples in a relationship had a good understanding of their partners. Because of this they would tacitly divide up the work between them, so that, say, one partner would remember words to do with technology, assuming the other would remember the words to do with sports. In this way, each partner could concentrate on their strengths, and so individually they outperformed people in couples where no mental division of labour was possible. Just as you rely on a search engine for answers, so you can rely on people you deal with regularly to think about certain things, developing a shared system for committing items to memory and bringing them out again, what Wegner called “transactive memory”.

 

Having minds that work this way is one of the great strengths of the human species. Rather than being forced to rely on our own resources for everything, we can share our knowledge and so pool our understanding. Technology keeps track of things for individuals so we don’t have to, while large systems of knowledge serve the needs of society as a whole. I don’t know how a computer works, or how to grow broccoli, but that knowledge is out there and I get to benefit. And the internet provides even more potential to share this knowledge. Wikipedia is one of the best examples – an evolving store of the world’s knowledge for which everyone can benefit from. I use Wikipedia every day, aware of all the caveats of doing so, because it supports me in all the thinking I do for things like this column.

 

So as well as having a physical environment – like the rooms or buildings we live or work in – we also have a mental environment. Which means that when I ask you where your mind is, you shouldn’t point toward the centre of your forehead. As research on areas like transactive memory shows, our minds are made up just as much by the people and tools around us as they are by the brain cells inside our skull.

 

ENDNOTE: Wikipedia is an unparalleled democratisation of knowledge, a
wonderful sharing of human intelligence that’s free to anyone to view. I’mdonating the fee for this article to help support Wikipedia’s work. If you feel you can help out please follow this link: https://donate.wikimedia.org.

 

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No Dystopian Future For Me! :Kris Notaro

No Dystopian Future For Me! :Kris Notaro | Radical Compassion | Scoop.it
How can we save our planet, ourselves, and increase the quality of life world wide?

 

The new Total Recall movie is centered around a grim outlook of the future. It takes place in a metropolis - over populated, affected by global warming, under a totalitarian State, after World War 3. This sci-fi picture of the world takes place at the end of the 21st Century where the “United Federation of Britain” and the “Colony” are at war.

 

The only interesting things about the dystopian city is the use of anti-gravity and what seems to be magnetics in various technologies such as transportation and elevators. The use of a robot army is also, of course interesting to say the least.

 

I am not writing a review of the movie however, instead I want to focus on some concepts that have come into play in several dystopian movies recently. Some major taken-for-granted issues is that there will be overpopulation, a smoggish underworld, and an acceptance that global warming has melted the icecaps and all of Al Gores predictions have come true.

 

Indeed, we are living during a time in which the above dystopian future seems inevitable – the U.S. uses drones, though not autonomous (yet) in war (the DOD and DARPA have many more ideas for future robot warfare) the icecaps are indeed melting from global warming and population continues to skyrocket.

 

We do have many alternatives however, and this is where I want to take a brief look at the future in a Utopian fashion instead of dystopian. The above image, in reality cannot become true everywhere. If we take the picture on the left we see trees and a dirt road, where the picture on the right (from Total Recall 2012) shows a city after global warming, in a totalitarian State, with overpopulation, etc. Both realities are unattainable and/or catastrophic in nature to humans and posthumans.

 

In reality we live somewhere in the middle of each image, and the future just might, if we do it right, combine the beautiful image of a biological future mixed with a metal and concrete technological one. In academia, government, and the private sector we see many examples of people trying to save this world.

 

In China we see the population increasing, but we also see the government working on improving higher education and living standards for college educated youth. If the trend continues we should see more educated people whom, world wide, tend to have less children, not to mention China's one child policy. These factors should lead to the actual decrease in the population of China by 2030.

 

In India, we continue to see the population rise, a clear difference between the education of women and men, men having higher education, and poverty scattered throughout the country. The people of India have to take it upon themselves to see that they are educated and not rely on the current government or on the private sector. Three examples that seem somewhat promising is the outlawing of child labor by the ILO and India's government (cough!), distance learning, and semi “progressive” political groups fighting for womens rights, worker's rights and against the caste system. Again, in a fair world the only thing that makes sense to me is the increase in education and prosperity to lead to a better tomorrow for India where population is concerned.

 

However if the solution to overpopulation is prosperity and education, one huge concern is that people will want more stuff. Simply put, more stuff tends to equal more green house emissions. If we want the world to patch up the ozone layer, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and fix the emergent complex system known as the ecosystem we will have to use radical new technology. Supertrees are currently being genetically engineered for the use of lumber and replacement of our shameful destruction of forests. Garbage eating nanotechnology, including genetically engineered bacteria are being designed as I write this. New “green” technologies are on the rise, and with a simple Googling, you can find Time Mag's list of the top 20 green tech ideas, including Recycling e-Waste, Algae Biofuel, Algae food, Thin-film Solar, Molten Salt Storage, Solar Tower, Custom Biofuels, Electric Cars, Smart Meters, Lithium-ion Batteries, Fuel Cells, Rooftop Wind Power, Tidal Power, Green IT, Green Concrete, Green Building Materials, Modular Nuclear Power, Artificial Photosynthesis, Waste to Energy and "Biochar".

 

We have to decrease carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides, and fluorinated gases through public policy, education, and technological advances like the ones mentioned above, various new concepts to increase rain, because rain does not have salt in it, and if it can be increased over the arctic ocean, some scientists believe it will increase ice, but we have to figure out exactly how to make it rain where it is supposed to rain, a challenge of mega proportions but one in which academic and private sector scientists are ready to take on. Geoengineering may just be the future of saving our ecosystem from catastrophic climate change. Summits have been hosted, scientists have come up with answers, and if a Manhattan Project style of organizing becomes a reality to come up with positive geoengineering we just might beat global warming.

 

The dystopian future of Total Recall also involved a resistance to totalitarianism, which is very important to say the least. Working people need to get organized and educated so that they can have a leading voice in a direct democracy technoprogressive future to push scientists towards the right kind of life saving, ecosystem fixing science. As long as “the rise of the machines” is not a reality, as long as computers are not conscious, we are going to have to rely on ourselves to come together and save the ecosystem. Instead of modeling nuclear blasts on supercomputers we need to model the ecosystem and take appropriate action, etc.

 

I don't know about you, but I sure don't want to live in a totalitarian, overpopulated, icecap and tree depleted future. Human, posthuman life is not just about existing and quantity of lifespan, it is most definitely also about quality.

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Leonard Bremner's curator insight, April 8, 2015 2:50 PM

Time to think Govermnts are not working they are the problem